Ridgewater expands leadership position for healthcare programs
August 5, 2020
WILLMAR and HUTCHINSON, MN – Ridgewater College is pleased to announce that Mary Leyk of St. Augusta has been named the college’s first dean of nursing and allied health. She began the new role this summer.
During the last two years of Ridgewater restructuring, college leadership created this position to help manage the increasing demand for healthcare careers, the growing administrative demands on medical programs to follow accreditation guidelines, and to bridge technical and general studies educational components in healthcare programs.
Coming to Ridgewater with 25-plus years in healthcare education in various roles, Leyk will provide leadership for Ridgewater’s Nursing programs (both Practical Nursing (LPN) and Registered Nursing (RN)) like the former director of nursing did, but will also serve as the dean for several other healthcare programs, including Health Information Technician, Medical Coding, Paramedic, Massage Therapy, Phlebotomy, and Medical Assistant, which is expanding to the Hutchinson campus this fall.
“I collaborated with Ridgewater about 15 years ago when nursing simulation was just developing,” Leyk recalled. “I was doing a project for my bachelor’s degree and got to help work on the first (Ridgewater) moulage book (a resource for making blood and other bodily fluids realistic for training),” she explained. “Ridgewater was a real leader implementing simulation as the norm in nursing education.” She fondly recalled working with several Ridgewater Nursing faculty, along with retired Director of Nursing Lynn Johnson, who held that role for more than 35 years.
Leyk said she is proud to join the Ridgewater leadership and healthcare teams. Her varied work experiences will be an asset. Her past roles include director of continuing education/health programs, interim practical nursing director, assistant professor of nursing, adjunct instructor, nurse educator, as well as registered nurse. All industry experience has been in the St. Cloud and Anoka communities, with all education work experience within Minnesota State.
“When I found out this Ridgewater position was new, that was part of the excitement for me to apply,” Leyk said. “In some ways, the healthcare programs and myself are starting from ground zero (with the broader healthcare team concept), so it’s a change for faculty as well as for me.” Leyk said she sees the restructured position transition from a nursing director to a dean of nursing and allied health as a positive move. “You’re eliminating a step in the decision-making process,” she said, which hopefully means timely progress for program improvements, innovation, and continued student success.
Leyk recognizes that she’ll need to earn the trust of the healthcare faculty and community partners that help make the programs succeed, but based on her experiences and background, Leyk said she is ready for the challenge.
Building upon her Master of Science in Nursing Education degree from Walden University, Leyk is working on her Doctorate in Higher Education Administration at St. Cloud University. She is well-rounded in Minnesota higher education. She completed her Bachelor of Science in Nursing Education and Professional Development at Minnesota State University – Moorhead and gained community and technical college experience when she earned her Associate Degree in Nursing from North Hennepin Community College and her practical nursing diploma from St. Cloud Technical College.
“I’m looking forward to meeting faculty and community partners in person (rather than online or on phone) to learn how we can collaborate,” Leyk said. She said starting during the pandemic has been unusual, but she’s very excited.
Leyk is married, has one grown son and enjoys traveling.