Elizabeth J. Barfield, EdD, RN, professor emerita and retired nursing department chair at California State University, San Bernardino, has received the 2020 Distinguished Alumnus Award from the Duke University School of Nursing. The award is given to recognize an alumnus whose career contributions in nursing or health care have been distinctive for their impact and have been recognized regionally, nationally or internationally.

“I’m honored to have been recognized for my career in nursing education,” said Barfield. “I’m especially proud of my time at Cal State. The programs we developed were exceptional in their focus on the specific needs of the Inland Empire’s diverse community.”

Barfield is also professor emerita and former dean of the School of Nursing and Health Sciences at Salisbury University. A distinguished nurse educator and leader in transitioning nursing education from hospital to academic settings, she developed programs to promote opportunities for nurses to earn advanced degrees and further develop their careers. She fostered interprofessional and interdisciplinary education and promoted diversity in nursing education and practice.

An accomplished grant-writer, her work helped institutions receive more than $3 million in external funds to support nursing education. She sought and received funds from the Department of Health and Human Services for three advanced nurse training grants, including Salisbury University’s Master’s Program in Rural Health Nursing, which received the Maryland Association for Higher Education Distinguished Academic Program Award in 1984. Special project grants she authored include a project to strengthen and enhance the gerontological nursing component of the nursing curriculum.

A pioneer in the movement to increase diversity in nursing education and practice, at SU she implemented a “mentor” project to recruit and retain disadvantaged and minority students. While at CSUSB, she authored the grant that funded the establishment of a master’s program to prepare nurses for advanced practice in diverse communities.

Hundreds of nurses have benefited from her work as chair of the Governor’s Nursing Validation Committee, which developed the Maryland RN articulation model. This model was designed to facilitate RNs from diploma- and associate-degree programs to earn bachelor’s degrees from universities throughout the state.

During her tenure at SU (1979-1992), Barfield guided its nursing education programs through revisions to its undergraduate curriculum and the development of a nationally accredited master’s program, the first in a six-campus system then governed by the Maryland Board of Trustees of State Universities and Colleges.

From 1994 until her retirement in 2000, she chaired the Department of Nursing at CSUSB, where she directed the first state-supported generic BSN program in the Inland Empire region of California, an underserved area with a highly diverse population.

Barfield began her nursing career as an LPN in 1961. She became an Rs in 1968 after earning an associate degree in nursing from Norfolk State University. Barfield went on to attain her BSN from Duke University in 1970. She earned a master’s degree from Duke in 1972 and became an instructor in Duke’s School of Nursing. She later served as an assistant professor at Old Dominion University before becoming the assistant dean of ODU’s School of Science and Health Professions. During that time, she pursued her EdD from the College of William and Mary.