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Two TESU Doctor of Nursing Practice Program Graduates Step Into Leadership Roles at the NJSNA

Two TESU Doctor of Nursing Practice Program Graduates  Step Into Leadership Roles at the NJSNA

Caption: Ginnette Watkins-Keller, DNP ’22 (right) was recently inducted as president, and Donna M. Penn, DNP ’22, as president-elect of NJSNA’s Region 4.

Two 2022 graduates of the W. Cary Edwards School of Nursing and Health Professions Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program were recently installed in key leadership positions with the New Jersey State Nurses Association (NJSNA).

Ginnette Watkins-Keller, DNP, RN, OCN, NEA-BC, of Hamilton Square, N.J., was inducted as president, and Donna M. Penn, DNP, RN, CNE, NEA-BC, of Monmouth Junction, N.J., as president-elect of NJSNA’s Region 4 in January. The region encompasses Mercer, Somerset, Middlesex and Hunterdon counties, N.J., and Bucks County, Pa. Watkins-Keller and Penn were both members of the School’s 2022 DNP graduating cohort.

“We applaud Drs. Watkins-Keller and Penn and look forward to their advocacy, transformative vision and ability to drive legislative action in their new positions,” noted Maureen Clark-Gallagher, immediate past president of NJSNA’s Region 4 and assistant dean and director of Distance Learning at the School. “Having two alumni from the same TESU graduating cohort assume key positions in a premier organization such as this is an affirmation of our graduates’ leadership acumen and capacity to shape the future of our profession.”

According to its website, the NJSNA serves as the voice of more than 150,000 registered and advanced practice nurses and is the only professional organization of its kind representing the interests of all registered nurses – regardless of areas of specialization or working environment.

“Membership in the NJSNA offers nurses an opportunity to build valuable networks and connect with other nurses on a local and state level,” noted Watkins-Keller, associate director of Clinical Trials Administration at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, who will serve a two-year term as president of the NJSNA. “Furthermore, there are educational programs, scholarships, leadership opportunities and legislative advocacy initiatives in which nurses can participate. I find these affiliations personally rewarding, allowing me to connect with other nurses while expanding my knowledge and skills.”

In her search for a doctoral-level nursing program, Penn noted that TESU stood out among others and inspired her to bring the best version of herself to her studies.

“I had already served on the School’s Nursing Advisory Board, so I had first-hand knowledge that the DNP program was both exceptional and affordable. I also liked that it can be completed part-time. I found the coursework challenging but stimulating and it inspired me to be the best I could be,” noted Penn, who added that she particularly enjoyed forming valuable and enduring relationships with fellow students in her DNP cohort, including Watkins-Keller.

Watkins-Keller said that her TESU coursework prepared her for a role as a nurse leader within her organization, and on a broader level within her discipline encompassing oncology and clinical trials.

“I intentionally pursued a doctoral-level education that focused on systems-level leadership as it aligned with the type of nurse leader I strived to be,” she added. “The School’s online platform offered flexibility while maintaining a sense of community. My mentors were interactive and approachable, and I am still in contact with many of my peers – many of whom have remained good friends.”

Penn concurred that nurses, especially those new to the profession, should be open to the benefits of membership in the NJSNA and other organizations of its kind.

“As members of the NJSNA, we work collaboratively to advance the practice of nursing through legislative and patient advocacy, policy, scholarship, and the promotion of professional identity in nursing practice,” noted Penn, who currently serves as the director of Holy Name Medical Center’s Sister Claire Tynan School of Nursing in Englewood Cliffs, N.J. “Nurses who are new to the field can benefit from NJSNA membership through their exposure to fellow nurses representing diverse backgrounds and career paths who provide valuable perspective, mentorship, guidance and support.”

To learn more about programs available in the W. Cary Edwards School of Nursing, visit To discover more about the 36-credit Doctor of Nursing Practice program and its flexible timeline options, visit

Vi-Anne Antrum, DNP

"I was able to understand and build on the foundation that I already had to be able to serve people better."

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