Saluki Pride: Kelli Whittington receives Emerging Leader Award

Kelli Whittington, assistant professor and Bachelor of Science in Nursing program director, has spent decades in the nursing profession, working in ICU, oncology, managing and administration since 1992. Soon thereafter, she became involved in nursing education and has taught nurses at all academic levels, preparing them for positions ranging from certified nurse assistants to doctoral registered nurses.

A certified nurse educator, she has led SIU’s nursing program from the early stages. For her dedication and efforts, Whittington was recently presented the university’s Emerging Leader Award, one of nine Excellence Awards given to recognize faculty and staff for superior scholarship and creative endeavors, teaching and service. The award goes to an SIU employee within their first 10 years at the university who demonstrates commitment to diversity and inclusive excellence and gender equity through leadership, vision or actions on campus and in the region.

“It’s an honor to receive this award,” Whittington said. “Starting a pre-licensure BSN program at SIU has been one of the most challenging and rewarding accomplishments of my nursing career. I’m very grateful to my mentors and colleagues who have fostered my potential.”

Whittington completed her doctorate in workforce education at SIU and her master’s in nursing at SIU Edwardsville. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Middle Tennessee State University. 


Name: Kelli Whittington

Department/title: assistant professor and Bachelor of Science in Nursing program director in the School of Health Sciences

Years at SIU Carbondale: 4

Give us the elevator pitch for your job. 

I’m responsible for the oversight of the BSN program, which includes overseeing our relationships with our clinical partners, the Illinois Board of Nursing, our accreditation agency and other nursing programs throughout the state. In addition, I meet with prospective students and their families to show them why SIU Carbondale is the BSN program of choice, and I cultivate relationships with our nursing students. I also teach our pharmacology, nutrition and leadership courses as well as conduct research and provide service for the program, school, college, university and profession.    

What is your favorite part of the job? 

Working with students, whether in the classroom setting, at a social event, or even in my office is the best part of my job. This includes hearing from my students post-graduation, when they are making a difference in the workforce, positively impacting patient outcomes. I love the ripple effect of teaching others to care for others by example.

Why did you choose SIU? 

Being a nurse for 32 years and in nursing education for 31 years, I’ve had a wonderful career allowing me to work with students at all levels of nursing education, from nursing assistants to nurses earning their graduate degrees. When I learned SIU Carbondale was developing a BSN program, I felt it was my opportunity to become the foundational director of a new pre-licensure program that would have a positive impact on the region for years to come. 

My favorite book as a child was:

As a preteen/teenager, my favorite was a book of poems by Emily Dickinson. For some reason, several of her poems resonated with me when I was trying very hard to grow up, and they still speak to me. My favorite speaks to my love of nursing: “If I can ease one life the aching…I shall not live in vain.”

What was your first car, and would you like to have it again? Why or why not?

My first car was a 1972 Volkswagen beetle – bright yellow, manual transmission, no air conditioner and black Naugahyde seats. I had to babysit plenty of kiddos to pay for my add-on speakers, and if you don’t know what it’s like to pull your skin off a Naugahyde seat on a really hot summer day, you haven’t lived. But the joy of being “independent” and listening to my music with the windows rolled down – heaven!

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