Leaving a Legacy of Authentic Leadership at WSU

Sally Cantwell – Weber State University


Sally Cantwell has been a registered nurse for 17 years and has been teaching at Weber State University in education for 15.

While working at McKay Dee Hospital in her nursing career at patients’ bedside, she realized teaching and educating families was one aspect of the job she absolutely loved. She went on to get her masters and later her Ph. D in higher education leadership. “I love Weber! I had the opportunity to do my education residency there when I was in grad school at the U of U and was connected with an educator who helped me fall in love with academia and educating new nurses. It cemented my future in education,” she said. “I have been blessed to have amazing mentors and to be part of succession planning in leadership. I was encouraged early on to give more than I took, be a better listener, be a focused strategic planner, and be responsible for the bigger vision while encouraging the team around me.”

In 2013, she became the associate program director at WSU. She explained it was an amazing opportunity because the Annie Taylor Dee School of Nursing at WSU is one of the largest in the state. They are approaching 70 years of nursing education in Utah, and they have 64 faculty and staff who belong to the school of nursing. WSU has programs from associates to doctorate degrees, and their first Doctor of Nursing Practice – Leadership class graduated on May 1, 2021. Sally explained they have an outstanding long-term relationship with the nearby technical colleges where, for decades now, they take their Practical Nurse nursing students and intentionally streamline them into their PN-RN Completion program, which leads to the Associate Degree in Nursing at WSU.

Today, Sally is a full professor and Chair of the Annie Taylor Dee School of Nursing, and her journey was aided by mentors who didn’t hold back. “I have had the best mentors. Dr. Susan Thornock, Kathy Culliton, and Tamara Dahlkemper have had the greatest impact on who I am as a nurse educator and leader. I worked most closely with Dr. Susan Thornock over the past eight years, who gave me so many experiences where I could apply principles, deal with many different people and roles, and work through challenging circumstances… she never treated me like there was something she didn’t want to tell me. Some people might hold back because they don’t want you to have their job, but she never was that way.” Sally implements this same style of openness into her leadership approach. “The book, The Go-Giver, has five laws of stratospheric success that puts into words how I want to leave my own legacy, which really embraces authentic leadership,” and it is actually the textbook she uses in a graduate class she teaches. “There is amazing leadership around me without a lot of elitism. People are approachable and encouraging at WSU. I’m privileged to work here.”

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