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Alumni discover their passion as nurse educators

Following their nursing careers, two University of South Carolina College of Nursing alumni were inspired to teach at USC Aiken. Mary Kennedy is a professor in nursing currently teaching pediatrics, SIM, and fundamentals in the skills lab. Kelly Russin is the Director of Simulation and manages the perinatal loss program.

Mary Kennedy, ’94 BSN

“This is my dream job,” said Kennedy.

Kennedy worked in a myriad of settings including ER, pediatrics, home health, case management, administration and education. She pursued her dream through adjunct teaching at USC Aiken for ten years and was hired as full-time faculty in fall 2022.

“One day, not too long ago, I reflected on what gave me the most joy in those settings. My answer was to give back the knowledge I learned through teaching, mentoring, and educating. It hit me. I wanted to be a nurse educator,” said Kennedy.

Prior to teaching in the classroom, she was an educator in the clinical setting. Teaching reminds her of her time in school which gave her the gift of knowledge and lifelong friends.

“Remembering that feeling of my ‘lightbulb’ going off during clinicals or class. The moment that I got it. Every time I see that in my students, I am so excited because I know that feeling. I love that feeling and I love seeing that feeling!” said Kennedy.

Kelly Russin, '21 DNP, ‘18 MSN, ’10 BSN

Russin enrolled at the College of Nursing as a non-traditional nursing student. She married and entered college at the age of 24 years. Sadly, during her time in school, she had her first daughter as stillborn. After graduation, Russin worked as a labor and delivery nurse at Lexington Medical Center.  

“In 2014, I took over the perinatal loss program and started sharing my story of loss while also helping the nurses feel more confident caring for patients during loss,” said Russin.

Russin initiated five different hospital policies while teaching monthly mandatory training classes on perinatal loss to all nurses on the unit. Every year she organizes and leads the Wave of Light Ceremony to honor babies that are gone but never forgotten.

“I started taking students from USC Columbia to clinical on the unit around 2014 and was encouraged to go for my MSN. I began teaching full-time at a small LPN school and continued my education with the USC DNP program in Executive Leadership,” said Russin.

Kelly teaches students how important self-care is for nurses after a patient’s death.

“I never would have gotten where I am without the encouragement and caring nature of the USC nursing community. I hope that my story can be used to show others that they can accomplish anything despite their background and circumstances,” said Russin. 

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