The GRNEN Founders

The original founders of the Global Rural Nursing Exchange Network share a common goal to support rural nurses and their rural communities. Identifying a need for a network that supports rural nursing, the founders developed a vision for a collaborative community to share the diverse experiences and complexities of rural nursing. 

Through the growth of the GRNEN network, the founders aim to provide a respectful community for nurses, nurse educators, researchers, and nursing students. As it grows, the GRNEN will foster the development of the next generation of rural nurses and impact local, regional, and global medical policy.

Jean Ross HS

Jean Ross

New Zealand

Otago Polytechnic Dunedin

Jean Ross RN, BN, MA Nursing, PhD, FCNA (NZ) is a professor in nurs­ing at Otago Polytechnic, Dunedin, New Zealand. She has more than 25 years’ experience of working with the rural nursing workforce including the areas of research and education. Jean’s work with rural nurses began in 1994 with the establishment of the National Centre for Rural Health in New Zealand, of which she was co-director. Jean has published two books and numerous journal publications.


Diana VanderWoude


Sanford Health

Diana VanderWoude has almost 40 years of experience in healthcare administration, education, and regulation. She is the System Vice President of Learning, Education and Development (LEAD) for Sanford Health; one of the largest health systems in the United States with 50,000 employees and healthcare facilities in 26 states and 9 countries. Diana is a Registered Nurse with a master’s degree from South Dakota State University (SDSU) in Nursing Administration. She was recently recognized as a Distinguished Alumna for SDSU in 2018.

Education and workforce development have been core to Diana’s passion as a leader. In her role at Sanford Health, she oversees learning strategies, collaborative academic partnerships, and career development across the enterprise. Prior to joining Sanford Health in 2002, Diana served 11 years as the Executive Director for the SD Board of Nursing and helped lead efforts to implement the multi-state nursing compact and creation of the health-professionals assistance program (HPAP). She has held leadership roles at the state and national level, including various boards and advisory councils. She currently serves on the Build Dakota Scholarship Board and on the SD Board of Technical Education.

Diana has been a life-long resident of SD. Her husband, Jurek, was born in Poland and is a sculptor/artist. They have five children: Skye, Cole, Alexy, Kristian and Luca. They enjoy traveling and many outdoor activities.

Audrey Snyder Headshot

Audrey Snyder



Audrey Snyder PhD, RN, ACNP is an associate professor and associate dean for Practice and Innovation in the School of Nursing at the University of Northern Carolina-Greensboro. Audrey’s clinical and research interests include nursing education, rural underserved populations and evaluating methods to improve access to care in the US and globally, emergency medicine, disaster preparedness and response, engaging communities and international health and nursing history. She is a dynamic education and healthcare professional, with 35 years as a nurse and 20 as a nurse practitioner. She is certified as an Acute Care and Family Nurse Practitioner and gained a PhD in nursing from the University of Virginia in 2007. She is president of the International Rural Nurses Organization. 


Elizabeth Merwin



Elizabeth Merwin, PhD, RN, FAAN is dean and professor at the University of Texas at Arlington. Elizabeth is an accomplished nursing and health services researcher whose work has focused on improving care for underserved populations, particularly those in rural communities and minority populations. Her research programme has been consistently funded by NIH and other external funding agencies. Currently, she is conducting a study of the US Medicare population titled Reducing Health Disparities in SMI, Rural and Minority Populations. Previously, she was the director of a National Institutes of Health/National Institute of Nursing research programme where she was involved in many pilot studies including one on the incorporation of technology into care delivery. Earlier in her career, she was associate director and then director of a NIMH-funded rural mental health centre. She recently completed service as president of the Rural Nurse Organization.  


Corey Hamilton Kilgore





Corey Hamilton Kilgore BS (Psychology), MS (Industrial/Organizational Psychology) is the Executive Director, of the Matson Halverson Christiansen Hamilton (MHCH) Foundation, in Kimball, South Dakota.  Corey is responsible for executing the foundation’s mission of improving quality of life and creating opportunities for rural enterprise development. This work has primarily focused on the creation of programs that recognize the role of community development and philanthropy in rural health while also leveraging healthcare as a driver of rural economic development.  Corey has extensive experience in facilitating and leading change in a wide array of organizations such as non-profit, education, manufacturing and service. 

Prior to joining the MHCH Foundation, she was a senior change management consultant with both Ernst & Young and Hewlett Packard Corporation and has held consulting engagements with a diverse mix of organizations. Clients have included Shell Global Solutions, the King Ranch Institute for Ranch Management, Home Federal Bank Corporation, South Dakota Game Fish, & Parks Commission, South Dakota State University, and the Texas A&M Executive Program for Agricultural Producers.  Corey was born and raised in rural Texas.  She currently resides in Houston, Texas with her husband Gary and two sons Jack and Sam. 

Lisa Feller_photo

Lisa M. Feller



Lisa M. Feller, EdD, RN, CNE is academic director and associate professor, University of South Dakota Department of Nursing Pierre, South Dakota. Lisa has over 20 years of experience in nursing education, with expertise in adult health, rural health, leadership and quality improvement. She was a member of the Quality and Safety Education for Nurses (QSEN) pilot project and has provided consultation to nursing programs on the integration of QSEN competencies in curricula. In addition, Dr Feller has worked closely with community and practice partners to implement workforce development models in rural settings. 


Anne Pithan


University of South Dakota
Department of Nursing



Anne Pithan DNP, RN, CMSRN, CNE is Chair of Nursing for the University of South Dakota Department of Nursing. Anne has over 34 years of nursing experience in nursing leadership, nursing practice, and nursing education.  Anne’s area of interest includes leadership development and mentoring, curriculum design, professional identity formation, and evidence-based practice. She has developed nurse residency programs, clinical ladders for nurses in practice, and transformed nursing delivery systems in acute care settings. She has extensive implementation of quality improvement projects in practice.   

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