Aron King saw himself as a bedside nurse. But when he came to the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at UC Davis, he found his purpose and a new trajectory to change the futures of more African Americans.

“I really wanted to push my family forward and education does that,” said King, M.S., R.N., an assistant nurse manager at UC Davis Health and alumnus of the master’s-degree leadership Class of 2021.

King is part of the final Master of Science — Leadership cohort, the school’s flagship program that matriculated its first class of 25 students in October 2010. Throughout a decade, the program sought registered nurses focused on important societal health issues through the work of advancing health and improving the systems that provide health services.

Many of the 220 alumni say they were drawn to the School of Nursing because they were frustrated with the status quo. They sought to develop the skills to lead transformative change beyond the bedside at the systems level.

Upon arrival at the School of Nursing, King connected with alumni who launched the Capitol City Black Nurses Association and faculty who taught from a multicultural perspective. Witnessing their influence and realizing his own potential, he took on new leadership roles in the community and his profession.

“Being a graduate-prepared nurse, you can influence change at a different level,” he explained.

King focused on applying his new-found leadership skills outside the classroom. He led virtual discussions about social justice last summer, provided forums on COVID-19 in the Black community and amplified others’ work to promote health equity.

Just the beginning

King and the final class of 25 entered in 2019. School leaders reassessed workforce demand and suspended the program that year. A new proposed Doctor of Nursing Practice degree program presents opportunities to serve evolving needs in health care and strengthen community relationships for the school.

“Though this degree program ends, the people connected to its experience and their contributions endure for generations,” explained School of Nursing Dean Stephen Cavanagh. “We will always innovate for the future because that is how we drive change.”

As school leaders strategically map out the future of the school, King adds to the legacy of leadership in cultural inclusiveness, knowledge of organizations and system change, teamwork and a commitment to healthy communities.

“I really want to be that change maker alongside other leadership alumni,” King said. “It may be the end of this program, but it is just the beginning for myself and many others in our final cohort.”