Faculty Profiles

Our faculty are active researchers, writers and speakers; many of them internationally known for their contributions toward the advancement of their fields of study. But, most of all, they're passionate, caring teachers.

  • Grace Gao, PhD, DNP, RN-BC, LHIT-HP, RWJF Future of Nursing Scholar Alumni

    Associate Professor, Department of Nursing

    Grace Gao earned her DNP degree in Nursing Informatics and Integrative Health, and PhD in Nursing from University of Minnesota. In addition, Grace is a public health nurse and ANCC certified Informatics Nurse. Grace has worked in a variety of roles in both public and private sectors across extensive health care settings, including case manager in home care, care plan coordinator in long-term care, staff nurse in hospital, nurse educator in the academic setting, and clinical informatics specialist and consultant.

    Grace’s nursing experiences showcase expertise in public health, nursing informatics, and integrative health.

  • Jayne Sparks, MS, RN, CNE, CCM

    Assistant Professor, Nursing

    I am a two-time graduate of St. Kate's and have been teaching in the RN to BSN section of the Department of Nursing since 2013. The focus of my teaching is community health nursing and nursing leadership.

  • Laura Fero, PhD, MSN, RN

    Dean of Nursing - Henrietta Schmoll School of Health

    Laura Fero brings an extensive background in healthcare as both a practitioner and higher education administrator to St. Catherine University. In her role as the dean of nursing in the Henrietta Schmoll School of Health, she is responsible for the growth and sustainability of Minnesota’s oldest nursing program. In addition to managing daily operations and the effectiveness of the nursing program, Fero leads innovation, curriculum design, and interprofessional education, ensuring all nursing graduates are prepared to provide cutting-edge, compassionate, and ethical care to patients. 

    Her research interests include critical thinking skills development for nursing students, nursing career pathways, and supportive health services.

  • Matthew Byrne, PhD, RN, CNE

    Associate Dean for Nursing

    I am passionate about improving the technologies used by nurses and patients in both the clinical and educational contexts. My research focus in in the areas of Nursing Informatics, notably clinical decision support, UX/UI design and workflows. In terms of nursing education my focus is on instructional technology and educational analytics. My clinical "home base" is perianesthesia nursing and I serve as a reviewer and columnist for the Journal of Perianesthesia Nursing, serve on their Ed Board and publish in several perianesthesia texts.

  • Shelley Rayborn, DNP PHN RN

    Assistant Professor, Nursing

    My background is in emergency nursing and critical care. I am currently working as a clinical educator in a hospital system. My current focus is on research and evidence based practice. I have many unpublished research projects as well as those published with links found below.

  • Sonja Rivers, MAN, RN, PHN

    Assistant Professor of Nursing, Director of the RN-BSN Degree Completion Program Nursing

    I spent the first part of my nursing career working in acute care assuming both clinical and administrative roles. I have always been drawn to education and helping people reach their greatest potential: patients, families, nurses, and now nursing students. I find the transformation rewarding.
    I obtained my Baccalaureate Degree in Nursing from Augsburg University as well as my Master of Arts in Nursing with a focus on Transformational Leadership. I earned my Post-Masters in Nursing Education from Walden University with a focus on online education. Previous research has focused on the role of the charge nurse as a leader, and ethical leadership practices.

  • Susan Martinson, MA RN

    Assistant Professor, Nursing

    I have been at St Catherine University for over 30 years, teaching at various levels in the nursing program. My primary teaching responsibilities have included both didactic and clinical teaching. Most of my clinical experience is in adult medical-surgical nursing, but also have extensive experience in telephone triage. My education includes University of Wisconsin - Madison where I earned a Bachelor's Degree in Nursing (BSN) and St Catherine University where I earned a Master's Degree in Nursing, with a focus in Nursing Education. Please feel free to contact me at smmartinson@stkate.edu

  • Suzanne Burke Lehman, DNP, RN, PHN

    Baccalaureate Program Director, College for Women/ Associate Professor of Nursing

    Dr. Suzanne Lehman, DNP, RN, PHN is an Associate Professor and Director of the Baccalaureate Nursing Program in the College for Women Nursing Program at St. Catherine University.  Dr. Lehman has provided healthcare leadership and service in a variety of community, education, and practice settings over her career. She is an appointed member of the Fairview University of Minnesota Medical Center Community Advisory Council and co-founder of the Nursing Diversity Collaborative, a nursing education/practice partnership to increase registered nurse and nursing faculty workforce diversity at St. Catherine University and Minnesota Children’s Hospitals and Clinics.

  • Vera Stephenson MSN, RN, PHN

    Assistant Professor, Nursing

    Nursing, Nursing: RN-BSN Degree Completion
    Co-Chair on CoFei (committee on faculty equity inclusion) in the Nursing Department

    I have been working at St. Kates since 2013, in the Associate Degree Nursing Program, the College for Adults, and the College for Women. I currently work full time in the RN to BS program fully online. My husband was active duty Army for 21 years (retired in 2013) so I have worked in a variety of areas of Nursing all over the US prior to finding my home at St. Kates including; Med/Surg in Texas and Kansas, Pediatric Rehab in Kentucky, OB in Kansas, Telephone Triage in California, College Health in Colorado, Community Health, Urgent Care, and PACU in MN.