Melissa Gomes presents at the AACN Diversity Leadership Institute
With 39 academics from across the U.S., Gomes participation in the six-month AACN Institute led to an analysis and revision of the School's holistic admissions. PHOTO BY VIVIENNE MCDANIEL, VANBA.

With 39 faculty peers from colleges and universities around the U.S., associate dean for diversity, equity, and inclusion Melissa Gomes, an associate professor and psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, recently completed the American Association of Colleges of Nursing's Diversity Leadership Institute.

Over its six-month term, the AACN Institute offered participants both in-person and virtual workshops focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion best practices, a chance to network and exchange ideas with like-minded peers, and opportunities to conduct a focused capstone study on a topic of interest and present it to the group. Gomes’s capstone focused on a review of the School of Nursing’s holistic admissions processes and rubric, a process that was instituted in 2015 with the creation of the IDEA (the Inclusion, Diversity, and Excellence Achievement) initiative.

For her project, Gomes analyzed the School’s holistic admissions process, faculty members’ understanding of why it was developed, how it works, and their self-perceived efficacy and comfort level in using it. As part of that review, assessment, and through interviews with key stakeholders using the holistic admissions protocols, key findings included:

  • Inclusion and equity processes need a human champion to promote their uptake
  • Rolling out rubrics without assessing users’ knowledge and understanding of them is ineffective, and can lead to stagnant growth and a distinct lack of diversity

Given these findings, Gomes—who has, since the Institute, proposed a new holistic admissions process for the School—developed a new set of application and candidate questions with corresponding rubrics to help promote inter-rater reliability. She also proposed creation of a designated annual non-volunteer admission review committee (an appointed Holistic Admission Task Force at the School) to help reduce faculty burden and improve consistency and standardization.

Prior to her tenure at UVA, Gomes was an associate professor and interim chair of graduate studies at Hampton University School of Nursing. She is also the founder of Transitions Empowerment Associates and an advisor for the new after school program the Hampton Roads Police Athletic League, part of the National Police Athletic League. These mental health practices have, since 2013, earned more than $670,000 in grants to develop and pilot alternatives to suspension programs for at-risk youth with Hampton City Schools. Gomes’s NIH-, NINR-, and NCI-funded research has focused on youth and intimate partner violence, Black teenagers’ attitudes and beliefs about HIV/AIDS, and analyses of the genetic variants in African American women with breast cancer.