Marilyn Hopkins '70 (Nursing)

Hopkins at forefront in health education

It takes a good leader to recognize the potential in other leaders. Marilyn Hopkins, dean emeritus of the College of Health and Human Services at Sac State and current provost and COO at Touro University’s Mare Island, Calif. campus, says good mentoring is what took her from nursing student to college administrator.

“I credit the push I got from wise mentors to continue to move on to the next step,” Hopkins says.

After earning her degree at Sac State, Hopkins was hired for the then-new, and now closed, American River Hospital, where she worked in intensive care—a new discipline at the time. It was there she made her first climb up the career ladder as the result of an inadvertent “rookie” mistake.

“To show you how naive I was, I went on the interview and took the job not knowing which shift I was working—it was the 11 (p.m.) to 7 (a.m.),” Hopkins says. “But it’s amazing how fast you progress when no one is around. You have to do things for yourself. I was the head nurse on the shift within nine months.”

After two years she moved on to Kaiser Hospital where she specialized in intensive care and pulmonary care. She also got her first taste of nursing education.

“Nursing students would rotate through, and I was asked if I would consider working with students,” she says. “After I did that for a while I was asked ‘have you ever thought of teaching?’ And I decided to give it a try.”

Hopkins started teaching part time at Sac State while working full time at Kaiser and after a while she was asked to join the University full time. But that required an advanced degree, so she enrolled at UC San Francisco where she earned a master’s degree and then a doctorate.

While Hopkins says the advanced degrees were a sign of her commitment to stay in the profession, she notes that she never thought she’d become an administrator. But after a sabbatical, where she worked on multimedia methods for online and distance learning, she saw a posting for an associate dean for the College of Health and Human Services.

“I thought, ‘That sounds like me,’” she says, and in a matter of days she was a candidate for the position. Still, she didn’t consider herself an administrator, in spite of her time as a nurse manager, an associate dean and as the chair of several campus committees. Nevertheless, when the opening for dean of the College came up in 2000 she applied, landed the job and served in the position until arriving at Touro last year.

Hopkins attributes her success to the people she’s worked with over the years. “I’ve had good mentoring all along,” she says, crediting her dean and the Sac State presidents she worked under for encouraging her to complete management training programs at Harvard University and Bryn Mawr College.

“It showed me I could move to a higher level, Hopkins says.

She describes her current role as provost and chief operating officer at Touro as “perfect for me.” Touro offers programs in osteopathic medicine, pharmacy and health sciences and is looking at developing a nursing program.

“As dean I had kind of moved away from healthcare. I’m coming back to my roots in health care and education,” she says.

The COO part of her title is also allowing her to work on facilities planning for the college to build on land it has acquired.

This article was originally published in the Fall 2010 edition of Torchlight.