Women’s History Month Spotlight – Healing and Hope in Higher Education  

Dr. Debby Flickinger

March is Women’s History Month. The observance celebrates the contributions and achievements of women in the United States. This year’s theme is “Providing Healing, Promoting Hope.”

Dr. Debby Flickinger is a professor who provides healing and hope to her doctoral students. Affiliated faculty at UIU since 2019, Flickinger teaches courses on social justice, engaging difference, and sustainability through a Caring Science™ lens.

“When I walk into a room, whether it is virtual or face-to-face, I walk in with my heart first. I approach every student with care and compassion. I want to know what each student is thinking and feeling. First, I do a centering exercise to clear the chaos of the outside world and to bring in harmony and creativity. I want each person to be in a space where they feel held by one another. We then do a brief check-in so that everyone is seen and heard. Once we are in sync, we are ready to begin the class.

At the end of the class, students offer up either one word or the pearl of their experience. This brings closure, and often joy, to the endnote. These processes need not take up much class time. What they do create is a sense of well-being and connection within the class, including myself. In my use of Caring Science, I believe I encourage students to understand my work with Caring Sustainability™ which demonstrates that nothing, not even healing nor hope, is sustainable without caring.”

What is Caring Science?

“I use the definition of Jean Watson, Ph.D. (2008) who states that ‘Caring Science is an evolving philosophical – ethical – epistemic field of study, grounded in the discipline of nursing and informed by related fields’ (p.18). You can learn more about the Caring Science theory by viewing Dr. Watson’s videos.”

Flickinger explains how she incorporates the theory into her classes.

“Caring Science Theory provided me with the groundwork for Caring Sustainability™ which has helped to move what was started as an approach to holistic care for nurses into a wider arena that now encompasses, leadership, social justice, consciousness studies, and research. According to Watson (2008) Caring Science seeks to combine science with humanities and [the] arts’ (p.22).”

In addition to her teaching duties, Flickinger facilitates workshops, participates on panels, and does presentations on Caring Sustainability™, Caring Science Theory™, Critical Race Theory, and Social Justice around the globe. She has contributed a chapter in Miracles and Mysteries Witnessed by Nurses, a collection of stories edited by Jean Watson. She has collaborated on a chapter for a book, Innovative Strategic Planning and International Collaboration for the Mitigation for Global Crisis (edited by Gabriela Antošová) to be published in 2022. In addition, she is certified as a Caritas, an Eco-therapist, and a Sustainability Coach.

At heart, Flickinger is an educator.

“I knew I would be a teacher at the age of seven. I had a Chatty Cathy doll and a Susie Smart doll that came with a chalkboard. Neighborhood children came to my house, and I would teach,” Flickinger said. “My journey parallels many Union students. I was young when I had my children and had to step away from my career plans. Completing my degrees took several years. During that time, I survived three fires and had to live in a hotel. I broke my wrist and had to type my papers using only my less dominant hand.”

But finish she did. She received her Ph.D. from the California Institute of Integral Studies in Transformative Studies with a concentration in Consciousness Studies, an M.A. in Consciousness and Transformative Studies, and B.A. in Philosophy and Religion from John F. Kennedy University.

Flickinger is a shining example of Union’s mission.  She instills hope and healing in her students to engage, enlighten and empower them to pursue professional goals and a lifetime of learning, service and social responsibility.


Watson, J. (2008). The philosophy and science of caring (Rev. ed.). University Press of Colorado.
Watson, J. (2015, April 15). Welcome to caring science. [Video].YouTube.


Union is a global leader in providing higher education degrees for the adult learner. Your Goals. Your Success. Your Union. We’ve Got U!  Visit myunion.edu to start your new career.