College of Nursing

Leadership Team

College of Nursing DeanCindy Weston Headshot


Founding Dean – College of Nursing

In April 2023, Weston was named founding dean of the HSC College of Nursing. She has been a co-recipient of more than $20 million in funding to implement nurse-managed care delivery models, innovative simulation, integrated behavioral health care models and improving health outcomes in vulnerable populations.

A longtime registered nurse and nurse practitioner in Texas, Weston also serves as president of Texas Nurse Practitioners, an organization she has been a member of since 2000. Other professional memberships include the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties, International Association for Clinical Simulation in Nursing and more. Weston is a fellow of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners and soon will be a fellow in the American Academy of Nursing.


Dr. Elizabeth Wells-Beede HeadshotElizabeth Wells-Beede, PhD, RN, C-EFM, CHSE-A, CNE, ACUE, FAAN

Senior Associate Dean

With more than 15 years of innovative educational experience in nursing, Wells-Beede brings a new level of involvement in academic and clinical settings. She not only is a certified nurse educator but also an advanced certified health care simulation educator and one of the leading proponents and creators of virtual reality nurse training. She will leverage her experiences at the college in collaboration with HSC’s state-of-the-art Regional Simulation Center.


Cheryl ThaxtonCheryl Thaxton, DNP, APRN, CPNP, FNP-BC, CHPPN, ACUE, FPCN, FAANP

Associate Dean/Chair for Graduate Studies

Thaxton brings more than 30 years of experience in nursing, including critical and primary care and nursing leadership. As a graduate of George Washington University’s Doctor of Nursing Practice program, she spent several years researching the specific needs of children and adults with life-limiting illnesses.


Rebecca BurnsRebecca Burns, DNP, MSN, BSN, RN, ACUE

Associate Dean/Chair for Undergraduate Studies

Burns is an accomplished nursing professional in teaching and research initiatives. Previously a clinical associate professor and Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN to BSN) coordinator in the Texas A&M University School of Nursing, Burns will ensure nursing students receive the highest quality education and experiences while they excel in their academic journeys at HSC’s College of Nursing.


Tonychris Nnaka Headshot

Tonychris Nnaka, PhD, MPH, RN, CPH

Associate Dean for Research

Nnaka is an experienced nurse leader and health disparities researcher with expertise in cardiovascular disease management and digital therapeutics. He gained his research training at the University of Texas at Austin School of Nursing under the National Institute of Nursing Research T-32 Precision Health Training in Self-Management of Multiple Chronic Conditions and at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College under the National Institute on Drug Abuse T-32 Science of Co-Occurring Disorders. He previously served as a policy advisor to Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson on data-driven health decision-making, health disparities and COVID-19 responses.


Kate Taylor 02


Assistant Dean for Clinical Affairs

Taylor brings more than 25 years of experience in health care. She is a clinical executive for SaferCare Texas, HSC’s patient safety organization, and an assistant professor in HSC’s Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine. She previously served as a critical care Army Nurse Corps officer.

In February, the UNT System Board of Regents approved the creation of the HSC College of Nursing to help address the shortage of nurses in Texas. Then in August, the Board of Regents approved the college’s first two degree offerings: a RN to BSN and a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) in Nursing Practice Innovation. The degrees are slated to be offered in fall 2024, when the college’s first students will start classes. Both the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges also must approve the degrees before the new college can begin enrolling students.


Mary Findley Headshot

Mary Findley, JD

Senior Executive Assistant

Findley is an enthusiastic and innovative professional with extensive experience in event management, office administration and human resources in a higher education setting. She has a bachelor’s degree in English from Centenary College of Louisiana and a Juris Doctorate from The University of Oklahoma.