Two faculty members in the School of Nursing are receiving high praise from the Commonwealth’s nurse education leadership and advocacy group. 

The Massachusetts Association of Colleges of Nursing (MACN) has awarded Dr. Rachel Cox Simms its Academic Innovative Teaching Award and Dr. Brenna Morse its Excellence in Mentoring Award: Faculty-to-Faculty. Cox Simms, an assistant professor, teaches in the Prelicensure program. Morse, an associate professor, was recently inducted as a Fellow in the American Academy of Nursing.

“I'm truly honored to receive the Academic Innovative Teaching Award,” said Cox Simms, who joined the faculty in 2020. “It's not just a recognition of my efforts but a testament to the vibrant, supportive, and innovative atmosphere at our institution. I deeply appreciate the freedom, inspiration, and support I receive here, which empowers me to explore creative teaching methods and contribute positively to our students' learning experiences.”

“Being awarded is an honor, just as it is an honor to get to mentor faculty colleagues as they grow their academic careers,” said Morse, who joined the faculty in 2023 and was recently inducted as a Fellow in the National Academy of School Nursing. “A simple but powerful philosophy guides my mentorship: there is room for everybody at the top, so there is no reason not to help others find success.”

Factors in Being Chosen 

Cox Simms says in her approach to teaching, she blends traditional, well-structured lecture components with dynamic and engaging methodologies. She incorporates artificial intelligence, pop culture references, integrated gamification, and interactive case studies complete with props to make each lecture more than just informative but also exciting, funny, and relatable. These tools not only capture students' interest but also enhance their engagement and understanding.

In subjects like pharmacology, where memorization is crucial, Cox focuses on scaffolding content and employing repetition to reinforce key concepts. Additionally, she designs activities that are aimed at enhancing critical thinking and clinical judgment, essential skills for our future healthcare professionals.

“This award helps motivate me to continue pushing the boundaries of traditional education and to keep innovating for the benefit of our students and community,” said Cox Simms. 

Morse began mentoring undergraduate students when she started at UMass Lowell in 2015, and then picked up some faculty colleagues along the way as she published more and found the "formula" to having an article accepted. Over the past decade, Morse has mentored over 100 students and colleagues who have developed academic papers, posters, grant proposals, and other deliverables that advanced their careers. At the IHP, she has worked with nursing instructor Rachel Salguero, who published a paper and recorded a podcast about the work;  

Nursing instructor Kate Kieran, who published a two-paper series; and nursing instructors Karen Hunt and Jennifer Duran, who are working with Morse on the  $1.1 million Mass Health grant that will train 144 complex care nurses over two years. 

“Everyone has great ideas, and I am confident big things will continue to happen in the SON!” said Morse. “I continue to be inspired by the dedication of my colleagues to advance nursing through scholarship and am grateful to Rachael Salguero and Ken White for the nomination.”