Research, Interprofessionalism, mentorship, and dedication celebrated; Halvorson-Bourgeois wins Watts Award
As she sat near the back of the room watching the video that would reveal the winner, Bonnie Halvorson-Bourgeois suddenly put her hands to her mouth, stunned at the message on the screen: she had just been named the winner of the Nancy T. Watts Award For Excellence in Teaching, the highest honor a faculty member can receive. Her award, reaction, and congratulations from thrilled colleagues sitting nearby, were among the highlights at the Fall 2023 Convocation, held at 1 CW on October 3.
“I'm extremely honored,” said an excited Halvorson-Bourgeois. “To hear from the students that I work with every day, and my mentors who are really shining stars in our field, it meant the world to me.”
The annual ceremony, held on a sun-splashed day alongside the gorgeous harbor views outside of 1 CW, attracted approximately 140 faculty and staff, who celebrated faculty accomplishments across programs and schools while officially kicking off the 2023-2024 academic year.
“First, we're here to celebrate your accomplishments, and the impact of our people in our programs on all those that we serve,” said Dr. Reamer Bushardt, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs. “And secondly, we're having a reunion of sorts. Each year we get to spend time together and strengthen the bonds between us. We get inspired and reconnect with the purpose that we all share.”
The event’s keynote speaker was Niyum Gandhi, Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer at Mass General Brigham, who spoke optimistically of the how the system’s financial outlook was improving, how the IHP is the fastest growing entity in the system, and of the upcoming opportunities for MGB and the IHP to work together.
“It’s no secret that we're in challenging times for healthcare. Mass General Brigham peaked at 12,000 vacancies across all roles last summer – at a normal time we may have 2,000 – 3,000,” Gandhi told the audience. “Workforce remains our biggest challenge. As a system, we're recovering, but we need to think differently about solving workforce problems, creating pipelines within the communities that we serve, reaching all the way back into high schools to get people on the healthcare track. These are great jobs for people if they get the right training in a place like HP, that or upward economic mobility. This is where the IHP plays a critical role.”
Nancy T. Watts Award For Excellence in Teaching
Halvorson-Bourgeois, an Assistant Professor of Communication Sciences and Disorders, won the Watts award for being a faculty member who best exemplifies creativity in teaching, is receptive to evaluation, is responsive to the individual learning needs of students, is a mentor to students and faculty alike, and is recognized and respected by professional colleagues.
“When she joined our program, she discovered literacy as her new passion,” said Lesley Maxwell, Associate Chair for the department, in the videotape “reveal” of the Watts award winner. “By focusing on helping our students learn how to teach people to read and to write, she has been able, I think, to live out a purpose of giving voice to those people who don't have a voice.”
Halvorson-Bourgeois has long made mindfulness a key aspect of her teaching, helping her stay in touch with the needs of her students and teaching them to keep in touch with themselves throughout the process.
“As a professor, she really started off each class by making sure that we as students were okay being in touch with ourselves,” Visnavy Vicknewswaran, SLP ’23, said in the video. “I think that's really important for setting a foundation for learning that allowed us to better access whatever information she would be teaching."
Halvorson-Bourgeois said she was shocked to win the award and that her mentors helped make this possible. “Especially mentors like Lesley [Maxwell] and Charley [Haynes] who have been so supportive of me from the beginning and were actually my clinical supervisors when I was a student,” said Halvorson-Bourgeois, who earned her MS in speech-language pathology from the Institute in 2007.
Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Leadership Award
Clara Gona, an Associate Professor in the School of Nursing, took home the Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Leadership Award for her sustained commitment to justice, equity, and inclusion at the IHP.
A video testimonial highlighting Gona’s contributions included comments from colleagues.
“Her research publications on the experience of black students here at the IHP has really been a call to action to us as a nursing school to do better and to improve the experience of people of color,” said Jason Lucey, Assistant Dean of Advanced Practice Programs in the School of Nursing.
Kenya Palmer Emrich is an Instructor and Track Coordinator in the School of Nursing who graduated from the IHP in 2013 with a master’s in nursing. Emrich not only had Gona as a professor, but now, as a faculty member, sees herself as a mentee of Gona who has learned valuable lessons from Gona on how to integrate JEDI ideals into her own work.
“We have a lot of international students at the IHP, which is really wonderful, and we know that it’s easy to put those students into a group that’s marginalized and isn’t given the opportunity to really excel as much as they could in the classroom,” said Palmer Enrich in the video testimonial. “Dr. Gona made it very clear to me that just because English is their second language does not necessarily mean that’s the reason they are having difficulty. And she did it in a way that didn’t make me feel as though I had done something wrong that might’ve jeopardized this student’s ability to be successful in our program but gave me all the options and ways to look at the situation.”
Gona says she has always tried to shine a light on students of color at the IHP and guide them through nursing school, knowing from experience that it can be challenging.
“Walking in the hallway, I usually see students of color looking down, looking stressed,” said Gona, who has been at the IHP since 2011. “I was there, so I get it. I try to do what I can to just have everybody feel like they're welcome here and they don’t have to go through it alone. Even in class having foreign students, I understand what it was like.”
Other Faculty Are Recognized
Several other faculty were recognized and given awards during the convocation.
Dr. Bobbie Ann Adair White, an Assistant Professor of Health Professions Education. was elected to the fifth cohort of the Teaching Excellence Academy for Learning, or TEAL, an honorary society for faculty. Fellows receive funding for professional development and the title of Distinguished Teaching Professor.
The New Investigator Award, given to an IHP faculty member who has achieved distinction in the early stages of their research career, was awarded to Dr. Marziye Eshghi, an Assistant Professor of Communication Sciences and Disorders. Eshghi studies many aspects of speech measures and most recently, her research led to discovery of early biomarkers of Alzheimer's.
The Faculty Award for Excellence in Research was given to Dr. Joanna Christodoulou, Director of the BEAM lab and an Associate Professor of Communication Sciences and Disorders. Given each year to a faculty member who has a distinctive program of research and is recognized nationally, this award highlights Dr. Christodoulou’s vast, internationally-recognized work based on out-of-the box ideas and a transformational impact on research approaches.
To honor a distinguished faculty member who has excelled in meeting the excellence in teaching criteria and is recognized by students, faculty colleagues, and other members of the community, the Excellence in Research Mentoring award was given to Dr. Patricia Reidy, Associate Dean of Graduate Programs and Community Engagement and a Professor of Nursing.
Along with awards, promotions were announced too. Two faculty members were named Assistant Professor: Jessica Asiello, Occupational Therapy and Lesley Smith, Physical Therapy, while three were promoted to Associate Professor: Alex Hoyt, School of Nursing; Sarah McKinnon, Occupational Therapy; and Keshrie Naidoo, Physical Therapy.
As Provost Bushardt shared during the ceremony: “You're all an integral part of an institution that is actually shaping a better world.”
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