Excellence. At Johns Hopkins it’s more than just a word in our rhetoric; it’s a standard we live by in our teaching, research, practice, and mentoring. Enhancing excellence is the first goal in the School of Nursing strategic plan, yet as we celebrate our many successes in achieving that goal, we also face many challenges.
Each spring, in one of my favorite events, we honor faculty and staff successes. This year, Laura Taylor, PhD, RN, and Shirley Van Zandt, MS, MPH, RN, were the recipients of the Johns Hopkins University Alumni Association Excellence in Teaching Awards. Given annually since 1992, these very special awards recognize faculty members who—according to their students—stand out as both a teacher and a mentor.
Laura, an assistant professor in the Department of Health Systems and Outcomes, received the Baccalaureate Excellence in Teaching Award. Known for her sense of humor and innovative use of technology, she creates “teach-able moments” her students will not soon forget, including a video of herself dancing to simulate heart rhythms.
Shirley, an Instructor in the Department of Community and Public Health, was given the Graduate Excellence in Teaching Award. With a reputation for challenging students, she lives her philosophy that “people learn best when they are least threatened and most confident.” She creates a safe learning environment through thoughtful questioning and unwavering respect for her students.
To recognize staff excellence, we’ve created a new SPOT award for “staff performing over the top.” Our first recipient was Public Safety Officer Eugene Mobley (photo above). Eugene is stationed at the front door and is the first face visitors see at the school. He is known for going out of his way to be helpful, even volunteering to help a visitor unload her car—in the pouring rain.
The achievements of these honorees and their colleagues exemplify our standard of excellence. But today, that standard is threatened by new and emerging challenges that force difficult decisions about how we will continue to be successful.
And we are not alone in facing these challenges. I hear daily from my fellow nursing school deans across the country and around the globe about their struggles to maintain their programs and survive the devastating impact of the national and international economic crises. Many are downsizing not only faculty and staff, but student enrollments as well.
Here at Hopkins, the troubled economy has driven us to take a hard look at how we do business and what it’s going to take to maintain our excellence. We know we can’t just make budget cuts here and there. Nor can we just hunker down and wait out the hard times. Instead, we are using this challenge to analyze, innovate, re-engineer, and redesign. We are doing more than simply surviving; we are increasing our efficiency, effectiveness, and productivity to achieve at even higher levels.
Over the past months, we have reorganized specific areas of staff support to enhance the skills and expertise our faculty require as they re-engineer their approaches to teaching excellence and scholarly productivity. And, we have created a new position of Assistant Dean for Information and Technology Integration and recently added two instructional designers to enhance and build our technology capacity in all we do.
So stay tuned: We have embarked on an innovative path that is redefining how we deliver nursing education and creating even more success. I look forward to sharing more news of our accomplishments with you in the coming months.
The editorial alliance “reflects the academic nursing center we’ve created here, a marriage of the school and the hospital,” says Haller. “The re-launch of Hopkins Nurse in the school magazine as a combined publication recognizes and honors that.”