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Dr. Brown receives Distinguished New Faculty Award for 2011

Dr. Esther Brown of Coatesville, Pa., assistant professor in the School of Nursing, received the 2011 Distinguished New Faculty Award at the 22nd International Conference on College Teaching and Learning in April in Jacksonville, Fla., for her work with students in a service learning course.

The Distinguished New Faculty Award is given to faculty members who have been with their current university for three years or less and are making efforts to guide millennial students into the future. The award recognizes new faculty who are meeting this challenge with their current contributions to advancing education. Brown was chosen as one of this year’s six recipients for her creative thinking her motivation skills.

The course, Introduction to Nursing, is the first nursing course that uses an innovative teaching strategy, incorporating the nursing process and service learning. The nursing process – assessment, diagnosis, planning, implementation, and evaluation – is a systematic problem solving tool that assists nurses in providing care, Brown explained.

Students in her course work closely with agencies such as City Team Ministries, the Bernadine Center, and Anna’s place in Chester, Pa to apply the nursing process. Their first step in the process this past spring, was to do an assessment and decide how their efforts could better serve the population. This step also included an analysis which explores the data they collected.

The next part of the process allowed students to identify an appropriate diagnosis. “It had to be beyond just handing out or collecting food,” Brown said. “The students needed to identify a need that could help the organization with their mission. For instance, the Bernadine Center food bank assists mothers and children who come to the center, so the students’ diagnosis was to establish a fun activity for the children. This year the students held an Easter egg hunt for the children and taught them how to pot small plants, which was organized during the planning stage.” Following the diagnosis students then implemented their ideas. After the event the students evaluate the activity. Other students taught members at the Chester Senior center computer games. “The evaluation process asks what could have been done differently, or if the activity was successful,” Brown said. Some students use a questionnaire to evaluate the activity.

The students gain a better understanding of the nursing profession by being immersed in the process. “I want our students to begin to critical think about the process and realize that everyone has a story; that’s important for a nurse to know,” Brown said. “Instead of a patient, I want the students to see the mom, dad, brother, and sister.”

Technology also played a key role in this course. “Students rely heavily on technology,” Brown said. Noting that these students are of the millennial generation and technology plays a major role in their lives and their way of thinking. With that said, Brown’s goal is to teach the students how to look at situations beyond the process and under the technical applications, and to become more self aware.

In Brown’s forth semester teaching the course she believes that it continues to evolve. “The course allows them to practice critical thinking, but it also helps them to feel and develop compassion,” she said. Brown believes that recognizing these feelings are important for a nurse. “Nursing is a field beyond tasks. Anyone can be taught to give an injection, its more than that; it’s about the “care” and making connections.”

Brown is also an ordained minister, an elder of Union American Methodist Episcopal (UAME), and the Pastor of Mount Raymond UAME Church in Downingtown.

Widener University is a private, metropolitan university that connects curricula to social issues through civic engagement. Dynamic teaching, active scholarship, personal attention and experiential learning are key components of the Widener experience. A comprehensive doctorate-granting university, Widener is comprised of eight schools and colleges that offer liberal arts and sciences, professional and pre-professional curricula leading to associates, baccalaureate, master’s and doctoral degrees. The university’s campuses in Chester, Exton, and Harrisburg, Pa., and Wilmington, Del., serve some 6,700 students. Visit the university website,