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UWHEN 2020 Award Winners

 Four women represent the top leaders in Utah’s Women in Higher Education Network for 2020. 

The University of Utah’s Mary Anne Berzins received the Distinguished Service Award; the U of U’s Sumiko T. Martinez, Ph.D., received the Special Recognition Award; Utah Valley University’s Jessica C. Hill, Ph.D., received the Mentorship Award and the U of U’s Kirsten Mahoney received the Emerging Professional Award. 

Mary Anne Berzins--Distinguished Service Award

When Susan Madsen, Ph.D., organized the UWHEN organization in 2012, Berzins was on the committee to get it off the ground and involve women from all the institutions of higher education. Since them, Berzins has been the cornerstone of this organization and served in almost every position, sometimes more than once.

As assistant vice president, division of human resources at the U of U, Berzins’ primary focus is identifying and supporting appropriate leadership and organization, development mechanisms across the U.

She designs integrated curriculum for leadership development; facilitates leadership development programs; develops integrated, organizational, strategic support for departments and colleges, provides individual leadership coaching; and works collaboratively with many units across the campus.

One of her nominators wrote, Berzins’ demonstrated phenomenal support to the UWHEN Board of Directors and its mission. Having previously served as chair of the board, she willingly agreed to step back into that role in 2018 when the incoming chair stepped down. Her leadership and service helped stabilize the board during a time of transition and if once wasn't enough, she agreed to do it again the following year.

She is the only woman to serve as the UWHEN board chair three years. In addition to her outstanding leadership, she directly demonstrates her commitment to the mission of UWHEN by helping women advance careers within higher education leadership.

“Earlier this year, I found myself in need of guidance related to changes within my position at my institution. Mary Anne took the time to meet with me one-on-one and offer great feedback and support that helped me take the next steps in my career advancement,” wrote the nominator.

The next nominator wrote, “An expert in professional development, leadership and mentorship, Berzins exemplifies characteristics essential to supporting the UWHEN mission. Her advocacy and support for underrepresented populations increased UWHEN’s success by expanding resources, innovating content and reaching our constituents in a variety of settings (e.g., conferences, fall events and invited training at the institutions and across communities). During her tenure, she filled a vital role in the continuity and mission fulfillment of UWHEN. In addition to regular responsibilities, she repeatedly represented UWHEN at the national American Council on Education Women’s Network State Chair’s Conference.

“On a personal note, I witnessed and was a recipient of Berzins’ mentorship. Her patient and thoughtful leadership encouraged me and elevated my own capacity to lead and contribute.”

Sumiko T. Martinez, Ph.D.--Special Recognition Award

Martinez is the associate director for scholarships and student funding for the U of U’s College of Nursing. Her responsibilities include managing a $1.6 million annual scholarship budget for 1,500+ undergraduate and graduate students, secure a dedicated fund for emergency scholarships for nursing students, advocate for students to get assistance in completing their programs, assist in supervision of TAs and work-study students, write a policy and procedure manual for critical functions and serve on the emergency preparedness committee plus the campus-wide-homeless- student-task force.

Her nomination letter said Martinez’s vision in creating a dedicated emergency scholarship in the U of U’s College of Nursing helped many women in higher education, often during particularly vulnerable periods of their lives. Research tells us that a $400 emergency can derail a student’s higher education, and Martinez was determined that should not happen to any of her students.

She led the university to formalize the scholarship into its own account so funds are clearly demarcated for students in financial crisis, making it an easier program for fundraising and allowing better data collection on the impact of emergency funds on nursing students. Since 2017 when she formalized this scholarship, 38 women benefitted directly, enabling them to continue their education in the face of homelessness, food insecurity, domestic violence, medical emergencies, loss of jobs or transportation and many other serious situations.

Her close collaboration with the university’s advancement team contributed to successfully securing a donor to endow the scholarship so it will exist in perpetuity. Martinez’s impact with the hardship scholarship continues to be felt for years to come, as students who received these funds graduate from the College of Nursing and work in healthcare and touch many lives. However, the ripple effect goes farther than the students who have already benefitted. She is leading a project in conjunction with colleagues in the University Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid to simplify student access to emergency funds across campus and ensure that students in financial crisis get a coordinated response that includes not only money to tide them over, but also resources and assistance to help prevent them from landing in a financial crisis later on.

Her vision in combining immediate assistance to women with long-term education for success is deserving of a special recognition from UWHEN.

Jessica C. Hill, Ph.D.--Mentoring Award

Hill is an associate professor of psychology at UVU where she admits to being a broadly prepared cognitive developmentalist who studies cognitive psychology in the context of lifespan changes. She’s an internationally recognized scholar on teaching and learning in higher education and an award-winning educator who incorporates culturally relevant and learner-centered teaching across delivery modalities. A prolific grant writer and published author, she teaches general psychology, cognitive psychology, cognitive psychology as a learning community with abnormal psychology, research methods, psychology of adjustment, graduate seminar in the teaching of psychology and introduction of undergraduate pedagogy.

Her nominator wrote that Dr. Hill epitomizes the mentoring of women; she focuses on building pathways for women to ascend to their professional goals. The following demonstrates her impact on faculty, staff, and students across UVU, the state of Utah and the nation:

1. Co-developer and co-director of the USHE Women's Leadership Exchange: UWLE was developed to provide USHE women with leadership training because USHE consistently lags behind the nation in women-senior leaders. Hill and Nancy Hauck, Ph.D. from Dixie State University advocated support for the program which, in its inaugural year, supports 21 mid-career women and their mentors from all USHE institutions through training in developing: a. a leadership vision, b. executing plans and evaluating outcomes, c. building relationships & navigating organizational complexity, and d. communicating with and influencing others. This demonstrates her dedication to advancing women leaders in higher education in Utah.

2. Society for the Teaching of Psychology Mentor: Since the inception of the program, Hill provided monthly support to junior faculty in psychology teaching across the nation. These faculty are on the tenure track. Her effort demonstrates her dedication to supporting female faculty.

3. Tenure and promotion mentor for UVU faculty: Since receiving tenure in 2018, Hill served as tenure mentor for two women in her department. In addition, she was asked by the provost's office to provide promotion mentorship to a woman in another college. The request was made because of Hill's commitment to mentoring women, high standards in writing and performance, and high regard for her integrity and ability to maintain confidentiality.

4. Undergraduate research mentor: Hill co-leads a research team for undergraduate students and purposefully recruits and trains women students in order to promote STEM as a career option. Thus far, she mentored 25 students.

5. Informal mentoring (2012 - present): Hill seeks opportunities to informally mentor women students, faculty and staff. This illustrates that mentoring is a primary focus of her day-to-day activities. She is active in identifying women who need assistance and offers it to them without any expectation of some sort of favor in return. She mentors because it is the right thing to do. It is impossible to calculate the broad impact of Hill's mentoring is intrinsic to her personality—such mentoring is seamless and unobtrusive yet rich.

Kristen Mahoney--Emerging ProfessionalAward

Mahoney is the academic program manager for the U of U’s RN-BS nursing program where she is responsible for the student administration and programming for students in their academic program. Her responsibilities include recruiting associate-degree-registered nurses, overseeing student’s admissions and orientation processes, creating onboard programming, navigating campus requirements and advising life changes/difficult situations, crafting programs for individual student needs and assisting with graduation.

In her nomination letter, Mahoney exemplifies the qualities of a good leader – vision, honesty, integrity, dedication, courage, kindness, creativity, adaptability, and above all, being able to listen. She brings these qualities into her daily work at the U of U College of Nursing as the RN-BS program manager and her students and the college are better off for it.

She increased the capacity of multiple partnerships to ensure that women have more career opportunities, collaborating with the Salt Lake Community College Nursing Program to design an Express Pathway for seamless transfers for newly minted RNs pursuing a bachelor’s degree. She has also worked with both the University of Utah Health hospital and clinics system to help working RNs advance their careers by attaining a higher degree.

Additionally, Mahoney is developing partnerships with a network of rural hospitals across Utah and the Western United States, bringing educational options to women in geographically isolated communities. Everywhere she goes, she first listens to the needs of the people she is working with – never assuming she already has the answers.

Along the way, she implemented many policy changes to increase access to higher education for underserved populations – working professionals, older/nontraditional students, and women living in rural communities, including the American Indian reservations. Key among these policy changes is implementing tiered-admissions requirements removing unnecessary barriers based on experience, educational circumstances, and location.

Her perseverance and dedication to advancing the educational opportunities of underserved women have been remarkable, and she will succeed as a leader in higher education as she continues on this path.