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Professors Christy Hanson and Lisa Silmser Recognized for Excellence

(Left) Lisa Silmser, adjunct assistant professor in Bethel’s Master of Arts in Special Education (SPED), Teaching (MAT), and Education: K-12 programs and (right) Christy Hanson, associate professor in the Master of Arts in Physician Assistant (PA) program.

Associate Professor Christy Hanson and Adjunct Assistant Professor Lisa Silmser were honored with the inaugural Faculty Excellence Awards for the College of Adult & Professional Studies and Graduate School. They were nominated by their peers and recognized for achievements in the areas of teaching, service, and scholarship.

Christy Hanson is a full-time associate professor in the Physician Assistant (PA) program. Program Director Wallace Boeve, who was among the group of peers who nominated Hanson, explains that Hanson has been an integral part of the program since it was launched in 2013. She’s now academic coordinator, overseeing the first-year classroom portion of the program and its ongoing assessment process. In the process of reviewing courses and ensuring that key objectives are met, she has created a “faith map,” which identifies faith-centered objectives and the specific areas in which they’re found in PA courses.

“As a faith-based program, we’re constantly asking ‘What are we doing to be intentional about faith integration?’” Boeve says. “We believe God brings students to us for a reason, and whether they believe in God or not, we have a responsibility to tie our faith into clinical instruction. Christy has been a huge part of that.”

He says that Hanson has matured in her role, not only as a teacher but also as a leader and faculty mentor. Through the launch and growth of the program, she’s become a consistent, positive presence for PA students and her peers alike.

“Christy has played a key role in leading curriculum development and refinement, maintaining a network of health care providers from the community to support the curriculum content,” Boeve says. “She’s made an amazing transition from clinical practice to being a great professor. She is meticulous in her detail, a hard worker, a quality team player, and a natural leader.”

Lisa Silmser is an adjunct professor in Bethel’s Master of Arts in Special Education (SPED), Teaching (MAT), and Education: K-12 programs, and also teaches fifth grade in the Anoka-Hennepin School District.

Jay Rasmussen, program director for the Master of Arts in Education, has worked alongside Silmser for 15 years and nominated her for the award. He says part of what sets Silmser apart is her ability to adapt with excellence to different teaching modalities, programs, and courses while incorporating real-world experience from her teaching and leadership role outside of Bethel.

“For Lisa, teaching is not about having a powerful stage presence, but rather how she deeply engages her students in the learning process,” Rasmussen says. “Her approach to teaching works really well in all environments. Sometimes, successful face-to-face tactics don’t translate to online, or vice versa. She functions amazingly well within different programs; she’s an incredibly well-rounded teacher and person.”

Adjunct Instructor Nathan Elliott, who’s known Silmser as his instructor and is now her co-instructor and colleague, echoes Rasmussen’s appreciation of Silmser. “She has tremendous expertise in the areas of instruction and assessment practices, and students consistently share their appreciation for her ability to seamlessly model the very practices she is teaching future educators to implement,” he says. “She is especially responsive to students' needs and provides quick feedback so they are able to incorporate suggestions to make their work even stronger.”

As a thesis adviser, she works with students completing their final research projects each semester. She recently launched an online support network—using Moodle, Bethel’s online learning environment—for her advisees to access Bethel resources and one another throughout their research and writing phases. It’s just one way she’s used existing technologies and resources to better support students’ learning.

“She’s incredibly innovative, she leads by example, and she’s a master of differentiation. She’s able to tailor the learning experience to different student needs and styles, and that’s difficult to do, especially in an online setting,” says Rasmussen. “She’s a critical thinker and has strong beliefs, but she’s a very nurturing kind of person who treats people with the utmost respect.”

Hanson and Silmser each received a $1,000 cash prize, a certificate commemorating their achievement, and their names will be included on a plaque in the Anderson Center 2nd Level classroom suite. Find out more about the adult undergraduate and graduate programs in which they teach.

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