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Walden Magazine // Feb 15, 2011

Outstanding Doctoral Study Committee Chair Award: Mentoring Students to Use Hyper-Realistic Training for Increased Results

Walden University’s 2011 Outstanding Doctoral Study Committee Chair Award (now the Rita Turner Award) was presented to Dr. Cheryl Keen, a Richard W. Riley College of Education and Leadership faculty member, for her work as the chair of the dissertation committee for Dr. Sharon K. Powell-Laney, an EdD graduate and winner of the Outstanding Doctoral Study Award (now the Frank Dilley Award for Outstanding Doctoral Study), who wrote Use of Human Patient Simulators to Enhance the Clinical Decision Making of Nursing Students.

Choosing the Right Mentor

Keen and Powell-Laney made the perfect mentor-mentee pairing: Keen describes herself as an experiential educator who values designing and implementing simulations in the classroom. “I have designed many simulations and used them in teaching,” Keen explains. “I was very interested in Sharon’s topic on the use of human simulators to enhance nursing education.”

Keen acknowledges that for a doctoral study to have a real impact on the world it has to be put into practice. “We know that these simulators require extra time to program and are expensive to purchase, but the rewards for the instructor are numerous,” she says. Powell-Laney hypothesizes that students are aware that they will have to make risky decisions in the future and are eager to practice in a situation where a patient’s health is not at risk. “I also think nursing students can grow their self-esteem more quickly” through simulation, Powell-Laney says.

“In my role as faculty member,” Keen says, “I ask students to consider the systemic implications of the contribution of their research, imagining how other stakeholders might be able to use their work and what opportunities and challenges they might have.” She supports her recent graduates by encouraging them to publish their research findings. “Applying one’s research to one’s field of practice is critical,” Keen emphasizes. “The cycle of action and reflection should be implicit in all we do.”

Keen has played a leadership role in several higher education capacities, serving traditional-aged and adult college students, graduate students, and gifted high school students immersed in the college setting. She has also been a board member of the National Society for Experiential Education, and regularly presents her own research through speeches and workshops.

About the Award

One of two awards honoring the founders of Walden University, the Rita Turner Award is bestowed annually upon the faculty chair of the dissertation committee of the recipient of the Frank Dilley Award. This award honors the total commitment to the founding and sustaining of Walden by Rita Turner, co-founder of the university. Mrs. Turner’s shared vision of the university, careful attention to major organizational issues, supervision of complex operational details, and concern for fiscal accountability made it possible not only for the university to flourish during its first two decades, but to grow into a global institution.

Read more about the Rita Turner Award and past recipients.