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Walden Magazine // Jul 01, 2011

Connecting With Students

Two recipients of the Presidential Award for Faculty Excellence reflect on how they mentor students and fellow faculty members alike.

Patricia Thurmond

Two faculty members known for mentoring and fostering a true connection with their students have been named recipients of the 2011 Presidential Award for Faculty Excellence, which recognizes leadership and commitment to Walden University’s students and its mission of social change.

Dr. Patricia Thurmond, of The Richard W. Riley College of Education and Leadership, encourages her students to think critically and create social change in ways large and small, including volunteering for school projects, tutoring, coaching, and working on committees.

She also mentors new faculty and serves on dissertation and governance committees while working on course and program development, including the implementation of the student assessment system and the redesign of the MS in Education (MSEd) specialization in Middle Level Education (Grades 5–8).

“I want to help change the climate of education by providing hope and direction,” she says. “Our students complete our program with a renewed sense of purpose that generates positive change at the classroom, school, district, and national levels.”

Dr. Tony Leisner, of the School of Public Policy and Administration, focuses on helping first-year students assimilate and move toward completing their degrees. To do so, he brings to bear his years of professional experience—as an educator, a businessman, and a participant in poverty-fighting nonprofits—and a level of understanding as a Walden alumnus.

Knowing that a true connection can’t be forged with a faceless professor, Leisner created a video to introduce himself, which, in turn, encourages his students to post photographs of themselves and their families in the class cafe and creates a personalized, collaborative environment.

“I still run a small business, but teaching gives me the most satisfaction,” he says. “I have been where the students are, so I understand the challenges they face. I believe they can all achieve their goal of completing a degree and use it to create positive change.”

Read more about the Presidential Award for Faculty Excellence and past recipients.