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Presidential Award for Faculty Excellence: Cultivating Connections at Academic Residencies

February 2013—Dr. Gary Kelsey of the School of Public Policy and Administration is one of two faculty members Walden University honored with the 2013 Presidential Award for Faculty Excellence. Dr. Kelsey received this award in recognition of his student-centered approach to teaching and his leadership as a residency coordinator.

Dr. Kelsey joined Walden in 1996, and his role has changed several times: He’s contributed as a part-time and full-time faculty member, as interim residency director, and interim associate dean. Currently, he’s a core faculty member, residency coordinator, and residency administrator for the School of Public Policy and Administration.

His current focus is residencies. “I participate in at least 10 to 12 a year,” he explains. He helps organize everything from faculty participation to training and evaluation. “I absolutely love this role,” he continues. “How many people get to teach, develop programs and curriculum, and attend residencies? I am so fortunate to have these opportunities. Faculty members and students continue to challenge me every day and that keeps me fresh.”

Dr. Kelsey is also steeped in the content he teaches. During the past 20 years, he has worked with more than 250 nonprofits by consulting, teaching, and volunteering on boards. “I especially liked to work with organizations that have a focus on social change or social justice,” he says. “Consulting has informed my teaching, and teaching has informed consulting.”

Above all else, though, Dr. Kelsey feels a strong responsibility to his students. “With students, it’s essential to be responsive and accessible,” he says. “To be honest with them about their skills, areas they need to improve, and to challenge their thinking.” Faculty must urge students to consider all viewpoints and open their minds to multiple perspectives, he continues. “I think that’s what makes a scholar; that’s where some of the most important learning occurs.”

Investing in Partners at Residencies
A critical element to students’ development, Dr. Kelsey says, is not simply attending residencies, but attending them early in the program to build strong relationships with faculty and fellow students. “There’s a lot to be said about meeting someone face to face and then talking in the classroom or via email or phone. That’s where Walden becomes real. It adds depth to our experiences.”

He offers advice to students who plan to attend upcoming residencies: “Always download all of the materials that residency staff members provide. Review the sessions your colleagues are leading so you can attend to support your team. Establish a rapport with that group,” he says. Remember that “residencies are a place to build community. Building community is a huge part of success. I’ve seen some amazing faculty-cohort communications. They might meet again or go to the same residencies. You can’t just show up; you have to prepare and dive in.”

Not only does Dr. Kelsey feel a strong responsibility to support students’ educational journeys, he also thinks it’s necessary to instill a love of learning. “I have a responsibility to be a mentor and a supporter,” he says. “I believe all our faculty members feel that way.”

About the Award
The award is bestowed upon Walden faculty members who have made outstanding contributions to the university. It recognizes their leadership and commitment to providing the highest-quality student experience as well as to upholding Walden’s mission of promoting positive social change.

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