Dr. Susan Kools Wins 2014 Outstanding Faculty Mentorship Award
By Jenny Qi
The Graduate Students’ Association (GSA) and the Graduate Division Alumni Association (GDAA) have selected Dr. Susan Kools, RN, PhD, FAAN, as this year’s Oustanding Faculty Mentorship Awardee.
Dr. Kools is a professor in the Department of Family Health Care Nursing. She is also passionate about promoting diversity in nursing and has co-chaired the UCSF School of Nursing’s Diversity in Action Committee (DIVA) for nearly two decades.
An adolescent psychiatric nurse scientist, Dr. Kools focuses her research on the mental health and development of adolescents. Specifically, she studies vulnerable adolescents in foster care and the influences of this lifestyle on their health and well being, with the goal of better understanding optimal interventions for adolescent care. In parallel, she studies adolescent illness experiences throughout the world, including hospitalization in China and HIV prevention in Africa. Notably, Dr. Kools is an internationally renowned expert in adolescence and qualitative research methods.
Dr. Kools received glowing nomination letters from current and former mentees. It was clear from these letters that she is deeply committed to ensuring that her students succeed, regardless of their backgrounds and personal circumstances, and to forming lifelong relationships with her mentees.
Each year, the GSA and GDAA call for students and postdocs to nominate faculty who have gone above and beyond their duties as professors, providing academic, professional and personal support and an inspiring dedication to student mentorship.
The Outstanding Faculty Mentorship Award is an exceptional opportunity for students and postdocs to express their appreciation for the faculty mentors who have changed their lives. This year, we received 41 nomination letters for 13 inspiring faculty members.
All of Dr. Kools’s nomination letters praised her compassionate and “holistic” approach to mentoring, adapting herself to the needs of her students and supporting her mentees not only as students but rather as human beings who must often face personal struggles on top of their rigorous graduate studies.
As an educator, Dr. Kools has demonstrated a great passion for teaching and an ability to “quickly adapt to the situation at hand.” One student wrote about a class focusing on identity struggles for gay adolescents, a particularly painful topic for some students and an incomprehensible source of “awkward discomfort” for others. “Like a great symphony conductor, she orchestrated discussion among the students, and she listened compassion… The students realized they were in a safe, warm environment, in her own inimitable way, Dr. Kools had created a place for her students to learn and grow.”
Dr. Kools supports her students with equal if not increased fervor outside of the classroom. “Susan has never made me feel that my education took precedent over my personal concerns and encourages me to address the personal issues first,” wrote another student. “During a very difficult time in my life, I was able to come to Susan, sharing very personal details of my life that had implications for changing the course of my academic studies.”
Dr. Kools constantly goes above and beyond her role as an educator, making herself available to struggling students even when she is on sabbatical or at home and helping these students succeed in spite of personal crises.
While Dr. Kools offers her unwavering support and guidance, she ultimately understands that she cannot fix problems for her students and enables them to find their own solutions. One student noted that “Susan nurtured a comfortable environment where I could not only express my feelings but brainstorm solutions for coping.” Other students echoed these sentiments, writing, “When I have moments of doubt, she reminds me that the decision to move forward is up to me. She has supported my every decision and continues to do so.”
Her great passion inspires her students to “pay it forward as mentors to own students, with even half the grace, determination and impact that Susan has made on lives.”
Overwhelmingly, her students feel that “Susan’s commitment and diligence in mentorship and in caring are unmatched, and these words cannot express her value and my gratitude for her in my life… She is deserving of the Outstanding Faculty Mentorship Award and so much more.”
Dr. David Vlahov, School of Nursing Dean and Professor, will accept the award on behalf of Dr. Kools at the Graduate Division Commencement Ceremony at the William J. Rutter Center on the Mission Bay Campus on May 23. Dr. Kools will be presented her award at the School of Nursing Commencement Ceremony at Davies Symphony Hall on June 9.
While Dr. Kools was the recipient of the award, there were many other deserving nominees. Here is a list of all of the faculty members nominated by students who have benefited from their exceptional mentorship:
- Patricia Babbitt, Biological and Medical Informatics
- Pilar Bernal de Pheils, Family Health Care Nursing
- Kevin Bozic, Clinical and Translational Medicine
- Adam Carrico, Community Health Nursing
- Carol Dawson-Rose, Community Health Nursing
- Lynda Mackin, Physiological Nursing (AGCNS-CCT)
- Richard Schneider, Developmental and Stem Cell Biology
- Joseph Shieh, Biomedical Sciences
- Janet Shim, Social and Behavioral Sciences
- Kevan Shokat, Chemistry and Chemical Biology
- Elizabeth Watkins, History of Health Sciences
- Julie Zikherman, Biomedical Sciences
Jenny Qi is a third-year BMS student.