Leading the Way - Excelsior’s Provost Receives Prestigious Nursing Fellowship in Recognition of Contributions to Outcomes Assessment
Editor's Note: Mary Beth Hanner, provost and chief academic officer, was inducted as a Fellow in the American Academy of Nursing, on October 13 in Washington, D.C. The following is an article that appeared in the Fall 2012 Issue of Live&Learn, Excelsior College’s biannual magazine.
Leading the Way
By Dana Yanulavich, Excelsior Life News Staff; Senior Editor, Live & Learn
An individual who has made a career out of assessing learning now has had the roles reversed — her contributions to leadership have been assessed as exemplary by a national nursing organization. Mary Beth Hanner, Excelsior’s provost and chief academic officer, will be inducted in October as a Fellow in the American Academy of Nursing in recognition of her leadership in the area of outcomes assessment.
Dr. Hanner’s long and fruitful association with Excelsior began more than 30 years ago as a part-time item [question] writer for the College’s credit-bearing examinations. Since then she has transitioned into full-time employment and worn many hats. “In my 21-year [full-time] career here, I have had 12 titles!” she quips. Included in her Excelsior experience are stints at the helm of each of the College’s four schools as well as several academic departments. “It’s great for me, because I have some understanding of each of the schools and many of the other units. I have a good overview of the institution. I have never had the opportunity to get bored: I’m always doing something different!”
It’s that depth of experience and significance of her contributions that have earned Hanner the fellowship recognition.
“Mary Beth Hanner brings her excellent academic credentials and vision to the education of nurses,” explains Ida Androwich, a member of Excelsior’s Nursing Faculty Committee. “She clearly understands the value and importance of sound competency assessment and has devoted much of her career to improving innovation in assessment methods.”
Hanner’s entree into the assessment field began with her own career, first as a graduate of a nursing diploma program from St. Peter’s Hospital School of Nursing in Albany, N.Y. Quickly realizing she needed a bachelor’s degree to progress in the field, she enrolled in a BS program at Boston College. Next she worked as a public health nurse for Albany County’s Health Department, which led to her pursuit of a Master of Public Health from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. A friend from nursing school told her of the rewards of teaching, which led Hanner to begin her own instructional career. After a brief stint as an instructor at the University of Evansville, she began a 17-year teaching career at Russell Sage College in Troy, N.Y. Much like Excelsior’s lifelong learners, she, too, continued her academic pursuits while working, earning a PhD in nursing at the University of Texas at Austin.
The genesis of Hanner’s long Excelsior career began at Sage, when Carrie Lenburg, then dean of Excelsior (then Regents) College’s School of Nursing, came to recruit adjunct faculty. The experience of serving as an Excelsior item writer and subsequent service on testing and development committees helped Hanner foster a new understanding of her role as a nurse educator, learning that there were really two sides to the coin: the caring/teaching/coaching piece coupled with the critic/evaluator role, where it’s important to determine if a student has achieved the expected learning outcomes and knowledge in order to be a safe and effective nurse. The synergism of this combination really hit home for Hanner at Excelsior. She explains, “This institution taught me how to be a far more effective teacher — both in [a] clinical setting as well as the classroom.”
When the dean of nursing position became available at Excelsior, Hanner transitioned from teaching at Sage to a full-time leadership role at Excelsior. “I felt like it was a perfect fit for me,” she recalls. While at Excelsior, she has had the opportunity to present at conferences all over the world on the competency-based nursing education model for which the College is known. This laid the groundwork for her to apply lessons learned from nursing assessment to other fields, which helped propel her career progression from nursing dean to vice president for health sciences, to vice president of outcomes assessment and institutional research, and ultimately to her current position as provost and chief academic officer, overseeing the entire College’s academic endeavors.
Hanner’s leadership in the field and at the College has not gone unnoticed. In 2007, she was named a fellow of the Academy of Nursing Education in the National League for Nursing’s inaugural group. She has also been recognized with an Excelsior Distinction in Leadership Award, and received many state and local honors, including an award from the Black Nurses Association of the Capital District for leadership in minority student retention, diversity, and nursing education.
The changing diversity of Excelsior’s nursing grads is something Hanner takes pride in observing. When she became dean of nursing, nearly all graduates were white women, a reflection of the profession at the time. However, now they are much more diverse with regard to both race and gender. “I really think we are changing the face of nursing and having a real impact on the diversity of the nursing population,” Hanner observes. “And if we’re going to give culturally competent care, that’s really important.”
While Hanner may be best known for her work in assessing student learning, she hopes her legacy will be in leadership and mentoring others. She says, “Leadership is a relationship. It’s helping people develop those relationship skills. Not everyone can be a manager, but everyone can be a leader.”