Professor’s Passion Inspires StudentsPosted Jan. 16, 2012 | Kasey Fahey
Associate Professor Susan Taft’s first memory of teaching was as a doctoral graduate student standing in front of a class of students, trying to keep her knees from knocking and her hands from shaking.
Now, after enthusiastically teaching at Kent State University for more than two decades, Taft has earned one of the 2011 Distinguished Teaching Awards, which is awarded to full-time tenure track faculty who demonstrate extraordinary teaching.
Her first reaction to the award was shock and disbelief, then deep satisfaction. The Cleveland native says teaching has given her a great source of purpose, meaning and relevance. The most rewarding thing to her is seeing student success and believing she had a role in it.
“I love teaching, and Kent State has wonderful students,” Taft says. “They are diverse in their backgrounds and motivations about learning.”
Taft is the director of the M.S.N.-M.B.A./M.P.A. dual degree programs in the College of Nursing, and the M.S.N in nursing and healthcare management program. Taft, a Duke University alumna, has been teaching for about 30 years.
“I actively seek to get to know every student, so I can encourage them in their strengths and give them developmental feedback that advances their individual learning needs,” Taft says. “I also don't forget them once they graduate; I seek to stay in touch with my graduates and support them in their future development and work advancement.”
Taft says the faculty at Kent State has opportunities to grow and develop in a vast array of areas. She has found that she can engage her capabilities in learning and growing as a teacher, researcher, professional, writer and member of major university initiatives.
“I have found the faculty, administrators and support staff to be friendly and open to helping all members of the university community,” Taft says. “It’s a positive place to work with other conscientious people.”
A student wrote in a nomination letter that “Dr. Taft was the reason I chose to go to Kent State for my master’s degree. I met her at an informational meeting at my place of work. Her passion was evident to me even during the meeting, so I was inspired to want that same passion.”
Taft says she believes in full student engagement in their own learning, making learning relevant, and supporting students by giving them very clear syllabus directions and expectations for their performance in a course.
Another student nominator said, “Although I was almost finished with the grad program at the time, Dr. Taft was able to take one of my papers and mark it up with incorrect citings, etc. I was amazed at her expertise! I honestly still think of her when I am putting together research protocols, abstracts or any other professional documents. What would Susan find in the document to correct? It is honestly quite funny that I even think this way, but I do.”
Her goal as a teacher is to facilitate her students’ learning, growth as a person, citizenship and professional success. She uses teaching methods that drive high student engagement and conducts herself in ways consistent with what she teaches. She integrates critical thinking in to all aspects of teaching.
“I love the challenges of addressing and supporting their learning as best I can,” Taft says. “I believe in my students’ important contributions to the health of individuals, families and communities. Any value I can add to the work they do is gratifying.”
She also conducts research and currently has two external grants totaling approximately $500,000. Taft is focused on developing master’s-prepared nurses working outside of academe to teach nursing students online. The project aims to help in alleviating a severe national shortage of nursing faculty.
Taft is a board member for Summa Health System. She is also a member of The Academy of Management, The Organizational Behavior Teaching Society, American Organization of Nurse Executives, Sigma Theta Tau Nursing Honorary Society, American Nurses Association, Council on Graduate Education in Administration in Nursing and the Ohio Nurses Association.