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Last modified: Thursday, March 30, 2006

Mary Fisher

The President's Award

Professor of Nursing
School of Nursing
University Graduate School
Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis
Appointed to IU faculty, 1989
B.S.N., Kent State University, 1977; M.S.N., 1980; Ph.D., 1984

Perhaps the highest honor in the field of nursing education is to be regarded as a mentor — a trusted teacher, counselor, and guardian. Mary Fisher personifies all of these traits, and more. An accomplished master teacher and dynamic administrator, she is extraordinarily dedicated to her students. "In a caring profession, faculty must demonstrate that they care for students," she says.

By all accounts, she has been exceptionally successful in that regard.

"I have more respect for her than I do for any other instructor I've ever had," says Jasmine Rausch, who is pursuing an M.S.N. in Nursing Administration. "She's inspiring, has boundless enthusiasm, and her unique outlook allows her to create innovative solutions to problems. Her experience and knowledge make me have complete confidence in everything she has taught me."

Over the years, Fisher's teaching activities have evolved from undergraduate clinical and didactic courses to working with M.S.N. and Ph.D. students. Although much of her time these days is spent facilitating the development of graduate students, she continues to teach across all curricula levels, because retaining contact with undergraduates in the clinical setting is vital to her as a nurse and keeps her current on real practical issues.

Always looking for new ways to enhance curriculum, Fisher has been instrumental in developing classroom seminars into full Web-based courses where students learn through interactive assignments. But recognizing that all learners have different needs and knowledge acquisition styles, she has advocated for offering master's-level courses at least once a year in traditional classrooms, to accommodate those who learn best in a direct format. Although she is adept in both settings and believes that educational objectives are achieved equally in both, she admits that her "heart is always in the classroom," where she feels a much more direct connection with her students.

She also redesigned the School of Nursing's M.S.N. curriculum, along with Professor Constance Baker, by incorporating tenets of Problem-Based Learning (PBL), an instructional method that challenges students to "learn to learn" by working cooperatively in groups to seek solutions to real world problems. These problems are used to engage students' curiosity and initiate learning the subject matter. PBL prepares students to think critically and analytically, and to find and use appropriate learning resources. As a direct result of these changes, the nursing administration program was ranked seventh in the nation by U.S. New and World Report (its first national ranking), and enrollment more than doubled.

Beyond the classroom, Fisher has served as academic advisor for countless, mentored more than 26 master's students in research and projects, served on 13 doctoral dissertation committees, and as chair on four of them. These efforts so far have resulted in four national presentations, five student publications, and two joint publications with students.

She is widely published in leading journals related to teaching, nursing research, and nursing administration, and has acquired substantial funding from several sources to support her teaching-learning innovations. Dr. Fisher is renowned as a PBL expert and has collaborated with and provided consultation for nursing and medical colleagues across the nation and abroad, particularly in Thailand, Mexico, and the West Indies.

Professor Fisher is recognized for her many significant leadership contributions to the School of Nursing's Department of Environments for Health, the School of Nursing, the Indiana Purdue University campus, and IU faculty governance system-wide. From the School of Nursing, she has received the Sequoia Award for Promoting Diversity in Nursing and the Elizabeth Lion Distinguished Service to the University Award. At the campus level, she has received a Distinguished IUPUI Faculty Leader award and the Glenn W. Irwin, Jr., M.D. Experience Excellence Award for Distinguished Service to IUPUI. She has received two Indiana University Trustees Teaching Awards and is a member of the Faculty Colloquium for Excellence in Teaching. She is also a member of the Sigma Xi Scientific Research Society, and of Sigma Theta Tau International. She received an Excellence in Education Award from Sigma Theta Tau's Alpha Chapter.

She is a long-time supporter of undergraduate success at IUPUI, and actively promotes successful student outcomes, particularly through her representation of campus faculty in developing the national Electronic Portfolio Project and the Assessing First Year Experiences projects, in which IUPUI was prominently involved. She is committed to assisting the campus to improve undergraduate success, a vital step in its development and central role as a major urban campus.

Fisher continues to promote, encourage, and facilitate the success of all of her students. She never hesitates to make an extra effort on behalf of students who are ill-equipped or struggling, and is always able to develop new, sometimes unconventional, strategies to help them succeed. Although among the greatest challenges of her teaching career, they are also her most rewarding accomplishments.

"I believe there are always ways to achieve excellent outcomes," she says. "Sometimes it takes extra commitment, patience, and creativity to support these successes, and I am happy to provide them, when the student is motivated."