Two Professors from MCCC Health Professions Programs Selected for Distinguished Teaching Awards


West Windsor, N.J. – As Mercer County Community College (MCCC) honored the 1,651 graduates from the Classes of 2020 and 2021 this summer, the college also continued a cherished tradition started 37 years ago: the selection of a faculty member for the 2020 and 2021 Distinguished Teaching Award.

In this time of pandemic challenges, it is fitting that both awardees are from the Health Professions: Dr. Lisa Dunn, Professor of Nursing, for 2020, and Dr. Holly Kaiser, Professor and Program Coordinator for the Physical Therapist Assistant program, for 2021.

Dr. Dunn has been a member of the Nursing faculty since 2007 and was described in the nominating process in exemplary terms by faculty and students alike. One colleague called her a role model who “continues to mentor and guide students, sometimes for several years after they graduate,” while a student observed that Dunn “is fully committed to student success, guiding us through the most crucial part of our journey.”

Dunn’s own nursing career began at St. Francis in 1992, where she worked in various areas of the hospital including the Cardiac Care Unit, until 2016. Since 2003, she has also been an ICU nurse at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Hamilton (RWJUH).

Years into her nursing career, Dunn decided it was time for her to realize another passion: teaching. “I always wanted to be a teacher. That never went away. One day, I recognized I wanted to teach nursing.  So, I feel I have the best of both worlds,” she said.

Dunn sees teaching as an extension of her role as a servant leader. “I love being a part of a patient's care. As a teacher, I can touch even more patients’ lives through students who eventually become nurses,” she said. “I enjoy mentoring my future colleagues.”

Dunn notes that working seamlessly with other skilled nurses has never been more urgent than during the COVID-19 pandemic. She has welcomed the opportunity to join forces with her former students in the ICU at RWJUH.

“Our Nursing program has a rigorous curriculum with high standards. I know how these nurses were trained, and what they learned,” Dunn said. “I want them to make a difference providing care through the COVID-19 pandemic. I'm so proud to see them in action and to know I had a part in their ability and confidence as nurses, especially during these trying times.”

Dunn’s doctoral dissertation underscores her commitment to mentoring. It focused on supporting academic success for nursing students, what one colleague cited as “final proof that she is completely dedicated to student success.”

Dunn earned a B.S.N from Thomas Edison State University in 2005, and her M.S.N. from University of Phoenix in 2007, the same year she joined the Mercer faculty. She completed her doctorate in Educational Leadership from Rowan University in July 2020.

Dunn is the faculty advisor for Mercer’s student chapter of Alpha Delta Nu, the national nursing honor society, and has served on numerous committees at the college, including as co-chair of the College Assembly.

Dr. Holly Kaiser joined MCCC’s full-time faculty in 2009 as the academic coordinator of clinical education for the Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA) program. She has served as program coordinator since 2018.

One student who nominated Kaiser described her as “setting the gold standard in education, both in the classroom and within clinical practice, especially in coordinating the clinical program with care, rigor, and inspiration.” Another student stated, “She helps to pave a career path for each student and is a great role model as a servant leader.” Her colleagues added that Kaiser is committed to student success and has made significant contributions to serve the college community.

“My ultimate goal is to ensure that we graduate safe, competent and ethical healthcare providers,” Kaiser said. “I want my students to enjoy their academic journey in a learning environment that challenges them, promotes critical thinking, and prepares them to be successful in the clinical environment.”

Kaiser says there is so much that she loves about teaching. “I love being able to simplify something complex and find alternate methods of teaching a topic to ensure that everyone understands. I feel honored to participate in our learners’ academic journeys, to assist in the development of their competence and confidence, to witness them overcome challenges, and to celebrate with them when they accomplish their goals,” she said.

Kaiser notes that teaching makes a large impact. “Today, there are hundreds of PTAs taking care of patients whom I helped to develop. It’s a very satisfying way to put your ‘stamp’ on the world,” she said.

“Teaching at Mercer is a true gift,” Kaiser continued. “Our faculty advocate for one another, cheer each other on, mentor and challenge each other.  I wouldn’t be the teacher I am today were it not for the amazing faculty at Mercer.”

Kaiser maintains active, meaningful relationships with alumni, disseminating a PTA program alumni newsletter three times each year that includes material contributed by alumni. Program alumni also host MCCC students for their clinical internships, proctor competency tests, act as guest speakers, and serve on the PTA program’s advisory panel.

Observing that the impact of the pandemic was felt throughout the college, Kaiser emphasized the particular challenges for the PTA classes of 2020 and 2021. “When everything shutdown, students in the final phase of the program had only two remaining clinical education courses to complete. Thirty of 34 clinical placements were canceled.”

Kaiser managed to find alternative placements, with all students completing their first clinical course with only a seven-week delay and all learners completing the program by February 2021. 

“The Class of 2020 was incredibly patient and understanding,” she said, adding that the road for the Class of 2021 was bumpy as well. “This past year was unlike any year prior. We taught all lectures remotely and returned to campus for labs in the spring of 2021 with face masks, gloves and face shields in place. It was challenging, but our entire team, learners and faculty, demonstrated an incredible amount of flexibility and resilience. These past 18 months have proven that there is nothing that we cannot handle.”

Kaiser’s activities at the college include serving as coordinator for the PTA program’s Competency Testing and as faculty advisor for the student-run PTA Club.

She earned her B.S. degree in 2002, and a Master’s in Physical Therapy in 2004, both from Quinnipiac University. She earned a Transitional Doctorate of Physical Therapy from University of St. Augustine in 2014.


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Dr. Lisa Dunn has combined her passions for nursing and teaching as a professor at MCCC. 





Dr. Holly Kaiser, PTA program coordinator, was prasied for "setting the gold standard in education, both in the classroom and within clinical practice."