College of Nursing students, alumni receive distinguished nursing awards

Brooke Killmon
May 21, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Each academic year, the College of Nursing awards current undergraduate and graduate students, engaged alumni, and faculty, with distinguished nursing awards. Recipients of these awards were nominated by a fellow peer who felt that the student, alumni, or faculty member should be acknowledged for their dedication to the college and their respective communities.

Each award nominee is evaluated by the Nursing Alumni Society Awards Committee, and with consideration to many different criteria. These recipients exemplify what it truly means to be a nurse or nurse educator, and are being formally recognized by the College of Nursing.

Martha Dewey Bergren, a Penn State College of Nursing alumna and current clinical professor at the University of Illinois – Chicago College of Nursing, was awarded the College of Nursing Alumni Society Shirley Novosel Distinguished Alumni Award.

Bergren creates innovative and substantive virtual clinical experiences for the Advanced Population Health, Health Systems Leadership & Informatics students at her college. As a result, many of her students earned their FEMA Disaster Certification and are selflessly joining the frontlines of the pandemic. While recruiting students to manage COVID-19 hotlines and phone triage to quell fears and provide expert advice on social distancing, quarantining and other precautions, Bergren takes pride in knowing her students have shown tremendous resilience and fortitude while the city of Chicago turned into the Midwest epicenter of COVID-19.

Ashley Rose Willie, a current MSN student in Penn State World Campus, was awarded the College of Nursing Alumni Society Graduate Student Service Award. Willie works at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia in primary care where she serves patients and parents that are COVID-19 positive and with COVID-like symptoms.  She also works at Chestnut Hill Hospital in Philadelphia, PA on a designated COVID-19 unit servicing patients with underlying cardiovascular and neurological disorders. Willie will be continuing her Penn State education in the Doctorate of Nursing Practice Program this May.

Kalei Kowalchik, a recent BSN graduate at the Behrend campus, received the College of Nursing Alumni Society Undergraduate Student Service Award. Kowalchik currently works at the Geisinger Community Medical Center in Scranton, Pennsylvania, as a nursing assistant. Having worked on both COVID-19-positive floors and regular medical-surgical floors, she now effectively assists in a float pool where she cares for patients on many different units. 

Stephanie McLaughlin, a recent BSN graduate at the Hershey campus, received the Kim Gedney Guzik Award. McLaughlin currently works as a home health caregiver in State College, Pennsylvania. She said she enjoys teaching her home health clients to advocate for themselves by urging all their caregivers and loved ones to be extra cautious, especially during this time of uncertainty with COVID-19. With her clients being in need of care now more than ever, McLaughlin provides an uplifting outlook for them during this difficult time, helping to make each other's days as bright as they can be.

Many other alumni and students were recipients of the college’s awards. Additional recipients include:

Student Awards

  • Beta Sigma Student Achievement Award – Jacklyn Bizjak (Behrend)
  • College of Nursing Alumni Society Doctoral Nursing Student Academic Excellence Award – Emily Bratlee-Whitaker

Alumni Awards

  • College of Nursing Alumni Society Paula Milone-Nuzzo Nursing Alumni Volunteer of the Year Award: Joelyn Niggel

Faculty Awards

  • College of Nursing Staff Appreciation Award: Marsha Freije
  • Janet Williamson Award: Chris Garrison

To nominate a nursing alumnus or student for an award, visit here.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated May 21, 2020