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CSM Recognizes Professor Kimberley Donnelly With 2023 Faculty Excellence Award

May 11, 2023

“I have learned that when I am most sure of my own rightness, that is exactly when I need to back up and listen”

kimdonnelly5542.jpgIn her more than 20 years of teaching developmental English at the College of Southern Maryland (CSM), Professor Kimberley Donnelly has taught every kind of CSM student: Those who arrive after high school unsure of their next step, adults returning to college after a long break, and students on a mission to achieve their goals. Each is on their own path of growth. 

Donnelly has been on her own path of growth as well, continually looking for ways to improve her teaching, her department, and the entire CSM community. Her contributions to CSM have earned her this year’s Full Time Faculty Excellence Award. 

The honor, announced during the CSM Student Academic Excellence Awards program May 10, and presented during CSM’s Spring Commencement May 12, 2023, is given yearly to a faculty member for outstanding achievement in classroom teaching, contributions both to their department and the college, professional development and community commitment. 

“I can think of no faculty member more deserving of this award,” said Dean of CSM’s School of Liberal Arts David Robinson. “Her work in Developmental English has put CSM at the forefront of community colleges nationwide in delivering effective, creative instruction that builds on students’ unique strengths and addresses their unique needs. This kind of student-centered focus is what makes Kim a shining example of what a professor should be, and what CSM is all about.”

Because developmental courses serve learners who struggle with these subjects, Donnelly has honed a number of strategies to meet students’ needs. She is a keen observer of what is working in the classroom, and she organizes her courses around the scaffolding students need to reach successful heights. But most importantly, she has immense empathy for the demands placed on students. 

“The goal isn’t school for the sake of school; it’s school for the sake of life,” she shared. “We start each new unit by asking, how do you think you will use this in college?  How do you think you’ll use it in the workplace?  It’s vital that they think about how they will apply what they are learning.” 

Donnelly’s compassion comes, in part, from her own experiences as a student. She is a lifelong learner who has pursued numerous educational opportunities while teaching at CSM, participating in research studies and obtaining graduate certificates in order to create a more successful model for students. 

Donnelly’s pursuits have had direct, positive results on the way CSM approaches developmental English and writing. For the capstone course project in her graduate program, Donnelly wrote a roadmap for CSM to transition from multiple courses to a unique integrated reading/writing program. Her roadmap explained CSM’s internal data, reviewed current literature, and articulated rationale and process for the transition. CSM approved these dramatic changes in Spring 2021, and the new integrated reading and writing courses have been in place since Fall 2021. Initial data on those courses shows positive results. 

“She could rest on her years of achievement, but she doesn’t. She continues to strive for greater levels of excellence,” said CSM Faculty Excellence Committee Chair and Professor Dr. Melanie Osterhouse. "Her contribution to enhancing student performance is known at the college as the ‘Donnelly Effect,’ which shows her unique and effective work towards supporting students."

The observation, scaffolding, and empathy present in Donnelly’s teaching have inspired her to work on other systemic changes at CSM, as well. After observing ways that students struggled during the transition to college, she spearheaded the creation of the Hawk: Go! Program that provides casual video instruction to guide new students through reading a syllabus, setting goals, and planning for success as they begin a new course, and reflecting at its conclusion. It is used in all gateway courses. She is also working with her fellow gateway professors to standardize expectations around things such as online discussion board assignments so that they can more effectively balance the potential of technology to increase student engagement with the additional tasks and confusion it can add to a students’ workload. 

Despite her achievements, Donnelly remains humble and eager to continue along her path of growth. 

“For over 20 years, the developmental students and my colleagues and friends throughout the CSM enterprise have taught me,” she said. “I have learned that when I am most sure of my own rightness, that is exactly when I need to back up and listen.”

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