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Utah Women in Higher Education Network Awards

The U’s Mary Anne Berzins, Sumiko T. Martinez and Kristen Mahoney are recipients of the honors.

Mary Anne Berzins

Distinguished Service Award

When Susan Madsen organized the UWHEN organization in 2012, Berzins was on the committee to get it off the ground and involve women from all the institutions of higher education. Since them, Berzins has been the cornerstone of this organization and served in almost every position, sometimes more than once.

As assistant vice president, division of human resources at the University of Utah, Berzins’ primary focus is identifying and supporting appropriate leadership and organization, development mechanisms across the U.

She designs integrated curriculum for leadership development; facilitates leadership development programs; develops integrated, organizational, strategic support for departments and colleges, provides individual leadership coaching; and works collaboratively with many units across the campus.

One of her nominators wrote, Berzins’ demonstrated phenomenal support to the UWHEN Board of Directors and its mission. Having previously served as chair of the board, she willingly agreed to step back into that role in 2018 when the incoming chair stepped down. Her leadership and service helped stabilize the board during a time of transition and if once wasn’t enough, she agreed to do it again the following year.

She is the only woman to serve as the UWHEN board chair for three years. In addition to her outstanding leadership, she directly demonstrates her commitment to the mission of UWHEN by helping women advance careers within higher education leadership.

“Earlier this year, I found myself in need of guidance related to changes within my position at my institution. Mary Anne took the time to meet with me one-on-one and offer great feedback and support that helped me take the next steps in my career advancement,” wrote the nominator.

The next nominator wrote, “An expert in professional development, leadership and mentorship, Berzins exemplifies characteristics essential to supporting the UWHEN mission. Her advocacy and support for underrepresented populations increased UWHEN’s success by expanding resources, innovating content and reaching our constituents in a variety of settings (e.g., conferences, fall events and invited training at the institutions and across communities). During her tenure, she filled a vital role in the continuity and mission fulfillment of UWHEN. In addition to regular responsibilities, she repeatedly represented UWHEN at the national American Council on Education Women’s Network State Chair’s Conference.

“On a personal note, I witnessed and was a recipient of Berzins’ mentorship. Her patient and thoughtful leadership encouraged me and elevated my own capacity to lead and contribute.”

Sumiko T. Martinez

Special Recognition Award

Martinez is the associate director for scholarships and student funding for the U’s College of Nursing. Her responsibilities include managing a $1.6 million annual scholarship budget for 1,500+ undergraduate and graduate students, secure a dedicated fund for emergency scholarships for nursing students, advocate for students to get assistance in completing their programs, assist in the supervision of TAs and work-study students, write a policy and procedure manual for critical functions and serve on the emergency preparedness committee plus the campus-wide homeless student task force.

Her nomination letter said Martinez’s vision in creating a dedicated emergency scholarship in the College of Nursing helped many women in higher education, often during particularly vulnerable periods of their lives. Research tells us that a $400 emergency can derail a student’s higher education, and Martinez was determined that should not happen to any of her students.

She led the university to formalize the scholarship into its own account so funds are clearly demarcated for students in financial crisis, making it an easier program for fundraising and allowing better data collection on the impact of emergency funds on nursing students. Since 2017, when she formalized this scholarship, 38 women benefitted directly, enabling them to continue their education in the face of homelessness, food insecurity, domestic violence, medical emergencies, loss of jobs or transportation and many other serious situations.

Her close collaboration with the university’s advancement team contributed to successfully securing a donor to endow the scholarship so it will exist in perpetuity. Martinez’s impact with the hardship scholarship continues to be felt for years to come, as students who received these funds graduate from the College of Nursing and work in healthcare and touch many lives. However, the ripple effect goes farther than the students who have already benefitted. She is leading a project in conjunction with colleagues in the University Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid to simplify student access to emergency funds across campus and ensure that students in financial crisis get a coordinated response that includes not only money to tide them over, but also resources and assistance to help prevent them from landing in a financial crisis later on.

Her vision in combining immediate assistance to women with long-term education for success is deserving of special recognition from UWHEN.

Kristen Mahoney

Emerging Professional Award

Mahoney is the academic program manager for the U’s RN-BS nursing program where she is responsible for the student administration and programming for students in their academic program. Her responsibilities include recruiting associate degree registered nurses, overseeing student’s admissions and orientation processes, creating onboard programming, navigating campus requirements and advising life changes/difficult situations, crafting programs for individual student needs and assisting with graduation.

In her nomination letter, Mahoney exemplifies the qualities of a good leader—vision, honesty, integrity, dedication, courage, kindness, creativity, adaptability and above all, being able to listen. She brings these qualities into her daily work at the College of Nursing as the RN-BS program manager and her students and the college are better off for it.

She increased the capacity of multiple partnerships to ensure that women have more career opportunities, collaborating with the Salt Lake Community College Nursing Program to design an Express Pathway for seamless transfers for newly minted RNs pursuing a bachelor’s degree. She has also worked with both the University of Utah Health hospital and clinics system to help working RNs advance their careers by attaining a higher degree.

Additionally, Mahoney is developing partnerships with a network of rural hospitals across Utah and the Western United States, bringing educational options to women in geographically isolated communities. Everywhere she goes, she first listens to the needs of the people she is working with—never assuming she already has the answers.

Along the way, she implemented many policy changes to increase access to higher education for underserved populations—working professionals, older/nontraditional students, and women living in rural communities, including the American Indian reservations. Key among these policy changes is implementing tiered-admissions requirements removing unnecessary barriers based on experience, educational circumstances and location.

Her perseverance and dedication to advancing the educational opportunities of underserved women have been remarkable, and she will succeed as a leader in higher education as she continues on this path.