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Monday, May 10, 2021

Instructor wins award for community projects including brain cancer walk

Western instructor Heather Davidson has recently won the Carl H. Simpson Bridging Award after being nominated in spring for her community engagement projects and empathy teaching models.

The award is given annually to honor a staff member, faculty member or student who is taking part to better Western’s relationship with the community, according to Western’s website.

Heather Davidson won the Carl H. Simpson Bridging Award for building community through her teaching models. // Photo by Christina Becker
Heather Davidson won the Carl H. Simpson Bridging Award for building community through her teaching models. // Photo by Christina Becker

Western describes the purpose of the award as creating bridges and new paths for others to follow and build upon. Davidson thinks she was nominated by her communication studies students.

“I was recognized for the number of partnerships I was able to foster through community engagement projects with my students and community members,” Davidson said.

Davidson’s spring quarter communication studies 318 students were instructed to divide into seven teams to promote the Bellingham Brain Cancer Walk to raise money for a cure, working alongside Western instructor Daniel Purdy and other volunteers, Davidson said.

“[Purdy] approached me and asked me if I would be willing to provide a student to help,” Davidson said. “When we got talking I realized I could actually give an entire class to the project.”

Davidson’s students were responsible for the planning, promotion and implementation of the Bellingham Brain Cancer Walk, Davidson said.

Davidson’s former student Brittney Brown, a junior majoring in cellular and molecular biology and minoring in communication studies, saw Davidson’s work first hand from working alongside her.

“I didn’t take professional communication just for the class,” Brown said. “I honestly took it for her, she’s my favorite [instructor] at Western.”

Another event that factored into her nomination by helping to bridge the gap between Western’s campus and the local community, was the WeAreWWU event. WeAreWWU is a fundraising campaign to fund future Western student scholarships, Davidson said.

These two events took place on May 30, 2015.

Around $22,000 was raised in the two events. We Are WWU raised about $9,000 with over 200 people attending, Davidson said. During the Brain Cancer Walk, almost $13,000 was raised, with over 400 attendees and 80 volunteers.

Davidson has taught at Western for four quarters. The Western alumna recently graduated with a master’s in teaching from Woodring College of Education in 2012.

In her few quarters teaching, Davidson has applied her empathy based teaching models not only in her community projects but inside the classroom at Western.

Brown described seeing Davidson’s ability to connect and empathize with the class, through empathy, saying she genuinely wants students to do their best.

“She didn’t want us to just have to put on a walk and not really want to work with each other, she made us really feel like a family through her empathy teaching,” Brown said.

Davidson worked with many volunteers and faculty on her community building ventures, including with her colleague, Dan Purdy.

“There’s this old saying,‘the town-gown divide,’” Purdy said. “You’ll have a university environment that is really separated from the community, we’re trying to break down some of those walls.”

Davidson said that her work took the work of[10:19 Davidson] many and was not just her doing, but the community of students, staff and volunteers to make everything possible.

“Everything I do is done with the help and support and great energy of the people I work with, students and faculty alike,” Davidson said. “But, I’m the only one in the spotlight.”

Although Davidson has been working for Western for a short amount of time, she has already made a difference on campus and off by focusing on building community and having empathy for others. Davidson is currently working on the next Bellingham Brain Cancer Walk for this spring.

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