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Awards put a spotlight on dedication and excellence in guiding and teaching Nazareth students

Published April 22, 2024

Stories of joy, dedication, and exemplary work shared at Nazareth University’s annual Teaching Excellence & Student Success Awards offer glimpses into how Nazareth students are so well prepared for their life’s work.

“I see the magic that is being done every day,” said President Beth Paul, Ph.D., in kicking off the April 18, 2024, ceremony. “Take a minute to appreciate what we are doing here.” Provost Maureen Finney, Ed.D., added that the event celebrated “the very best in what we do and how we do it.” 

For creating and building Nazareth’s robust dance studies program, her commitment to students as holistic individuals, and being a woman of change, Heather Roffe was honored with Nazareth’s Teaching Excellence Award 2024 for full-time faculty. “Dance is life,” she said. “Teaching empathy, teaching perseverance, teaching them how to fail and that failure is also a way to succeed through perseverance, are all hopefully lessons they can take with them. Dance is just the lens.”

Her colleague, Heather Acomb, a long-time adjunct faculty member in the dance studies program, received Nazareth’s Life’s Work Champion 2024 faculty award. Acomb goes out of her way to best meet the needs of students so that they can best meet the challenges of an ever-changing world, including mentoring students about their core milestone projects and about life, said Emily Carpenter, Ed.D., presenting Acomb with Nazareth’s Life’s Work Champion 2024 faculty award. Acomb thanked her own teachers “who were there to take me under their wing and support me as I was going through school.”

Teaching is clearly a passion for Sarah Rhee, DMA, recipient of Nazareth’s Teaching Excellence 2024 award for part-time faculty. “Teaching is more than just a profession to me, she said. “It ignites me every single day. It’s a privilege to be part of this exceptional community.” In presenting the award, Associate Provost Maria Baldassarre Hopkins, Ph.D., said Rhee is a master of vocal coaching and guiding students to sing more musically, work comfortably with a pianist, and have their best possible experience at auditions. Students praised Rhee as knowledgeable, patient, kind, passionate about her work, and someone who goes above and beyond.

When a student recently asked Amanda Brady ’17G, an associate director in Admissions, what she loves most about working at Naz, Brady replied, “It really is the community — students, faculty, and staff. Everyone truly cares about our students and continues to work hard. Naz is not just a place to work but to build a family.” Brady was honored with Nazareth’s Life's Work Champion 2024 staff award for her dedication, leadership, and unwavering commitment to student success, guided by her motto, “realize potential.” She received her own preparation and support toward her potential at Nazareth, earning a master’s degree in higher education student affairs administration.

Over 20+ years as a professor at Nazareth, Leanne Charlesworth, Ph.D., said she has come to love her work as an academic advisor to social work students. Sitting with students individually and asking about their interests and goals is a joy. “I’m honored to be part of so many students’ decisions — little challenges and big decisions,” she said, accepting Nazareth’s Outstanding Undergraduate Academic Advisor 2024 award. She was recognized for caring deeply about her advisees’ success, working tirelessly to help students navigate course selection and life events, connecting them with campus resources to support their goals, and helping students become self-reliant.

John Rigney, MSW, was honored with Nazareth’s Staff Innovation 2024 award for advancing and promoting wellness for students, faculty, and staff. As an assistant director in Health and Counseling, his work includes securing a $300,000 federal grant supporting mental health, facilitating suicide prevention training on campus, and creating and evolving outreach to students struggling with anxiety and sleep. He praised his colleagues and his supervisor, Susan Quinn, for encouraging team members to lean into their strengths and for supporting his ideas to launch outreach initiatives at a time when other colleges of a similar size weren’t doing that. “Mental health and wellness is a priority at Nazareth, supported from the top down,” he said.

Cindy Ramos was teary as she accepted Nazareth’s Student Support 2024 award for making a significant difference in students’ lives. The area director in Residential Life was recognized for her skills in bringing together people from varying backgrounds, building relationships, and supporting student resident assistants to help them grow into strong leaders, empowered to serve fellow students best. She holds a master’s degree in mental health counseling.

Colleagues clapped and cheered for the winners, inspired by the examples of great work to guide and teach Nazareth students.


Nazareth University is an inclusive community of inspired learners, educators, and changemakers who for nearly 100 years have been driven by a bold commitment to action, empathy, equity, and leading innovation for the common good. Impact experiences are at the heart of a Nazareth education, preparing each student to discover within themselves the potential to cultivate positive change in their life's work, in any career field, and in a world that is constantly evolving and infinitely interconnected.

Our broad academic offerings present a range of study options typical of larger universities, yet achieved in our supportive campus culture. Nearly 2,100 undergrad and 600 graduate students enroll in degree and certificate programs and engage in collaborative, transformative learning experiences, preparing for the professions and society of today and tomorrow. In a learning community that purposefully integrates liberal arts and professional programs, Nazareth University graduates are able to launch a lifetime of impactful leadership in communities and workplaces near and far.