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Northern Essex Faculty Receive National Award

Submitted by on March 15, 2011 – 12:00 pm

Four Northern Essex Community College faculty members were recently named recipients of the National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development (NISOD) Awards for Excellence, a national honor which recognizes outstanding teachers in the country’s community colleges. This year’s recipients include James Brown of Newton, N.H., instructor of mathematics, Isabelle Gagne, of Holliston, assistant professor of behavioral sciences, Ethel Schuster of Andover, professor of computer information sciences, and Ruth Young of Haverhill, professor of natural sciences.

Gagne has worked at Northern Essex for 10 years – the last three as a full-time psychology professor. She holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Montreal and a master’s degree from the University of Sherbrooke.

Ethel Schuster, Isabelle Gagne, Ruth Young, and Jim Brown were recognized for their commitment to education.

Ethel Schuster (rear left), Isabelle Gagne, Ruth Young, (front left) and Jim Brown were recognized for their commitment to education.

She won a Course of Distinction Award from Massachusetts Colleges Online this year for her online Developmental Psychology I course. For the last several years she has served as faculty advisor to the NECC Gay-Straight Alliance, taking club members to national conferences and helping to build a culture at the college that values diversity.

Brown has been teaching mathematics for nearly four decades at Northern Essex, both full-time and through the Division of Continuing Education. He is known for his friendly and approachable demeanor that enables him to explain to students the deeper meanings and contexts of the mathematical concepts at hand. He teaches everything from contemporary mathematics to differential equations and is often seen outside of class helping students. An accomplished composer, he is known to incorporate his musical knowledge into his contemporary math classes.

He holds a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics from the University of Delaware and a master’s from Boston University.

Professor Young has been teaching biology for many years. A full-time professor for seven years, she had taught even longer through the Division of Continuing Education. She took on a crucial role as department chair at NECC when she first arrived. Her experienced hand helped the natural sciences department transition through a period of substantial personnel change. She is known for setting high expectations for her students and then enforcing them. She has been a pioneer in the development of online science courses, led a program review of the liberal arts biology option that has helped to strengthen that program in multiple ways. She has been a leader in the effort to implement and enforce laboratory safety policies.

She holds both a Bachelor of Arts degree and Ph.D. in Zoology from the University of Vermont.

Schuster is a full-time faculty member in NECC’s Computer Information Sciences department. She is driven to help students succeed. She is firm but fair, an attribute her students respect. Waves of students seek her out for direction in their careers.

She has a passion for the underserved population in the Lawrence area. Over the past two years, Schuster developed programs, with a colleague, that have received attention from grant funders at both UMass Amherst and UMass Boston. These programs are now being evaluated by the grant funders to “ramp up” to other areas of the Commonwealth. These programs combine IT and math education for middle school children. They involve activities that combine learning and fun for students in this age group.

Schuster earned a Bachelor of Arts in Computer Science from Brandeis University, and a master’s and Ph.D. in Computer and Information Science from the University of Pennsylvania.