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Past Nominees

January 2019


Academic Excellence is the core value of the month for January. Here are some great examples of how we demonstrate the core value of Academic Excellence.

Cristina Llerena Law, O.D., Ph.D., Associate Professor, College of Optometry

Cristina Llerena Law holds the rank of associate professor at the College of Optometry and is a teacher and mentor. She is a trained clinical scientist who maintains a laboratory with funded studies, student-assistants, and mentoring faculty members with interests in her areas of research. Law enjoys her teaching and clinical responsibilities. These responsibilities also assist her in patient recruitment for her studies.

Working toward publishing in high-impact journals, Law currently has a paper in press in Vision Research. She has expressed how happy she is to be part of the College of Optometry team, which she embraces with enthusiasm.

Jennifer Wilson, Director, Student Disability Services, Student Affairs

Jennifer Wilson’s role is to oversee the accommodation process for students with identified disabilities. She regularly goes above and beyond to ensure that students receive information in a timely fashion; accommodations are appropriate, based on verified documentation; and the process for providing accommodations ensures that students with disabilities have equitable access to abled-students, allowing them to strive for academic excellence. She also spends time educating faculty members about disabilities, so they can better understand and serve their students.

Wilson collaborates with faculty members and escalates matters appropriately to department chairs or legal counsel when warranted. Her advocacy for students whom others may, unfortunately, often perceive as challenging or anxious, enables the students to be academically successful when they otherwise may not have been. Though this is her role, she does it with patience, creative thinking, and dedication. Wilson also proctors exams, meets with parents, discusses facility limitations, and often works on high-priority issues after the traditional workday to ensure students can access their education.

Her commitment to helping students with disabilities is often a thankless job, but her collaborations across campus promote an environment where ALL students can learn. Students have faith that their medical and other information is protected, so they can attend class and participate without feeling labeled or diagnosed. While some of the impact has to do with the function of providing accommodations, students and their parents receive a very high-quality experience and ethic of care when they interact with Student Disability Services at NSU. And it’s at least partly because of Wilson’s approach and expertise.


Mirela Burca Career Adviser/Counselor, Dr. Kiran C. Patel College of Osteopathic Medicine

Every time someone asks Mirela Burca for her assistance, she is always available to extend a hand and help in whatever way she can. She never says no, no matter the time or who made the request. She is always prompt to assist.

Burca has been known to stay late to help prepare for a presentation the following day, making some previously overlooked observations that improved the whole thing. In addition, she provides all students that come to her academic advice sessions with the best information, the best guidance, and the best treatment that any student can have. They leave her office with a smile on their faces, clearly feeling relieved from her advice.

She demonstrates her commitment with not only her own department, but also with others whose work may be connected to hers. Her ideas impact not only her work and responsibilities, but also others who she willingly helps.


Natalie Register, Web Content Manager, Division of Public Relations and Marketing Communications

Natalie Register played a major part in the Dr. Kiran C. Patel College of Allopathic Medicine’s website launch, and continues to provide advice and counsel regarding best practices on a regular basis. She is always accessible and helpful. Whenever her advice is sought or her help is needed to fix a glitch, she is there, calmly and professionally. She is indispensable, and her work contributes to the academic success of the NSU MD program.

Thanks to Register, and others on the web team, both in marketing and OIIT, the Dr. Kiran C. Patel College of Allopathic Medicine’s website launch was a major success. The new site debuted in alignment with the Patel gift naming in January 2018, and the college has seen a significant increase in metrics, contributing to the admissions process—ultimately helping matriculate a strong charter class and more than doubling applications for the second class. The NSU MD website has won numerous awards, including Best Website by the Public Relations Society of America Sunshine District (Florida) and a Silver Award from the Association of American Medical Colleges. Register has been a major part of this contribution to NSU’s vision to enhance its academic reputation in Florida and nationally.


Stacey Coulter, O.D., Professor, College of Optometry

Stacey Coulter was appointed chair of the National Board of Examiners in Optometry (NBEO) task force. During the initial meeting of the task force, she had many ideas. As chair, she suggested, and received faculty buy in for, individual faculty coaches. The coaches serve as mentors for students, helping them with study plans and encouraging them throughout the study process. The program was a great success, with 51 students who signed up for mentors. Coulter coordinated the coaches and personally mentored nearly a dozen students herself.

Students are very appreciative of the time faculty members spend going above and beyond to help ensure their success. The program has fostered a positive study environment and improved student-faculty member relationships. Additionally, the program has greatly enhanced student preparedness for boards. The most recent board passage rate improved by more than 15 percent. This is likely due in part to the faculty coaches. The feedback has been so favorable that Coulter’s program is used in College of Optometry recruitment efforts.

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