2018 Rufus T. Firefly Award for Excellence in Innovative Service
Sheila Nielsen, director of the Health Professions Advising office, won the Firefly Award for Excellence in Innovative Service, given to a professional University System employee who has demonstrated tangible innovation, positive and broad impact on student experience, and/or leadership through role modeling. The award carries a $1,500 honorarium.
Nielsen is known as an outstanding adviser and advocate for students interested in pursuing careers in health professions. Among the many innovative practices she employs, Nielsen offers weekly sessions during the spring to help students plan their applications to health professions schools, and she organizes student visits and tours of those schools. She also spends one-on-one time with every student she advises to suggest activities to help them strengthen their applications, and she assembles professionals to conduct mock interviews with students prior to their interviews with health professions schools. Since Nielsen has been actively engaged in the recruitment, development and retention of pre-health professions students, MSU has seen an increase in the number of students applying to health professions schools, and MSU’s acceptance rate to those schools continues to be 20 percent or more above the national average. Numerous advisees of Nielsen’s say that she had a direct, positive impact in their quest to become health professionals and in their lives. Beyond her work in Health Professions Advising, Nielsen is an accomplished scientist who works with NASA to study microbiology in space.