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Nora Hager Receives Excellence in Advising Award from Mizzou

The Human Development and Family Science (HDFS) emphasis in Child Life is a rigorous degree program that prepares students to work in clinical settings with children and families experiencing a wide variety of medical needs. The profession of Child Life is one that is emotionally demanding and requires its practitioners to demonstrate high levels of developmental and relational understanding, effective communication and translation, empathy and compassion, and strong judgement and professional ethics.

It takes a supportive and dedicated faculty member to lead such a demanding program, and luckily the Department of HDFS has a strong leader in Nora Hager. In recognition of her dedication and support of students, Nora was recently recognized by the University of Missouri and received the 2024 Excellence in Advising Award.

One of Nora’s nominators and colleagues, Dr. Melissa Herzog said, “Nora thinks carefully about how she can support her students in developmentally appropriate ways, such that we provide a combination of high and achievable expectations, but with the support and guidance that helps students to reach these expectations more smoothly. Nora recognizes that her students need to learn important skills of problem solving and collaboration to be successful in life and in their profession and she encourages students to take ownership of their goals and professional decision-making.”

As part of the Child Life program, students are required to engage in an intensive 600-hour clinical internship experience away from Columbia. The Child Life internship process is highly competitive, and Nora assists her students in all phases of preparation to apply for these experiences. As one particularly salient example, during the height of the pandemic, many hospitals around the nation shut down their internships experiences and Nora worked overtime with students, administrators, and student internship site supervisors to ensure that students would be allowed to resume their clinical experiences to establish their national certification exam eligibility. The Certified Child Life Specialist exam is a rigorous, national exam and as both an instructor and an academic advisor, Nora gives her students all the tools possible to be successful with this experience at each career stage.

A large group receiving awards

Students constantly give glowing reviews of Nora’s support and encouragement. For example, Maddie Breed, an HDFS Child Life student said, “I have had many influential instructors throughout my academic career. However, not one has created an impression as meaningful as Nora. Nora has the innate ability to foster trusting relationships with her students. Her nurturing interpersonal skills combined with her high expectations for her students’ levels of success establishes an environment that fosters knowledge, creativity, and free expression. I confidently know she is in my corner ready to catch me and lift me back up to achieve my goals. She continues to ignite my Child Life passion and encourages my continued growth and development in the field, even while I am away completing my internship.”

Similarly, another Child Life student, Alyssa Dickenson, said “One of the best things about Nora is that she is constantly sending out opportunities for those of us in the field of child life. Nora also ensures that she is always available to her students. Whenever her appointments are filled up on MU Connect she is always willing to schedule a meeting time within the next few days. She has listened to my concerns both in person and online and created a plan of action for how I can be the most successful.”

“Nora is the heart and soul of our HDFS Child Life Program.” Stated Dr. Brenda Lohman, HDFS Department Chair. “Nora meets formally with each of her advisees individually multiple times a year in individual advising appointments. Informally, Nora interacts with her advisees on nearly a weekly basis through her different roles in the department. Formally and informally, Nora shows caring, effective interpersonal skills and makes sure to monitor their progress toward academic and life goals. I have heard not only from her advisees but also their parents how supportive and caring she is and that she always has the best interest of the student at the forefront of her advising. Nora has an open-door policy and has developed a strong bond and relationship with each of her students.”

MU HDFS is grateful to have Nora Hager on faculty and are excited that her efforts are being recognized across campus.