School of Kinesiology alumna Hayley Russell, PhD, was named the 2019 winner of Gustavus Adolphus College’s Swenson-Bunn Memorial Award for Teaching Excellence. Russell is an assistant professor of Health and Exercise Science and has been a member of the Gustavus faculty since 2016.
“She goes beyond the role of professor and serves as a role model for me and many other students,” one of Russell’s nomination letters said. “She sets the bar high for students and herself—all qualities that I greatly respect and admire.”
Nominated and selected by students, the Swenson-Bunn Memorial Award for Teaching Excellence honors the memory of two Gustavus students and members of the Student Senate, Greg Swenson and Holly Bunn, who were killed in a car accident in 1989. It has been awarded annually since 1990 and was presented to Russell by Student Senate co-presidents Ehsan Ali Asghar and Kylie Lamberty.
“I was surprised and honored to receive the Swenson-Bunn Award,” Russell said. “I love the emphasis on classroom teaching and student-focused research at Gustavus. I feel that the environment here has allowed me to both grow as an instructor and see students develop tangible skills in research methods, data analysis, and oral and written communication.”
Russell’s courses include Lifespan Development, Health Behavior, Sport Psychology, and Power and Privilege in Sport. Her research focuses on sport and exercise psychology with a particular interest in psychological response to sport injury and lifelong athlete health.
“Having the opportunity to work one-on-one with someone as skilled and knowledgeable as Dr. Russell has been a great experience that has helped me learn a lot about the process of research and analyzing data,” sophomore psychological science and Latin American, Latinx, and Caribbean Studies major Ava Hanson said. “My time with her is so valuable—I’ve learned so much from Hayley about writing, academics, and balancing my commitments as a student.”
Russell serves on the college’s Curriculum Committee and First-Term Seminar Advisory Board and hosts an evening workshop series on Sport and Performance Psychology that is open to all students. A regular attendee of campus events including concerts and athletic contests, she prides herself on getting to know students both inside and outside the classroom.
“Our students are bright, engaged, and enthusiastic,” Russell said. “Building personal relationships and co-curricular connections are highlights of teaching in a liberal arts setting.”
But, the professor says, the most rewarding part of teaching is seeing passionate students develop their skills and confidence over the course of their time at Gustavus.
“Throughout my undergraduate and graduate training, my most impactful educational experiences were working one-on-one with faculty members and collaborating with other students on research,” Russell said.
As for choosing to work in academia, it helped that being a student-focused professor is a family tradition. Russell’s mother, Dr. Margo Watt, is a professor of clinical psychology at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia.
“I grew up watching my mother win teaching awards and build meaningful relationships with students in her lab,” Russell said. “I’m proud that I’m in a position to develop the same strong bonds with my students and help guide them toward a purposeful life after Gustavus.”
Russell holds a bachelor of arts from St. Francis Xavier University, a master’s in sport and exercise psychology from Wilfrid Laurier University, and a doctorate in kinesiology from the University of Minnesota.