Nursing Professor Hannah Saravanakumar is Pacific Union College’s 2024 Educator of the Year

By Ally Romanes on May 31, 2024

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Pacific Union College honored Nursing Professor Hannah Saravanakumar as the 2023-2024 Educator of the Year during Community on Thursday, May 23. With over 20 years of nursing education experience, she is a highly respected nursing professor who combines expertise in leadership, didactics, clinical and simulation experiences, curriculum development, and faculty mentorship.

By creating a rigorous learning environment, Saravanakumar—fondly called “Professor SK” by her students—meets their academic needs through creative teaching techniques and hands-on experience that her students find engaging and enjoyable. She teaches with passion, with her class earning one of the highest scores of all nursing standardized testing—the ATI assessments.

Saravanakumar’s interests include faculty training, pedagogy, social reconstructionism, and redemptive education. Throughout her career, she has remained an active member of the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses, Sigma Theta Tau International, and the American Nurses Association, mentoring nurses and educators nationally.

She earned her bachelor's degree in nursing from a prestigious university in India. After completing her master’s from Washington Adventist University, she discovered her passion for teaching. Saravanakumar is currently an advanced doctoral candidate at Capella University, specializing her research in nursing education.

Milbert Mariano, dean of the school of arts, humanities, and professional studies, gave a few clues before announcing that Saravanakumar won this prestigious award. Students clapped and cheered, reinforcing her positive impact on them and why she received their votes.

Saravanakumar was moved to tears as she went on stage. She was presented with roses from her children, followed by a green superhero cape and a red lightsaber—which coincidentally matched her green and pink outfit—from the previous Educator of the Year, Dr. Susan Bussell, and a framed certificate given by PUC President Dr. Ralph Trecartin.

Dr. Bussell gave a beautiful tribute as she passed down the title to her beloved colleague. She started by sharing how Saravanakumar cooks mounds of delicious food, such as curry, for her students and eagerly celebrates their birthdays, successes, the end of the quarter, or simply because students want to.

“Professor SK supports her students not just with her culinary talents and passion for spices, she affirms her students by celebrations—acknowledging their success, and letting them know she believes in them and is not surprised they are doing well,” shared Dr. Bussell. “She exudes passion for her topics, is an expert in the information, and stays current in her area of expertise. She is also pursuing her Ph.D. all while giving a hundred percent to her students, the nursing department, and her family.”

In addition to her work in the classroom, Saravanakumar considers it a great privilege to serve God and the people in His vineyard. She believes students learn best through experience and active learning in the real world, fostering accountability, equity, inclusive teaching-learning strategies, and nurturing a sense of belonging. Saravanakumar feels that shared values and beliefs bind individuals together, influence their character, and guide their actions and behaviors, extending beyond the gates of educational organizations.

One of her nursing students, Charlotte Bidwell, was privileged to express her admiration up front for her extraordinary professor who fought for her and helped her become an RN in the United States. Saravanakumar could not help but smile during Bidwell’s tribute.

“The best phrase I can use to describe Professor Hannah is ‘above and beyond,’” shared Bidwell. With a long list of the many exceptional things Saravanakumar does for her students, a memorable mention was how she adopted her students by investing deeply in their journeys and immensely caring for their futures.

“She is not just a phenomenal professor; she is a second mom to us all—making sure we eat enough, drink enough, and rest enough, despite not doing that herself. No one is more worthy of this title.” Bidwell said.

Many inside and outside the nursing department were moved to hear the numerous accolades faculty and students proclaimed about Saravanakumar. Described as fierce, strong, uplifting, kind, empathetic, and so much more—it is no surprise that she is Educator of the Year.