Denise Nelson-Hurwitz


Assistant Professor,
Office of Public Health Studies

Dr. Denise Nelson-Hurwitz of the Office of Public Health Studies arrived at the profession of university teaching at Manoa through a circuitous yet purposeful path that simultaneously also led her back to her roots. As a graduate research assistant mentored by Manoa faculty, Professor Nelson-Hurwitz came to discover she loved teaching, “the engagement with students, the educational process, and the sharing of something I held as one of my most precious accomplishments—my education.” Through this she discovered her kuleana, her responsibility “in reciprocation for the educational opportunities I have received.” A senior colleague gives testament to Professor Nelson-Hurwitz’s teaching as superior and thoroughly impressive, and her student evaluations express their appreciation for her deep knowledge and compassion for them and their learning. A colleague credits Dr. Nelson-Hurwitz with leadership in initiating and developing the newly instituted undergraduate public health program in 2014, and the capstone series in which students present quality projects on community-based service learning and research, stating that “Dr. Nelson-Hurwitz is at the heart of the students’ learning and enthusiasm.” She has taught up to four courses a semester, yet retains a lively spirit expressed through this sentiment, “I teach with everything I know and everything I am.” Professor Nelson- Hurwitz seeks innovative approaches to “engage students to be able to experience their education—to see, touch, feel what they are learning,” through evidence-based student engagement and active, team-based experiential learning techniques supported in literature on higher education. In the words of her students, “What distinguishes her is that she goes above and beyond to help students reach their goals and realize their full potential. She doesn’t just motivate, she makes sure we have every resource and opportunity to succeed.” Another student speaks to Professor Nelson-Hurwitz’s support in other opportunities such as an indigenous research training program through the Department of Native Hawaiian Health. As with so many awardees of excellence in teaching awards, the influence and impact of Nelson- Hurwitz’s inspired teaching extends beyond the Manoa campus and into our local and national communities, conferences and institutions, including interest by other universities seeking to replicate the models initiated and developed by Dr. Denise Nelson-Hurwitz for introductory and capstone courses in Public Health Studies.

Office of Public Health Studies