2018 ACNL Excellence Awards

These awards are presented to recognize, document and communicate outstanding achievement in specific areas of nursing. Awards were presented at ACNL's 2018 Annual Conference in Monterey.

Excellence in Leadership


Stephanie Robinson, PhD, RN
Director of Nursing
Fresno City College

With a strong background in service and a dedication to clinical excellence, Stephanie transitioned to academia where she champions lifelong learning for nurses at all levels.

A nurse leader at the local and statewide levels for many years, Stephanie is a take-charge leader who offers her expertise and assistance, regardless of the challenge. Her experience in hospital leadership and education provides Stephanie with a unique understanding of the complex issues and opportunities facing both sides in our ever-changing healthcare environment. Her collaborative skills and enthusiasm provide a highly effective bridge between service and academia to creatively solve workforce and educational challenges. As Director of Nursing at Fresno City College, one of the largest nursing programs west of the Mississippi, Stephanie manages a budget of nearly $4 million and is responsible for bringing in over $8 million in grant money for the program. She is involved in many professional organizations, and is currently President-Elect of the California Organization of Associate Degree Nursing Directors, Northern Region.

A longtime member of ACNL, Stephanie has served on the Board and multiple committees, and is a past Secretary-Treasurer. She has mentored several emerging nurse leaders through ACNL’s LifeMoxie Mentoring program. Stephanie is a role model for nurses in the Central Valley and across the state.

Outstanding Emerging Nurse Leader


Jennifer Underhill, MSN, RN
Assistant Nurse Manager - Pediatrics
Cedars-Sinai Medical Center

A young leader who challenges the status quo, Jennifer raises the bar for herself, her staff and her colleagues to improve patient care.

An innovative leader, Jennifer approaches each situation with a clear vision and an ability to engage others in achieving desired outcomes. Among her many accomplishments, Jennifer led a pain improvement project as well as a comfort and anxiety reduction program in her department. She guided the renovation of pediatric patient rooms to encourage and facilitate holistic caring, revamped the staffing matrix and begin a project to improve communication in teams and with parents. Jennifer also encouraged nursing staff to obtain pediatric certification, and as a result, her unit was recognized by the Society of Pediatric Nurses for their increase in certified RNs. She spearheaded a program, to share quality improvement projects with other departments in her organization and with the community through discussion and nursing blogs.

An involved participant on the Member Experience Committee, Jennifer took the lead role in planning ACNL’s 2017 Region South Meeting, including securing meeting space, recruiting speakers and promoting the event. She regularly encourages and supports emerging nurse leaders from her organization to join and become active in ACNL. She mentors these members to utilize ACNL resources to grow as leaders.


Excellence in Clinical Practice

Cecelia L. Crawford, DNP, RN

Practice Specialist, Evidence-Based Practice and Program Evaluation
Regional Nursing Research Program
Patient Care Services
Kaiser Permanente, Southern California

A passionate nurse leader and patient care advocate, Cecelia embodies the tenet, “do the right, thing the right way” based on the evidence. 

A champion for the nursing profession and clinical practice for over 36 years, Cecelia's vision is to translate evidence so that it is meaningful for nurses and other healthcare clinicians and accessible to those who need it – the nurse and the patient. A major focus of her work is the evaluation and synthesis of evidence for patient care, clinical practice and healthcare programs. She provides leadership and consultation for evidence-based practice and program evaluation to Kaiser Permanente’s 15 Southern California medical centers as well as safety net hospitals. Cecelia is also a leader in improving patient outcomes beyond her organization by sharing evidence and co-designing programs with community partners. 

An ACNL member since 2005, Cecelia frequently attends ACNL conferences. She has presented posters highlighting her work, and upon return from conferences, shares important information with her colleagues. She also mentors first-time attendees from her organization to maximize their conference experience. In 2010, Cecelia received the ACNL Claire V. Cunningham Masonic Fund Scholarship for assistance in pursuing her Doctorate of Nursing Practice.

Excellence in Nursing Research


Jennifer Hayakawa, DNP, PCNS-BC, CNRN, CCRN
Nurse Scientist
CHOC Children's Hospital

Through innovative strategies to foster participation, Jennifer invigorates and sustains a culture of inquiry that engages nurses at all levels of her organization.

A passionate advocate for quality patient care, Jennifer leads and empowers others to engage in a culture of inquiry. She is currently a site co-investigator and nurse champion for several NIH-funded pediatric critical care studies at CHOC. Her research interests include critical care, neurosurgery and sedation/pain management in children and adolescents. 

As nurse scientist, Jennifer serves as Chair of the Nursing Research and Innovation Council (NRIC), collaborating with academic partners to evaluate and redesign the infrastructure supporting new knowledge and innovation. She led the restructuring of the organization’s model of shared governance to include NRIC as the foundation – ensuring that work within each of the councils is evidence-based. She implemented a house-wide EBP practice model to guide project management and collaborated with the office of research compliance to create an IRB submission guide for novice nurse researchers. Jennifer was instrumental in creating a new and innovative solution to re-engage nurses in sustaining a culture of inquiry - the development of the Nursing Research Associate (NRA) Training program. The purpose of the NRA program is to transition away from the traditional model of a Nursing Research Fellowship program and develop a more meaningful and relatable approach to empower nurse participation in multidisciplinary research.

Excellence in Professional Education


Kathleen S. Rindahl, DNP, FNP-C

Assistant Professor, School of Nursing
California State University, Fresno

A dedicated educator and innovative thinker, Kathi confronts challenges and seeks opportunities to meet the needs of her students and the patients they serve.

Kathi is an enthusiastic educator and an out-of-the-box thinker who creates a learning environment where students can develop their full potential. She serves as a role model to the students, provides exceptional educational opportunities, encourages lifelong learning and is always ready to help her students be successful. Kathi has taken learning outside the classroom walls and into the community to better serve the students and the public. She identified the need for a mobile unit for her community health class and arranged with the Fresno County Office of Education to borrow a mobile clinic that was no longer being used by the school district. This mobile unit has been very successful in providing care to the underserved, especially in the rural areas of the Central Valley. 

In addition to serving her students, Kathi has also served her country as a Corpsman in the United States Navy and is classified as a Petty Officer Third Class. She served in the Rapid Medical Deployment Force and worked at the Naval Submarine Medical Center in Groton, Connecticut.

Best Practice - Recruitment/Retention/Outreach


Marlys Vespe, MSN, RN, NEA-BC

Director, Clinical Services
Scripps Health

A strong leader who champions outreach and member engagement for nurse leaders in San Diego and the Imperial Valley.

An ACNL member for over 20 years, Marlys is a creative and tireless advocate for ACNL’s San Diego Chapter, exemplifying excellence in recruitment and outreach to increase membership and engagement. Marlys chaired the chapter’s 2016 and 2017 Innovations Conferences and is chair of the 2018 Conference Planning Committee. The Innovations Conference, held each spring, profiles ACNL chapter members and local nursing leaders as keynote speakers, promoting their visibility within the San Diego nursing community. Through her excellent communication and strong outreach efforts, Marlys has significantly increased participation in the conference, particularly from underrepresented health systems and regions in San Diego and Imperial Counties. These organizations not only sent attendees but also had podium and poster speakers. 

Marlys has also promoted membership and engagement through her leadership in the Chapter’s networking event. The first event, held in September 2016, attracted nurses and nursing students from the San Diego region. The Planning Committee set a target goal of 57 attendees, since the setting was the restaurant, 57 Degrees. The committee exceeded this goal with more than 75 nursing leaders and students in attendance. The 2017 Networking Event in September was also very successful.


View 2018 Outstanding Contribution Award Recipients