Photo of Paula FitzGibbon

A family affair: Statistics lecturer Paula FitzGibbon receives Jackson Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Mentoring

Multiple family generations make up Paula FitzGibbon’s lineage at Case Western Reserve University. Degrees accrued in the past century include those earned by her grandmother from The Teacher’s College (1927); her mother from Flora Stone Mather College for Women at Western Reserve College (1957) and father from Adelbert College (1957) and Western Reserve School of Dentistry (1961), not to mention FitzGibbon’s husband with a PhD in history in 2004 and their son—who is now enrolled at the law school— with an undergraduate degree in 2022. Her sister also graduated with a master’s degree in biomedical engineering in 1982.

So, when FitzGibbon first began as an analyst, while teaching part time, in epidemiology and biostatistics at the School of Medicine in 1991, and then as a full-time instructor in statistics in 1993 at the College of Arts and Sciences, she said she happily joined this multigenerational “family affair.”  

“These connections make me feel very comfortable here and I’m impassioned to teach and mentor young people along their paths to academic and career success,” she said. 

Thirty years later, her students are glad she is: FitzGibbon has been selected for a J. Bruce Jackson, MD, Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Mentoring. She will receive the award during the College of Arts and Sciences’ undergraduate diploma ceremony Sunday, May 21.

Some of those students spoke about both her expertise and her empathy, one saying she “is the type of mentor-teacher who would dedicate time to improve their students’ education and help them reach their potential.”

Several others noted how FitzGibbon took the time to get to know them personally, including one who remarked in her nomination letter that “I always looked forward to discussing my fantasy football roster each week, even though my team was trash and she was a Browns fan!”

Others commented on how she made academic topics come alive: “She made the content relevant and relatable, which made it much more interesting. She far exceeded my expectations as a professor, and I’m glad I had the opportunity to take her class.”

FitzGibbon said she has been “thrilled to engage with students” and help them reach academic and professional goals.

“This is an unexpected honor,” FitzGibbon said. “I can only say that it is my privilege to mentor and teach students…Our students are impressive in many ways…and I love coming to CWRU every day, teaching and mentoring all my advisees and students in my classes and would not have chosen a different path.”

About the award

The J. Bruce Jackson, MD, Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Mentoring recognizes the positive impact Case Western Reserve University faculty and staff have on the lives of students. It was established by J. Bruce Jackson (ADL ’52), in honor of Dean Carl F. Wittke, who served as an advisor, mentor, and friend to Jackson when he was an undergraduate student at Western Reserve University.

The Jackson Award celebrates faculty and staff who have guided a student in their academic and career paths; fostered the student’s long-term personal development; challenged the student to reflect, explore and grow as an individual; and supported and/or facilitated the student’s goals and life choices.