Two alums have been awarded the prestigious Dianne Kipnes Social Innovation Award for their scholarship and practice. Wanda Whiteside, Ed.D. (Leadership for Change, ‘23) and Kathy Bell, Ph.D. (Human Development, ‘23) will advance their work in their respective fields in 2024-2026. 

Dr. Whiteside is the founder and Artistic Producing Director of Live Garra Theatre in Montgomery County, Maryland. Through this award, she will partner with Montgomery College, Maryland’s Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation Campus Center to conduct an ongoing workshop series that incorporates Playback Theatre, an exercise that invites the audience to participate in the creation of improvised scenes focused on racial bias and issues of marginalization. 

The project will assess the extent to which the activities increased participants’ positive social connection, well-being, sense of belonging, and understanding of underlying themes. Results will be disseminated through social media, conference presentations and publications. 

Dr. Bell’s project, Finding the Key to Positivity for Elders in Home Transition, uses an arts-based methodology to explore how individuals in their late 70s and 80s can be supported in the process of downsizing their living space and possessions to a potential ideal future environment. Related questions include how elders “idealize” their future homes, and the emotional support needed to help them create an ideal living environment. This further research is based on the work of Lindley and Wallace (2015) and will explore several aspects of home transition. The results will be used in a resource book for older adults and submitted for conference presentations and journal publication. 

Institute for Social Innovation Director and Dean Emerit Charles McClintock, Ph.D., said both projects will continue to have an impact in the Fielding community and globally. 

“These projects reflect the kind of innovation that results from Fielding’s educational model in which students are encouraged to explore issues of significance for their work and life experience,” said Dr. McClintock. “Through the Kipnes Fund support, Dr. Bell’s and Dr. Whiteside’s work will positively impact individuals and communities in the U.S. and beyond.”  

The Dianne Kipnes Fund for Social Innovation was established in 2016 with an exceptional gift from Clinical Psychology alum Dianne Kipnes, Ph.D. (’98). The Fund currently supports alumni projects that demonstrate innovation and collaboration for improving the lives of individuals, organizations, and/or communities.   


headshot Wanda Whiteside

Wanda Whiteside, Ed.D.

Dr. Wanda Whiteside received her M.Ed. and Ed.D. degrees in Leadership for Change from Fielding Graduate University, graduating in 2023. In addition, she earned an MS in Business Management from Strayer University. Dr. Whiteside trained at the Boston Conservatory of Music and earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre Arts from Howard University. She is a faculty member at Montgomery College in Takoma Park, MD, and serves as the Artistic Producing Director of Live Garra Theatre, Inc., a resident company with the Theatre Consortium of Silver Spring, Inc. Dr. Whiteside and her husband owned and operated the Bonifant Theatre Space in downtown Silver Spring, MD, which served as the Zora Neale Hurston Stage for the DC Black Theatre Festival, and she was awarded Montgomery’s Best Honoree Community Service award. 

Dr. Whiteside was a judge for the NAACP ACT-SO competitions and presenter at the University of Maryland Black Theatre Symposium on the state of Black Theatre in America. She received an Honorable Citation from the Maryland State House of Delegates for her work with the Silver Spring Town Center, Inc. Dr. Whiteside had a 15-year tenure as a Director/Editor at Discovery Communications, Inc. where she was the principal developer of the “Autofeed,” the electronic transmission system of programming information. 


Kathy Bell, Ph.D.

Kathy Bell, Ph.D.

Kathy Bell completed her Ph.D. in Human Development at Fielding in 2023, with a concentration in Creative Longevity and Wisdom. She also has a Certificate in Gerontology from Toronto Metropolitan University, an MA in Curriculum from the University of Toronto-OISE, and a BA in English from the University of British Columbia. She spent most of her career teaching and developing post-secondary programs in British Columbia and Ontario. 

Kathy’s Fielding dissertation, Wisdom through the Eyes of Elder Women, involved an arts-based methodology to learn how nominated Elder women, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, define and reveal wisdom. Her current research will build on what she learned in that study, particularly in how older adults can be supported in making wise decisions in times of difficult, later-life transitions. 


About the Author: Kaylin Staten

Kaylin R. Staten, APR, MPRCA, is a writer and accredited public relations practitioner based in West Virginia with two decades of professional communications experience. She serves as Fielding’s Associate Director of Communications.

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