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First Kastenbaum Family Scholarship recipient ready to influence simulation

Bunny Kastenbaum stands with Mari Poledna in front of an ASU Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation sign

Bunny Kastenbaum poses with Mari Poledna, the recipient of the scholarship created to honor the Kastenbaum family.

December 04, 2019

Receiving a scholarship is always a special experience, receiving a scholarship created to honor a pioneer in the field is next-level.

This is the happy situation Mari Poledna found herself in after learning she’d been selected as the first recipient of the Kastenbaum Family Scholarship.

“I’m just so thankful. It’s a wonderful feeling to not only be recognized for my interest in advancing simulation but to be understood and supported by someone like Professor Kastenbaum is really amazing,” Poledna said.

If the scholarship name sounds familiar, it should.  

After announcing her retirement from ASU’s Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation in 2018 Professor Beatrice “Bunny” Kastenbaum’s colleagues wanted to continue to honor her legacy as a nurse educator and simulation-learning innovator. 

Establishing a scholarship was the perfect solution. After all, Bunny spent 50 years teaching nursing students and she’s one of the reasons the college began using simulation. 

Bunny and Ruth Brooks, the lab director at the time, worked together to establish simulation learning experiences in the college. 

“As nursing became more complex it was important to create opportunities to practice advanced decision-making skills.  Student lab experiences moved from bed-making to making critical judgments about seriously ill patients in a safe place,” Bunny said.

And it was also a way to recognize Bunny’s husband, Robert Kastenbaum, who not only supported and encouraged her throughout her career, but was a Professor at ASU and well-known in his own right. They both have made significant contributions to the academic community and beyond.

Because of her foresight and willingness to experiment with the latest technology, simulation became an integral part of nursing education at Edson College. 

“It was always something that we were striving to do, to integrate it into the curriculum and then separate it out into its own experiential courses,” said Bunny.

The scholarship is meant to provide support to nurse educators as they pursue experiential learning opportunities. 

It’s a welcome boost for Poledna, who is pursuing a Nursing and Healthcare Innovation, PhD

A nurse educator herself, Poledna is a full-time faculty member at Scottsdale Community College, she also works as a critical care nurse for Banner’s Tele-Health ICU and has a family of her own to take care of. 

“Simulation is my passion and I hope I can advance the science and the knowledge and bring some practical education as well,” she said. 

Poledna and Bunny met each other for the first time in the fall of 2019 over lunch, but the casual observer would have thought they’d been friends for years. The conversation was easy and engaging. 

The pair talked about the way things used to be and the exciting advancements in nursing education that Bunny’s been a part of as well as the research that Poledna’s doing.

“I see how much nursing has changed, and medicine has changed and I try to bring that into simulation. I’m very interested in developing simulations that will help stimulate critical thinking and clinical judgment and patient safety,” said Poledna.

Also in attendance at that lunch meeting was Margaret Calacci, Director of the Grace Center for Innovation in Nursing Education. As part of her expansive role in the college, she oversees the simulation curriculum and shared some of the reasons why it’s such a key piece of the nursing program.

“Students aren’t able to do some of the skills and the nursing pieces in a clinical setting because of legalities, so simulation provides such a rich supplement and I think that's really where we are making huge headway. Every student can care for a patient with a common health concern such as diabetes or a less common one like a serious burn. 

After they wrapped up at lunch, the conversation continued with a tour of the Grace Center on the Downtown Phoenix campus. It was Poledna’s first time in the facility but it likely won’t be her last.

Just as this won’t be the last student or patient Bunny’s incredible career touches.

“When Bunny was retiring we were trying to figure out how many patients she has affected through her years of education,” Calacci said.

If you consider she taught at least 60 students each semester for 35 plus years and if each one of those students has gone on to treat between 500 - 1,000 patients, that’s potentially more than 3.5 million people she has personally affected.

“And it’s still going. It’s amazing!” Calacci said.

If you are interested in contributing to the Kastenbaum Family Scholarship or creating a scholarship for Edson College students please contact