May 14, 2018

UW-Superior celebrates work of faculty and staff

The University of Wisconsin-Superior’s annual Faculty and Staff Recognition program was held on Friday, May 11.

The University of Wisconsin-Superior’s annual Faculty and Staff Recognition program was held on Friday, May 11.

The University of Wisconsin-Superior’s annual Faculty and Staff Recognition program was held on Friday, May 11

The University of Wisconsin-Superior’s annual Faculty and Staff Recognition program was held on Friday, May 11, and a number of UW-Superior faculty and staff were honored for their service and commitment to the university. These faculty and staff members, all of whom have made a big impact on both individual students and the university’s community as a whole, received their awards and recognition at a program in the Yellowjacket Union.

Dr. Sergei Bezroukov, awarded the Distinguished Creativity Award, has been called the most prolific mathematician of UW-Superior’s faculty by far. He has been a global leader in the field of isoperimetric graph theory for most of his career, and thanks largely to Bezroukov, UW-Superior has been a hub of discrete mathematics, hosting seminars, conferences, and visits by well-known researchers from around the world. In addition to pure mathematics, Bezroukov is an expert in embedded systems: microprocessors which reside in devices such as cell phones, industrial equipment, and household gadgets; he has designed and built everything from a test-tube filler for chemists, to a self-cleaning cat litter box, and is a recognized leader in IOT, the “Internet of Things”. Bezroukov is also a great person, always happy to share ideas, mentor students, and spread knowledge. Sergei is our representative for math in two different UW Committees. One is the UW Math Initiative and the other is the Math Remedial Steering Committee. Bezroukov was awarded a WiSys grant for 2018-19 Applied Research-WiSys Technology Advancement Grant program for a project that he is working on to address an identified need by teachers within a local school district.     

Rachel Portinga, recipient of the Academic Service-Learning Excellence Award, strives to have University Studies course BIOL 100 – Environmental Science prepare students be comfortable interacting with science in their daily lives, and to be informed citizens when confronted with science-related issues. As part of this goal, Portinga has designed course activities that open our student’s eyes to the science we encounter in our community. Further, she aids students in assessing their personal impact on our natural environment, and helps them navigate the associated issues commonly linked to this awareness. Specifically, the Academic Service-Learning project that Portinga designed for BIOL 100, in concert with UW-Superior’s Center for Academic Service-Learning, teams students up to perform a sustainability audit for a local business. There are many benefits to this project, for both the students and our community, that go beyond learning about the sustainability course content for Environmental Science. As the students work together to contact, plan and perform their audit, they are learning how to make community connections, converse in science, and assess the role of science in our communities. The businesses are also learning about their impact on the natural environment, and how they can make small changes to improve our community’s natural stewardship. Portinga has designed a dynamic, educational AS-L project that provides an opportunity for our students to form positive relationships within our community, while applying the knowledge they learn in the Environmental Science course.   

Recipient of the University Staff Excellence Award, Mike Olson goes above and beyond for UW-Superior. The information technology landscape changes at an alarming pace and with these changes the demand for different skills require IT staff to be like quick change artists. IT staff must force themselves to learn new skills many of which may be obsolete the next year. Over the past two years, Olson has volunteered to lead extremely high-stress projects involving technologies he would normally not work with and has offered to learn new skills in order to provide the redundancy needed to support our campus with a relatively small staff. Olson has been especially helpful in the campus scheduling software 25Live integration with other software systems. He has a ‘can do’ attitude which means he looks for ways to make things work, rather than restrain from change. He is willing to provide the technical aspects for the adoption of this campus wide software and is an exceptional team player. Olson has taken the lead on pursuing the shift to Oracle cloud based solutions. He has spent countless hours investigating, researching and questioning the cloud based solutions as presented, always with the ‘best for the institution’ driving his decisions.

The Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL) which includes Monica Roth Day, Del Wright, Stacy Leno, Rebecca Graetz, and Thora Papineau, recipients of the Making Excellence Inclusive Award, does phenomenal work that enhances the overall student and staff experience on campus. The team is constantly collaborating with various offices, units, and departments across the campus to provide valuable sessions for our staff. They understand the outcomes and are always so student-centered in their focus. A project recording testimonials of nontraditional students took almost a year to complete, from inception to final product. The outcomes were so impressive and now staff are able to reap the benefits of this project through our very important nontraditional student growth educational sessions offered each semester. CETL has been instrumental in assisting with the roll out of Canvas and creating a seamless transition. CETL has an array of topics and opportunities for staff growth that seemingly occurs multiple times every week. Canvas mitigation has taken significant time, yet the CETL team continues their dedication to existing responsibilities, such as consultations with faculty and staff on a range of teaching issues, facilitation of learning sessions including Promoting Excellence in Teaching and Learning orientation for new faculty and staff, management of D2L, and other areas. The new (second year) Student Advisory Board is an important voice in the development of new programs and activities as are CETL Staff Advisory Committee and multiple design teams. Their final design for training includes three tiers of professional development that promotes student-centered learning, accessibility, and inclusion.

The Outstanding Team/Unit/Office Award was presented to Developmental Writing. The two instructors of Developmental Writing, John McCormick and Heather McGrew, show outstanding commitment to some of the most vulnerable UW-Superior students, resulting in effects that are deserving of recognition. They have provided full time and professional attention to the WRIT 099 course. McCormick and McGrew have implemented several important changes to this course. This hard work has played out in amazing ways: students report more confidence in their reading and writing abilities. In addition to these student stories, UW-Superior’s own Institutional Effectiveness data reports that retention in WRIT 099 cohorts has increased from 53% (the 2012 cohort) to 77% (the 2014 cohort). These significant data points show a connection between the experience in WRIT 099 and retention. The Writing program, along with several others, are more than proud of these two teachers and the work they do for UW-Superior’s developmental writers.

Since Dr. Eleni Pinnow began at UW-Superior in 2008, her commitment to students has been evident and highly commendable. Her course evaluations and student feedback is consistently high and demonstrates how she both supports and challenges students in their learning and achievement. Pinnow believes strongly in growth and communicates this clearly to students and supervises all Psychology senior research projects and capstone experiences. Pinnow is the recipient of the Teaching/Online Teaching Excellence Award.  

The Max H. Lavine Award was awarded to Dr. Lorena Rios Mendoza. Since Dr. Rios started at UW-Superior, she has been working with the micro plastic debris pollution issue. She was the first to report the concentration of persistent organic pollutants absorbed on the surface of these micro plastic particles found in the Great Lakes waters in 2013 at the International American Chemical Society and the results attracted a lot of attention from scientist and communities around the Great Lakes. This type of pollution is an international issue that is showing its effects in the oceans and freshwater systems. Dr. Rios’s work put UW-Superior as the first university around the Great Lakes in the USA and Canada to expose the severity of this micro plastic debris pollution for its capacity of concentrated toxic compounds. In 2017 she wrote three papers, did six community seminars about plastic pollution, and presented at four professional conferences. Dr. Rios wrote a chapter titled “Advanced Analytical Techniques for Assessing the Chemical Compounds Related to Micro plastics,” in collaboration with two colleagues, to Volume 75 (2017) of Comprehensive Analytical Chemistry: Characterization and Analysis of Microplastics, pages 209-240.  Editorial Elsevier. A colleague wrote: Dr. Rios is a leader in her field regarding the recognition and study of microplastics. Her research is helping the public understand how common consuming products can have deleterious impacts on our environment.  Regionally, there is no greater asset than our Great Lakes and inland waters, which is why both Minnesota and Wisconsin banned soaps with plastic microbeads.  

Dr. Jamie White-Farnham, awarded the Excellence in Scholarship Award, has exemplified dedication to scholarship and tireless production of articles and presentations that meet the highest standards of her field of Composition and Rhetoric. While a UW-Superior faculty member, White-Farnham has published in some of the most competitive journals in the discipline, including College English and Rhetoric Review. She achieved a new career milestone this academic year with the publication of her first edited collection, Writing Program Architecture: Thirty Cases for Reference and Research, released by Utah State University Press in November 2017.  This book is of national significance for the field of Writing Studies, as it organizes and synthesizes best practices and current approaches of a wide scope of programs.

Jon Garver, recipient of the Academic Staff Excellence Award, is one of the UW-Superior’s unsung heroes. His dedication to students and the campus is second to none. Almost daily, Garver uses his personal Facebook account to generate recognition and positive encouragement to student athletes and UW-Superior. Off line, he develops and supports students on a daily basis above and beyond his role. Most students that spend time in the Marcovich Wellness Center know him and know he is someone to be counted on for encouragement or a fun moment of laughter. As far as time is concerned, it has yet to be confirmed but Garver may possibly live on-campus. From broadcasting a hockey game, to creating press releases for an athletics event, to ensuring all preparations are in place for a game. Outside of this, Garver has served on Academic Staff Senate for a number of years to ensure academic staff receive the support and attention deserved on-campus. UW-Superior and the Athletic Department would not be the same without the dedication of Garver.

Dr. Rubana Mahjabeen is a well-respected and dedicated professor who continues to make contributions which benefit students, the university, and the community. These contributions include undergraduate and graduate level teaching, student career and educational advising, University Studies committee service, Stimulus Club advisement, Economic Search and Screen Committee Chair, community based research, student undergraduate research mentor.  While these are only a fraction of the activities in which she is involved, they clearly reveal how Mahjabeen exemplifies the spirit of the Distinguished Service Award. Mahjabeen is a strong advocate for student research and serves as both mentor and advisor for several activities which connect students with the community. At times, these activities involve crack-of-dawn departures for conference events, and recently a white-knuckled drive home from Minneapolis over snowy and ice-covered roads. As advisor of the Stimulus Club, Mahjabeen creates opportunities to “Engage students and broader community in stimulating current economic issues and undergraduate research.” The students who work with Mahjabeen have been described as exceptional, which is a direct result of her dedication, well-defined expectations, and support.  Mahjabeen continues to make substantial contributions which benefit students, the university, and the community. She is the recipient of the Distinguished Service Award.

Dr. Maria Cuzzo was awarded the Faculty Spirit of Superior Award. Cuzzo has demonstrated her teaching excellence by utilizing Academic Service-Learning (AS-L) teaching pedagogy within her Legal Studies 115:  Law and Human Behavior courses.  She strives to ensure that each AS-L experience is mutually beneficial, achieves her intended learning outcomes, and meets a genuine community need. Cuzzo has a longstanding partnership with the Center Against Sexual & Domestic Abuse (CASDA) and the Douglas County Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Coordinated Community Response Teams. AS-L students assist with social change/public education events by creating visual displays and designing educational posters to display for events held during Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October and Sexual Assault Awareness Month in April.  AS-L students are encouraged to deepen their personal responsibilities as an informed citizen and develop social responsibility skills through their public service. A student shared that this experience “helped me realize how much different everyone’s lives can be.  In the future, I can better respect and listen to others backgrounds to get a better understanding for why their opinions/actions are the way they are.” Another student wrote that this “made me rethink my own biases on domestic violence and abuse.  It helped me realize that as a bystander, I can do something and should do something.” Cuzzo has been an excellent mentor and role model to many. She has tremendous integrity when she sees something that needs to change in our community and she takes immediate action. Her dedication to students is obvious to everyone.

During his first year at UW-Superior, Jerel Benton, recipient of the Academic Staff Spirit of Superior Award, made an indelible mark on this campus. His vision, humble leadership, and deep passion for making quality education experiences accessible to all people in a combination that cannot be found anywhere else at the levels that Benton exhibits. His countless hours in meetings with a very diverse range of on- and off-campus partners, educational programs highlighting important topics, and heartfelt mentorship with students led to infinite relationships and successes that cannot be quantified. Benton’s ability to bring people to the table and allow them to feel as though they can contribute to inclusive excellence is one of his top strengths, but it is matched by leading the way with his approach to equity through big picture thinking and resourcefulness. His care for colleague across campus, but especially in his department, is something that allowed his team members to excel in this often difficult and draining work. The kind but highly motivating energy that Benton exhibited while doing this work was something that isn’t found very often at all.

Jay Conley, recipient of the University Staff Spirit of Superior Award, is a steady colleague who anyone can depend on across the campus. Customer service is always paramount for Conley in all of his interactions with students, faculty, and staff — a quiet, calm demeanor and encouraging smile are a constant for Conley. In high stress moments where an individual is in need of a technology support lifeline, Conley is the perfect person to arrive and solve all technology needs. When an immediate solution cannot be found, individuals feel better just knowing the problem will be fixed because he always follows through on his word. On a university level, Conley has served the campus on University Staff Senate as their Chair. When he speaks, it is a well thought out point that is important to consider. Despite losing two people within the director support tech services on-campus, Conley has taken on additional responsibilities and leadership roles and has maintained his continued commitment to customer service for his department. Conley is very responsive and quick to assist. He regularly gets classes back on track so that the technology glitches do not hinder the teaching and learning experience. We cannot underscore how vital Conley is to our program. Technology Services and the university are extremely fortunate to have a colleague and employee like Conley.

Unit/Team/Office Spirit of Superior Award is presented to Graduate Education Online. Throughout the 2017-18 academic year, the outstanding team of Terri Kronzer and Maryjane Burdge have worked tirelessly to develop innovative high quality graduate level education in an effort to meet shortages in both Wisconsin and Minnesota for qualified educators and leaders. By stepping bravely into a new delivery format for each of them, they have re-invented what it means to creatively deliver graduate level education at a distance while retaining the integrity of the standard set by the university. These two women have navigated unfamiliar territory with a spirit of intellectual curiosity that has opened extensive possibilities to our graduate education students. Their deep desire to create the best classroom experience in an online format pushes past the reality of what is current to the realm of what is possible in this delivery system. The enrollment growth that has been fostered by their efforts (increasing a program that was once struggling to one that is now thriving as it has accelerated past the 200 student mark) is leading the University toward greater financial stability and student body diversification. The graduate students they serve in this program, the university, and the future of K-12 education in the region are being made better due to their commitment to access and excellence.

Ms. Kathy Christiansen, recipient of the Special Spirit of Superior Award, is known as the “Favorite Lunch Lady.” She plays a foundational part in continuing to live the Spirit of Superior.  During her nearly 20 years working in the cafeteria, Christiansen has taught positivity, kindness, and has embodied the UW-Superior spirit. She is often the first person students who live in the residence halls see nearly every day. Christiansen is the caring, friendly, welcoming face that greets everyone entering the cafeteria day-in-and-day-out. To grasp the depth of her impact on our campus would make for a trying, yet worthy, undergraduate research project. Christiansen consistently demonstrates the values of UW-Superior and has made a significant difference in making a positive campus climate in the lives of so many who live, work, and study on campus. She emphasized personal attention to each and every student she greets. Christiansen is a sincere, trustworthy, and a humble leader how would never acknowledge the significant difference she makes in the lives of so many.
The UW System – Academic Staff Excellence Award was presented to the Lake Superior Research Institute (LSRI). UW System Board of Regents honored this year’s recipients at its meeting in Madison. These awards recognize exceptional service to the university and are the UW System’s highest recognition bestowed on members of its academic staff.  

“This year’s award recipients represent the stellar quality of our academic staff across the UW System,” said Regent Janice Mueller, chair of the selection committee. “We are delighted to recognize their innovation, creativity, and dedication as they support student success and strengthen communities.”

Award recipients are selected for superior performance resulting in significant contributions to the department and institution; use of positive personal interaction to manage work changes; and a consistently creative approach that improves productivity and work quality. Each award is valued at $5,000 per recipient. Currently directed by Dr. Matthew TenEyck, the LSRI conducts environmental research and provides services that benefit the people, industries, and natural resources of the Upper Midwest, the Great Lakes region, and beyond. Its researchers study and provide guidance on water resources, as well as air and soil quality. Staff have diverse expertise ranging from biological assessment, restoration, trends analysis in plants and aquatic organisms, and environmental toxicity. Over the past 50 years, LSRI has involved more than 550 undergraduates in freshwater research and generated more than $60 million in grants and contracts. LSRI benefits students by sponsoring self-directed undergraduate research projects and providing annual scholarships in partnership with the UW-Superior Foundation and Advancement Office. Many LSRI students have gone on to pursue post-graduate education and/or careers in the sciences. LSRI has developed strong partnerships with more than 150 local, state, federal, and tribal governments. It is one of only five labs in the state certified to conduct certain tests related to water quality. In collaboration with its partners, including the Environmental Protection Agency, LSRI has achieved an international reputation for environmental research. Along with TenEyck, the LSRI team members include Olivia Anders, Kimberly Beesley, Allegra Cangelosi, Amy Eliot, Lana Fanberg, Steve Gebhard, Roberta Grube, Tom Markee, Marylee Murphy, Christine Polkinghorne, Kelsey Prihoda, Deanna Regan, Heidi Saillard, Heidi Schaefer, Kurt Schmude, Reed Schwarting, Ardeen Stoll, Karada Tudor, and Simon Wilczewski.



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