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Seven faculty and staff members recognized for excellence

August 21, 2013
 ExcellenceAwards-web
 Left to Right: William Miller, Bonnie Isaacson, Diane Bilderback, Ingrid Ulstad, Jianjun Ji , James Boulter and Karen Mumford

EAU CLAIRE — Seven University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire faculty and staff members were recognized for excellence during the university's academic year opening meeting Aug. 20.

Chancellor James Schmidt presented 2013 Excellence Awards to Diane Bilderback, program associate in the Dean of Students Office; Bonnie Isaacson, nontraditional student coordinator; Dr. Karen Mumford, assistant professor in the Watershed Institute for Collaborative Environmental Studies; Dr. William Miller, assistant professor of accounting; Dr. Jianjun Ji, professor of sociology; Dr. James Boulter, associate professor of chemistry; and Ingrid Ulstad, senior lecturer of accounting.

Each honoree received a university medallion and $1,500 from the UW-Eau Claire Foundation. The Excellence in Teaching Award and the Excellence in Performance awards for classified and academic staff are funded by Markquart Motors and Markquart Toyota of Eau Claire.

Bilderback was honored with the Excellence in Performance Award for Classified Staff. She began her career at UW-Eau Claire in 1989 in the Registration Office and moved to her current position in 1991. Bilderback serves as the primary coordinator for the Honors Banquet and all Honors Month activities, as well as assisting in the development and continuation of the Civil Rights Pilgrimage and Blugold Beginnings programs.

"Diane possesses a deep concern for the overall mission of UW-Eau Claire," said Jodi Thesing-Ritter, associate dean of students. "She is constantly working to make sure that our students have the best services and access to campus resources. Diane exhibits an appreciation for the diverse interests and needs of our student and employee populations on a daily basis."

Thesing-Ritter also commented on Bilderback's assistance in the expansion of the Civil Rights Pilgrimage program.

"More than 600 students have participated in this valuable learning experience in the last five years," Thesing-Ritter said. "Diane's work to make the program possible has made a significant impact on the lives of the student participants."

Dr. Paul Hoff, a professor of Spanish and foreign languages education, has collaborated with Bilderback in the planning of Honors Month events and noted her key role in that process.

"She is one of the driving forces behind this spring tradition," Hoff said. "Simply put, Honors Month would not be possible without Diane's extraordinary efforts and attention to detail. She is a longtime employee of UW-Eau Claire whose loyalty, hard work, organizational abilities and people skills make her richly deserving of this recognition."

Lissa Martinez, Blugold Beginnings program coordinator, cited Bilderback's dedication to the program.

"Diane has gone above and beyond helping the Blugold Beginnings program staff get off to a great start and contributing to the stability of the program," Martinez said. "Without her organizational and professional contributions to Blugold Beginnings, the program's standing would not be up to the same high standards it maintains today."

Isaacson received the Excellence in Performance Award for Administrative and Professional Academic Staff. She has worked in the advising office at UW-Eau Claire since 2003 but has held various positions with the university since 1990.

Jacqueline Bonneville, assistant dean of students, nominated Isaacson based on the work they have done together with veteran and nontraditional students.

"Bonnie is a person who truly makes a difference on this campus," Bonneville said. "Every time I 'hand off' students to her, I know they are in the best of hands. She takes such great care of her students through her compassion, follow-through and knowledge of the university and the resources available to them. She is a true asset to our university."

Isaacson chairs UW-Eau Claire's Nontraditional Student Advisory Committee and co-chairs the Advisory Committee on Veteran Students with Miranda Cross-Schindler, military education benefits coordinator. She is also a member of the Collaboration-Inclusion and Intercultural Relations Committee, the Children's Center Advisory Committee and the Advisory Committee for the UW-Eau Claire and Chippewa Valley Technical College transfer program.

Debbie Gough, director of advising and new student initiatives, said Isaacson is not only an effective adviser, but she is also always looking at new ways to serve students.

"She created a new Oasis Room where nontraditional students can congregate, and worked with McIntyre Library to include nontraditional students in the space traditionally used for graduate students," Gough said. "She has offered special orientation programs at the start of each semester, piloting a number of different formats. She has also offered workshops on study skills, scholarships and financial management. Bonnie has consistently advocated for nontraditional students and provided the services they need to be successful."

Isaacson's work with veteran students also has earned recognition from her co-workers.

"Bonnie's hard work, passion and drive to serve students have resulted in numerous contributions to the university and community," Cross-Schindler said.

Several contributions came in 2010 after Isaacson and members of the Advisory Committee on Veteran Students received the top award of $10,000 in the Adult-Friendly Institution Plan Award competition sponsored by the UW-Extension Division of Continuing Education, Outreach and E-learning. The award was used to provide services and support to military and nontraditional students and staff, such as hosting a statewide conference at UW-Eau Claire, purchasing commencement attire for a student lending program and sending students to the 2011 Student Veterans of America National Leadership Conference in Las Vegas.

Mumford received the Excellence in Teaching Award. She has been a faculty member of the Watershed Institute since 2011 and has taught courses in a number of disciplines, supervised student research and brought new ideas to the Watershed Institute's Steering Committee.

Mumford was drawn to UW-Eau Claire because of its focus on interdisciplinary research and teaching, and the opportunities for collaboration with students and faculty. In her honors course, titled "Cars, Culture, and the Environment," students developed and conducted research on commuting habits among members of the campus community. After surveying UW-Eau Claire students, faculty and staff, the researchers mapped the residential locations of survey respondents to determine driving distances to campus and proximity to bus routes and bike paths.

Mumford also co-taught an interdisciplinary course with Dr. Ruth Cronje, professor of English, and Boulter, titled "Energy: What Fuels Our Lives."

"I think an excellent teacher has command of her subject matter and also is constantly striving to improve her performance, to innovate to find new ways to help students learn the material and to continue to evolve as her discipline evolves to ensure that both she and her students are staying on the cutting edge," Cronje said. "Karen is very much interested in all of these elements of her teaching performance. She is tireless in her pursuit of improvements in her teaching."

Last spring, Mumford and Boulter co-taught "Tracking the University's Carbon Footprint," an honors colloquium in which students collected and analyzed data to determine UW-Eau Claire's carbon emissions. As part of UW-Eau Claire's participation in the American Colleges and Universities Presidents Climate Commitment, students presented their findings in a report to the chancellor. In addition, students suggested policies and strategies to help UW-Eau Claire move toward carbon neutrality.

"My students work on real-world projects where they connect theory to practice by conducting research and presenting their findings and policy recommendations to stakeholders and campus members," Mumford said. "I have been given great opportunities to strengthen my teaching at UW-Eau Claire through the excellent workshops sponsored by the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning and technology training through Learning and Technology Services. Finally, my Watershed Institute colleagues have given me wonderful opportunities to co-teach classes where I learned from some of the best teachers on campus."

Miller received the Excellence in Service Award. He began his career at UW-Eau Claire in the accounting and finance department in 2008 as an online and visiting lecturer and became an assistant professor in 2009. Miller is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the California Society of Certified Public Accountants.

Over the past five years, Miller has been active in watershed protection through membership on the board of directors for the Big Chetac and Birch Lakes Association. In 2009 and 2010 he chaired a committee that developed and wrote formal lake management plans for the lakes, and during the past year he successfully authored three grant requests totaling $240,000 from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

Dr. Frank Helquist, superintendent of Birchwood Public Schools in Birchwood, has worked with Miller on the Clean Boats Clean Waters program grant, intended to educate boaters on aquatic invasive species and how easily transferrable they are from one lake to another. Through the program, students in the Birchwood School District will voluntarily manage the boater education program as part of their science curriculum and receive community service credit and scholarship monies for their work.

"Dr. Miller has built a partnership between local and state governments and our school district," Helquist said. "This is a wonderful example of how a community can come together and work toward a common goal. Dr. Miller's efforts to support our community go beyond his activities with the lake association. He has volunteered time with the Birchwood Food Pantry and Birchwood Educational Foundation fundraiser. It is wonderful to have a professor of his caliber from UW-Eau Claire give so much back to our community."

Dr. D'Arcy Becker, a professor of accounting at UW-Eau Claire, also commented on Miller's work with the Birchwood School District.

"The benefits of this grant for the school district include the ability to engage students in real-world applications of classroom studies and the ability to help the local community maintain its special natural environment," Becker said. "These activities align well with UW-Eau Claire's commitments to service, community and the environment. Dr. Miller took on the challenge of helping Birchwood fund these important initiatives solely through work done in his free time. He selflessly applied his talents and his time in hope of having an impact on the area where he lives. The grants will enrich the lives of many future students in Birchwood, help protect the lakes and watershed in the area, and show Birchwood residents that there are resources at our university on which they can rely for help."

Ji received the Excellence in Scholarship Award. He began his career in the sociology department at UW-Eau Claire in 2001, specializing in the social well-being of China's elderly population. He has authored numerous journal articles and presented at conferences across China and the United States on topics in the areas of aging, family, ethnic relations, migration and education.

Ji received UW-Eau Claire's Student Organization Advisor Award from 2002-07 and in 2009. He also has been instrumental in assisting UW-Eau Claire in developing exchange programs with universities in China.

Dr. Melissa Bonstead-Bruns, associate professor and chair of the sociology department, nominated Ji for the Excellence in Scholarship Award.

"Over the past 12 years, Ji has been quietly building an impressive body of scholarship, collaborating with internationally renowned scholars and providing students with research opportunities that I would venture to guess are unsurpassed," Bonstead-Burns said. "A student who works collaboratively with Ji can be assured that they will learn a great deal about research, will be expected to disseminate that research to the widest audience possible and will have a mentor who is fully engaged with them at every stage of the process. Clearly for Ji, scholarship involves so much more than publishing his research. He has also focused on making significant contributions to learning amongst his colleagues, students and other scholars in the field."

Ji's collaboration with students on research projects has been well regarded by his colleagues in the sociology department.

"Ji is a dedicated scholar for whom conducting and publishing research is inherent to his professional identity as a sociologist," said Dr. Jeremy Hein, professor of sociology. "It is particularly noteworthy that 10 of his 13 journal articles have been co-authored with 10 different sociology majors. Many of these articles were first presented at regional, national and international professional meetings with student authors present and, in some cases, making the presentations. I am not aware of any other current faculty member at UW-Eau Claire who has included so many undergraduate students in his or her published research."

Ji is invited to return to China each summer to present his highly regarded research to faculty and graduate students at various universities. He participates in guest lectures, presentations and teaching appointments at such prestigious institutions as Beijing University, Beifang University of Nationalities, South China Normal University, Jinan University, Ningxia University, Ningxia Medical College and Xi'an International Studies University.

Boulter received the Excellence in Advising Award. He began his career in the chemistry department at UW-Eau Claire in 2004 and received the UW-Eau Claire Chemistry Teacher of the Year Award in 2008. From 2011-13, Boulter served as the UW-Eau Claire Sustainability Fellow and was responsible for tracking the university's efforts to reduce its carbon footprint.

Boulter currently teaches general chemistry, quantitative analysis, environmental chemistry, instrumental analysis, the physical/analytical capstone lab class, and, beginning this fall, "Modern Applied Separations and Spectrometry." Outside of the department, Boulter has team-taught the honors colloquium "Tracking the University's Carbon Footprint." He also serves as the interim coordinator of the Watershed Institute for Collaborative Environmental Studies.

The Excellence in Advising Award recipient is chosen by results of a survey sent out to current students. Boulter said he is extremely honored to have been chosen to receive the award.

"It means so much coming from students," Boulter said. "Especially here at UW-Eau Claire where what we do is all about the students and their education. Our students are the best judges of our success, and it's a huge honor that they took the time to vote for this award."

Boulter said he advises chemistry students by helping them develop academic and career goals based on their interests and abilities and assisting them in choosing courses that meet their goals.



One of the most rewarding parts of being an academic adviser is "helping students work through challenges and helping them find classes that really enrich and inform their liberal arts education and complement who they are as a person," Boulter said.

Ulstad was honored with a nomination for the 2013 UW System Regents Teaching Excellence Award. She has been a member of the accounting and finance department at UW-Eau Claire since 1998, specializing in the teaching of financial accounting.

Raj Aroskar, associate professor and chair of the accounting and finance department, cited Ulstad's nurturing nature and commitment to her students.

"I have seen her nurturing ideas, critical thinking and ethical values in her students,"Aroskar said. "Ingrid has the very difficult task of teaching two of the most challenging introductory accounting courses to freshmen and sophomores. Not only does she teach concepts, but she teaches the logic behind the myriad of accounting rules. I have had students decode and analyze financial statements in my investments class, and Ingrid's students always stand out in their abilities."

Aroskar said he has experienced Ulstad's nurturing attitude on a personal level as well, in her involvement in attaining and assisting newer faculty.

"When I was considering various academic positions as a job applicant, it was the strength of the University of Wisconsin System schools that attracted me here," Aroskar wrote. "It is my experience with educators such as Ingrid that kept me here and made this my home. I have finally realized that the real richness behind the UW System brand is the quality of individuals such as Ingrid."

Ulstad's students also stood behind her nomination for the regents award. Bryce Dankers, an accounting and finance major, said Ulstad fills the role of what being a teacher means to him.

"It is my understanding that a teacher is someone who prepares you for further advancement not only in your career, but in your life," Dankers said. "This is where Ingrid has really set herself apart. She has been the most influential mentor I have had in my life. She has not only cared for me as a student, but as an individual."

In 2011, Ulstad received the Outstanding Professor Award from Beta Gamma Sigma, the Honors Society for the College of Business. Dr. Kristy Lauver, associate professor and chair of the management and marketing department, said this is one of the top honors an instructor can receive because the award comes from students at the top of the class in the College of Business. She also noted that some of the students who voted for Ulstad were in majors other than accounting, which demonstrates the influence she has across the entirety of the students in the college.

"Ingrid has a true love of teaching and helping students," Lauver said. "I have never seen anyone as genuine in their dedication to the student population. There are the good instructors, the great instructors and occasionally there is an unforgettable instructor. I believe for many students, Ms. Ingrid Ulstad resides in the unforgettable category."

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