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Two faculty members honored by Services for Students with Disabilities office

November 5, 2013
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From left: Dr. Gail Scukanec, Dr. Blake Westerlund, Dr. Mary Beth Leibham and Vicky Thomas

EAU CLAIRE — The Services for Students with Disabilities office at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire honored two faculty members at its recognition reception Oct. 15.

Dr. Blake Westerlund, assistant professor of English, and Dr. Mary Beth Leibham, associate professor of psychology, were recognized for their service to students with disabilities.

UW-Eau Claire senior Shaylea Walsh read opening remarks on the history of Disability Awareness Month. The awards were presented by Dr. Gail Scukanec, dean of the College of Education and Human Sciences.

Each year students with disabilities are invited to nominate a university employee who has demonstrated an outstanding commitment to meeting their disability-related needs, according to Vicky Thomas, director of Services for Students with Disabilities.

The student who nominated Westerlund shared a personal story of a time when she needed a medical leave of absence that coincided with due dates for a paper and final presentation in an English class taught by Westerlund.

"Professor Westerlund gave me the option of presenting a poem with a group, in case I felt well enough to attend the final week's classes, or write a third paper instead of being in class for a presentation," she said. "I was grateful that I had a second option in case I felt that I needed more time to recuperate."

Dr. Bernard "Duffy" Duyfhuizen, associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and professor of English, added his insight about Westerlund.

"I've known Blake since he was a student at UW-Eau Claire. He is respected by his peers and students and is a valuable faculty member in the English department," Duyfhuizen said. "Blake works hard to accommodate all of his students, so I was not surprised that he received this award."

Leibham was nominated because of her excellent advising and teaching.

"Dr. Leibham has been a true inspiration to me in my college experience. She provides me with further explanations or examples to help clarify concepts that I didn't understand in class," Leibham's nominator said. "She has reminded me that even though I have a disability, I can still accomplish my goals. Dr. Leibham has been a wonderful advocate for me."

Dr. Kate Lang, psychology department administrative lead and history department chair, shared her thoughts about Leibham's knowledge of her discipline in developmental psychology.

"Dr. Leibham is very deserving of this award as she is an excellent professor and adviser," Lang said. "She works diligently with all of her students. Mary Beth inspires me."

Debbie Gough, director of Advising and New Student Initiatives, offered closing comments and said that she was pleased that Westerlund and Leibham were the recipients of the award.

"They are two of my favorite professors who see all of their students as individuals," Gough said.

For more information about Services for Students with Disabilities or its recognition awards, contact Vicky Thomas, director of Services for Students with Disabilities, at thomasvl@uwec.edu or 715-836-4542.

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