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Seven faculty and staff members recognized for excellence

August 26, 2014
Left to right: Leah Olson-McBride, Mary Hoffman, Matt Evans, Andy Jepsen, Jane Brownell, Jennifer Muehlenkamp and Jean Pratt 

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. 26.

Chancellor James Schmidt presented 2014 Excellence Awards to Jane Brownell, services associate and financial specialist in Admissions; Andrew Jepsen, assistant director of administration and facilities for University Recreation and Sport Facilities; Dr. Jean Pratt, associate professor and interim department chair of information systems; Dr. Matt Evans, professor of physics and astronomy; Dr. Jennifer Muehlenkamp, associate professor of psychology; Dr. Mary Hoffman, professor and department chair of communication and journalism; and Dr. Leah Olson-McBride, assistant professor of social work.

Each honoree received a university medallion and $1,500. The Excellence in Teaching, Scholarship, Service, Advising and Performance awards for classified and academic staff are funded by Markquart Motors and Markquart Toyota of Eau Claire. The 2014 UW System Board of Regents Excellence in Teaching Award nominee is funded by the Arnold and Lois Domer Foundation of Eau Claire.

Brownell received the Excellence in Performance Award for Classified Staff. A member of the classified staff at UW-Eau Claire for a total of 40 years since her first position in 1968, she has held positions in departments across campus, including McIntyre Library, Academic Advising, Counseling Services, New Student Orientation, University Centers and Event Services. Currently she is a university services associate and financial specialist in the Admissions Office.

"Jane is such an integral and important part of the admissions team," said Joey Bohl, assistant director of admissions. "She is excellent with visitors on campus and has a real warmth about her to make people feel comfortable when they visit."

Kia Lee, multicultural admissions counselor, said Brownell is particularly known for her uplifting effect on those she meets.

"We talk to prospective students all the time about finding a college that feels like home, and Jane is definitely one of those people who contribute to making UW-Eau Claire a home for many of our students," Lee said.

Debbie Gough, interim associate vice chancellor for strategic enrollment and formerly director of Advising and New Student Initiatives, worked with Brownell during the 18 years she served as the summer program assistant for student orientation.

"It is hard to explain how complicated a job Jane had," Gough said, noting that of Brownell's many duties, her special rapport with the 18 students who worked as orientation assistants each summer "is probably the most special part of who she was."

May 2014 UW-Eau Claire graduate Abby Nygaard, who worked with Brownell both as an intern in the Admissions Office and as an orientation assistant, said Brownell is admired and appreciated for bringing wisdom, evoking laughter and providing unwavering support to those with whom she works.

"I know that she will continue to bring joy to the Blugold experiences of many students as she did to mine, something for which I am truly thankful," Nygaard said.

Jepsen received the Excellence in Performance Award for Administrative and Professional Academic Staff. Jepsen is assistant director of administration and facilities for University Recreation and Sport Facilities. His career at UW-Eau Claire began in 2005 with positions in both recreation and athletics. In 2013 he stepped into the interim director role in recreation while continuing his work in athletics as assistant to the director for fundraising, marketing and promotions. He continued in his athletics position until summer 2014.

While supporting the search for a new director in recreation, Jepsen oversaw hiring for two additional vacant positions and assumed the responsibilities of the sport facility manager in the McPhee Center. In his multiple roles, he has been responsible for sport clubs, special events, marketing, facility operations, personnel, scheduling for recreation and sport facilities, capital projects and student oversight.

"Andy is a Blugold at heart and continuously gives of his time and talents to support recreation and athletics on campus," said Sheryl Poirier, events and marketing coordinator in University Recreation and Sport Facilities. "This can be seen in his involvement in fundraising events, willingness to chair and participate in various committees, and heading up capital projects that benefit recreational students, athletes and community users of our facilities."

Jepsen initiated the first Blugold "The Jig's Up" Ice Fishing Contest at Lake Altoona in February, which involved student groups and community businesses and raised funds for student leadership. He also was part of the team that led the 2013 UW-Eau Claire Foundation Campus Campaign, which raised significant funds for the Blugold Emergency Support Fund.

Jepsen has served the campus and students through participation in the University Senate and the Center for Alcohol Studies and Education, Leadership Institute, Sport Facility Management and Student Affairs Assessment/Learning Outcomes committees.

"As a leader, Andy is best known for his calm approach to developing ideas, involving and motivating others, and creating mutually beneficial opportunities to enhance programming and operations that directly provide students and staff with the tools necessary to be well, active, safe and have fun," said Troy Terhark, director of University Recreation and Sport Facilities.

Pratt received the Excellence in Teaching Award. Selection for the honor is based on a survey of recent UW-Eau Claire alumni.

Pratt joined the UW-Eau Claire information systems faculty in 2006 and is currently an associate professor and interim department chair of information systems. She teaches courses in systems analysis and design as well as database management. Pratt is known for continually revising her curricula based on research and input from the Information Systems Industry Advisory Committee and for incorporating hands-on, real-world learning experiences into her courses.

"My focus is on preparing the best information systems talent in the region," Pratt said of her teaching philosophy. "The Excellence in Teaching Award means the most to me because that's a significant way that alumni say, 'You made a difference in my life.' What greater honor is there than positively influencing another's life?"

Pratt has been involved in campuswide initiatives related to student learning. She is chair of the University Senate Academic Policies Committee, which was actively involved in the development of the UW-Eau Claire's new liberal education framework. She also has contributed to the chancellor's rapid action task force on economic development and helped lead university initiatives to promote the use of high-impact practices in teaching and domestic intercultural immersion experiences for students. Pratt also has led two study-abroad student groups to China.

In October Pratt will receive the 2014 International Association for Computer Information Systems Ben Bauman Award for Excellence. She also received UW-Eau Claire's Excellence in Advising Award in 2012 and a UW-Eau Claire Excellence in Service-Learning as a Faculty/Academic Staff Member award in 2011. At the time she had served as a faculty mentor on 19 service-learning projects.

Pratt leads the information systems department in terms of scholarly research published in higher-quality journals as well as cross-disciplinary research. She is a member of the Decision Sciences Institute and past president of the International Association for Computer Information Systems. Her public service activities include the design, development and maintenance of websites for several nonprofit organizations.

Evans received the Excellence in Service Award. He began his career at UW-Eau Claire in 1999 as a lecturer and currently serves as a full professor in the department of physics and astronomy. He also is the director of the Blugold Fellowship program and works closely with UW-Eau Claire's Admissions Office and the University Honors Program.

"As director of the Blugold Fellowship program, Matt is a key member of the University's Scholarship Committee and a dedicated campus citizen," Dr. Jeff Vahlbusch, director of the University Honors Program and professor of German, wrote in nomination materials. "He works tirelessly not only to identify and recruit excellent and deserving students for the Blugold Fellowship, but also to connect those students with top UW-Eau Claire faculty who can offer them exciting research opportunities from their very first day on campus."

Evans also works as an advocate for the improvement of high school and college physics education. He is a member of the WI Share Science group and both the Wisconsin and American Association of Physics Teachers, acting as president of the WAPT on three separate occasions. Through these organizations, he has given numerous presentations about his research on advanced educational technologies.

"Through my research, I have been able to help others improve their teaching, help drive new innovations in existing technology and help others find future technological directions," Evans said. "It is exciting to know I have made an impact and represented UW-Eau Claire as an innovative educational institution at the state and national level."

As a lifelong runner and triathlete, Evans also serves as the faculty adviser for the UW-Eau Claire Triathlon Club and gives back to the fitness community by holding free clinics on fitness training and conditioning for novice runners and triathletes. Over the past 27 years, he has helped to establish and support marathons and triathlons in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

"My days as a highly competitive athlete are long past," Evans said. "But encouraging young athletes through my position as the faculty adviser for the Triathlon Club and supporting community members in their pursuit of personal fitness and individual goals give me much more than any medal or trophy ever did. It is a pleasure to serve the many communities in which I work and live."

Muehlenkamp received the Excellence in Scholarship Award. She joined the UW-Eau Claire psychology department in 2009 as an assistant professor and became an associate professor in 2013. Muehlenkamp's research specializes in understanding and preventing suicidal and non-suicidal self-injury in youth, including college students. She served as a founding board member of the International Society for the Study of Self-Injury and is a member of the American Association of Suicidology and the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapy.

Since arriving at UW-Eau Claire, Muehlenkamp has served as the faculty mentor for more than 30 students, many of whom have presented their collaborative research at national conferences. These faculty-student research projects have resulted in the publication of peer-reviewed manuscripts with six different undergraduate students. Over the course of her career, Muehlenkamp has produced more than 75 publications and currently has three additional manuscripts in different stages of development with four UW-Eau Claire students. Her work has helped shaped the growing field of self-injury research and earned her the prestigious Shneidman Early Career Achievement Award from the American Association of Suicidology in 2012, which recognizes outstanding contributions in research in suicidology.

In 2013 Muehlenkamp began work as the director and lead researcher of UW-Eau Claire's Suicide Prevention and Research Collaborative (SPARC), an initiative she developed to address mental health needs on campus, and secured $165,000 in Provost Initiative Blugold Commitment funds to implement. Undergraduate students are included in every aspect of SPARC's activities, including development and facilitation of awareness/prevention training programs; course work on suicide prevention; and extensive data collection, analysis and presentation of findings.

"It is extraordinarily unusual for students at an undergraduate level to have the kinds of experiences afforded to them by Dr. Muehlenkamp through SPARC," Dr. Lori Bica, professor of psychology wrote in nomination materials. "They are working side-by-side with a world-renowned researcher, functioning in many ways as if they were graduate students."

Dr. Muehlenkamp's scholarship is of the highest quality and produces the maximum benefit for students, the department and the university, Bica wrote.

"Because of Dr. Muehlenkamp's research program, our students are winning awards, presenting at professional conferences, publishing in highly respected journals, and are more successful in entering graduate programs and securing jobs. Our department and university have enjoyed an enhanced reputation for excellence in scholarship because of Dr. Muehlenkamp, and we are, as a result, able to attract more highly qualified and motivated students to UW-Eau Claire."

Hoffman received the Excellence in Advising Award. She began teaching at UW-Eau Claire in 2008 and currently serves as professor and chair of the communication and journalism department. Hoffman teaches courses in public speaking and organizational communication, including message strategies in organizations, strategic event planning, training and development, and capstone.

In addition to advising the 65 assigned communication and journalism students, Hoffman said she also enjoys working with a large number of students who are not her advisees but have special circumstances or questions. She also meets with all transfer and international students who plan to major in communication and journalism.

The Excellence in Advising Award recipient is chosen by results of a survey sent out to current students.

"The fact that this is a student-nominated award makes it very special," Hoffman said. "Especially since I know there are many excellent advisers at UW-Eau Claire, both in my own department and across the university."

Janet Driever, senior lecturer and intake adviser in the communication and journalism department, said Hoffman is very deserving of the award and has consistently demonstrated her firm commitment to excellent advising.

"Mary spearheaded the Web page within the communication and journalism website solely aimed at advising issues, concerns, questions and information," Driever said. "She also continued the implementation of an innovative network utilizing intake advising, which frees herself and other advisers to be able to focus more directly on students' needs in a developmental holistic manner. Mary willingly and cheerfully takes on a disproportionate number of advisees who need additional time and support and, along with other advising faculty, leads an 'outreach' advising session each semester for students who may need additional guidance or who have 'fallen through the cracks.'"

Hoffman said the approach she takes to advising goes far beyond simply picking classes. She believes it's important to ask students questions about their likes, dislikes and what they find exciting.

"I went to a conference this summer where people emphasized the idea of advising as a form of teaching," Hoffman said. "I think that is a great way to think about advising. Students learn to plan ahead, gather information to solve problems and take a big-picture approach. I enjoy seeing students find what they love about communication, journalism or mass communication, and though I often miss them very much, I love to see students graduate."

Olson-McBride was honored with a nomination for the 2014 UW System Board of Regents Excellence in Teaching Award. She joined the UW-Eau Claire social work department as an assistant professor in 2009 and also is a 1999 alumnus of the department. Olson-McBride was selected as a 2013-14 Wisconsin Teaching Fellow and also received the 2012-13 Ron Satz Teacher-Scholar Award from the College of Education and Human Sciences. In addition, she was recently recognized by UW-Eau Claire's Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning as an educator who successfully utilizes active learning techniques to engage students.

Dr. Donald Mowry, professor and chair of the social work department, reflected on Olson-McBride's transition from undergraduate student to teacher in his nomination letter.

"Leah was an excellent student as an undergraduate, and she has consistently applied her ability for self-improvement as a teacher," Mowry wrote in nomination materials. "She is someone who already has the teaching skills that can excite, motivate and inspire students, and is very effective with students both inside and outside the classroom. Leah has traveled with students for educational and research purposes to South Africa, Louisiana and the Lac du Flambeau tribal reservation in Wisconsin."

Olson-McBride also has one of the highest ratings for teaching in the social work department, and her evaluations have steadily climbed over the duration of her time at UW-Eau Claire, Mowry wrote. She has worked with more than 87 undergraduates and one graduate student in collaborative research projects and has many more projects with students currently underway.

Current students in the social work department also stand behind Olson-McBride's nomination for the Board of Regents award. In a nomination letter, Kristina Malec, a senior social work major, emphasized the learning opportunities Olson-McBride provides in her curriculum.

"Dr. Olson-McBride provides a wide range of research and learning opportunities in the field of family practice, child welfare and mental health that reflect local and community values and issues," Malec wrote. "The experiences are purposely designed to empower her students with an array of tools and techniques to practice with a wide spectrum of cultural groups and a myriad of social issues that our global populations face. The passion Dr. Olson-McBride expresses during lectures is contagious and has made a profound and lasting effect on not only myself, but the many students who have had the honor of being taught by this dedicated educator."




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