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Six faculty and staff members recognized for excellence

August 21, 2012
Excellence-Awards-2012

UW-Eau Claire's 2012 faculty and staff excellence award recipients are, from left, Mark Larson, Dr. Jill Prushiek, Joey Bohl, Dr. Jean Pratt and Dr. Anne Hlas. Not pictured is Dr. Kent Syverson.

EAU CLAIRE — Six University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire faculty and staff members were recognized for excellence during the university's academic year opening meeting Aug. 21.

Interim Chancellor Gilles Bousquet presented 2012 Excellence awards to Mark Larson, custodian in Facilities Management; Joey Bohl, assistant director of operations for the Admissions Office; Dr. Kent Syverson, professor and chair of the geology department; Dr. Anne Hlas, associate professor of foreign languages; Dr. Jill Prushiek, interim associate dean of the College of Education and Human Sciences; and Dr. Jean Pratt, associate professor of information systems.

Each honoree received a university medallion and a $1,500 check 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.

Larson was honored with the Excellence in Performance Award for Classified Staff. He has worked at UW-Eau Claire for 30 years and currently is a custodian for the College of Nursing and Health Sciences. He has been described by faculty and staff in the nursing and environmental public health departments as dependable, accessible, approachable, easy going, cooperative, efficient, pleasant, kind, consistent, sensible and knowledgeable.

"Mark's work in the care of our building and environment literally makes our work as educators possible," said Dr. Sheila Smith, assistant dean and professor in the College of Nursing and Health Sciences. "He does his work with attentiveness, thoughtfulness and good cheer. In addition, Mark cares for all of us as people. He notices when a member of the college is struggling, when a significant personal event deserves recognition or when collectively we all need a boost of care and comfort."

As custodian for the second floor of the Nursing Building, Larson efficiently and effectively cleans classrooms and offices, and because he notes the habits of individuals and their work, he performs his responsibilities with minimal interruption, said nominator Shelley Mather, university services program associate in nursing.

"Mark's attention to detail is remarkable," Mather said. "His anticipation of our needs is consistent with his efforts to keep our space organized and running smoothly.

"Mark takes pride in what he does and has an engaging sense of humor and a spirit of energy and dedication that lift all those around him to a higher level. It is this level of excellence that reflects what we do and how we do it at UW-Eau Claire."

Bohl received the Excellence in Performance Award for Administrative and Professional Academic Staff. She began her career at UW-Eau Claire in 1989 as a student admissions intern. She joined the staff of the Admissions Office in 1993 as a counselor and was named assistant director of admissions in 1997. She also served a few stints as associate director of admissions.

"Joey is the glue that holds the Admissions Office together," said Kristina Anderson, executive director of enrollment services and director of admissions at UW-Eau Claire. "Throughout her almost 20 years of service to UW-Eau Claire, she has risen steadily through the ranks and has led our office through several successful technological enhancements, most recently the PeopleSoft conversion project."

Colleagues regard Bohl as an excellent supervisor who empowers her staff to take initiative and gives them guidance and autonomy. She also supervised student workers and served as a mentor to dozens of those students.

Bohl has served on University Senate for several years; created UW-Eau Claire's first Honors Preview Day and first telecounseling program; has led the Campus Ambassador program; has organized the university's National Merit program; is an expert on residency issues for the campus; and has served on several university committees and search and screen committees. She also has held board positions and has served as an adviser, advocate and consultant to Wisconsin Education Fairs Inc. and the Wisconsin Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers.

Bohl's dedication to community service includes prominent past positions on the boards of Chippewa Valley Habitat for Humanity and the American Red Cross as well as a current position with Beacon House, a local nonprofit organization assisting and providing shelter for homeless families in the community.

Bohl has dedicated her entire professional life to UW-Eau Claire, said Jacqueline Bonneville, assistant dean of students.

"When discussing Joey's nomination, words such as positive, leader, respectful, mentor and dedicated were mentioned over and over," Bonneville said. "She is exactly the type of employee who should be recognized for excellence."

Syverson received the Excellence in Teaching Award. He joined the UW-Eau Claire geology faculty in 1992 and teaches courses in oceanography, environmental geology, geomorphology and aerial photograph interpretation, and glacial geology.

The teaching award recognizes outstanding ability to inspire students to high standards of scholarship; the recipient is selected by alumni.

Syverson teaches two large liberal education classes. He said he stresses "three-star concepts" — foundational concepts that can be used to understand many processes acting on the earth. His office hours are commonly packed as he quizzes students about important concepts before and after exams.

Students in Syverson's small upper-division courses ("Geomorphology" and "Glacial Geology") participate in real-world projects to improve their field skills, apply classroom knowledge to field problems and prepare them for the working world.

Syverson is a glacial geologist by training, and he said he considers research with undergraduate geology students an important part of his teaching. Syverson has studied the glacial geology of Wisconsin and Maine with undergraduate geology students. He and students have researched the history of the Driftless Area; the glacial geology of Chippewa County; the origin of high-relief hummocky moraines and ice-walled lake plains; the origin of the Blue Hills Felsenmeer of Rusk County; and evidence for major ice-flow direction changes in the Penobscot River Valley in Maine. His research students have prepared Ice Age Trail hiking guides for the Chippewa Moraine Ice Age Reserve and Straight Lake State Park. Syverson's recent interest in the geology of frac sand deposits in Wisconsin has led to a research project with two geology students who are studying the mineralogy of sandstone cements.

Audrey Boerner graduated from UW-Eau Claire in 2011 with a degree in geology and is in the second year of a master's program in earth and atmospheric sciences at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

"Kentsupervised me through my first two undergraduate research projects, and I learned the value of scientific ethics and meticulously setting research goals and sticking to them — very important skills in graduate school," Boerner said. "He also believes very strongly in sound ethical reasoning and protecting individual rights; this served as a great example during my formative college years."

Senior organizational communication and French major Britta Cusick took Syverson's oceanography course.

"Dr. Syverson was easily one of the best professors I've had at UW-Eau Claire," Cusick said. "His lectures were very interactive, and he always made a sincere effort to get to know each one of his students. Dr. Syverson made sure to explain the subject matter in several different ways so that the class could conceptualize and fully understand the material. He is the kind of professor most students hope they meet at college: easy to approach, passionate about what he teaches and willing to help each student."

Course work, research projects and the field-based geology program are preparing students for jobs in industry and providing full-ride funding to top-tier graduate schools, Syverson said.

"I enjoy the intellectual life I see in UW-Eau Claire students," he said. "It is fun seeing students start to mature, view the world around them in a different way and become more curious. I am blessed to have a job I enjoy."

Hlas received the Excellence in Scholarship Award. She joined the UW-Eau Claire foreign languages faculty in 2005 and teaches beginning, intermediate and advanced Spanish courses; foreign language methods courses; and a second language acquisition course. She also supervises student teachers.

Over the past seven years, Hlas has been exceptionally active in her scholarship, publishing eight articles in peer-refereed journals and a book review for a highly respected journal, said Dr. Analisa DeGrave, associate professor of foreign languages and Latin American studies director. Hlas also has presented at 21 conferences, worked on seven student-faculty research grants and collaborated on a national grant with the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages.

"Dr. Hlas' scholarly contributions have received national, regional and state recognition for her leadership in the field of modern language education," DeGrave said. "She is at the vanguard of scholarship on the use of technology in the world language classroom and is an ascending specialist on high-leverage teaching practices within world language education."

Dr. Leslie Schrier, editor in chief of Foreign Language Annals, one of the leading international research journals in foreign language education, praises Hlas' work for being "able to bridge the gap between theory and practice and being able to clearly describe the status of important issues in the development of both in-service and pre-service teachers."

"There are many important reasons for Dr. Hlas' quick rise to a position of national and international respect and prominence in the field of applied linguistics and foreign language pedagogy," said Dr. Jeff Vahlbusch, associate professor of foreign languages and director of the University Honors Program. "But no reason is more significant than the quality of her intellectual work. In each of her scholarly pieces, she grounds her always-helpful analyses on superb research and research methods. Her research work has been demonstrably changing the way we all teach — and learn — world languages."

Prushiek received the Excellence in Service Award. She joined the UW-Eau Claire faculty in 1997 as an assistant professor of education studies and director of field experience for the College of Education and Human Sciences. She began her current position as interim associate dean in 2011.

Locally and regionally, Prushiek has worked with students, teachers and other education professionals to create educational opportunities and provide continuing counsel that furthers their professional development, said Dr. Vanissa Murphy, professor and chair of the department of music and theatre arts.

"Locally, regionally and nationally, Dr. Prushiek has consistently demonstrated active participation in leadership roles through committee work, student organization advising and volunteer work with the Special Olympics," Murphy said. "She is a dedicated leader and collaborator and shows an amazing passion for serving others."

In her role as immediate past director of field experience at UW-Eau Claire and as a consultant for the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, Prushiek has helped many school districts implement changes in teacher licensure and has trained numerous peers to become state mentors for new teachers. She has volunteered with the Wisconsin Music Educators Association, assisting new teachers in moving through licensure cycles. She has served nationally as a presentation reviewer for the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education and has served as UW-Eau Claire's delegate at the National Collegiate Athletic Association convention.

Prushiek serves on the board of the Wisconsin High School Forensics Association as its high school state speech adviser. She maintains active membership on the CESA 10 License Renewal and Support Center advisory board and the management team for Indianhead Area Special Olympics, for which she manages sports competitions across numerous counties.

She has worked with Special Olympics for 14 years, receiving the organization's Jeff Wendt Memorial Award for Outstanding Volunteerism and Service in 2005.

Prushiek also is UW-Eau Claire's women's faculty athletics representative and supports all student-athletes by serving on Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference and NCAA committees, chairing the university's Athletic Advisory Committee, hosting visiting teams during national championships, administering NCAA surveys and certifying eligibility forms.

"Jill genuinely cares about making sure she does her job well with the aim of providing a quality experience for our students," said Scott Kilgallon, UW-Eau Claire athletics director.

Pratt received the Excellence in Advising Award. She joined the UW-Eau Claire information systems faculty in 2006. She teaches courses in systems analysis and design as well as database management. Her research interests are in bibliometrics, computer-based learning environments and user-interface design.

One of Pratt's student nominators said Pratt has a wealth of knowledge, not just about her own department's academic requirements but about those of the entire university.

"She is beyond helpful in setting up an academic plan and strategically planning semesters," the student wrote in nomination materials. "Not only does she consider the necessary courses and the order they should be taken in, but she evaluates how rigorous they are and makes recommendations for having a balanced semester."

Another student described Pratt as helpful, accommodating and enthusiastic.

"She drives me to be a better student," the student wrote. "Her entire day may be booked, but she somehow finds time to fit me into her schedule. When I communicate with her, I know she will get me on the right track for academic success. She has been the most helpful person I have met at UW-Eau Claire, and I would be in trouble without her."

A third student wrote that Pratt helps students define and meet academic, personal and professional goals.

"Whether it was filing a petition to receive elective credits for a course or ensuring that courses would count toward my minor, she was always prompt and thorough," the student wrote. "She often reached out to me over the past year to see how my career search was going and was willing to offer contacts or information that would help me find a position in this difficult economy. When I did eventually find a job, she was genuinely happy for me. She truly cares about her advisees' success academically, personally and professionally."

Pratt received 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. 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.

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Excellence. Our Measure. Our Motto. Our Goal.