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Two classified staff members receive funding to advance their education

RELEASED: Sept. 1, 2010

Greg Falkenberg and Erika Kostner
Greg Falkenberg and Erika Kostner are UW-Eau Claire classified staff members who recently received awards from the UW-Eau Claire Foundation's Classified Staff Grant Fund. (Photo by Bill Hoepner, LTS)

EAU CLAIRE — A single mother and a U.S. Navy veteran are recipients of awards from the Classified Staff Grant Fund of the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Foundation.

UW-Eau Claire employees Erika Kostner, a student payroll and benefits specialist and workers' compensation coordinator in human resources, and Greg Falkenberg, a boiler operator in facilities management, will receive $250 each to advance their skills.

The Classified Staff Grant Fund was established by Linda Haag and Susie Warden, past and current members of the UW-Eau Claire classified staff, respectively. They established the fund to support classified staff members who are working and attending school. Haag and Warden understand the challenges of balancing work and pursuing an education, as both received their degrees while working full time at UW-Eau Claire.

Falkenberg has worked for 11 years at UW-Eau Claire. Before that he served six years in the U.S. Navy as a power maintenance electrician for nuclear plants. Falkenberg used money available from the Department of Veterans Affairs to start an associate degree through University of Wisconsin Colleges Online. He plans to use the Classified Staff Grant Fund award to finish his degree in spring of 2011.

"I had seen the e-mail every year, and when I came up short of funds to finish my degree I thought, why not apply," Falkenberg said. "I was surprised and excited to be selected."

Kostner began employment at UW-Eau Claire as a limited-term employee in 2007 and became a classified staff employee in 2009. She is in her third semester at Chippewa Valley Technical College, where she is working toward an associate degree in individual technical studies in human resources.

Kostner, whose son is a freshman in high school, said it is difficult juggling work life, home life and paying for school.

"This grant really helps take the burden off," Kostner said. "It will be especially helpful for purchasing books, which are really expensive."

Both Falkenberg and Kostner hope improving their skills will let them take on more responsibility in their current jobs and will eventually lead to job advancements.

"I would really like to be able to become a supervisor and move from operations to management," Falkenberg said.

Kostner said her studies have helped her keep abreast of the newest and best current practices.

Any current member of the UW-Eau Claire classified staff who is working at least half time is eligible to apply for the grant. Past recipients may apply for additional awards. Applicants must submit a brief statement about their employment history, the course they intend to take and how this course will benefit them. For more information, contact Barbara Bowers at 715-836-3871 or bowersba@uwec.edu.

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KH/JP

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