Eight University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire faculty and staff were recognized for excellence during the Blugold Breakfast and academic year opening on Aug. 22.
Chancellor James Schmidt presented 2023 excellence awards to:
- Dr. Silviana Amethyst, associate professor of mathematics.
- Dr. Patricia Cleary, professor in chemistry and biochemistry.
- Dr. Jennifer Johs-Artisensi, professor in management and leadership programs.
- Dr. William Miller, professor of accounting and finance.
- Dr. Jim Phillips, professor of chemistry and biochemistry.
- Yvonne Plomedahl, academic department assistant in geography and anthropology.
- Dr. Lisa Quinn-Lee, professor of social work.
- Nicole Rindone, major events and conferences manager.
Each award recipient received a university medallion and $1,500. All of the UW-Eau Claire Foundation excellence awards for faculty and staff are funded by Markquart Motors and Markquart Toyota of Eau Claire. The award honoring the 2023 UW System Board of Regents Excellence in Teaching Award nominee is funded by the Arnold and Lois Domer Foundation of Eau Claire.
Dr. Silviana Amethyst, associate professor of mathematics, received the Excellence in Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Award.
Amethyst has promoted an environment free of bias and discrimination, and has organized and facilitated various academic and community events promoting diversity, respect and inclusion. Her service activities “shine with her contributions to increasing and valuing diversity,” according to a nominator.
“It is clear to me that Dr. Amethyst is a supporter for equal and respectful treatment of all individuals, and she is committed to open conversation toward understanding varied perspectives and experiences,” a nominator says. “She has been, and continues to be, a fierce advocate for many underrepresented communities at the university and community levels, and she does so with grace and understanding.”
Amethyst, who is starting her seventh year at UW-Eau Claire, says she is honored and flattered by the award, adding that she has role models on campus who do tremendous work “and I am trying to follow suit.”
“Winning the award emboldens me to want to take more action, to really want to step up and continue to do what is right instead of doing what is easy,” Amethyst says, “and to really look to the people who are most affected by decisions to help guide the decisions that I make and that I help the university make.”
Dr. Patricia Cleary, professor in chemistry and biochemistry, received the Excellence in Advising Award.
Cleary, who is starting her 12th year at UW-Eau Claire, says it is a special honor to win the award because it was selected by students for doing what she loves — “fostering people through adulthood.”
“It’s a recognition by the students that what I am doing when I interact with them, it matters to them,” Cleary says. “I think that my goal or my philosophy of dealing with students, is that I want to do so with compassion and integrity.
A nominator says Cleary is deserving of the award because she has been a great mentor and advisor.
“She has been able to provide me, along with several of my peers, with thoughtful and beneficial information to make the transition into the next few years at UW-Eau Claire smooth and explicit,” according to a nominator. “She always makes herself available for her students and I can truly see that she wants everyone to succeed, not just in her courses, but at UW-Eau Claire in general.”
Dr. Jennifer Johs-Artisensi, professor in management and leadership programs, received the Faculty Excellence in Scholarship Award.
Johs-Artisensi’s achievements, innovation, productivity and contributions to the senior health care field are “truly incredible,” a colleague says. She is a sought-after presenter at conferences who also is known as a dedicated mentor to student researchers.
“Over the past two decades, she has consistently invested her time and expertise in nurturing the next generation of researchers,” according to a nominator. “Her mentorship has empowered students to explore their potential and make meaningful contributions to the health care field.”
Johs-Artisensi, who is starting her 22nd year at UW-Eau Claire, says her recent research has focused on improving care outcomes and quality of life for older adults receiving long-term care. She says she tries to get as many students as possible engaged in her undergraduate research and finds it rewarding to see their excitement sharing results with other professionals.
“It’s been a privilege and a pleasure to have the opportunity to work with colleagues, not just from the College of Business but also the College of Nursing and the College of Arts and Sciences on various research projects I’ve undertaken over the years,” Johs-Artisensi says. “My research here truly has been interdisciplinary.”
Dr. William Miller, professor of accounting and finance, received the Excellence in Teaching Award.
Miller was selected for the award by a survey of recent alumni who called him a professor with a good sense of humor who brings great energy and enthusiasm to the learning environment. He always made sure that students understood difficult course material to prepare them for “the real world.”
“He cared about his students but pushed us to figure things out on our own at the same time,” a graduate says. “A truly great professor.”
Miller had a 23-year private-sector career in accounting before coming to UW-Eau Claire 16 years ago. He says engaging with students every day “makes this the best job I have ever had.”
“One of the most important aspects of my job as a professor is helping students develop into critical thinkers,” Miller says. “It helps them in their personal and professional lives. We have an incredible group of students on this campus. Our students can be extremely frustrating at times. Our students challenge me at times. But most of all, our students really inspire me on a daily basis, and they inspire me to do better.”
Dr. Jim Phillips, professor of chemistry and biochemistry, received the Faculty Excellence in Service Award.
Nominators said Phillips played a crucial role in bringing the National Conference on Undergraduate Research to UW-Eau Claire this spring, working multiple years on the project from inception to post-conference closure. As the NCUR academic program director, his knowledge and sincere enthusiasm for undergraduate research always was evident.
“He was able to convey to faculty less familiar with the process the power of NCUR for students,” a nominator says. “I believe the conference will have an ongoing impact on UWEC, as faculty saw the potential for positive outcomes for themselves and students.”
Phillips, who is starting his 26th year at UW-Eau Claire, says it is great to be recognized among his peers for service because it shows his willingness to work “down in the trenches doing some heavy lifting that at times wasn’t glamorous.”
“One of the things that made NCUR not only effective and successful but also really fun was the people I was able to surround myself with in the process,” Phillips says. “Not only the leadership team, but the people that populated the committees I oversaw, were just great people from a diverse set of backgrounds. While it was at times stressful, I think we had a lot of fun getting the work done.”
Yvonne Plomedahl, academic department assistant in geography and anthropology, received the University Staff Excellence in Performance Award.
The award for Plomedahl is “a long-overdue recognition of her devoted, consistent and exemplary contributions to the university community, its students and to our department,” according to a nominator from the geography and anthropology department. Plomedahl, who has been at UW-Eau Claire for 53 years, was referred to as the “heart and soul” of the department.
“She has been our lodestone for more than 50 years,” a nominator says. “She is the glue that holds us together through thick and thin.”
Plomedahl says the faculty, staff and students in the department where she has worked for more than a half-century “are amazing.”
“This university is like a home away from home because I’ve been here so long,” Plomedahl says. “The staff that I work with in the other departments and offices have been amazing and helpful.”
Dr. Lisa Quinn-Lee, professor of social work, was UW-Eau Claire’s nominee for the UW System Board of Regents Excellence in Teaching Award.
Colleagues and students regard Quinn-Lee as an exceptional teacher who ensures that classroom learning aligns with expectations and principles that are practiced in the “real world” of social work. She regularly emphasizes to her students the emotional and human challenges faced by social work professionals.
“Not only does she discuss these challenges in the classroom, but she demonstrates how to addresses those challenges in her daily life,” a nominator says. “Her willingness to drop what she is doing to assist a student in crisis is both admirable and serves as a positive example to her students.”
Quinn-Lee, who is starting her 14th year at UW-Eau Claire, says the award makes her heart “full of joy and gratitude.”
“Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought, when I was an undergrad here, that I would be back now being nominated for a teaching excellence award,” Quinn-Lee says. “Life really comes full circle. I got to learn from some of the best professors here at UW-Eau Claire when I was a student and I am just thankful now that I maybe can give a little bit of that back to my students now.”
Nicole Rindone, major events and conferences manager, received the Administrative/Professional Academic Excellence in Performance Award.
Rindone’s strategic thinking and execution has helped make major events like NCUR, the Viennese Ball and Badger Boys State such successes. A nominator called her organized, intelligent, well spoken, empathetic, honest and selfless, adding that her dedication to the events she coordinates is unmatched.
“Daily, Nicole demonstrates her ability to work alongside stakeholders from on-campus and off-campus clients,” a nominator says. “They trust her without a shadow of a doubt that she will make their event a success. She has great forward-thinking perspective and attention to detail which allows problems to be solved before they happen.”
Rindone, who is starting her 12th year at UW-Eau Claire, says the award came as a surprise “after years and years of working hard at this university and working with so many great people.”
“There are so many deserving people here on campus, so many that I work with closely, that it is just amazing that I was selected,” Rindone says. “I’ve been here longer in Eau Claire than I was in my hometown, so it’s amazing to feel so connected and to see what I am doing is making an impact here on campus.”