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Eight receive excellence awards as academic year opens

| Gary Johnson (story); Glen Mabie (video)

University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Chancellor James Schmidt honored eight faculty and staff members for their excellence during the Blugold Breakfast and academic year opening meeting on Aug. 24.

2021 Excellence Award winners

Recipients of UW-Eau Claire's 2021 excellence awards are, from left, Rob Mattison, Signe Matson, Dr. Jeanette Olsen, Kris Presler, Dr. Sanchita Hati, Dr. Rose-Marie Avin, Dr. Pam Forman and Dr. Heather Ann Moody.

The chancellor recognized the following 2021 award winners:

  • Dr. Rose-Marie Avin, professor of economics and director of the Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies program.
  • Dr. Pam Forman, professor and chair of the sociology department.
  • Dr. Sanchita Hati, professor of chemistry and biochemistry.
  • Rob Mattison, senior information systems and technology services videographer in Learning and Technology Services. 
  • Signe Matson, lead academic advisor in the Advising, Retention and Career Center.
  • Dr. Heather Ann Moody, associate professor of American Indian studies.
  • Dr. Jeanette Olsen, assistant professor and director of assessment and evaluation in the College of Nursing.
  • Kris Presler, professor of mathematics.

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 2021 UW System Board of Regents Excellence in Teaching Award nominee is funded by the Arnold and Lois Domer Foundation of Eau Claire.

Dr. Rose-Marie Avin, professor of economics and director of the Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies program, received the Excellence in Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Award.

Avin has demonstrated a sincere commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion during her 34 years at UW-Eau Claire through outstanding service and teaching, according to her nomination materials.

“Dr. Avin’s entire life’s work has been dedicated to EDI,” nominators say. “Her advocacy on behalf of EDI is global and transnational.”

Through her courses and immersion programs, Avin taught students to advocate for gender, racial and economic justice in the U.S. and other nations such as Nicaragua, Spain, Vietnam, India, Brazil and Argentina.

Avin has included UW-Eau Claire students in her work to fight racism, sexism, homophobia and xenophobia in the world.

“You have showed me that the world is so many shades of gray,” a student wrote in a letter to the WGSS program. “I cannot express in words how appreciative of this I am. It is impossible.”

Dr. Pam Forman, professor and chair of the sociology department.

Students select the Excellence in Advising Award, and Blugolds say Forman, who has been at UW-Eau Claire for 17 years, always takes time for them, even when she is “running in multiple directions.”

The sociology students who Forman advises describe her as “unmatched in empathy, passion for application of sociology in real-world contexts and commitment to students.”

Forman promotes an inclusive campus by updating sociology students about current events and extending her expertise to all.

“As a department chair, Dr. Forman is exceptional,” nomination documents state. “As an advisor, Dr. Forman consistently goes above and beyond. As an ally to all students, Dr. Forman is unmatched.”

Dr. Sanchita Hati, professor of chemistry and biochemistry, received the Excellence in Scholarship Award.

Hati, who has been at UW-Eau Claire for 15 years, is a productive researcher who has an exemplary publication record with undergraduate students, according to nomination materials. Her students have presented at least one poster at the national meeting of the American Chemical Society every year since 2014.

“She has moved research into the teaching laboratory and, in some classes, all students in her upper-level biochemistry courses have become authors on a peer-reviewed publication,” according to the nomination materials. “Her peers in science recognize her as an outstanding scholar.”

Hati currently manages three distinct projects: exploring protein dynamics to design the next generation of antibiotics, developing a noninvasive tool for cancer diagnostics in collaboration with Mayo Clinic and investigating the role of oxidative stress on the severity of COVID-19 infections.

“Beyond direct contributions to science, Dr. Hati is also an outstanding role model who encourages students to become independent, lifelong learners,” according to nomination materials. “She has directly mentored 50 undergraduates in her research group, and about half of these students have entered Ph.D. programs, including many at prestigious universities like Dartmouth and Northwestern.”

Rob Mattison, senior information systems and technology services videographer in Learning and Technology Services, received the University Staff Excellence in Service Award. 

Mattison, who has been at UW-Eau Claire for nine years, shows respect to all members of the university community and has a genuine goal to brighten the day of people he encounters, according to nomination materials.

“Rob routinely goes above and beyond his job duties to assist faculty in creating engaging video content for courses,” according to nomination materials. “This was especially true in 2020 as Rob worked long days preparing courses and content for virtual learning. Many of the courses offered on this campus are made better through Rob’s efforts.”

Mattison is a “consummate professional,” according to nomination materials, who strives for high-quality work while maintaining a casual, friendly, funny and enthusiastic demeanor. He cares about the well-being of students and considers his co-workers to be family.

“Rob is an example of what excellence means at UWEC,” according to nomination materials. “He puts more effort into his job than anyone could ask while living his dream and is supportive of everyone and their dreams.”

Signe Matson, lead academic advisor in the Advising, Retention and Career Center, received the Academic and Professional Staff Excellence in Service Award.

Matson, who has been at UW-Eau Claire for 21 years, has been the lead advisor in the arts and humanities cluster since the formation of the Advising, Retention and Career Center in 2016. Students have appreciated Matson’s support over the years.

“Signe is a very kind and caring advisor!” one nominator states. “She has provided a lot of helpful information and guidance as I consider a degree at UWEC while taking courses as a special student. Going back to school as a nontraditional student is a bit intimidating, but Signe has been full of encouragement and helped break down the steps in a clear and understandable manner.”

Matson has helped with training and mentoring new staff members, and is a steady and reliable team member who has a wealth of institutional knowledge, according to nomination materials. Matson is considered a hard-working, compassionate and student-first person who is a great resource inside and outside ARCC.

“Signe’s knowledge of campus resources, advising experience, calm professional demeanor and positive attitude make collaborating with her in this work a delight,” according to nomination papers. “I trust Signe to serve our students while holding true to the mission of the university.”

Dr. Heather Ann Moody, associate professor of American Indian studies, received the Faculty Excellence in Service Award.

Moody, who has been at UW-Eau Claire for 14 years, is a “true example of a servant leader” with a passion for undergraduate education and mentorship, commitment to EDI and extensive service beyond campus, according to nomination materials. In 2019, Moody received an Outstanding Women of Color in Education Award from the UW System.

“Dr. Moody’s professional service to the greater Eau Claire community and to the state of Wisconsin reflects the values of this university and embodies the spirit of the Excellence in Service Award,” according to nomination materials.

Moody has been instrumental in leading important EDI initiatives at UW-Eau Claire. She is a co-chair of the EDI Strategic Plan Committee that will guide the institution for the next five years and also co-chairs the Center for Racial and Restorative Justice Implementation Committee.

“Dr. Moody is a model faculty member in her dedication and willingness to provide service to both our university and surrounding communities,” according to nomination materials. “She exemplifies what service means and does so with great knowledge, care and enthusiasm. Dr. Moody goes above and beyond in her service to support the growth of knowledge and understanding on the UWEC campus related to the Native American people within Wisconsin.”

Dr. Jeanette Olsen, assistant professor and director of assessment and evaluation in the College of Nursing and Health Sciences, received the Excellence in Teaching Award.

Olsen, who has been at UW-Eau Claire for five years, was praised in nomination materials for her dedication to students and her ability to provide multiple methods of learning to accommodate every type of student. Students say Olsen takes a “genuine interest” in the lives of those in her classroom.

“She always has time to answer questions and is willing to take the time to make sure you understand it,” student nominators say. “If you don't, she will find a different way to teach it. Even though she has students for just one semester, she knows and remembers everyone's name. She makes you feel important. She makes every question feel valid and is excited to help foster a growth of knowledge.”

Olsen is extremely knowledgeable and approachable, always has a smile on her face “and she truly cared about us as her students and wanted us to do well and succeed as nurses.”

“Dr. Olsen greatly encouraged me and my classmates in the nursing program to achieve our fullest potential,” a student says. “She remains an inspiration to me and is someone I hope to emulate in my nursing career.”

Kris Presler, a professor of mathematics, was UW-Eau Claire’s nominee for the UW System Board of Regents Excellence in Teaching Award.

Presler, who has been at UW-Eau Claire for 18 years, helps his students realize that mistakes are just opportunities for learning that should be embraced and not feared, according to nomination materials.

Presler is described as a true professional who is full of humility and grace, valuing the people he serves each day. He works to bring humor into his courses to produce a more engaged classroom environment “where laughter leads to a greater approachability, approachability to questions and questions to understanding.”

Students praise Presler for his professional mentorship and advising in technical upper-level courses.

“Actuaries often excel at math but struggle to clearly communicate their ideas and analysis with others,” nominators say. “Kris’ actuarial science curriculum was mathematically challenging and prepared students for exams, but also placed a heavy emphasis on creating well-rounded, articulate actuaries.”