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UW-Eau Claire faculty, staff receive 2020 excellence awards

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

Eight University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire faculty and staff members were recognized for excellence during the academic year opening meeting Aug. 25.

Chancellor James Schmidt presented 2020 excellence awards to:

  • Mark Alfuth, senior lecturer in accounting and finance.
  • Staci Heidtke, interim director of the Advising, Retention and Career Center.
  • Dr. Jerry Hoepner, associate professor of communication sciences and disorders.
  • B.J. Hollars, associate professor of English.
  • Dr. Christopher Jorgenson, director of the Gender & Sexuality Resource Center.
  • Nichole Miller, academic advisor in the Advising, Retention and Career Center.
  • Kimberly Reed, program assistant in the Intercultural Immersion Office.
  • Dr. Scott Swanson, professor of management and marketing.

Each award recipient received a university medallion and $1,500. All eight 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 2020 UW System Board of Regents Excellence in Teaching Award nominee is funded by the Arnold and Lois Domer Foundation of Eau Claire.

Alfuth to present at Workplace Wellness Workshop

Mark Alfuth

Mark Alfuth, a senior lecturer in the accounting and finance department, received the Excellence in Teaching Award.

Alfuth has been a full-time lecturer at UW-Eau Claire since 2016 after serving as an adjunct instructor at the university for the previous 12 years. Alumni who endorsed Alfuth for the award said he cares deeply about his students and pushes them to succeed. Former students said Alfuth’s private-sector finance experience brought a unique perspective to his teaching.

“He makes learning fun and creates a welcoming atmosphere in all of his classrooms,” a former student wrote. “He does not have children and has said that his students are his children. You can really see it in his eyes that he truly cares for his students and genuinely wants them to succeed.” 

Another former student wrote: “The kindest, most helpful professor I’ve ever had. He made learning a subject that is difficult for me easy. He is always willing to help and still greeted me in the hallways even years after I took his classes. Every university needs a Mark Alfuth!”

Staci Heidtke

Staci Heidtke

Staci Heidtke, interim director of the Advising, Retention and Career Center, received the Administrative and Professional Academic Staff Excellence in Performance Award.

Heidtke, who has been a UW-Eau Claire staff member since 2007, has developed more than 200 new internships in the Chippewa Valley and has worked closely with employers and students.

Julia Diggins, a major gifts officer in the UW-Eau Claire Foundation, credited Heidtke for creating new and creative services for students that will help prepare them for life after graduation.

“When I think about the number of students Staci has helped find post-college, meaningful work — either in an individual setting or through part of these events and technology — it is truly mind-blowing,” Diggins wrote. “We can credit the remarkable 96.36% of our graduates who are placed in employment or continuing education programs after graduation, in large part, to her achievements and dedication.”

Billy Felz, Heidtke’s former supervisor in Career Services, says Heidtke has a lead-by-example attitude.

“Many departments on campus feel as if they are doing more with less,” Felz wrote. “To help with workload, I see her constantly doing the work she expects her staff to do. She is holding appointments with students and alumni and actively presenting at programs and webinars.”

Dr. Jerry Hoepner

Dr. Jerry Hoepner

Dr. Jerry Hoepner, an associate professor of communication sciences and disorders, received the UW System Board of Regents Excellence in Teaching Award.

Hoepner, who has been at UW-Eau Claire since 2004, has taught 11 different courses at the university. He typically teaches 12 or 13 classes per year in fall, spring and summer, and has found time to mentor more than 250 students at the Chippewa Valley Aphasia Camp during the past 15 years.

“From my perspective as chair and colleague, Jerry's enthusiasm for facilitating learning, whether he is leading a professional development seminar or teaching a course for the first or the 20th time, is contagious and has made a lasting impression on the culture of teaching and learning locally and beyond,” wrote Dr. Vicki Samuelson, associate professor and chair of the communication sciences and disorders department. “Jerry has intentionally set goals and accomplished more to support student and professional learning in his 15-year career in academia than many faculty achieve in a lifetime, and has done so with a level of engagement and professionalism that is unmatched.”

Dr. Abby Hemmerich, associate professor of communication sciences and disorders, says Hoepner firmly believes that every student can succeed if given high-impact learning opportunities.

“One of Dr. Hoepner’s strengths is the ability to identify students who may be somewhat marginal academically and provide them with experiences that change them as learners,” Hemmerich wrote. “I sincerely think this is the most amazing part of Dr. Hoepner’s teaching/mentoring approach and I see it both in the classroom and in the one-on-one interactions he has with students. He demonstrates compassion for them as human beings and meets them at their level.”

BJ Hollars

B.J. Hollars

B.J. Hollars, an associate professor of English, received the Excellence in Service Award.

Hollars, who has been at UW-Eau Claire since 2011, has been an entrepreneurial leader in the literary and creative arts community in the Chippewa Valley, says Dr. Erica Benson, professor of English and chair of the English department. Hollars is the founder and director of the Chippewa Valley Writers Guild, which is dedicated to supporting local writers’ work. His newest venture is the Midwest Artist Academy that will provide 50 high school-aged students weeklong arts-themed educational opportunities.

“The breadth, depth and intensity of professor Hollars’ service to the region’s literary and creative arts community, as well as the creative writing profession, is staggering,” Benson wrote. “I am amazed by his enduring positivity, his genuine care for others, his generous spirit and his ability to seemingly do it all.”

Jodi Thesing-Ritter, executive director for equity, diversity and inclusion at UW-Eau Claire, praised Hollars for his support of EDI work and his willingness to be of service to the campus and community.

“I have had the opportunity to work closely with B.J. on many projects in his time at UW-Eau Claire,” Thesing-Ritter wrote. “In a word, B.J. is incredible! He gives selflessly to our campus, community, students and colleagues on a regular basis.”

Christopher Jorgenson

Dr. Christopher Jorgenson

Dr. Christopher Jorgenson, director of the Gender & Sexuality Resource Center, received the Excellence in Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Award.

Jorgenson, who has been at UW-Eau Claire since 2010, is thoughtful, insightful and passionate about advocating on behalf of students, and is a leader on campus and in the community, says Dang Yang, director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs.

“Above all else, Christopher is a leader, an advocate and a creative problem solver,” Yang wrote. “Chris is deeply committed to supporting and leading advocacy efforts to meet the needs of traditionally marginalized and underrepresented populations on campus and throughout the community. We are all fortunate to call Chris our colleague at UWEC.”

Quincy Chapman, director of Housing and Residence Life, says Jorgenson has helped make changes that better serve students and has allowed UW-Eau Claire to become one of the top-ranked campuses in the nation for LGBTQIA+ students.

“One of the strengths of Chris’ approach to the development of an inclusive environment is the belief that every person can play a role,” Chapman wrote. “Chris makes no assumption that an individual can’t contribute to a better climate for LGBTQIA+ people. Instead, he shows that all people can be a part of an inclusive environment.”

Nichole Miller

Nichole Miller

Nichole Miller, an academic advisor in UW-Eau Claire’s Advising, Retention and Career Center, received the Excellence in Advising Award. Recipients of the award are chosen through a Student Senate selection process.

Miller has been at UW-Eau Claire since 2008, working as an academic department associate in the music and theatre arts department until becoming an ARCC academic advisor in 2016. She has been the lead advisor in ARCC since 2019.

Charles Johnson, student body president, says Miller “successfully fosters in all of her students creativity, critical insight, empathy and intellectual courage.”

“It doesn't matter if they are a fifth-year senior, or a freshman walking into the ARCC for the first time, Nichole takes the time to get to know students to ensure she can provide them with the best possible guidance,” Johnson wrote. “As the undergraduate years are so pivotal to a student's path in life, we are so appreciative there are individuals like Nichole whose mission it is to make this process as smooth as possible."

Kimberly Reed

Kimberly Reed

Kimberly Reed, program assistant in the Intercultural Immersions Office, received the University Staff Excellence in Performance Award.

Reed has worked at UW-Eau Claire since 2013. Those who nominated her for the award said her professionalism and quiet, selfless contributions help the university community to thrive. 

Dr. Jeff DeGrave, intercultural immersions coordinator, calls Reed an “exceptional human being” with a never-ending positive attitude.

“I have told Kim many times that I could not imagine my position without her,” DeGrave wrote. “Finding someone like Ms. Reed with the skills, the desire to learn more and the dedication to her position, our students and the university as a whole are, quite simply, traits and virtues that are seldom found in one single person.”

Dr. Darrell Newton, former associate vice chancellor for academic affairs and dean of graduate studies who is now provost at Winona State University, says Reed’s commitment to global education and civic engagement is “heartfelt and real.”

“Her level of service to students and staff is equal only to her diligence,” Newton wrote. “This commitment has been witnessed time and again when Kim had to deal with parents concerned about events in specific countries and their possible effect on students. Her reassurances have been candid, sincere and transparent.”

Scott Swanson

Dr. Scott Swanson

Dr. Scott Swanson, a professor of management and marketing, received the Excellence in Scholarship Award.

Swanson has been a preeminent researcher in the College of Business since coming to UW-Eau Claire in 2008, according to Dr. Timothy Vaughan, a management and marketing professor. Swanson has produced 28 peer-reviewed journal articles while at UW-Eau Claire, part of his career total of 48. Under Swanson’s leadership, UW-Eau Claire’s American Marketing Association student chapter was twice named the international chapter of the year. In 2018, Swanson received the AMA Outstanding Faculty Advisor Award.

Dr. Kristy Lauver, professor and chair of the management and marketing department, praised Swanson for his mentorship of students, and incoming and tenure-track faculty. 

“Professor Swanson has had, and continues to have, a profound impact on the research community, not only through his own impactful research that he has published, but through the exponential effects that occur through him continually mentoring others in their research,” Lauver says.

Dr. Maxwell Hsu, a UW-Whitewater marketing professor, has known Swanson for more than a decade and can attest to Swanson’s contributions to marketing.

“I am familiar with his scholarly research and can state, without hesitation, that Dr. Swanson has made significant contributions to the field of marketing and, in so doing, he has developed a highly respected reputation among the academic community in the United States and internationally,” Hsu wrote.