Eight University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire faculty and staff members were honored for their excellence during the Blugold Breakfast and academic year opening meeting on Aug. 23.
Chancellor James Schmidt recognized the following award winners:
- Dr. Chris Ahrendt, professor of mathematics.
- Sue Ayres, information systems business analyst in the Advising, Retention and Career Center.
- Dr. Josh Brown, professor of German and languages, and an affiliate faculty member in women’s, gender and sexuality studies.
- Dr. Abbey Fischer, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry at UW-Eau Claire – Barron County.
- Clare Hohman, marketing specialist in athletics.
- Dr. Barbara Meier, department chair and associate professor of special education and inclusive practices.
- Dr. Heather Ann Moody, associate professor and director of American Indian studies.
- Dr. Kyle Whipple, assistant professor of education for equity and justice.
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 2022 UW System Board of Regents Excellence in Teaching Award nominee is funded by the Arnold and Lois Domer Foundation of Eau Claire.
Dr. Chris Ahrendt, professor of mathematics, was UW-Eau Claire’s nominee for the UW System Board of Regents Excellence in Teaching Award.
Ahrendt’s teaching philosophy revolves around sharing the beauty of mathematics, no matter the level of the student, according to his nomination. Ahrendt, who has been at UW-Eau Claire for 12 years, blends different pedagogical techniques to achieve his goal of sharing his passion for math with students and faculty.
“Chris' positive influence on students extends to the whole mathematics department,” according to a nominator. “Chris is not only an outstanding educator for our students, but he is constantly teaching his colleagues and motivating us to be better.”
Ahrendt has developed hundreds of custom problems for the online homework system, creates faculty courses and troubleshoots issues that faculty encounter with the system.
“I’ve always had a passion for teaching undergraduate students, and to come to a university where so many individuals share that passion has just been a delight,” Ahrendt says. “It really is quite an honor to be able to be recognized for something that I just love doing, and I see so many other people doing because they love it.”
Sue Ayres, information systems business analyst in the Advising, Retention and Career Center, received the University Staff Excellence in Performance Award.
Ayres, who has been at UW-Eau Claire for 25 years, is relied upon by staff, faculty and administrators to conduct early student outreach/intervention and empower student success, according to nomination documents. Ayres manages important advisor resources such as e-forms and data dashboards. She engineers multiple student data systems that allow the center to track student performance, degree progression, retention and enrollment.
Nominators said Ayres “exemplifies institutional service, dedication and loyalty.”
“Sue engages in activities and daily roles that mutually strengthen our campus operations and reputation,” according to her nomination. “Sue continues to positively speak to, represent and promote our university in her work and personal life. Her pride for the campus and local community is contagious — encouraging others to also connect to our community.”
Ayres says she was touched by her nomination and humbled by the award because “there are a lot of university staff who do excellent work on our campus.”
“I’m glad to know that there are people on campus that appreciate the hard work that people put into it even if you’re not always in the spotlight,” Ayres says. “It’s nice to know that I maybe am making a difference for both staff and my colleagues, and students, because that’s why we’re here. If I can help students succeed by helping the staff help students succeed, that’s great.”
Dr. Josh Brown, professor of German and languages, and an affiliate faculty member in women’s, gender and sexuality studies, received the Faculty Excellence in Scholarship Award.
Brown, who has been at UW-Eau Claire for 11 years, has established himself as a leader in his field, according to his nomination. His research in publications, presentations and service work to his profession “remains a model in breadth, quality and quantity,” the nomination states.
A nominator who was on the German assistant professor recruitment committee when Brown was hired notes Brown was a Ph.D. candidate just finishing his dissertation at the time.
“Since then, Dr. Brown has engaged in scholarship at the local, state and national levels in an impressive level,” according to the nominator. “His professional activities provide strong evidence that he is an active, versatile and productive scholar who shares his work with a variety of audiences.”
Brown says the Faculty Excellence in Scholarship Award is a celebration of public education in his life.
“As a first-generation college student, I come from a long line of rural, poor, hill folk who couldn’t speak English,” Brown says. “They rolled cigars to make ends meet. They finally decided it was important for rural children to get better education. My grandmother was the first in the family to be able to write her own name. Then generations later I went to college and have benefited from public education.”
Dr. Abbey Fischer, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry at UW-Eau Claire – Barron County, received the Faculty Excellence in Service Award.
Fischer, who has been at the campus for six years, is involved in nearly every aspect of student life at UW-Eau Claire — Barron County, serving as an advisor to the Student Government Association, co-advisor for the student organization for LGBTQ+ students, advisor to the STEM Club and as the initiator and member of the new Student Engagement Workgroup looking for ways to further engage students in campus life, according to her nomination.
Fischer is chair of the UW-Eau Claire – Barron County Steering Committee, the campus faculty and staff governance body, and has been called “tenacious” and “unwavering” by colleagues for her support for the campus and students.
“Abbey Fischer is truly a ‘superstar’ when it comes to her leadership in service to the Barron County campus and to UW-Eau Claire, not to mention a track record of extraordinary service to the UW Colleges prior to 2018,” nominators say.
Fischer says she was honored to be nominated by her colleagues at UW-Eau Claire — Barron County and winning the award is “just mind-blowing, quite honestly.”
“Working at Barron County is special because there’s no separation between the students and the staff and the instructors,” Fischer says. “We work together as a team on a daily basis. I tell people that we’re all rowing the boat in the same direction and any one of us could step up and be the captain of the boat at any time. And we’re ready to do that and our students lead us, our staff lead us, our faculty lead us. We’re all going in the same direction.”
Clare Hohman, marketing specialist in athletics, received the Administrative/Professional Academic Staff Excellence in Performance Award.
Hohman has been in her present position for nine years and has worked at UW-Eau Claire for 27 years. She was a Blugold student and then a part-time assistant volleyball coach for 19 years.
Hohman’s enthusiasm for her job is contagious, award nominators say, and her personality makes her an outstanding ambassador for UW-Eau Claire. She makes everyone feel welcome on campus, from the hundreds of student-athletes and alumni she interacts with to faculty and staff, community members and fans of the Blugolds and opposing teams.
“Her enthusiasm for life inspires all those around her,” according to her nomination. “She makes it a daily mission to improve the lives of others by expressing joy, laughter and compassion to all who cross her path.”
Hohman says the recognition singling her out is humbling because she doesn’t believe she does anything more than her co-workers in the athletics department.
“We have this great department in athletics where it’s a small group of us who work really hard for all 25 of our sports to make sure home events run smoothly,” Hohman says. “I feel it’s an award for all of us to share because of the work that we do, the long weekends, nights and the effort that we put forth together.”
Dr. Barbara Meier, department chair and associate professor of special education and inclusive practices, received the Excellence in Teaching Award.
Meier, who has been at UW-Eau Claire for eight years, always finds ways to make content more interesting and available, according to her nomination.
Former students call Meier kind, encouraging and supportive, an instructor who loves her students and makes sure they understand assignments. She comes to campus during weekends to facilitate study groups and work sessions with students.
“Dr. Meier is an amazing instructor,” one former student says. “She knows how to make students feel cared for and help them when they are struggling. She relates content back to her experiences to make connections for her students. She is a wonderful resource to connect with after graduation as well for guidance and support.”
Meier struggled to put into words her feelings about receiving the Excellence in Teaching Award.
“I’ve been a teacher since 1990, I taught in K-12 for 15 years, so getting this is just like the culmination to my career,” Meier says. “It’s just a very great honor.”
Dr. Heather Ann Moody, associate professor and director of American Indian studies, received the Excellence in Advising Award.
Moody, who has been at UW-Eau Claire for 15 years, is one of the most professional, personable and responsive instructors on campus, according to a nominator. Moody addresses student needs through interpersonal relationships and through an abundance of advocacy efforts.
“Dr. Moody champions student wellness and authentic equity practices through her curriculum,” according to the nomination. “They are transparent, honest and direct, especially in their motivation to continue activism and engagement in the betterment of our institutions.”
Moody teaches courses and advises students, but she also goes above and beyond in the advisement of Student Senate, according to a nominator.
Moody says she is “honored and humbled” by receiving an award that is selected by students.
“It’s incredibly wonderful to be recognized by students this year because that’s what I’m here to do,” Moody says. “I’m here to serve our students and to know that their recognizing me is an extreme honor. Students make our campus, and for them to appreciate what I do and the impact I have on their lives is incredibly amazing.”
Dr. Kyle Whipple, assistant professor of education for equity and justice, received the Excellence in Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Award
Whipple, who has been at UW-Eau Claire for four years, is one of the few scholars in the U.S. who publishes and presents on LGBTQ issues in math education, according to his nomination. He is a frequent invited national and international conference panelist, speaker for community groups and podcast guest.
Whipple has worked on EDI initiatives, the Bias Incident Reporting Team, the Q’nnect mentoring group, the Queer & Trans Action Committee and other committees to help support and retain UW-Eau Claire faculty, staff and students.
“Dr. Whipple is an inclusive and welcoming instructor,” according to the nomination. “This is demonstrated in his teachings of the power of language educators use and encouraging and accepting insights from all learners regardless of their differences including in sexuality, race and socioeconomic status.”
Whipple says he appreciates his colleagues for nominating him and writing letters on his behalf for the award.
“It means a lot to be acknowledged for the work that we do and since EDI is such a critical part of every single aspect of everything that I do on campus, it feels like a huge pat on the back,” Whipple says. “I’m just really appreciative for the opportunity to work at an institution like the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire that values EDI so much; it’s really meaningful.”