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PUBLICATIONS Inside Illinois Vol. 22, No. 7, Oct. 2, 2003

Campus Award for Excellence in Public Engagement

Recipients honored for public service, outreach

Two faculty members, one academic professional, one staff member, and three students have been honored with this year’s Campus Award for Excellence in Public Engagement.

In its fourth year, the awards program was developed to recognize those who fulfill the university’s commitment to using their scholarly, creative or professional knowledge to improve the well-being of Illinois citizens. Recipients were honored at a reception Sept. 30.

The program is an extension of the Partnership Illinois initiative and the Senate committee on Continuing Education and Public Service.

For information about nomination procedures and criteria for selection, go to www.peir.uiuc.edu/pe/awardsandgrants.html.

Photo by Bill Wiegand
Teresa K. Easterly-Adams 

Teresa K. Easterly-Adams
community worker
UI Extension, Macon County Office

“For more than 10 years, Teresa Easterly-Adams has identified community issues, developed strategic responses, and has implemented dozens of programs in the region with research-based education from the UI,” said Stuart Ellis, Macon County Extension Unit Leader. “Her efforts have touched thousands of citizens.”

As a result of one 4-H based initiative, more than 1,000 students annually were exposed to Extension educational materials in their classrooms and more teachers became aware of UI Extension as a resource to meet their professional needs.
As committee co-chair, Easterly-Adams worked with more than 20 area service providers, as well as law enforcement and fire personnel and Richland Community College staff members to plan and present Macon County’s Annual Safe Kids Day. The popular event, which teaches how to prevent childhood accidents, has received national recognition three times from the National Safety Council.

Ten years ago Easterly-Adams joined the Board of Directors of Decatur Community Partnership to formally work with other individuals dedicated to improvings the social, economic and clinical health of the Macon County community through collaboration. The partnership has brought more than 7 million grant-funded dollars to the county to fund a myriad of programs, including projects linking to Extension services and educational resources.

Photo by Bill Wiegand
Michael F. Hutjens

Michael F. Hutjens
professor of animal sciences

Professor Mike Hutjens has developed an international and national dairy outreach teaching program, Dave Fischer said in nominating Hutjens.

Fischer, regional animal systems educator in the department of animal sciences, said that Hutjens began teaching extramural courses in 1988.

Through the needs of his audience, he developed an applied dairy nutrition course that afforded students an opportunity to further their careers, and at the same time to balance educational needs with business and family commitments. The program has changed through the years and now is a hybrid CD-ROM/Internet-based course – the first animal sciences course offered in the United States using this combined technology. Because of increased demand, the course is now offered every semester. The courses fill a “unique and emerging need in the department of animal sciences,” wrote Fischer, “as it reaches out to non-traditional students with diverse backgrounds, knowledge, experience and focus.

Photo by Bill Wiegand
James B. Kaler

James B. Kaler
professor emeritus of astronomy

Since joining the UI faculty in 1964, professor James Kaler has become one of the world’s leading experts in astronomy. “During the course of his research,” wrote astronomy chair Lewis Snyder in nominating Kaler, “Jim began to write about some of his work in articles directed to the public. [He is now an] internationally known figure in science outreach and public education, working in a variety of media.”

In addition to having written three textbooks, Kaler has written many other books for the public that explain the discoveries of modern astronomy. Kaler also has spread the word through public lectures, television and radio appearances, and his involvement with the nation’s planetarium community. For the past 16 years, he has educated others about the joys of the sky with a weekly update called “Skylights.” The column initially was e-mailed to interested individuals and organizations and is now posted on the Web and gets more than 5,000 hits per week.
“Jim’s impact on science education through his articles, books, lectures and informational services have been incalculable, and have given great visibility to the astronomy department and the UI,” Snyder said.

Photo by Bill Wiegand
Umesh Thakkar

Umesh Thakkar
senior research scientist, National Center for
Supercomputing Applications and Beckman Institute

For nearly 10 years, Umesh Thakkar has provided leadership and initiative developing, integrating and evaluating the integration of technology into education. This has included training teachers and students from kindergarten to college age.

He co-directed the Chickscope project in the late 1990s, which is still widely used by K-12 students and teachers to study chicken embryo development using remotely controlled scientific instruments. He directs the educational outreach of the Bugscope project, which allows students and teachers to remotely operate a scanning electron microscope to image bugs at high magnification. He also manages the Biology Student Workbench project in which software and numerous educational materials have been developed for bioinformatics education, and he is principal investigator of the VR Savvy project, in which middle school girls learn how to build virtual worlds using the CAVE.

“Because of Umesh’s leadership in building communities around education technologies, he has been asked by the National Science Foundation to take a one-year leave of absence from the UI to head a committee charged with constructing a blueprint for NSF’s initiatives in this area for the next several years,” wrote Eric Jakobsson, professor of molecular and integrative physiology and senior research scientist in the Beckman Institute and NCSA. “In agreeing to undertake this, Umesh specified as one of the conditions that he be able to return each month to Urbana for the meetings of the school district advisory group so that he could maintain his commitment to the local community while still sharing his efforts with the entire nation."

Student winners

  • Allen O. Eghrari
    undergraduate student
    liberal arts and sciences
  • Sascha D. Meinrath
    graduate student
    psychology
  • Janni Sorensen
    graduate student
    urban and regional planning

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