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Six academic professionals honored with CAPE award

Six academic professionals received the 2009 Chancellor’s Academic Professional Excellence award at an April 1 campus reception. Now in its 21st year, the program honors contributions made by academic professionals on campus. Recipients are chosen for excellence in their work, personal and professional contributions to their fields, and the positive impact they have on colleagues, students and the public. Each award winner receives $2,000 –  a $1,000 increase in base salary and a $1,000 one-time budget increase for their department.

The CAPE recipients and a summary of their expertise, according to the nominating documentation:

Eric Adee
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Eric Adee

Eric Adee, principal research specialist for the department of crop sciences and superintendent of the Northwestern Illinois Agricultural Research and Demonstration Center in Monmouth, has worked to initiate and execute relevant, applicable and creative research on problems of importance to crop producers for the past 13 years.

As superintendent of the center, Adee’s primary responsibility is to keep the center running smoothly while at the same time making improvements in equipment and working with a number of campus-based researchers, each with his or her demands and priorities. Adee handles his work with great skill and dedication, and his center is run with fewer errors than any other center in Illinois.

Adee collaborates with other faculty and staff colleagues in research, and also initiates his own research and Extension programs. He has many contacts with farmers, Extension professionals, industry representatives and the general public through monthly newsletters, newspaper columns and personal contact.

“Adee has clearly demonstrated his ability to manage a sizeable research operation; to cooperate with other staff both as a provider of physical facilities as well as carrying a significant part of the scientific responsibilities of several projects; to conduct independent research; to actively publicize the activities of the center; and to educate the clientele,” said Robert Hoeft, head of the department of crop sciences. “Adee is a conscientious scientist who insists on quality work on all projects at the center, whether they are being conducted as a part of his own program or for other staff.”

In the years Adee has been superintendent of the research center, the field area in research has increased from less than 60 to more than 75 acres, and the number of research trials has nearly doubled – from 25 to 45.

Adee has worked at the center since 1995 and was promoted to principal research specialist in 2002.


Alison Ahlgren
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Alison Ahlgren

Alison Ahlgren, coordinator of quantitative reasoning courses in the department of mathematics since 2003, is responsible for ensuring the success of more than 25 classes each year and the teaching assistants who teach them. Ahlgren also is the coordinator of the math placement program through the Assessment and Learning in Knowledge Spaces. Ahlgren helps about 7,000 freshmen navigate through a new electronic math placement exam.

As coordinator of quantitative reasoning courses, Ahlgren inherited Math 124, Finite Mathematics, and Math 181, A Mathematical World, which had not been revised in many years. Ahlgren initiated a complete redesign of the Math 181 course that caused it to surge in popularity among the students who take it and the teaching assistants who teach it.

Ahlgren oversees approximately 25 teaching assistants per year, serving as their mentor, advising them on teaching methods and visiting their classes several times each semester.

Ahlgren’s crowning achievement, one that is now bringing national acclaim to the UI, lies with a different innovation: her work with a software assessment and remediation tool called Assessment and Learning in Knowledge Spaces. ALEKS is a Web-based tool designed around sound mathematical theory and artificial intelligence principles. An ALEKS assessment poses mathematical questions to the student, and based upon the answers given to the questions, poses additional questions, probing and honing in on the student’s knowledge. The results of an assessment inform the student of areas of strength and weakness and provide an overall assessment score.

Ahlgren, who has been using ALEKS to develop a new math placement exam for the UI, has always viewed proper placement of incoming students as a high priority, and after finding ALEKS she found a way to provide effective placement on a large scale.


Rick Atterberry
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Rick Atterberry

Rick Atterberry, known as a “jack of all trades and a master of many,” is the team leader for Marketing and Distribution Services (within Information Technology and Communication Services in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences), a media communications specialist for statewide Extension programs and a marketing specialist for UI Extension’s East-Central region.

As MDS team leader, Atterberry manages the publications-distribution operation for the college and Extension. The agricultural services warehouse operation fulfills thousands of orders for educational materials each year, and Atterberry supervises the personnel, manages the budget and is responsible for managing an aging facility that needs frequent attention.

As media communications specialist for statewide Extension programs, Atterberry has developed a statewide and national reputation as someone who can make connections and get things done. He previously spent most of his time on organizational marketing concerns, but in the last few years his duties have evolved in a new direction.

At the state level, Atterberry represents Extension on the Governor’s Long-Term Flood Recovery Strategy Task Force. He coordinated Extension’s response to four federally declared flood disasters in Illinois in 2008.

The director of Extension in Illinois nominated Atterberry to serve as the state’s representative to the national Extension Disaster Education Network, a federation of land-grant universities associated with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In that capacity he serves as chair of the Information Clearinghouse Committee, is incoming secretary of the group, and is a member of the network’s executive committee.

In the 23 counties that make up the Extension’s East-Central region, Atterberry’s official title is communications and marketing specialist. Unofficially, he is part teacher, part consultant. He spends much of his time working with local Extension staff members on issues involving institutional identity, copyright, public relations, program marketing, the Open Meetings Act and production of newsletters and news releases.


Karen Chan
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Karen Chan

Karen Chan, Extension educator in consumer and family economics, provides financial education to the public, seeking ways to meet the needs of the Chicago metropolitan area through a train-the-trainer approach that extends her reach beyond the number of participants she can teach directly.

The “All My Money” program is a prime example of Chan’s work. She led a team of five other educators in the research, testing and development of a train-the-trainer program for staff members and volunteers of agencies serving limited-resource clients. Since 1998, Chan has personally trained more than 600 staff members from more than 280 community groups, social service agencies and banks on how to use “All My Money” with their clientele.

Chan consistently is among the top educators in the number of workshops delivered each year, delivering more than 100 workshops annually that reach 2,100 to 2,500 people. During her career, Chan has taught more than 25,000 people directly.

Fellow educators have adopted many workshops that Chan has developed and delivered. She has developed teaching guides and trained other team members so that these programs are now available statewide. In response to budget cuts and reduced teaching staff, Chan initiated the use of distance-learning technology that allows Extension offices across the state to offer her “Who Gets the Money?” workshop. Her team of educators recently adopted that model as a way of making programming in their subject area available to all Extension offices statewide on a monthly basis.

Chan has worked with many other agencies and organizations to further the reach of Extension. Those partnerships have resulted in greater recognition for Extension and increased opportunities for educating the public. She represents Extension in planning for the Federal Reserve Bank’s annual Money Smart Week in Chicago. She worked closely with the FDIC’s Chicago office to develop the train-the-trainer program and the national launch of their Money Smart program in Chinatown and the Spanish-speaking community of Pilsen in Chicago.


Hank Kaczmarski
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Hank Kaczmarski

Hank Kaczmarski, director of the Integrated Systems Laboratory at the Beckman Institute for eight years, creates and maintains unique virtual reality environments that are used for teaching, research and public outreach activities. Kaczmarski supervises lab employees and manages the students and researchers who use the various ISL facilities.

The laboratory creates and manages facilities to advance scientific understanding of human-computer interactions. Its primary mission is to support the integration of advanced technologies so that researchers can conduct experiments in human multi-modal perception and cognition. The ISL facilities also provide teaching and performance support to faculty members across campus.

As director of the laboratory, Kaczmarski supports and participates in faculty members’ research projects, assists in the recruitment of faculty members and students to the Beckman Institute and the campus, participates in public service activities affecting both the local community and other communities.

Kaczmarski also works to make ISL facilities available for classes and special projects, such as the Cube and CAVE environments that faculty member George Francis uses to teach advanced mathematical concepts to his students.

Kaczmarski introduces new faculty members to the modeling and visualization capabilities of ISL and works with them to develop research projects. Two recent examples include a virtual surgery and an empathy research project. In both cases, Kaczmarski identified the appropriate faculty members to participate on the research teams and also became an active member of the research team.

“The Beckman Institute is in the process of a substantial upgrade, and the move of all of the virtual reality simulation facilities managed by Hank and has been a substantial undertaking that will, by the end of this year, further advance the research facilities for the university and our collaborations throughout the world,” said Arthur Kramer, professor of psychology and of neuroscience. “Without Hank’s dedication and tireless efforts, this upgrade and move of facilities would not have been as successful as it has been. Hank has done this while also supporting all of the research projects that he and ISL have in their ever increasing portfolio.”


RUth McCauley
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Ruth McCauley

Ruth McCauley, associate dean of students, plays a critical role in providing care to students through the Emergency Dean and Student Assistance Programs in a variety of ways. She helps students find housing in a pinch, locates students in the event of family emergencies, and helps arrange appropriate interventions for students who may be at risk.

The programs have seen a significant increase in usage over the past several years as the undergraduate population has grown and the service expectations from parents have increased. McCauley has elevated the Emergency Dean program to a new level of professionalism and care since she started in 1994.

McCauley has strengthened the UI’s relationship with health-care providers and is respected by those who serve in local emergency rooms, and in area police and fire departments. She has worked with her staff to develop protocols for students in crisis and created numerous response teams.

Additionally, McCauley represents the UI by serving on a variety of community groups, including the Religious Workers Association of Champaign-Urbana and the Champaign Liquor Commission. Her impact with the Religious Workers Association is significant in that she has been asked to address numerous religious groups and her interaction with students at these important events gives the campus a personal face and makes the students aware that they are valued members of the UI community. She also contributes to the community by volunteering with Illinois Radio Reader each week.

“As associate dean of students, Ruth displays a sensitivity to student concerns that is without comparison,” said Ken Ballom, associate vice chancellor and dean of students. “She demonstrates an exceptional proficiency in communication, problem solving, creativity, budget management, strategic planning, managing details and coordinating diverse groups while also serving as the staff member who keeps the office motivated by recognizing staff accomplishments and celebrating their successes.”

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