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U. of I. Dads Association honors outstanding faculty, staff, students

Mare Payne, News Bureau

Released 11/21/2006

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — The Dads Association at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign recently presented its annual Certificate of Merit Awards – one each to an outstanding student, faculty member, staff member and a registered student organization at the university.

Charles Olson, the assistant dean for student development and career services in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences since 1979, was awarded the 2006 Certificate of Merit for Outstanding Staff Member. Olson’s duties include advising students and student groups, coordinating recruitment efforts for the college, administering scholarship programs, and providing opportunities for students to gain internship experience and obtain employment. Olson has served as a co-chair of the campus Illinois Leadership Initiative that implemented a Leadership Certificate available to all Urbana-Champaign students. He is serving as the lead contact from the Urbana campus on a USDA Challenge grant to promote leadership for future leaders that involves the University of Wisconsin and Purdue University.

“Dean Olson embodies the mission of the College of ACES,” a letter nominating Olson said. “He engages everyone – students, parents, faculty, staff, alumni, potential employers, the public – with whom he comes in contact. The University of Illinois and the College of ACES couldn’t ask for a more personal and productive ambassador and recruiter.”

Samuel Kamin, a professor of computer science and the department’s director of undergraduate studies, received the 2006 Certificate of Merit Award for Outstanding Faculty Member.

Kamin’s responsibilities include research, teaching, academic advising, curriculum development, outreach and mentoring. He won the Stanley H. Pierce Faculty Award in 2001 and the Campus Award for Excellence in Advising Undergraduate Students in 2005.

During the last three years Kamin has led a multi-institution National Science Foundation program called “Building Communities,” which encourages women to enter the computer-science field. At the Urbana campus, this program has doubled the recruitment and retention rate of the under-represented group in computer science.

Kamin’s nominators described him as an “extraordinarily dedicated, compassionate, and valuable member of the computer-science community.” His advising efforts have affected hundreds of computer-science students since he took over these responsibilities in 1999. Kamin also runs many community-building activities and workshops, enthusiastically participates in student activities, and envisions improvements in the diversity of the student body.

Whitney Wright, a senior in English in the College of Liberal Arts and Science from Mattoon, Ill., has been awarded the 2006 Certificate of Merit Award for Outstanding Student.

Wright, a James Scholar, Dean’s List regular and a member of two honor societies, has been awarded with the Alfred and Norma Snap Scholarship Award from the College of Education, the Lillian Terwilliger Award from the English department, the Panhellenic Involvement Scholarship, the Mawanda Senior Honorary Society Award.

One of Wright’s nominators said: “Her decision to enter the field of education is thoughtful and appropriate. She has an innate passion for literature, the enthusiasm of a caring teacher, and the leadership skills of an administrator. She is dedicated to education and the larger community. … Her ability to balance the demands of her schoolwork and her contributions to the community have made a strong and lasting impression on me.”

Wright was a recruitment counselor, a member of the U. of I. Formal Panhellenic Recruitment, the president of Alpha Phi sorority, and a member of Campus Crusade for Christ Christian Fellowship.

Wright has been an AVID tutor at Champaign Central High School, a swimming instructor, a receptionist in the Division of Intercollegiate Athletics, and a server at Alamo Steakhouse in her home town.

Chi Epsilon, the National Civil Engineering Honor Society, has been awarded the 2006 Certificate of Merit Award for Outstanding Student Organization. Established on the Urbana campus in 1922, Chi Epsilon has grown to about 120 chapters across the United States with a membership of more than 100,000.

One nominator for Chi Epsilon said: “… Chi Epsilon consistently puts forth an effort that pays important dividends. The members of Chi Epsilon are future leaders, people who will rise to positions of authority that will have opportunities in the future to control decisions that affect groups far beyond themselves.”

Chi Epsilon was selected by the U. of I Engineering Council as the “Most Improved Society” in 1997. Recent search projects have included volunteering at a Champaign soup kitchen, cleaning up the Salt Fork River, and cleaning up Busey Woods