CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Six academic professionals will be honored with 2015 Chancellor's Academic Professional Excellence awards at a reception April 2.
Now in its 27th year, the program honors the accomplishments and contributions of academic professionals, who perform a range of vital functions for the campus community. They provide critical support for administration, research laboratories and educational programs, and offer important outreach programs throughout the state.
Recipients are selected for work, personal and professional contributions. Each award winner receives a $2,000 award, a $1,000 increase in base salary and a $1,000 one-time budget increase for his or her department.
This year's honorees:
Kimberly J. Alexander-Brown
Photo by L. Brian Stauffer
Kimberly J. Alexander-Brown, the director of the Access and Achievement Program and an assistant dean in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, was commended for her tireless dedication and service to her students.
"What impresses me most is her sustained enthusiasm and advocacy for her students," said Kathy Martensen, the assistant provost for educational programs, who nominated Alexander-Brown.
"She is a tireless champion for students in her program, helping them navigate the campus's resources to be successful, finding a program of study that fits their interests, and seeing them through until they complete their degrees and beyond. It is no wonder hundreds of Kim's former students keep in touch with her well beyond their college years," Martensen said.
Martensen also noted that Alexander-Brown organized the Building Emergency Action Plan for the English Building and currently serves as a Girl Scout troop leader. She won the Larine Y. Cowan "Make a Difference Award," awarded by the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Access for promotion of diversity and inclusion.
Alexander-Brown has worked at the U. of I. for 20 years. She works as part of a team to further the educational mission of the college by helping students understand and negotiate the academic rules and regulations governing their academic eligibility, progress and successful degree completion.
She also serves as administrative support to the LAS Student Academic Affairs Office's associate dean in the areas of underrepresented student recruitment and retention. She serves as a chief administrator for a comprehensive academic support program serving primarily underrepresented students of color with declared and undeclared majors within the college.
Gretchen Adams, the director of undergraduate studies and Chemistry Merit Program Director in the department of chemistry, said in support of Alexander-Brown's nomination: "Kim deeply cares about the College of LAS and the university at large.
"Kim has been pivotal to helping the Merit Program on campus secure a National Science Foundation STEM grant, which provides financial support to underrepresented students majoring in chemistry, mathematics and integrative biology," Adams said.
Kimberly L. Armstrong
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Kimberly L. Armstrong, the deputy director for the Committee on Institutional Cooperation's Center for Library Initiatives, was cited as a phenomenal asset to the library community, leading to the development of many opportunities that increase the availability of resources while keeping costs low.
The CIC is a consortium of the Big Ten member universities and the University of Chicago, and operates as a unit of the U. of I.
Office of the Provost. The CIC's Center for Library Initiatives optimizes student and faculty access to the combined resources of the 15 CIC member libraries, supporting a collaborative environment for library staff members.
In her role, Armstrong manages the center's staff and provides advice and information regarding the program and related initiatives.
Barbara Allen, the executive director of the Committee on Institutional Cooperation, said Armstrong's work has led to the creation of the CIC's Shared Print Repository, which holds more than 95,000 volumes. She added that Armstrong's work has ensured the continued progression of the Google Digitization Project, which "represents one of the largest cooperative ventures of its kind in higher education."
Armstrong has been an employee of the U. of I. for seven years. Before becoming the deputy director, Armstrong started at the Urbana campus as the CIC assistant director. She led and assisted program planning, managed projects and coordinated collaborative initiatives, which included the coordination of library licensing and acquisitions, shared print storage and the Google Digitization Project.
In a letter of support, John P. Wilkin, the dean of libraries and university librarian, said "Armstrong is a rare professional capable of managing widely distributed processes, understanding diverse institutional contexts, mediating the interests of senior administrators across the CIC, and demonstrating a high level of professional competence."
Wilkin said one of Armstrong's significant responsibilities involves coordinating a significant fund for shared collection development of electronic resources.
Armstrong has taken part in a number of advisory boards, such as the IEEE Library Advisory Council, the COUNTER Journal Usage Factor Advisory Board and the Nature Library Advisory Board. She also has been a part of professional committees, including the ILLINET Network Advisory Council and the HathiTrust Collections Committee.
Photo by L. Brian Stauffer
Rhiannon Clifton, the program director and an adjunct lecturer in the Charles H. Sandage Department of Advertising in the College of Media, is "dependable, remarkably efficient and enthusiastic about all aspects of the department's mission," according to Jacqueline Hitchon, the head of the department and a professor of advertising, who nominated Clifton.
As a program director, Clifton developed a plan that has enhanced the reputation and revenue of the department. She is responsible for the quality and management of programs, such as the student study abroad and international collaborative degree programs. She also hires and trains for the programs, secures grants and funding for the programs, oversees the budget and ensures financial accountability.
An employee of the U. of I. for nine years, Clifton has managed three faculty-led study abroad courses and three exchange programs, which has led to almost 50 students having the opportunity to study abroad. She hosted a professional development program for an agency in Korea, and she is in the process of bringing another group to campus from China.
Clifton also teaches at least two semesterlong courses per year and has taught advertising industry immersion courses, bringing national academic attention to the program.
She has been involved in volunteer and professional activities, such as being the president of the American Marketing Association Central Illinois Chapter and the Executive Club of Champaign County, along with being the publicity coordinator of the Champaign County Freedom Celebration.
"Rhiannon is the professional face of this department across many levels," Hitchon said. "We are incredibly fortunate to have her on our team, and her work epitomizes what this award represents."
Jan Slater, the dean of the College of Media, said in a letter of support, "(Clifton's) work is exceptional, her professionalism is unquestioned, and her contribution is invaluable." Slater said Clifton's work has created an impact on faculty members, students and alumni.
Some of Clifton's achievements include building a certificate program in Digital Media, developing a high school AdCamp and expanding it to Media University, and assisting three interim department heads.
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Laura Frerichs, the director of the Research Park, has led the organization to receive national and international recognition for excellence.
During Frerich's time as director, the Research Park was named the Association of University Research Parks' "Outstanding Research Park of the Year" in 2011; Inc. magazine named it one of "Three College-Town Incubators To Watch" in 2013; and Forbes magazine named it one of "12 Business Incubators Changing the World" in 2013.
Frerichs manages the U. of I.'s operation of EnterpriseWorks and the incubator within the Research Park, along with being the overall communicator between the U. of I. and the Research Park.
Laura Bleill, the assistant director of external relations of the Research Park, nominated Frerichs and said she "is relentless in her drive to make the University of Illinois Research Park the best in the world."
Under Frerichs' leadership, the Research Park has expanded internship opportunities to students by going beyond engineering and into math, statistics, communications and other fields. She also created the I-Start grant program, which provides first-year funding to companies started by faculty members.
"Laura's work has solidified the reputation of the University of Illinois Research Park - a reputation that spans the world," Bleill said.
Along with being an employee of the U. of I. for five years, Frerichs also has been the chairman of the board of directors for the Champaign County Economic Development Corporation and has been on the board of directors of the Illinois Technology Association. She also was named one of the "40 Under Forty Woman of the Year 2009" by Central Illinois Business Magazine.
In a letter of support, Edward McMillan, a trustee of the U. of I, said "Laura's efforts, attention to detail, dogged determination to find solutions to every obstacle she has encountered, while maintaining her unwavering integrity and professional rapport with all she comes in contact, is outstanding."
McMillan said Frerichs manages the relationship between U. of I. and the Research Park developer, Fox/Atkins. He added her work has been significant in advancing the college's mission in economic development, which has assisted in research and teaching.
Photo by L. Brian Stauffer
Tonja Henze, a lab animal facilities coordinator in the Division of Animal Resources, works toward the facilities' mission of providing quality care, training and consultation in the safe and humane use of laboratory animals in research and education. She has worked at the U. of I. for 28 years.
Jennifer Criley, the assistant director of animal resources, nominated Henze, saying "she encourages career development and is a strong advocate for all of her employees. She never fails to recognize her employees' accomplishments and landmarks."
The division manages eight animal facilities, with all the supervisors reporting to Henze. With this comes numerous and diverse responsibilities, Criley said. She added that Henze manages the goal of providing high-quality care for the animal care units.
As the coordinator, Henze is responsible for standardizing procedures between different units in the program, supervising unit supervisors and animal care staff members, participating on search committees and interview teams, among other duties.
"Tonja is always a strong advocate for the field of laboratory animal care," Criley said. "She is a strong asset to our division, the university and the laboratory animal care community."
She also has been part of professional organizations such as the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science, the Committee for Technician Awareness and Development, and the Central Illinois Branch of the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science.
Lyndon Goodly, the associate vice chancellor for research and the director of the Division of Animal Resources, said in a letter of support, "Her integrity as a friend, colleague, mother, and as a human being is absolute. All of these personal attributes flow into her work, which for Tonja is not her work but her passion. Time after time, Tonja puts the needs of others before her own, not for personal gain, but simply because it's the right thing to do."
Goodly mentioned that outside of providing a great work ethic and positive attitude at her job, Henze also has been involved with being a leader for the Campus Charitable Fund Drive, as well as bringing her service and leadership to the Girl Scouts of America, the 4-H Club and as an English as a Second Language conversational mentor.
Photo by L. Brian Stauffer
Rebecca McBride, the senior associate director of Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, has contributed to making Krannert Center a vibrant cultural center, influencing every area, including increasing local and national awareness, improving audience engagement and boosting attendance.
She was nominated by Maureen Reagan, the assistant director for marketing, who said "McBride has earned a reputation as one of the most effective and respected academic professionals on campus, and as a valuable resource when a campus unit or community organization seeks assistance with strategy, communications, organizational culture, or myriad other areas."
Reagan said McBride manages the operations at the center, which includes the oversight of almost 80 staff members who annually produce and present more than 300 performances, hundreds of nonperformance engagement activities and a host of services, and who support the academic units of music, theatre and dance. Reagan mentioned that McBride led Krannert Center's artist residency program into a deeper and more diverse initiative, which is recognized nationally for its inclusive approach.
Mike Ross, the Krannert Center director, complimented McBride's work ethic in a letter of support. "Rebecca exhibits extraordinary interest in the well-being of all those under her supervision, as well as of those in positions of higher institutional rank. She is a naturally and deeply empathetic human being, embodying the values of tolerance and the embrace of difference, even when challenged by the sometimes narrower worldviews of others with whom she finds herself engaged."
An employee of the U. of I. for 22 years, McBride also has been involved in public engagement. She was a project manager in the past for Jazz Threads, a community project that celebrated the local history of jazz, and she is currently the project manager for Making Communities Visible, a three-year community initiative that aims to generate art activities between community groups.
She also has been involved in sustainability efforts at the center, and she assumed leadership of a Sustainability Vision Plan, which resulted in more than 50 percent annual energy savings since early 2000. McBride has incorporated organic food offerings and expanded recycling at the center, and she is currently working with the Illinois Green Business Association to create a national environmental certification program for university-based performing arts centers.
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