CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Six academic professionals will be honored with 2014 Chancellor's Academic Professional Excellence awards at a reception April 8.
Now in its 26th 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:
Photo by L. Brian Stauffer
Christa Deacy-Quinn, the collections manager at the Spurlock Museum in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, oversees the care, preservation, conservation, storage and securing of artifacts - from stone to wood to paper to feather. "This is a critical position at the Spurlock, whose extraordinary collection of nearly 50,000 artifacts covers civilizations from around the world," wrote Wayne T. Pitard, the former director of the Spurlock Museum and a professor of religion, in nominating Deacy-Quinn. "The job requires an extensive knowledge of environmental issues ranging from the dangers of humidity and mold to such problems as insect, chemicals and even light."
In addition, he noted that she also has been in charge of designing, building and installing the mounts and cases for the artifacts in both the permanent and temporary exhibits. "The value of having the collections manager also oversee the designing of the cases and mounts for them, is enormous," Pitard wrote.
In addition, the 22-year U. of I. employee has taken on additional assignments, including supervising the packing of 40,000 artifacts that had to be safely transferred from the World Heritage Museum on the fourth floor of Lincoln Hall to the new Spurlock Museum across campus. She also helped design the museum's security system, designed the high-density storage system at the Spurlock and worked with Douglas Brewer, the current director of the museum, to design the digital databases that track the artifacts.
In addition, she has become a public face of the museum in several ways, connecting with donors, visiting scholars and U. of I. faculty members who serve as guest curators. She also has given talks to community groups and provides museum tours.
She teaches a graduate-level course in the Museum Studies Program and is a leader in the campus's Preservation Working Group, which seeks to assure the long-term preservation of the university's cultural assets. In this role, she has played an important part in the restoration of the Alma Mater sculpture.
Photo courtesy Frank Ireland
Frank Ireland, a research animal scientist in the department of animal sciences in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, is the manager of the Beef Cattle Research Unit at Dixon Springs Agricultural Research Center. "Located 250 miles south of Champaign, the center represents the major connection between the flagship Urbana campus and the southern third of the state," wrote Vickie Jarrell, the director of the Agricultural Animal Care and Use Program, in nominating Ireland. "Frank Ireland is the face of the university in this agriculturally based region."
Jarrell wrote that Ireland's primary job is managing the production of about 1,000 cows and their calves and to direct the beef unit's operations for applied research and teaching. During the past 23 years, he has increased the productivity of the beef cattle unit, demonstrating how better management practices can place dollars in the pockets of southern Illinois stakeholders, affecting the economic well-being of the region.
In addition to his publication record, Ireland advances the teaching and outreach missions of the U. of I. through hands-on workshops and learning labs for beef producers and students. He also teaches animal sciences laboratory sessions for area community colleges and Southern Illinois University. He is an excellent mentor to students and initiated a successful U. of I. internship program.
He recently remodeled an old unused pig barn into a facility to host workshops, extension events, teaching laboratories and research trials. He also installed several cameras so participants in remote locations can join training in real time. The video system has not only expanded the capacity for distance learning, but allows campus veterinarians to conduct live assessments of animal health.
"Frank is the single most influential connection to the university for beef producers south of Interstate 70," said Neal R. Merchen, a professor of animal sciences and the associate dean for research in the College of ACES. "His knowledge of beef cattle management and of important challenges of the industry rivals that of anyone nationally."
Hannes E. Leetaru
Photo by L. Brian Stauffer
Hannes E. Leetaru, a senior petroleum geologist for the Illinois State Geological Survey in the Prairie Research Institute, has made extensive contributions through research, teaching and public service.
"While his primary responsibility at ISGS is applied research," wrote Scott Fraley, a senior reservoir engineer at ISGS, "one of his true joys and passions is teaching, especially students and junior staff members. The majority of students are introduced to the oil and gas industry through his course and several have pursued careers in this area as a result of it."
He has taught Geology 540 since 1998 when he proposed the course. Some of his students have said that it is the most important class they took, opening opportunities for graduate school and employment.
Leetaru's research has been critical to the discovery of an oil field with about a half-million barrels of producible oil. His doctoral work helped explain the geology of one of three of the most important oil-producing geologic formations in the Illinois basin and he continued the work developing and researching ideas for improving the location of oil-producing areas of the basin. He is the principal investigator on a $12.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. His grants have been instrumental in making the ISGS a world leader in the area of geologic storage of CO2.
During his 24 years at the survey, he has been active in professional societies, including the American Association of Petroleum Geologists; he has served on the Urbana Academic Senate; and he was part of a steering committee for the National Science Foundation EarthCube governance.
"I would rank Dr. Leetaru as the foremost authority on the subsurface geology of the Illinois region," said John H. McBride, a professor and the chair of the department of geological sciences at Brigham Young University. "Without his scientific leadership, we would lack much of the geologic information for this region that has become so important for governing decisions on energy production and air pollution."
Carla J. McCowan-Alston
Photo by L. Brian Stauffer
Carla J. McCowan-Alston, the director of the Counseling Center, has displayed a "tireless support and passionate commitment" to the profession of counseling and to the education of its future leaders at the U. of I., wrote Renee Romano, the Urbana vice chancellor for student affairs, in nominating McCowan-Alston.
"Across the country, colleges and universities are seeing an increase in the number of students seeking mental health services and a dramatic increase in the severity of their problems," Romano said. "Carla McCowan-Alston is the director of what I consider to be one of the best college counseling centers in the country and she is recognized as a leader in her field."
Romano said "McCowan-Alston has faced these challenges with intelligence, creativity and professionalism. She expanded outreach, professionalized the peer educators program and utilized the doctoral intern program to maximize the center's ability to serve students."
McCowan-Alston has 17 years of service at the Counseling Center, serving as the director since 2007. She has gone to great lengths to make sure the center is able to serve special populations, having counselors on staff who reflect the demographics of the student population. "Dr. McCowan-Alston hires counselors with an emphasis on LGBT, African-American, Latina/o, Native American, and a focus on international students," Romano said. "An example of this is that she hired two Chinese counselors who speak Mandarin, which has already reaped benefits for our campus during two crisis situations."
In addition, the center has a trauma response unit that is trained to manage critical incident situations. McCowan-Alston is often contacted in the middle of the night and expertly coordinates the services of her staff members.
Through her leadership, the Counseling Center has implemented the Counseling Center Paraprofessional Program, which trains peer educators to do outreach in the student community to serve more students and serves as a training ground for undergraduate and graduate students. She also is a published author and prolific presenter at national conferences on the issues of African-American students in higher education.
Photo by L. Brian Stauffer
Scott Morris, the associate director for operations of the School of Earth, Society and the Environment in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, has worked at the U. of I. for 24 years. He began working for SESE eight years ago when the school was formed, bringing together the resources of three departments: atmospheric sciences, geology, and geography and GIScience.
When the school was created, Morris "single-handedly constructed - from scratch - a comprehensive Business Affairs Office," wrote Stephen Marshak, a professor of geology and the director of the school, in his nomination letter.
In addition, Marshak emphasized how the facilities aspect of Morris' job had ballooned "beyond anyone's imagination three years ago when 40 percent of the Natural History Building was condemned." Marshak described Morris' response as "heroic," working 16-hour days, moving geology faculty members and facilities to the remainder of the building and then working with contractors, and Facilities and Services and LAS staff members. In addition, Morris has served as the point person for the $70 million renovation of the Natural History Building and several additional renovation projects. "It would have been reasonable to hire a full-time project manager to oversee this work," Marshak wrote, "but Scott, without complaint, just added the duties to his already huge workload, and got the job done."
Morris' expertise in university business operations is widely recognized and is sought after by campus colleagues and nationally. An indicator of the high regard placed on him by his colleagues is that he has chaired both the Urbana Research Coordinators-Administrators Group and the Urbana Business Managers Group. Nationally, he is an active participant in the Society of Research Administrators, the National Council of University Research Administrators and the National Association of College and University Business Officers.
In addition, throughout his professional career, Morris has been involved in many campus and university committees for establishing, reviewing or revising university policies, procedures and electronic systems. He also has served his community, including four years as mayor of Pesotum.
Photo by L. Brian Stauffer
Matthew Rosenstein, the associate director of the European Union Center in International Studies and Programs in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, has demonstrated exceptional leadership and management in his nearly four years in this position. Under his administration, the U.S. Department of Education and the European Commission have recognized the teaching, research and outreach accomplishments of the center, respectively designating it as a National Resource Center and a European Union Center of Excellence. It is one of only six in the nation to receive this dual designation.
Rosenstein oversees all fundraising efforts, manages the center's daily activities and serves as the director of graduate studies. He successfully implemented the first European Union Studies Master's Degree Program in the U.S. and has overseen the graduation of the first nine students.
"Matt's extraordinary efforts were essential to the EUC's many accomplishments and he continues to motivate center staff members and affiliated faculty members to reach new heights in scholarship, teaching and public engagement," wrote Anna Stenport, the director of the EUC and a professor of Germanic languages and literatures, in her nomination letter.
"His proactive and deliberate approach to secure external funding and deft management of existing financial resources in a challenging budget environment is without comparison," Stenport wrote. "His grant-writing efforts resulted in approximately $625,000 in new funding from diverse sources (a 25 percent increase in the budget)."
As director of graduate studies, with student recruiting responsibilities, he has overseen the MA program grow from five to 12 students, which has increased his advising duties. He works personally with each student - from initial admission to successful career placement, with students reporting 100 percent employment six months after graduation.
In addition, he served as the lead organizer for several regional events as part of the EUC's public engagement mission, including the annual Regional Faculty Workshop in downtown Chicago, an EU Week at Illinois State University, activities with regional World Affairs Councils in Peoria, and, a weeklong tour of Europe for state legislators, journalists and K-12 educators.
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