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Academic Staff Award winners honored

April 9, 2009 By John Lucas

The 2009 Academic Staff Excellence Awards recognize nine dedicated university professionals for their exemplary achievements in leadership, public service, research, teaching and career service.

Michael Besant

Michele Besant, special librarian in the School of Library and Information Studies, works with student volunteers in the library in Helen C. White Hall to check, sort and stamp donated books destined for use in the Jail Library Group. The program was started in 1992 by Besant, then a graduate student. It provides reading materials to the residents of jails in Dane County.

Photo: Jeff Miller

Winners will attend a reception with Chancellor Biddy Martin from 5–7 p.m. on Wednesday, April 15, at the Fluno Center and will also be recognized by the Academic Staff Assembly on Monday, April 13.

This year, awards were made in all nine categories. Eight awards carry $2,500 stipends; the Chancellor’s Hilldale Award for Excellence in Teaching carries a $5,000 stipend.

“Over the course of my first seven months at UW–Madison, I have learned a great deal about the contribution of the university’s academic staff and have been consistently impressed with those contributions,” says Martin. “I congratulate these winners, and all academic staff members across campus, for everything they do in the service of our university.”

The 2009 winners are:

Michele Besant

Special librarian and director, School of Library and Information Studies Library Laboratory

Wisconsin Alumni Association Award for Excellence in Leadership, Larger University Community

Besant has a major impact inside SLIS and far beyond.

In her role, she works with students and campus librarians who prepare workshops keeping the school abreast of many topics. She collaborates with faculty members to facilitate extra resources to make classes vibrant and challenging. In addition to active participation on numerous SLIS and campus committees, Besant assists with several community projects including the Jail Library Student Group, providing books and information for inmates at the Dane County Jail.

“I am amazed at the quality and quantity of Michele’s personal investment in SLIS,” writes her nominator, Louise Robbins. “She has managed the library effectively and provided excellent service while extending herself in creative ways in governance and community engagement. Her reflective, ethical leadership has earned her the trust and respect of every member of SLIS and has provided a model for all of us.”

Jin Woo Bok

Associate scientist, Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology (MMI)

Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Research, Independent Investigator

Bok has played an important role in the lab of Nancy Keller, both in scientific achievement and mentoring of postdoctoral scientists and graduate and undergraduate students. Keller’s lab works to finds methodologies to control secondary metabolism in fungi.

“I anticipate one of the biggest future challenges of running my own laboratory will be finding a scientist such as Dr. Bok to be a permanent and central figure in the lab, to serve as a secondary and technical mentor to the graduate students to facilitate the transfer of technology from one generation of students to the next and to police the laboratory to keep research progress moving forward,” writes Thomas Hammond, a postdoctoral fellow writing in support of the nomination. “I know this will be difficult because very few labs are as fortunate as the Keller lab to have someone like Dr. Bok.”

John Ferrick

Associate director of international programs, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences

Robert Heideman Award for Excellence in Public Service and Outreach

Ferrick has consistently gone above and beyond expectations in developing and leading the university’s engagement with rural communities in Uganda.

During his tenure, he has helped establish a public health and nutrition program that has benefited the people of Uganda, along with the health and water quality of villages there. Domestically, he has been a leading proponent of CALS international development and outreach programs.

“John’s contributions have been two-fold,” writes Kenneth Shapiro, his nominator. “First, his efforts have brought tangible benefits to some of the poorest people in the world. Second, he has introduced UW students to the wonderful experience of giving themselves to help others. Our students’ lives have been deeply changed by working with John on these projects.”

Donna Jahnke

Retired assistant dean, Office of Research Services, College of Letters and Science

Martha Casey Award for Dedication to Excellence

Jahnke, who recently retired, administered human subject protection for educational and social and behavioral science research conducted on campus.

She is known as an “unsung hero” of the institutional review board process by the faculty members who submit research protocols along with those who have served on the boards themselves. She is credited with playing a large role to ensure research meets the highest level of ethical standards and legal compliance, while also maintaining the important research mission of the university.

“We have the utmost respect for Donna’s extensive knowledge base, her ability to work with investigators to facilitate the IRB process, and her passionate dedication to the protection of human participants in research,” write her nominators, Gary Sandefur and Susan Ellis Weismer. “The research community at UW–Madison will sorely miss her dedicated service and leadership.”

Julia McGivern

Clinical professor, Department of Educational Psychology

Chancellor’s Hilldale Award for Excellence in Teaching

McGivern has played a critical role in her program by providing excellent instruction and professional supervision of graduate-level school psychology students.

Through her efforts, she has greatly advanced the education and professional training of educators and student services providers on campus, across the state and nationally, helping the school psychology program attain a top ranking in the United States. She is also known as an exemplary teacher, caring deeply about her students, responding to their concerns, and generating positive interactions and feedback about her courses and the program.

“It is extremely difficult to adequately describe how wonderful it is to work with Julie — whether these interactions are with a faculty member, support staff, student or parent — because of her exceptional and extraordinary personal interaction skills,” writes her nominator, Craig Albers.

Jocelyn Milner

Director of the Office of Academic Planning and Analysis

Wisconsin Alumni Association Award for Excellence in Leadership, Individual Unit

Milner is well-known on campus for being a go-to person for data and information. Her office is the major data generator and analytical hub for statistics on a wide array of measures. Further, she and her team compile and present information in an easy-to-use format that makes it even more useful.

Milner further distinguished herself during the 2009 Reaccreditation Self-Study for the Higher Learning Commission as a member of the core team.

“Jocelyn’s knowledge of campus programs and people is probably unrivaled on campus,” writes her nominator, Nancy Mathews. “It is doubtful that any campus leader has a mastery of all of the information and data that she has mastered. Her eager willingness to share this information so that it becomes useful is unparalleled. In doing so she remains truly committed to serving the campus community and in ensuring that we excel in our mission.”

William Steffenhagen

Outreach program manager emeritus, Department of Dairy Science

Ann Wallace Career Achievement Award

Steffenhagen, who recently retired, is honored for his longtime dedication to campus academic staff. He was recently conferred emeritus status.

Beginning in 1989, he distinguished himself for hours of dedicated service to the Personnel Policies and Procedures Committee, the Academic Staff Executive Committee, the ASPRO board, and the Academic Staff Assembly. He was a valued mentor, colleague and manager and has a reputation as the “ultimate academic staff member.”

“Bill’s concern about what is in the best interests of the academic staff at UW was always clearly evident in the way he approached his duties,” writes his nominator, Karen Schwarz. “His extensive knowledge of UW–Madison and how it works has had a positive impact on all staff in his department and CALS and across campus. That style and knowledge will be missed!”

Thomas Wise

Researcher, Department of Physics

Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Research, Critical Research Support

During the past 30 years, Wise has compiled a record of excellence in research and service, having been recognized nationally and internationally.

In particular, UW–Madison is recognized as a world-class center for polarization physics, largely through his efforts, and he has helped make the university a key collaborator in the important Daya Bay neutrino project near Hong Kong.

The project is the first U.S.-China partnership in high-energy physics, establishing a new scientific dialogue between the countries. Wise is responsible for the precision filling of antineutrino detectors with target liquids and the associated logistics in the Daya Bay underground lab.

“During his research work, Tom has consistently demonstrated capabilities and commitments that far exceed expectations,” write his nominators, A. Baha Balantekin and Karsten Heeger. “Several generations of graduate students have learned their technical skills and experimental knowledge through him.”

Don Woolston

Assistant dean, director of the General Resource Office, College of Engineering

Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Service to the University

Woolston leads the staff who provide advising, orientation, academic support, counseling and admissions services for undergraduate students in engineering. In addition, he is the academic dean for all engineering undergraduates.

His contributions have extended beyond engineering to the broader campus through his role on the Athletic Board, SOAR planning team, Council on Academic Advising, Associated Academic Council, Wisconsin Alliance for Minority Progress, and the University Book Store board of trustees. He currently leads a UW System initiative to enhance access to UW–Madison engineering transfer students from MATC.

“A natural at efficiency, passionate about helping students develop and succeed, and a true mentor and campus role model for student-services professionals, he is truly a worthy recipient of this award,” write his nominators, Steven Cramer and Rebecca Ryan.