MADISON, Wis.—The University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents today announced this year’s recipients of the Academic Staff Excellence Awards. These awards recognize exceptional service to the university and are the UW System’s highest recognition bestowed on members of its academic staff. The recipients were originally to have been honored at the Board of Regents June 2020 meeting. However, because of COVID-19, the ceremony will be rescheduled.
“This year’s award recipients reflect the remarkable efforts of our academic staff across the UW System,” said Regent Emerita Janice Mueller, chair of the selection committee. “We are inspired by the far-reaching and influential ways they are helping students succeed and contributing to their communities.”
Award recipients are selected for superior performance resulting in significant contributions to the department and institution; use of positive personal interaction to manage work changes; and a consistently creative approach that improves productivity and work quality. Each recipient is awarded $7,500.
The 2020 recipients include two individuals and one program:
Denise Olstinske, Administrative Program Manager III, College of Social Sciences and Professional Studies, UW-Parkside. Olstinske develops innovative higher education programs to recruit and support both traditional and working adult students. She established a concurrent enrollment program called Parkside Access to College Credit, which enables area high school students to earn both high school and college credit for certain classes. She attained a $1.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to create a U.S. history and civics program. Responding to the need of a Milwaukee high school, Olstinske developed a summer precollege program for its students, many of whom are underrepresented. She worked with Marquette University to bring an Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps presence to campus, and with the college dean, created two associate degree programs, one in professional studies and another in military and security studies. For working adults, she helped create the Master of Arts in Applied Professional Studies, an applied master’s degree that meets the needs of many industries. Olstinske serves on a variety of campus committees, including the Course and Curriculum Committee and the Adult Initiatives Committee.
Jenice Meyer, Community Engagement Director, Center for Community Engaged Learning, UW-Superior. Meyer is the founding director of the university’s new Center for Community Engaged Learning, which resulted from her work developing academic service-learning, a high-impact practice in which students take what they have learned in the classroom and apply it to real-world settings. Over the past decade, Meyer has made these opportunities available to students in 26 disciplines across 12 academic departments, resulting in nearly 11,700 hands-on, community-based learning experiences and $4.2 million of donated time to community partners. Students have provided nearly 215,000 hours of service, including helping small businesses with marketing plans, creating websites for nonprofits, and mentoring children in outreach programs. Due to Meyer’s leadership, UW-Superior actively contributes to Campus Compact, the national organization promoting student civic engagement, and earned the prestigious national Carnegie Community Engagement Classification, one of only 234 universities in the nation to hold such distinction. Meyer serves on numerous off-campus boards and teams, including the Pathways K-12 Initiative, Northwest Wisconsin Educators for Regional Development (NorthWERD), and the City of Superior economic development team. She presents at state, national, and international forums.
We Are Falcons, UW-River Falls. The We Are Falcons program began in summer 2017 to showcase what it means to be a Falcon and what UW-River Falls cares about as a university. Individuals from 10 functional areas formed the We Are Falcons committee, chaired by the Student Involvement Office staff. To engage students, the committee designed a diverse set of activities and tools, such as student video testimonials, an interactive website, a branded identity used for all communications and giveaway items, and events promoting the university’s values of academic excellence, inclusiveness, innovation, global engagement, and integrity. The program encourages students to participate in undergraduate research and international education and discuss topics such as bias, mental health, and preventing sexual assault and hazing. Graduate interns created “We Chat,” a monthly forum to explore concepts that allow students to challenge their beliefs, perspectives, and biases in an environment that fosters growth and a greater sense of community. The We Are Falcons program is an example of how UW-River Falls is committed to living out its mission and core values.
Other members of the Academic Staff Excellence Awards selection committee included Regent Robert Atwell, Regent José Delgado, and Regent Karen Walsh.
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The University of Wisconsin System serves approximately 170,000 students. Awarding nearly 37,000 degrees annually, the UW System is Wisconsin’s talent pipeline, putting graduates in position to increase their earning power, contribute to their communities, and make Wisconsin a better place to live. More than 80 percent of UW System graduates stay in Wisconsin five years after earning a degree. The UW System provides a 23:1 return on state investment. UW System universities also contribute to the richness of Wisconsin’s culture and economy with groundbreaking research, new companies and patents, and boundless creative intellectual energy.