MILWAUKEE, Wis. – The University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents today honored the recipients of the Academic Staff Excellence Awards for both 2021 and 2020. These awards acknowledge exceptional service to the university and are the UW System’s highest recognition bestowed on members of its academic staff.

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.

Presentation of the 2020 awards was rescheduled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are honored to recognize individuals and programs that have helped to make our UW institutions second to none,” said Regent Karen Walsh, chair of the Regent Awards selection committee. “Their outstanding work – along with the work of academic staff systemwide – helps to strengthen and invigorate not only our UW institutions, but the communities in which they serve.”

The 2020 recipients include two individuals and one program:

  • Photo of Jenice Meyer accepting Board of Regents 2020 Academic Staff Excellence Award

    Jenice Meyer

    Jenice Meyer, Center for Community Engaged Learning, UW-Superior

Community Engagement Director Jenice Meyer, who grew up in a blue-collar family in northern Wisconsin, told Regents that UW-Superior, her alma mater, had been her ticket to a brighter future, and she’s committed to expanding the opportunities of higher education so others can also benefit.

“What it takes is a belief in the potential of everyone in the state, providing access for first-generation students, and UW System’s commitment to high-quality, affordable education in all parts of the state,” Meyer said.

The Center for Community Engaged Learning, founded by Meyer, encourages students to apply their classroom learning to hands-on, community-based experiences, a practice that ultimately benefits both students and the community.

“It takes self-motivation and sacrifice,” she said. “It takes continuing to persist, patience, and a positive attitude.”

  • Photo of Denise Olstinske accepting Board of Regents 2020 Academic Staff Excellence Award

    Denise Olstinske

    Denise Olstinske, College of Social Sciences and Professional Studies, UW-Parkside

“It’s truly an honor to be recognized at the highest level for the work I am so passionate about,” said Denise Olstinske, who has developed programs to recruit and support both traditional and working adult students at UW-Parkside. “It’s my passion and commitment to provide every person I meet with the tools to meet the future.”

She saluted her “small but mighty team,” noting that they “challenge each other and support each other’s ideas, which are sometimes creative, sometimes crazy, often reaching for the stars. We celebrate our successes, and we trust each other enough to allow mistakes.”

  • We Are Falcons, UW-River Falls
Photo of Elise Peters accepting the Board of Regents Academic Staff Excellence Award on behalf of the UW-River Falls We Are Falcons program

Elise Peters accepts award on behalf of We Are Falcons program

The We Are Falcons program, which began in 2017, encourages students to examine and understand both their own values and the values of the UW-River Falls community, said Elise Peters, Events and Activities Coordinator and Chair of the We Are Falcons Committee.

“We all have a story. We come from many places, have different perspectives, and value different things,” Peters said. “But regardless of your story, it brought you here.”

Peters said the Falcons Value series offers students to explore different values by asking questions like, what does academic excellence mean? What is inclusivity? What is global engagement?  What is racism or anti-racism?

“I want students to know when they are here, they are a Falcon and part of a community,” Peters said.

See the 2020 UW System news release: Regents announce Academic Staff Excellence Awards for 2020


The 2021 recipients include two individuals and one program:

  • Photo of Dr. Malia Jones accepting Board of Regents 2021 Academic Staff Excellence Award

    Dr. Malia Jones

    Malia Jones, Applied Population Laboratory, UW-Madison

Dr. Malia Jones’s work in the Applied Population Laboratory focuses on infectious disease epidemiology, herd immunity, and spatial variation in vaccine coverage – research areas that quickly became highly relevant during COVID-19 pandemic.

“I simply saw the need and did what I could to fill it,” Jones said. “It’s been very hard work, but also fulfilling to feel I have made a contribution. It’s also been a most humbling challenge.”

Jones is project co-founder, editor-in-chief, and a contributing writer for Dear Pandemic, an interdisciplinary team of women that uses its significant social media presence to help members of the public face the COVID-19 pandemic with curated, scientific, and practical information.

“It cannot be overstated how important it is that scientists engage in public discourse,” Jones said, noting the Board’s recognition of scientific endeavor provides an important signal and reflects the Wisconsin Idea, which she called the foundation of her work.

“It’s a powerful idea. I believe it can change the world,” she said.

  • Photo of Kimberly Langolf accepting the Board of Regents 2021 Academic Staff Excellence Award

    Kimberly Langolf

    Kimberly Langolf, Risk & Sponsored Programs, UW Oshkosh

Kimberly Langolf told Regents that as a scientist early in her career, she learned the vital importance of clearly communicating, and the COVID-19 pandemic hammered that message home.

“In the beginning, there was so much fear and anxiety. We needed to use scientifically sound information … to make sure the community felt confident we had their health and safety as our No. 1 priority,” Langolf said.

UW Oshkosh’s COVID-19 mitigation plan – backed by the UW System and its robust testing protocols – allowed the university to safely bring back thousands of students, faculty and staff, she said. “We also needed leaders to trust our boots on the ground, to take calculated risks in a time of extreme uncertainty.”

She credited a dedicated and talented team of people, from leaders to colleagues to campus police, who showed “grit, resilience and integrity. Without this army of people, this would not have been successful,” she said.

  • Jayme Reichenberger accepts award on behalf of Project Success

    Project Success, UW Oshkosh

Project Success at UW Oshkosh supports hundreds of diverse students each year, using phonics-based multisensory methodology to improve reading, spelling and writing skills, often leading to improved retention and graduation rates.

Project Director Jayme Reichenberger said a few things about the program stand out to her. “First, not one of our staff members sees their daily work as a job. Each person has a passion for the work that they do. It revolves around students, often advocating for inclusion, for students who are often overlooked and under-estimated.”

She added that the pandemic brought out new opportunities for program staff to support students and faculty in innovative, different ways, from enhanced support to meet the needs of online learners to reimagining traditional recruitment meetings.

“Our team is a tight-knit team,” Reichenberger said. “We try to use our strengths to support each other. We realize there’s always room to grow and learn, especially from the most difficult experiences.”

See the UW System news release: Regents announce Academic Staff Excellence Awards for 2021

Regents elect new leadership

Photo of Regent President Edmund Manydeeds III and Regent Vice President Karen Walsh

Manydeeds and Walsh

The Board of Regents elected Edmund Manydeeds III to a one-year term as board president. Manydeeds succeeds Andrew S. Petersen, who has served as president since June 2019. The Regents also elected Regent Karen Walsh as vice president.

Manydeeds is an attorney with Manydeeds Law S.C. in Eau Claire. He is a graduate of UW-Superior and earned his law degree from UW-Madison. He was first appointed to the Board in spring of 2010 and served a seven-year term. He was reappointed to the Board in 2019 to serve a second seven-year term.

Manydeeds told Regents he is committed to “promoting and working for the betterment of the System. I am humbled and appreciative.”

Walsh has served on the Board since May 2019, and is director of the BerbeeWalsh Foundation, a family foundation dedicated to human and animal health and welfare. She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in journalism from UW-Madison, and over two decades served in a variety of public information and communications positions at the university.

“I believe that in working across the aisle, we can strengthen this crown jewel of Wisconsin and set a course to improve lives across the state,” Walsh said.

Re-elected to the Board were: Jessica Lathrop, Corporate Secretary of the Board; Sandra Cleveland, Assistant Secretary; Megan Wasley, Assistant Secretary; Sean Nelson, Trust Officer; Charles Saunders, Assistant Trust Officer; and Quinn Williams, Assistant Trust Officer.

Farewell to Regent colleagues

Photo of Regent Eve Hall accepting a resolution of appreciation (from left) President Thompson, Regent Petersen, Regent Hall, Regent Klein, and Regent Emeritus Falbo

Regent Hall accepts a resolution of appreciation (from left) President Thompson, Regent Petersen, Regent Hall, Regent Klein, and Regent Emeritus Falbo

The Board recognized the service of two Regents, whose time on the Board is completed: Regent Eve Hall and Regent Carolyn Stanford Taylor.

Regent Hall, who had served on the Board since 2014, urged her fellow Regents to relish the time they are on the Board and to continue to learn from each other.

“My core is real simple: equity, diversity, and interdependence,” Hall said. “Because guess what, we’re an interdependent society. We cannot run from each other. When one wins, we all win. We don’t have to love each other, but we do have to respect each other.”

Hall also charged Regents to remember it is their responsibility to make sure “every student who comes to the UW is respected, embraced, given a chance for academic success, and to feel part of every aspect of university. If it’s not happening, we have to ask what we’re doing wrong. When things get hard, don’t leave the table until you figure out how to make things better.”

Regent Stanford Taylor, the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, has served as an Ex Officio Regent since 2019. After more than four decades in public education, she is now retiring.

Photo of Regent Carolyn Stanford Taylor accepting a resolution of appreciation (from left) Regent Walsh, Regent Petersen, Regent Stanford Taylor, and President Thompson

Regent Stanford Taylor accepts a resolution of appreciation (from left) Regent Walsh, Regent Petersen, Regent Stanford Taylor, and President Thompson

“I know that my calling, my passion, is education so I will never be far away from that,” Stanford Taylor said. “The last 15 months have challenged us in ways we couldn’t have imagined, and I think we’ll feel the aftermath for some time, with mental health, social isolation, all those things. We’ve also come through this whole call for social and racial justice. We’re still working our way through all this, but I think we have found some opportunities.”

Stanford Taylor urged fellow Regents to think about how to better connect Wisconsin’s PK-12 system with higher education to move closer to a seamless PK-20 system. “The pieces are there. We just need to connect them,” she said.

In other business, the Board of Regents:

  • Heard a resolution of appreciation for UW-Milwaukee’s hosting of the June 2021 meeting;
  • Approved the Regents’ 2022 regular meeting schedule;
  • Discussed the need to reconsider the System’s formula for allocation of funds to universities;
  • Approved an amendment to an existing consulting agreement between UW-Madison and Welch Allyn, Inc.;
  • Approved an amendment to an existing agreement between UW-Madison and Perspectum Diagnostics, Ltd.;
  • Approved a master research agreement between UW-Madison and Canon Medical Systems USA, Inc.;
  • Approved a fee-for-service agreement between UW-Madison and Cynata Therapeutics, Ltd.;
  • Approved an enterprise contract between UW System and Zoom Video Communications, Inc. for web conferencing services;
  • Approved UW-Eau Claire’s request for a Bachelor of Business Administration in Entrepreneurship;
  • Approved UW-Eau Claire’s request for a Bachelor of Business Administration in Human Resource Management;
  • Approved UW-Eau Claire’s request for a Bachelor of Business Administration in Operations and Supply Chain Management;
  • Approved UW-Madison’s request for a Master of Science (M.S.) in Sports Leadership in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis in the School of Education;
  • Approved UW-Milwaukee’s request for a Bachelor of Business Administration in General Business;
  • Approved UW-Milwaukee’s request for a Bachelor of Science in Neuroscience;
  • Approved UW Oshkosh’s request for a Bachelor of Science in Strength and Conditioning;
  • Approved a request to the trustees of the William F. Vilas Trust Estate for $6,811,066 for fiscal year 2021-22; these funds support student scholarships, student fellowships, academic programs, Vilas Research Professorships, and Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professorships at both UW-Madison and UW-Milwaukee in Biological Sciences, Physical Sciences, Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities, and Music;
  • Approved the annual report on tenure designations, promotions, and new tenured appointments made at the 13 UW institutions;
  • Approved revisions to Regent Policy Document 14-2, Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment; and
  • Approved the Fiscal Year 2022 Audit Plan.

See more photos from the June 4, 2021, meeting

Photo by Mary Baylor/UWM Photo Services

The University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents next meets on July 8-9, 2021, in Madison.