MADISON, Wis. – The University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents will honor this year’s recipients of the Academic Staff Awards for Excellence at its regular board meeting March 6 in Madison. This is the UW System’s highest recognition bestowed on members of its academic staff.
The 2014 recipients, including two individuals and one program, are:
- Bonnie Isaacson, Senior Student Services Coordinator, UW-Eau Claire. A member of the UW-Eau Claire campus community for 23 years, Isaacson draws on her own experience as a first-generation student from an economically disadvantaged background. Her approach is to continually ask herself, “How can I better help students?” What she has accomplished is impressive. Isaacson developed a separate orientation program for non-traditional students and collaborated with the campus library to create a separate space for non-traditional students to meet and study. UW-Extension awarded several grants which she used to support veterans and military families studying at UW-Eau Claire. She served on the UW System Veterans’ Committee, and created new support organizations, including a group for students with children. Isaacson also created a one-credit general elective (Gen 100) course to help returning adults successfully transition into the university environment. She is the recipient of numerous campus awards, including the 2013 UWEC Excellence in Performance Award and the 2008 Roma Hoff Advisor of the Year Award.
- Ron Zimmerman, Director, Schmeeckle Reserve, UW-Stevens Point. Named the first director 35 years ago, Zimmerman has developed a world-class outdoor environmental teaching laboratory and community nature reserve, with campus and student support. Schmeeckle Reserve has grown from 127 to 280 acres, and welcomes 200,000 visitors annually. Zimmerman co-founded the nationally recognized environmental interpretation degree program in UW-Stevens Point’s College of Natural Resources. He co-authored “The Interpreter’s Handbook Series,” training manuals used internationally by universities, parks, nature centers, zoos, and aquariums. He created the Schmeeckle Reserve Visitors Center in the 1980s and secured funding for an addition. His collaborations with community members and state and national organizations have resulted in several partnerships. These include the Wisconsin Conservation Hall of Fame, highlighting Aldo Leopold, John Muir, and environmental giants with roots in Wisconsin, which is housed at Schmeeckle Reserve Center; the Green Circle Trail, a 26-mile hiking and biking trail encircling Stevens Point and headquartered at the Reserve; and Moses Creek, which was restored near the reserve, protecting the city water supply and providing wetland mitigation for a relocated U.S. Highway 10. Entrepreneurially, Zimmerman developed a hand-carved sign shop and provides interpretive consulting services nationwide; both businesses support the reserve and environmental interpretation program.
- Registration and Records Office, UW-Stout. Over the past three years, the Registration and Records office has undergone a complete transformation to better respond to the changing needs of students, graduates and the public. A challenge for every university is maximizing course attendance while minimizing efforts to accomplish this task. UW-Stout was processing more than 36,000 add cards via in-person registration to allow more students to enroll. The office used an electronic solution to move students from the waiting list into the course after each course drop to maximize capacity. This process allows departments to better determine course demand, relocate resources, and plan for hiring additional staff when necessary. Obtaining an official transcript from UW-Stout used to involve 12 steps that started with a paper request form and could take up to three weeks. After switching to an online service, the office has gone from processing 50 transcript requests a day to nearly 200, while saving money. Technology also helped the office reduce the time to send diplomas. Previously, UW-Stout often used the 45 days allowed after the end of a term to award diplomas. The office found that all degree audits could be run simultaneously and electronically. Now, 1,500 graduates can be processed in five minutes, and two-thirds of diplomas are awarded within four days after final grades are entered. Other initiatives include hiring a full-time military education benefits coordinator and improving services for veterans. The office provided consulting to a newly formed university in Azerbaijan on implementation of an integrated student information system modeled after the new system at UW-Stout. After enhancing services, the office earned two Models of Efficiency awards from University Business Magazine.
“These award winners reflect the high caliber and dedication of our academic staff systemwide,” said Regent Tracy Hribar, chair of the selection committee. “Their commitment to academic quality and student success is inspiring, and we are honored to recognize their wide-ranging and significant accomplishments on behalf of our students and campus communities.”
In addition to Hribar, award committee members included Regent Tim Higgins, Regent Janice Mueller, and Regent Drew Petersen.
Each winner receives a $5,000 award for professional development to enhance his or her program or function. Academic staff members and programs from each of the UW institutions were nominated for this year’s awards.