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2015 Provost's Award of Excellence: front row, l-r, Cindy Piletic, President Jack Thomas, Provost Kathy Neumann, Katherine Perone; back row, l-r, Peppi Kenny, Raphael Obregon, Justin Ehrlich, Theo Schultz, and Timothy Roberts.
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Provost's Award of Excellence Winners

October 21, 2015

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MACOMB, IL -- Six Western Illinois University faculty members and one academic adviser have been named 2015 Provost's Award of Excellence winners. The Center for Innovation in Teaching and Research (CITR) at WIU organized six-member committees charged with determining excellence in each of the determined areas.

"It is an honor to present the Provost's Awards of Excellence to the WIU faculty and staff who have dedicated themselves to making this campus the outstanding place it is," said Interim Provost Kathy Neumann.

Provost's Award for Academic Excellence in Teaching with Technology
Justin Ehrlich, Computer Science

The selection committee noted: "Professor Ehrlich's teaching philosophy is grounded in the idea that teaching must walk hand-in-hand with technology to prepare our students to be effective members of a digital world. More importantly, he prepares them to become effective leaders in society and the field of computer science. Dr. Ehrlich's ability to keep his students current is reflected in his contribution to the technology design for a new lab. The resulting Advanced Applications and Design Lab includes a state of the art environment that allows WIU to prepare computer scientists, engineers and graphic designers for leadership roles. While cutting edge teaching and facilities provide a platform for student to excel in the field, he goes far beyond these requirements by modeling leadership in computer science teaching through his service and scholarship. His role as the Computer Science Association adviser provides students with leadership and learning opportunities, and his work to improve learning for the developmentally disabled is evident by the receipt of an $115,791 U.S. Department of Education award to support interactive virtual learning for autistic students. His research is perhaps even more noteworthy because of the opportunities he provides his students to work along side him professionally."

Provost's Award for Academic Excellence in University/Community Service
Katherine Perone, Health Sciences and Social Work

The selection committee said, "When discussing her philosophy to service, Dr. Perone said her philosophy about community service mirrors John F. Kennedy's quote about service, but with her own twist, 'Don't ask what your community can do for you, but what you can do for your community.' Her record of achievement demonstrates the ways she has brought that philosophy to life. Dr. Perone has provided useful and needed service at every level, from her department and college to the University, her profession and the larger community. In addition to serving on numerous departmental committees and as faculty adviser of the Social Work student organization, she serves as a college representative on the judicial board and a member of the College of Education and Human Services dean's committee regarding departmental restructuring. She is an active member of the Society of Social Work Leadership in Health Care, and has also served as co-chair of the McDonough County Social Service Interagency Council. Her mentorship of students has taken several forms, from guiding majors through the professional development of the social work practicum to serving as a Big Brother/Big Sister lunch mentor. Her efforts demonstrate a sustained commitment to Western and the wider community, as well as the impact her efforts and initiatives have had in changing lives."

Provost's Award for Academic Excellence in Scholarly/Creative/Performative/Professional Activities
Raphael Obregon, Engineering Technology

According to the selection committee, "Mr. Obregon's work can be summarized in three words: dream, validate and execute. He has collaborated with a local corporation, and obtained grant funding from the U.S. Department of Defense to design a lightweight engine for unmanned aerial vehicles. The result of the partnership was the only engine to receive funding to develop a working prototype, which was refined, improved, ratified and validated through simulations. While the engine that was designed has military applications, the technology also has commercial applications. Mr. Obregon has incorporated the results of his research into courses that he teaches, and his work with students. During the period under review, he taught 16 courses, coordinated internships and directed independent study for six students. He has introduced 3-D technology into the department and his courses, and used the technology to build additional 3-D printers. Two of his student won the 2014 3-D Printing Contest, a competition of the Society of Manufacturing Engineering, and he has shared his 3-D printing expertise with other schools and departments on campus. He has truly excelled in his contributions to the intellectual environment, the significance of his research and his professional research activity, which he has generously shared."

Provost's Award for Academic Excellence in Multicultural Teaching
Cindy Piletic, Kinesiology

The selection committee said, "Dr. Piletic's personal philosophy of inclusion is evident by the framed collage of words and phrases surrounding the statement 'Celebrate Diversity' that is displayed on her office wall. Multiculturalism can be defined as viewing each culture with respect ... In a letter of recommendation, a colleague noted 'Dr. Piletic was able to capture the essence of what it takes to strengthen relationships between those considered 'normal' and those considered 'not normal' by teaching college students with new methods, insight and energy to present both target groups as equal. She has a way of bringing oneness to her teaching and dispelling these biases.' As an adapted physical education specialist, she embraces the differences and uniqueness of all students. Her goal is to be respectful of, and assist and value all students. Teaching and modeling an inclusive environment is another way that Dr. Piletic brings multiculturalism to Western. She also has a longstanding and consistent devotion to professional service. Dr. Piletic has been involved in her profession for almost 20 years, and has served in a variety of leadership roles with national organizations over the years. She is also the director of the WIU Adapted PE Motor Clinic, and last year, this clinic was awarded the National Program Recognition award from AAHPERD and the Adapted Physical Activity Council. Her tireless work in disability studies and advocacy make her an excellent candidate for this award."

Provost's Award for Academic Excellence in Teaching
Peppi Kenny, Department of Accounting and Finance

According to the selection committee, "Dr. Kenny excels as an educator. As one letter of support stated, 'She has an ability to focus on the needs of each individual student, listen carefully to what they are asking and help them understand the material.' Dr. Kenny gets her students involved. She creates real-world simulations that students will confront in their professional lives. Her use of hands-on activities allows students to apply what they are learning in ways that will help prepare them for their careers after they graduate. Dr. Kenny also uses technology to enhance the classroom experience. Her classes contain numerous examples of how she creates her own materials, including video technology to demonstrate financial calculations. She also show leadership in curriculum development, serving as chair of the department's curriculum committee and creating a new course, 'Financial Health,' designed to enhance the financial literacy of WIU students. Western is fortunate to have a professional as talented as Peppi Kenny. According to one of her nominators, 'She is simply the best at what she does.'"

Provost's Award for Excellence in Internationalizing the Campus
Timothy Roberts, Department of History

The selection committee noted, "Professor Roberts introduces students to international perspectives, both in and out of the classroom. Fostering a more interconnected world is a social responsibility that he takes seriously, as evidenced by his standout record of education, leadership and service. Professor Roberts has worked hard to expand students' worldviews through courses and programs he has developed, at Western and abroad. Although he is an American historian, his courses situate U.S. history in a global context and seek to understand the interconnectedness of global issues. He has also created two study abroad programs. In 2012, he led the first WIU trip to Turkey, having lived and taught in Turkey for several years before coming to Western. In 2013-14, Professor Roberts taught as a Fulbright Lecturer in China. As a result of this experience, he developed the American Footsteps in China program, which will be offered to WIU students for the first time this year. He is the co-founder, and serves as faculty adviser, of Western Against Slavery, an anti-human trafficking group, and works with students from several disciplines to raise awareness for, and organize against, modern slavery. Professor Roberts and his family also participate in the University's International Neighbors Program. It is clear that Tim Roberts have done much for Western in all his work to internationalize our campus."

Outstanding Academic Adviser
Theodore Schultz, School of Nursing

According to the committee, "Mr. Schultz, who graduated from WIU with his bachelor's degree in 2006 and his master's degree in 2009, has served as the academic adviser for the School of Nursing since 2009. He was first selected as the April 2014 Adviser of the Month. In that nomination, a faculty member wrote, 'The faculty and staff appreciate his friendly persona, caring and helpful demeanor and highly efficient style, all of which are a must in the fast-paced advising within the School of Nursing. Another nominator wrote, 'Theo makes every effort to make the students and their families feel that they are the most important appointment of the day.' Others commented that while the nursing education field can be stressful, Theo handles the ups and downs well, and leads students in a direction that is best for them."

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