Fall awards shine a bright light on some of UWM’s finest

Mone leans over to shake the hand of the seated George Sosnovsky.

Twenty-eight faculty and staff members received awards for outstanding contributions to UWM at the 2017 Fall Awards Ceremony Oct. 11.

From a staff electrician who navigates damaged campus electrical systems after hours to a researcher mapping out the connections between estrogen and Alzheimer’s, the 2017 fall awardees covered a wide range of academic disciplines, and their work has enhanced operations and inspired discovery in every corner of campus.

While many of the awardees were recognized for landmark research and scholarship, original writing and dedicated teaching, staff who extend UWM expertise and resources into the greater Milwaukee community also were acknowledged. Individuals honored for these efforts include the co-founder of an influential meteorological service based at UWM and the director of a prized UWM facility that has become a Milwaukee gem, the UWM Manfred Olson Planetarium.

UWM Faculty Distinguished Undergraduate Teaching Award

Liam Callanan, associate professor, English

Since his arrival in 2005, Liam Callanan, a prolific author in his own right, has taught both the graduate students in the creative writing program as well as undergraduate literature and writing classes.

Callanan has also been creative in designing courses, notably the popular “The Art of Fiction: Harry Potter & Literature of Magic,” taking students on an exploration of magic in literature, and putting J.K. Rowling’s work in context with Chaucer, Shakespeare and Goethe, among others.

Evidence of his effectiveness as a teacher are the achievements of his students, some of whom have gone on to the Iowa Writers’ Workshop (the top creative writing graduate program in the country) and one who sold a script (based on a story from the class) to Netflix.

A representative evaluation from a student reads: “Personable to the students and obviously enthusiastic about the material, which is infectious. He is very intelligent, but never condescending … The most enjoyable professor I’ve ever had.”

Candance Doerr-Stevens, assistant professor, curriculum & instruction

Early one recent summer session, a theater education major walks into a roomful of future science and math teachers. A few weeks later, the student completes the course, calling it one of the best she’s ever taken.

An atmosphere of inclusivity, a sense of surprise and delight over mastering new technology are common experiences for students in Candance Doerr-Stevens’ classrooms.

“Candance always showed excitement when teaching and knew her subject matter very well and also how to apply it,” writes one student. “Everything I am learning I’m incorporating into my teaching goals.”

Teaching at the intersection of education and technology, Doerr-Stevens encourages her students to not only read and write, but to role play, tweet and tutor – the last task fulfills a service-learning criterion.

“Students the two of us share have told me repeatedly about how exciting and relevant Dr. Doerr-Stevens’ classes are as technology continues to change literacy practices with each new device or application innovation,” says a nominator.

In addition to the personal warmth and infectious enthusiasm documented in her evaluations, students and colleagues also note Doerr-Steven’s strengths in organization and expectation setting.

“The part I really enjoyed about Candance’s class was, as an education major, her transparency,” writes a student. “While explaining what was scheduled for class she would always also explain the rationale, the benefits, and learning outcomes for doing these exercise or assignments.”

Kevin McLeod, associate professor, mathematical sciences

Kevin McLeod has demonstrated an extraordinary enthusiasm for educating and inspiring students working at the most basic levels of mathematics.

Students have responded with lavish praise:

  • “You have reinvigorated my interest to learn, and I have been inspired by your passion for mathematics.”
  • “This class was fantastic. I really enjoyed the material and Professor McLeod was awesome.”
  • “This was the best math class I have ever taken. He is very knowledgeable, very patient, and just an amazing teacher.”
  • “I liked his enthusiasm and passion for both the content and for getting others interested in the subject.”

Yes, these are math students.

Professor Jonathan Kahl notes that students’ positive experiences reflect “countless hours of behind-the-scenes pedagogical and professional development.”

McLeod has developed a “student centered” teaching style incorporating active learning, which he uses to more fully engage students in math that they may previously have found to be mystifying and intimidating.

McLeod’s passion for teaching has also infected his colleagues in the math department. “I really can’t list all the ways in which Kevin has fostered my development as an educator over the past 10 years,” wrote associate professor Suzanne Boyd.

UWM Faculty Distinguished University Service Award

Aaron Buseh, professor, nursing
“Balance” captures Aaron Buseh’s graceful productivity in navigating community service, teaching and research in the College of Nursing. “Dr. Buseh’s community engagement and service leadership endeavors are inextricably linked to his scholarship/research and teaching domains,” a colleague wrote.

“Focus” describes his dedication to committee work. As chair of the Institutional Review Board Committee, Buseh maintains high ethical standards for the university’s expanding research portfolio by informing UWM scientists of policies regulating research involving human subjects. During the Zilber School of Public Health’s first years, Buseh was a formative adviser, serving on the school’s curriculum and recruitment committees.

Whether interviewing men with HIV/AIDS or talking to reporters about the Ebola virus, Buseh makes compassion, clarity and confidentiality hallmarks of his public health scholarship and advocacy. Buseh grew up in rural Liberia, which became an epicenter of the Ebola outbreak in 2014. Reporters from Australia to Milwaukee benefitted from his clinical and historical perspective on how epidemics can spread – and be contained – in unstable environments.

“He enlarged his heart to make Milwaukee and the academic environment here a type of second home to which he gave the lessons of his upbringing in West Africa,” says another nominator. “How lucky we have been.”

Buseh’s students are perhaps the luckiest of all. As program director of the nursing doctoral program, he has organized forums for more than 100 current and incoming students. Buseh mentors McNair scholars, consults on pilot studies and personally serves as major professor to 12 doctoral students.

Paula Rhyner, professor emerita, health sciences
Paula Rhyner is an outstanding citizen of the campus and has been throughout her career at UWM, contributing at all levels – university, college and department.

For nearly two decades, Rhyner was the campus coordinator of the Faculty Mentoring Program. Through her tireless work in that role, she has contributed to the success of hundreds of UWM junior faculty in their progress toward tenure and promotion.

Colleagues describe her as reliable, trustworthy and competent to lead practically any charge given to her.

She has a particular talent for connecting people and has helped develop broad, collaborative networks and interdisciplinary research in the general health fields.

Most recently, she answered the call to lead the reorganization of the School of Continuing Education, helping to transform how the university offers these courses, while improving the school’s efficiency and financial viability.

“Whether as a member of a governance committee or of an ad-hoc working group, Paula brings her A-game to the issues that make UWM a better place to work and learn,” said UWM Vice Provost Dev Venugopalan.

Office of Research/UWM Foundation Research Award

Miren Boehm, associate professor, philosophy

Miren Boehm is a leading voice in an emerging reinterpretation of 18th-century Scottish philosopher David Hume — viewed by many as the most important philosopher to have written in the English language. Hume is perhaps best known today for his highly influential system of philosophical empiricism, skepticism and naturalism.

Boehm examines Hume’s views on metaphysics and epistemology, focusing primarily on his masterpiece, “A Treatise of Human Nature,” published in 1739. While the treatise has traditionally been interpreted as a set of powerful skeptical challenges to any philosophical or scientific system, Boehm has delved deeply into the text, revealing within long-neglected passages a systematic, constructive foundation for the sciences — ranging from “Logic, Morals, Criticism, and Politics” to “Mathematics, Natural Philosophy, and Natural Theology.” As part of this “foundational project,” Boehm argues, Hume challenges Isaac Newton’s conception of absolute space and time, introduced 52 years earlier.

UWM Associate Professor of Philosophy and department chair Richard Tierney points out that “her work has already achieved a remarkable degree of recognition and has begun to exert a significant amount of influence for someone so early in her career.”

Harvey Bootsma, associate professor, School of Freshwater Sciences

Harvey Bootsma has helped reveal how fundamental properties of lakes — size, geologic setting, biotic composition and climate — influence and interact with the surrounding ecosystem. He has studied nutrient cycles and the impact on aquatic ecosystems of external stressors, such as invasive species, climate variability and land use.

Freshwater Sciences Dean J. Val Klump writes, “Harvey’s work has untangled some of the unpredictable ripple effects of the dreissenid mussel invasion that have completely reengineered the lower Great Lakes, and have permanently altered the Lake Michigan ecosystem.” The new paradigm that Bootsma’s lab has helped elucidate is helping guide policy and management decisions of fisheries and natural resource managers throughout the Great Lakes region.

Bootsma’s work has had a similar impact in Africa, where his studies of tropical Lake Malawi, one of the African Great Lakes, date back to his graduate work in the late ‘80s. His exploration of nutrient cycling, water quality and sanitation issues has led to partnerships with local governments, as well as environmental and economic improvements.

Freshwater Sciences Assistant Dean for Advancement Eric Leaf writes, “Dr. Bootsma’s exceptional research is helping to produce tomorrow’s Great Lakes and water experts, while also having direct and significant impact on the community.”

Dawn Erb, associate professor, physics
Dawn Erb is internationally recognized as a leader in the field of galaxy formation and evolution.

Calling her “one of the emerging stars of U.S. astronomy,” Max Pettini of the University of Cambridge points to two “landmark” papers by Erb. The first was a study of the composition of galaxies in the distant, early universe, which has shed light on the processes that shape galaxies and their synthesis of heavy elements from hydrogen and helium. The second identified galaxies thought to be analogous to far younger primordial galaxies believed to be responsible for the “phase transition,” in which neutral intergalactic gas became a plasma of charged particles. These ancient galaxies are too far to be seen in detail, but the analogs could offer insights into a key period in the evolution of the universe.

Erb’s thesis adviser, Charles Steidel, Lee A. DuBridge Professor of Astronomy at the California Institute of Technology, notes that “each one of her papers is a major piece of work that sets the standard for the field.”

Erb has received a National Science Foundation Early Career Grant and multiple highly competitive Hubble Space Telescope observing grants.

UWM Research in the Humanities Award

David DiValerio, associate professor, history 

David DiValerio’s book, “The Holy Madmen of Tibet,” is a study of a peculiar and surprising strain of Buddhism that also offers a unique lens on the study of religion. DiValerio’s subjects are yogins who burst forth from their 15th century monastic lives to shock their communities with bizarre behavior quite at odds with the common view of Buddhist monks as serene contemplatives.

One contemporary account describes a yogin whose “naked body was rubbed with ashes from a human corpse, daubed with blood, and smeared with fat. He wore the intestines of someone who had died as a necklace…”

DiValerio places this behavior in the context of political, religious and cultural battles taking place in Tibet when these yogins flourished. His translations of biographies from the period give a unique authority to his critical examination of the lives of these Tibetan “madmen.”

Andrew Quintman, associate professor of religious studies at Yale University, called the book “a major and lasting contribution to the study of Tibetan religious and cultural history.”

Christine Evans, associate professor, history

An avid scholar who digs deeply into texts others might overlook and whose writing shows clarity and liveliness whether on the op-ed pages of the New York Times or in a richly researched account of Soviet-era television, Christine Evans is the 2017 recipient of the Robert A. Jones and Mary B. Jones Award for Research in the Humanities.

A history professor and coordinator of the Russian and Eastern European Studies Certificate Program, Evans also is author of “Between Truth and Time: A History of Soviet Central Television” (Yale University Press, 2016).

Rigorous scholarship is one indicator of the book’s prominence: oral histories are referenced, and popular Soviet television programs “Seventeen Moments of Spring” and KVN are accounted for and compared to similar genres of television across Eastern and Western Europe.

“I found (the book) one of the richest and most dependable resources on socialist mass culture,” writes one reader and nominator.

The creative, engaging style and structure of Evans’ book also earns praise from readers and scholars.

“Deploying an impressive industry, intelligence and imagination, [Evans] takes the reader into the interior of a world largely unstudied,” writes a fellow historian. “By mining a variety of archives, she has come up with a work of profound originality that is a major contribution to the study of the postwar Soviet Union.”

UWM Research Foundation Senior Faculty Research Award

Karyn Frick, professor, psychology
For half of the human population, Karyn Frick’s research is of particular importance. Alzheimer’s disease affects women far more often than men. Frick’s work has found evidence that plunging levels of estrogen in menopause is part of the reason.

“Karyn Frick is considered a global expert on how estrogen hormones affect memory,” said Joanne Berger-Sweeney, president and professor of neuroscience at Trinity College. “Her contributions to the field span molecular underpinnings to behavioral influences.”

Frick has had an extremely impressive record of grant funding in a low-funding environment. She currently serves as principal investigator or co-investigator on four extramural and two intramural research awards, totaling close to $4.6 million.

Recently elected as a Fellow of the American Psychological Association, Frick is compiling and editing a book that will become the standard reference for the role of estrogens in cognitive functioning – a project she was asked to lead by several publishers acting independently.

Through her teaching and mentorship, she has inspired hundreds of trainees, particularly women and minorities, to pursue careers in neuroscience.

Josepha (José) Lanters, professor, English

Josepha Lanters has developed an international reputation as a scholar of modern and contemporary Irish drama, Irish satire and contemporary Irish culture.  She is the author of four books and more than 80 scholarly articles and book reviews.

Early in her career, Lanters published two acclaimed books on Irish drama: “Missed Understandings: A Study of Stage Adaptations of the Works of James Joyce” and “Unauthorized Versions: Irish Menippean Satire, 1919-1952.”

Most recently, she is the author of the forthcoming “The Theatre of Thomas Kilroy: No Absolutes” (Cork University Press).

Lanters’ 2008 monograph, “The ‘Tinkers’ in Irish Literature: Unsettled Subjects and the Construction of Difference,” has been praised for its examination of the role of tinkers in Irish literature, but also as an ethnographic examination of a marginalized caste of Irish people. Eamonn Wall, Smurfit-Stone Professor of Irish Studies and professor of English at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, favorably compared the book to Edward Said’s “Orientalism,” a classic critique of western views of Asia. “Lanters, like Said before her, probes literary works and how they have been read to reveal their deeper, hidden truths.”

Marius Schmidt, professor, physics

Marius Schmidt is using physical methods to investigate the structural dynamics of biological molecules, primarily proteins. He has advanced an imaging technique called time-resolved macromolecular crystallography to femtosecond resolution. At a rate of 10 trillion frames per second, his ultra-slow motion movies have captured a biological process fundamental to vision known as trans to cis isomerization, which involves the transformation of a molecule into another one with the same atoms, but in a different arrangement.

As Arizona State University physics Professor John Spence says of Schmidt’s work, “To make a movie of a protein absorbing a photon is a truly remarkable achievement.”

Schmidt has created the movies using the world’s most powerful X-ray laser beam, the Linac Coherent Light Source, housed within the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory at Stanford University. He is a major player in BioXFEL, a National Science Foundation Science and Technology Center that uses this X-ray laser to image proteins to determine their biological structure.

Beginning with his nearly $900,000 NSF CAREER Award in 2010, Schmidt has attracted over $6 million in external funding, and 300,000 Euros, as a principal or co-principal investigator.

Ching-Hong Yang, professor, biological sciences

Ching-Hong Yang has made many significant research contributions to unraveling how bacteria can cause diseases in plants, and he has developed novel methods to manage those diseases.

His discoveries in studying the microbial populations of the phyllosphere (leaf surfaces) have changed the way we looked at the phyllosphere. It was a microbiome study before the advent of widespread microbiome research.

Yang has identified the mechanism of virulence in many bacterial pathogens and is developing strategies to inhibit it.

“His work opened the door to a realization that these pathogens also use ‘stealth’ components to initiate disease and suppress plant defense responses prior to unveiling the big guns of degrading enzymes,” said James Borneman, a professor of microbiology at the University of California, Riverside.
Yang’s research on virulence has shown promise as an alternative to antibiotic use in agriculture. In 2013, he co-founded a startup company that is trying to capitalize on this basic research. The investors in this company have provided follow-on funding to UWM for additional research on his work.

UWM Academic Staff Outstanding Teaching Award

Sarah Weller Morgan, clinical associate professor, nursing
Sarah Weller Morgan is a clinical associate professor in the College of Nursing and director of the Nursing Learning Resource Center.

In addition to developing new courses in the college, Morgan made college history by being its first educator to win the Certification for Nurse Educators from the National League for Nursing.

As director of the Nursing Learning Resource Center, she is a certified educator in health care simulation learning and is leading the effort to integrate simulation learning in UWM’s three health professional schools.

“Through Dr. Morgan’s innovative and exploratory teaching style, the NLRC provides real world learning opportunities for nursing students in a safe and guided environment that allows for comfort in skills and a smoother transition into the development of becoming a nurse,” wrote Elise Peters, teaching assistant in the college.

“She routinely uses simulation, online learning, active learning, case-based scenarios, group discussions and role playing in her classes,” writes Barbara Daley, interim associate dean of the college.

In the community, Morgan tirelessly promotes health and well-being to underrepresented populations. She has served on the Cream City Foundation, chaired the Diverse and Resilient board and the Milwaukee Police and Fire Commission. She recently received the Bayard Rustin Award for LGBT Leadership, established to honor those who work behind the scenes to improve lives through social justice.

Leah Rineck, senior lecturer, mathematical sciences

Leah Rineck focuses on innovating mathematics instruction at UWM, particularly for students in developmental classes.

“One of the best examples of her success is the large numbers of her students who complete not only her developmental mathematics course, but are so motivated to continue learning that they also complete the college-level math course,” writes one nominator.

Rineck collaborates with STEM-aligned schools and colleges for summer bridge programs, leading the math portion of Engineering & Applied Sciences’ program. Many of her bridge students elevate their math placements upon completion. She attends monthly algebra-readiness seminars of the M3 UWM, MATC and Milwaukee Public Schools collaborative.

In addition to completing her doctorate in urban education, Rineck presents at conferences and shares her new findings with UWM and M3 colleagues. She goes out of her way to make sure she knows how students learn best. For the many returning veterans in her classes, she has researched – and shared – effective teaching and learning strategies. She received the ARC (Accessibility Resource Center) Excellence Award for her support of students with disabilities. Rineck has also started a department book club, focused on – of course – improving teaching and learning.

Due in part to her dedication and innovation, approximately 70 percent of first year students complete developmental mathematics, compared to a historic rate of 55 percent. Retention rates have increased from 75 percent to a persistence rate of just under 90 percent.

LGBTQ+ Champion of the Year Award

Cary Gabriel Costello, associate professor, sociology

Cary Gabriel Costello is among UW System’s most notable voices when it comes to system policy regarding gender identity. Often, zir (note: Costello prefers to use the pronouns ze and zir) experiences as a trans individual seeking equity in health care access and quality and transparency in insurance laws and regulations informs other members of the campus and UW System community.

In classrooms and committees, Costello continues this leadership. Ze directs the LGBT+ Studies Certificate Program, a role ze stepped into after a colleague departed. No additional compensation was provided, but zir leadership has ensured that a popular UWM program, which is also the state’s oldest freestanding LGBT studies program, remains a protected and valued campus asset. Zir work for the program is a direct contributor to UWM being named a Top 25 LGBT-friendly American university by Campus Pride. An active long-term member of the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee for LGBT+ Advocacy, ze is asked for input on nearly every initiative and is looked up to as an authority on best practices when it comes to LGBT+ initiatives.

Those who don’t know Costello from zir classroom or committee work may have attended zir spring 2017 talk, “Sex and Gender Have Never Been Binaries.” A collaboration with UWM Equity & Diversity Services, this talk helped to illuminate the fact that biological sex exists on a spectrum and also summarized the history of the conceptualization of gender as a binary.

Joanne Lazirko Award for Excellence in Teaching with Technology

Yael Gal-Ben Yitschak, lecturer, foreign languages and literature

Yael Gal-Ben Yitschak’s students learn a 3,000-year-old language using 21st century technology. Since she came to UWM in 2012, the Hebrew studies lecturer has created an entire curriculum of interactive smartboard activities, which engage her first- and second-year Hebrew students and further their learning. Her students not only learn the language, but also develop presentation, collaboration and communication skills.

Other language programs have adopted Ben-Yitschak’s teaching methods, changing the way foreign languages are taught at the university. Thanks to her efforts, UWM’s Language Resource Center received its first Smart Board for instruction. She has gone on to train over 80 instructors from all university language programs through her Smart Board Pedagogy workshops.

In fall 2017, she will help the Hebrew Studies program offer its first fully online Hebrew course, which will teach students at universities that don’t offer Hebrew courses.

Above all, her innovations serve student success. As one nominator wrote: “Yael will never use technology simply because it is new and trendy. She is always guided by her concern for her students’ learning and what will help them to better achieve their learning goals.”

UWM University Staff Outstanding Service Award

Georgette Jaworski, academic program associate, philosophy

For 10 years, Georgette Jaworski has helped the Philosophy Department manage its budget, helped the faculty, instructional staff and teaching assistants with their instruction, research and travel needs, assisted the undergraduate adviser and handled questions from those who stopped by the office.

In August 2016, she was asked to take on more duties when the office’s other academic program associate left for another position just as the department was gearing up for a new academic year.

“She had to assume responsibility for course scheduling and for everything to do with our graduate program and other responsibilities as well,” writes William Bristow, associate professor and chair of the department, in nominating her. In addition, she had to train a part-time employee who was brought in to replace the other program associate.

“Georgette’s work in this period was heroic, and we in the Philosophy Department and in the UWM community at large owe her a great debt of gratitude (a debt piled on top of our debt of gratitude for her extraordinary service during normal times),” Bristow says.

With an internationally ranked master’s program and 20 teaching assistantships, Jaworski’s workload increased. The end result of the downsizing of office staff, adds Bristow, was a cost savings without an adverse impact on programs because of Jaworski’s extra work.

“Our graduate program had a good year this past year (excellent placement, excellent recruitment) despite the challenges, and we owe this in no small part to Georgette’s extraordinary contributions.”

Giulio Leonardelli, electrician, facilities services

Giulio Leonardelli responded after hours to assist the Milwaukee Fire Department during the April 8, 2016, theater building fire. Good thing he did. Firefighters were prepared to shut off electricity to the campus’ entire southeastern quadrant, which would have further hampered operations after the fire. Leonardelli had a better solution. With the fire department’s permission, he entered the smoke-filled building and shut off the damaged building’s electricity. When asked if he needed a schematic to find the correct panel, he said, “No, I know what to do.”

“Giulio does whatever it takes to resolve issues, no matter the time of day,” his nominator wrote. “His willingness to come in off hours to resolve electrical issues has minimized damage to campus equipment and property.”

His quick work to restore power in the Northwest Quadrant after a January flood prevented damage that could have cost UWM thousands of dollars. The theater building fire wasn’t his first time assisting first responders with major electrical problems. Leonardelli’s repairs to campus high voltage equipment continue to make UWM a safe place to work and learn.

Bonnie Murphy, financial specialist senior, Joseph J. Zilber School of Public Health

Bonnie Murphy’s dedication to the Joseph J. Zilber School of Public Health extends far beyond her primary job as the school’s financial specialist senior. In her regular job, she assists faculty with budgeting and financial planning, while trying to minimize the school’s expenses.

She has also given her time to the school outside the office by taking on the roles of building chair and event facilitator. After the previous building chair retired, she spent 18 months making sure that school ran smoothly. She coordinated events and organized the building calendar. She worked closely with the assigned security officer to keep the building safe, and processed requests for security ID scans. She also assisted with orientation of new faculty and staff.

She also served on the school’s Dean Search and Screen Committee, and participated in interviews with candidates. She scheduled meeting rooms, coordinated with University Relations, hired catering and ensured that all candidates had successful visits.

The nominator wrote that this award recognizes “her incredible contributions to the school’s success.”

Maurina Paradise, academic department specialist, Electa Quinney Institute
Maurina Paradise is an academic department specialist working for the Electa Quinney Institute for American Indian Education. She manages fiscal information and supports a variety of programs sponsored by the institute. In addition to supporting and encouraging students visiting the institute, she has created and organized two summer camps for Native American students.

The Mooshkine camp for eighth- through 12th-grade students focuses on science, technology, environment, art and mathematics. The NARCH camp is a 10-day residential program that gives Native American students from Wisconsin reservations the opportunity to visit Milwaukee and learn more about health and science careers.

“Maurina goes above the call of duty in ensuring students have a safe space for academic enrichment, recreation and arts programming during their visit to UWM,” writes Patricia Najera, an outreach program manager who nominated Paradise.

Paradise has helped lead a detailed review of office expenses, streamlining phone lines and centralizing printing.

She is actively involved in the multicultural network in Bolton Hall, attending monthly meetings with advisers and staff from American Indian Student Services, the Black Cultural Center, African American Student Academic Services, Southeast Asian-American Student Services and the Roberto Hernández Center.

“It is an absolute pleasure to work with Maurina Paradise,” says Najera. “She has so much energy and is a great support to all of us at EQI.”

UWM Academic Staff Outstanding Performance & Service Award

Jean Creighton, director, UWM Manfred Olson Planetarium

As director of the UWM Planetarium, Jean Creighton has more than doubled the number of visitors to the facility between 2005 and 2016. Over the decade, about 100,000 people have come to the planetarium – equivalent to one in six people in the city of Milwaukee.

“Dr. Creighton is an ambassador who translates science and makes it accessible to the rest of us,” writes collaborator Robin Mello, UWM associate professor of theater. “She has taken the Manfred Olson Planetarium out of its respected, yet obscure, position and turned it into a vital and dynamic Milwaukee-based institution.”

She has also partnered with other UWM departments, such as English and theater to produce shows that highlight the influence of space and the night sky in our culture.

Creighton also is a persistent voice for UWM research through her extensive public engagement efforts. This includes being selected by NASA for a SOFIA flight and talking about it in a TEDx talk and also on her monthly radio interview on WUWM-FM.

“In our current political climate, where science and objectivity are under attack, Jean’s work in science communication cannot be any more critical,” says nominator Philip Chang, associate professor of physics.

Michael Westendorf, director of operations, Innovative Weather

As director of operations at Innovative Weather at UWM, Michael Westendorf plays an essential role in fulfilling each part of its three-fold mission: providing community and business partners with customized, reliable risk assessment forecasts, giving UWM students hands-on meteorological experience, and providing WUWM listeners and web visitors with frequent, dependable weather forecasts.

Westendorf manages Innovative Weather’s day-to-day activities, training of meteorology students and staff, client recruitment and integration into the operation.

“Mike is the embodiment of UWM’s service to the community,” says Paul Roebber, director of Innovative Weather and UWM distinguished professor of mathematical sciences. “He comports himself in that role exceptionally well. Without someone of Mike’s personal and professional qualities and dedication, it would have been impossible for the program to begin, let alone to continue. Mike is simply essential to its operation.”

A 1996 graduate of the UWM Atmospheric Sciences bachelor’s program, Mike helped found the Atmospheric Sciences Club at UWM. After post-undergraduate research with Roebber on high-resolution modeling and radar analysis, Mike’s weather-related employment included director of operations at Minneapolis-based Weather Eye and severe weather assistant at WTMJ-TV under then-chief meteorologist Paul Joseph.

Susan Yorio, clinical associate professor, communication sciences & disorders

Susan Yorio embodies the term “above and beyond,” and since joining the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders in 2007, the veteran speech pathologist and clinical associate professor has provided extraordinary leadership.

“Susan’s vision of how people can work together successfully has led to new levels of collaboration between faculty and the clinical academic staff within the department,” said Carol Seery, associate professor and department chair.

Along with teaching, Yorio and her students treat clients in the UWM Speech and Language Clinic, and she also involves students with meeting their clients in settings outside the clinic.

Yorio has given generously of her free time to coordinate free diagnostic and remediation services in K-12 classrooms, churches and community agencies across Milwaukee. She also organizes an annual speech and language screening for children who attend the UWM Children’s Center.

Others have also noticed Yorio’s drive and commitment. Among her numerous awards, Yorio this year was given a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Wisconsin Speech-Language Pathology & Audiology Association.

Ernest Spaights Plaza honorees

Connie Jo, assistant dean, College of Letters and Science

Service to UW-Milwaukee: 1971-2016

Over the course of 45 years of dedicated service, Connie Jo has made a profound impact on the development and evolution of UW-Milwaukee into the vibrant and diverse environment it is today. Her contributions are well-known across the UW System, the university and particularly in the College of Letters and Science where she embodied the college’s institutional memory.

Jo’s commitment to academic advising and student success, curricular development, administrative excellence and governance are cited by faculty, staff and higher education peers throughout Wisconsin. She assisted in all levels of program development, ushered in new programs through campus-level faculty governance and ultimately the UW System.

Described as having laser-like attention to detail and enduring patience, Jo quickly gained the respect of those who worked with her. Known as a problem solver, she significantly contributed to the preparation and improvement of campus policies and procedures that continue to guide and govern UW-Milwaukee today.

Jo’s designation as a distinguished academic staff member is a rare and telling testimony of her unfaltering advocacy and influence, including her leadership roles with educational organizations regionally and nationally. Jo is described as exemplifying the virtues of dedication, sacrifice and involvement in causes beyond herself. Her mindset has been infectious and inspirational – nobody was a stranger and everyone was worthy of a voice, an education and proper representation.

James A. Sappenfield, professor emeritus, Department of English

Service to UW-Milwaukee: 1966-2005

James Sappenfield exemplified scholarly and collegial qualities throughout his 39-year career with UW-Milwaukee. He joined UWM in 1966, which was a nascent yet challenging time for the Department of English. He was a steadying force who brought others together during a tumultuous period of building a truly merged department from what many considered to be two disparate entities – the former Wisconsin State Teachers College and the University of Wisconsin Extension.

Sappenfield produced internationally recognized scholarship and recruited exceptional research faculty. He significantly improved the academic quality and reputation of the university and played a significant role in the university’s academic growth.

A devoted teacher of early American literature and an intrepid administrator, Sappenfield served three terms as chair of the English Department, and as associate dean in the Graduate School and interim dean of the School of Fine Arts. His contributions and vision led to the English Department becoming one of the first at UWM to be ranked nationally. Over his time serving as department chair, Sappenfield created a competitive and well-respected doctoral program that continues to significantly shape Wisconsin’s literary landscape today.

Much of Sappenfield’s scholarship was dedicated to Cooper, Hawthorne and Melville. He edited numerous Cooper novels and a three-volume edition of Irving’s “The Life of George Washington.” His love of literature and travel were foundational to his teaching of students in Germany, Egypt, Poland and England.

Sappenfield is remembered as a dependably kind, generous, supportive and collegial academic and administrator who mentored students and faculty at all points during their careers. Before his death in 2011, he patiently taught others how to navigate the university and how to serve others with consistency, respect and high standards for scholarly excellence. He is described as an unsung hero.

George Sosnovsky, professor emeritus, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, College of Letters and Science

Service to UW-Milwaukee: 1966-1993

George Sosnovsky is a giant in UW-Milwaukee’s transformation from a teaching university to a top-tier research university. The legacy of his work in organic chemistry and commitment to excellence had a major role in UWM becoming a R1 university. Decades ago, his vision laid the framework for the UWM Chemistry Department including the current building design that he sketched into a working model.

Sosnovsky’s work was not only transformative – it had lifesaving impact on thousands of individuals. During his tenure at UWM, he developed an internationally recognized research program in two interrelated areas of organic chemistry – the synthesis, study and use of free radical organic molecules and the development of such molecules as potential anti-cancer drugs. His research interest in medical chemistry provided a foundation for the Milwaukee Institute for Drug Discovery.

Sosnovsky is recognized nationally and internationally in his field. In 2007, he received the highest honor from University of Innsbruck in Austria for his contributions to chemistry and to the international community of chemists. His scholarship is evidenced by authorship of more than 170 papers, several patents and the publication – after age 90 – of a book he co-authored.

He continues to support the next generation of scientists through his endowment of the Sosnovsky Lecture Series in Cancer Research, the annual Sosnovsky Award for outstanding graduate students and the national George and Christine Sosnovsky Award for Cancer Research awarded biennially through the American Chemical Society.


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