The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities Board of Trustees on Wednesday presented the Awards for Excellence, honors conferred to recognize professional achievement and excellence. The awards included the Professional Excellence Award for Administrative Service Faculty and the Awards for Excellence in Teaching.
At an event held to present the awards, Steven Rosenstone, MnSCU chancellor said, “There’s a very good reason we’re here celebrating you today. It is you, our faculty, who make our colleges and universities great. When we talk about ensuring access to an extraordinary education for all Minnesotans, we’re really talking about access to you. When we talk about our quality academic programs, we’re really talking about the work you do, both inside and outside of the classroom. When we talk about preparing students for life and careers, we’re really talking about the education you provide. And when we talk about changing lives, you are the women and men who help our students create a better future for themselves, for their families, and for their communities.”
The Professional Excellence Award for Administrative Service Faculty recognizes exceptional individual professional accomplishment in key roles that service faculty fulfill including recruitment, retention, and placement for students. The selection criteria include exceptional work performance; advancement of the university mission; expertise, creative achievement, and professional development; and contribution to student growth and development. This award was presented to Dr. Barbara Oertel, director of the Warrior Success Center at Winona State University.
The Board of Trustees also presented the Awards for Excellence in Teaching, which acknowledge and reward exceptional professional accomplishment in teaching. Evaluation criteria include teaching strategies and materials; content expertise and professional growth; assessment of student learning and performance; and service to students, the profession, the institution, and the system. This is the tenth year of the awards. The awards were presented to Dr. Justin Berry, Instructor in the Physical Therapy Assistant program at Northland Community and Technical College, William Breen, instructor of English at Anoka-Ramsey Community College, Adam Marcotte, instructor of English at Central Lakes College, and Dr. Shannon Peak Fiene, instructor of Mathematics at Minnesota West Community and Technical College.
“Outstanding faculty at all our colleges and universities make it possible for us to provide an extraordinary education for all Minnesotans,” said Mike Vekich, chair of the Board of Trustees. “The programs our faculty deliver – academic programs, advising, financial aid, registration, residential life, and student affairs, just to name a few – are vital to our ability to serve students and communities in every corner of the state.”
The 2016 Board of Trustees Professional Excellence Award for Administrative Service Faculty
Dr. Barbara Oertel, director of the Warrior Success Center at Winona State University
Barbara Oertel is known at Winona State University for her focus on student success and for continually searching for opportunities to improve the student experience. Oertel’s career at WSU spans more than 30 years, and throughout that time she has worked tirelessly, often behind the scenes, to improve the experience and foster the success of the many students who have chosen Winona State for their education. She is the founding director of the Warrior Success Center, a comprehensive student services department that helps students successfully transition into the university through orientation and placement testing; supports students during their time at WSU through tutoring, advising, and disabilities services; and assists students for the next steps beyond their studies through job searching and career advising.
The 2016 Board of Trustees Award for Excellence in Teaching
Dr. Justin Berry, Instructor in the Physical Therapy Assistant program at Northland Community and Technical College
Justin Berry has been a faculty member in the physical therapy assistant program at Northland Community and Technical College since 2005, and is an “exemplary faculty member, colleague, and community member.” Berry is a recognized expert and has earned multiple academic degrees in physical therapy including a Doctor of Physical Therapy; has published and presented many times on critical topics in the field; and continues to take workshops and courses to stay current in the field. In addition to the extensive education in physical therapy, he has earned a master’s degree in education and was honored by the American Physical Therapy Association as an Outstanding Physical Therapist Educator in 2014.
William Breen, instructor of English at Anoka-Ramsey Community College
William Breen has earned the respect and admiration of his students and colleagues at Anoka-Ramsey Community College for the passion, commitment, and joy he brings to his work as a writing instructor. Breen’s expertise is built upon earned academic degrees like a Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing, but it is also based in staying connected to writing and writers. He is actively engaged in professional organizations, networks through social media and conferences, has served as a visiting writer to a community school in Minneapolis, and has ongoing commitment to the Writing in Prison Project where he has served as a visiting writer to the correctional facility at Lino Lakes.
Adam Marcotte, instructor of English at Central Lakes College
Adam Marcotte “breathes teaching.” He is enthusiastic, passionate, creative, committed, relational, an expert in his field and, most importantly, totally dedicated to seeing that each student succeeds. He tells a story about announcing to his high school English teacher when he realized he wanted to be a teacher himself. She “dramatically gestured around her desk to the stacks of papers and folders for assignments that needed to be sorted and said, “This is what your life will look like, Adam, are you sure it’s what you want?” Marcotte was sure then, and he has not waivered from that certainty. Every syllabus at Central Lakes College includes this statement: “Facilitating this class is – without exception – the best part of my day.”
Dr. Shannon Peak Fiene, instructor of Mathematics at Minnesota West Community and Technical College.
Caring and approachable, noted as a “remarkable teacher,” Dr. Shannon Peak Fiene’s motto, “tear down the walls,” speaks to her commitment to lowering the barriers that block learning for students, many of whom come to her classes very nervous about math. While keeping expectations high, Fiene lowers those barriers in part by making learning fun: using audio, video, active learning, and humor to reach even the most math-anxious students. One way she does this is through a word cloud activity at the start of a developmental math class: students are asked to submit two or three words that come to mind when they think about math. Fiene then generates a word cloud that she shares with students; the visual provides reassurance to students that they are not alone in their worries. The students do the activity again at the end of the course, and Fiene notes the growth as student reactions “transform from those of emotions and expressions of hesitation to ideas related to key mathematical concepts.”