Supportive Professional Staff recognizes four with 2012 Presidential Awards for Excellence

Four members of the Supportive Professional Staff (SPS) have been chosen to receive the university’s Presidential Awards for Excellence.

The recipients are Todd Latham, assistant to the chair in the Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations; Michelle Pickett, director of the Academic Advising Center; Deborah Pierce, associate provost for International Programs; and Jason F. Rhode, assistant director of the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center.

The quartet will be honored at a reception from 2 to 4 p.m. Tuesday, April 17, in the Duke Ellington Ballroom of the Holmes Student Center. The awards ceremony begins at 2:30 p.m. Each will receive a plaque and $1,500 in appreciation for their outstanding contributions to NIU.

Dana Gautcher, director of the Office of Student Academic Success, and Anne Hardy, director of the Scholarship Office, will receive SPS Council Service Awards.

Refreshments will be served, and the reception is open to all.

Todd Latham
Assistant to the chair, Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations

Todd Latham

Todd Latham

When a Muskie Fellow from Turkmenistan expressed interest in an Educational Administration program offered by NIU’s Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations, Todd Latham was intrigued.

Those programs are designed primarily to pave the way toward licensure to lead Illinois schools and school districts. Few international students apply.

Latham met with program representatives to demonstrate how the M.S.Ed. in educational administration could be adapted to the student’s needs before talking with her and planning a course of study.

All typical, said Charles Howell, chair of the department. “But,” Howell said, “he went considerably further.”

Latham helped the student complete her Muskie paperwork, find an apartment and acquire furniture.

He drove her to O’Hare to retrieve family visiting during the holidays. He met with DeKalb school administrators to arrange her internship placements. He recruited Howell to serve as her thesis adviser.

“Although she will never be an administrator in the State of Illinois,” Howell said, “the prospect of her taking her expanded knowledge of American education and goodwill toward NIU back to Turkmenistan is highly gratifying.”

Hired by the College of Education in 2001 as an academic adviser, Latham maintains those duties along with the responsibility of all master’s, specialist and doctoral courses in Educational Administration, School Business Management and Curriculum and Instruction.

He assisted Howell in the design, approval and implementation of an online degree in school business management and continues to administer that program. In 2011, he oversaw the intra-college migration of Curriculum and Instruction programs into his department.

Michelle Pickett
Director, Academic Advising Center

Michelle Pickett

Michelle Pickett

Long after the work day is over, or even when the campus is officially closed for holidays and other breaks, it’s not uncommon to find Michelle Pickett at work.

Maybe she’s with students in the Exploring Majors House, attending their programs, leading their activities or hosting their speakers. Maybe she’s teaching UNIV 101, College Reading and Study Strategies or Cultivating African-American Women Leaders.

Maybe she’s simply talking with students to help them prepare for workshops and courses that will help them gain admission to NIU.

“Michelle Pickett exemplifies an amazing woman and educator,” said Monique Bernoudy, associate athletics director.

“She has a deep passion for motivating students to succeed and is enthusiastic about engaging in student success strategies,” Bernoudy added. “She is always energetic, positive and works tirelessly to enhance the experience of these students and our campus.”

Pickett, who earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at NIU and is working on her Ed.D. here in adult and higher education, joined the university in 1999 as assistant director of admissions.

In 2004, she became coordinator of recruitment services in the College of Education as coordinator of recruitment services. Three years later, she moved to the Academic Advising Center.

As the “reliable, scholarly and friendly” director, Pickett strives to build and maintain partnerships and collaborations with campus offices, including Admissions, Athletics, Career Services, CHANCE, Honors, Housing and Dining and more.

She also ensures her staff can access and afford professional development, something she considers integral to enhancing student persistence and success.

Deborah Pierce
Associate Provost, International Programs

Deborah Pierce

Deborah Pierce

Deb Pierce’s efforts to put people 35,000 feet above the ground have the Division of International Programs soaring to new heights.

Since her arrival in 2002, she routinely has logged 12-hours days to bring global perspectives to the university through programming, faculty exchange, curricular innovation and cooperation with institutions abroad.

“One of Dr. Pierce’s greatest passions is her desire to truly internationalize our university,” said Anne M. Seitzinger, director of the Study Abroad Office.

“She works tirelessly to reach all levels of administration, faculty and staff so the campus as a whole understands the value of all things international,” Seitzinger said, “such as study abroad, increasing our international student population, international training programs, the Fulbright program (and) integrating internationalization into the mission and vision of NIU.”

Paramount among those initiatives is NIU’s Phi Beta Delta chapter, which Pierce helped to found in 2004.

Former chapter president Christopher M. Jones counts the induction of about 425 globally engaged faculty, staff, administrators and “a handful of impressive honorary members” in the years since.

Chapter members have won national awards (Pierce wrote the nomination), raised money for undergraduate and graduate conference travel grants, welcomed renowned thinkers to campus and hosted annual receptions with NIU President John Peters to thank internationally engaged faculty and exchange scholars.

“It is a labor of love,” Jones said. “Deb loves the world – its people, culture, languages and societies – and she is driven to support others who share that love or who want to simply become better-informed and educated global citizens.”

Jason F. Rhode
Assistant director, Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center

Jason F. Rhode

Jason F. Rhode

Jason F. Rhode was locking up on a Friday afternoon, about 15 minutes after quitting time, when a faculty member arrived unannounced.

The professor, who had never taught an online course before, was assigned to do just that – starting Monday.

Could Rhode help?

“If it had been someone other than Jason,” said Murali Krishnamurthi, director of the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center, “he or she would have asked the faculty member to come on the following Monday, or would have said it would be difficult to learn to teach online on such short notice, but Jason unlocked his office door.”

Two hours later, mission accomplished, Rhode put another notch in his belt of committed service to NIU’s employees who teach with technology.

Rhode’s responsibilities include planning all “Teaching with Technology” programs and delivering many of them.

The winner of the 2008 “Star Award” from SLATE (Support Learning and Technology in Education) also has developed and presented online faculty development programs for those who cannot attend face-to-face.

In May 2011, he produced a comprehensive upgrade support and training plan for the Blackboard web course management system. Along with designing and implementing 40 new training programs on the new system, he worked with fellow staff to coordinate all new documentation, tutorials, quick guides and podcasts.

“Jason’s plan was such a success that Blackboard, Inc. has recommended it as a model for other universities to follow,” Krishnamurthi said, “and many other universities in the region as well as nationwide have adopted it.”

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