The honor is based on President John Peters’ call for “engagement with the community through research, economic development, service and instruction in partnerships that benefit both NIU and the community.”
A longtime professor in NIU’s School of Nursing and Health Studies, Ciesla specializes in evaluating outcomes of programs that provide services to people in disadvantaged groups. His evaluation projects have assessed the effectiveness of substance abuse treatment services, technology literacy and access programs, public health planning, and other programs in related areas.
Ciesla has routinely included students in his field work, and has forged important, long-standing partnerships with organizations and individuals throughout NIU’s service region.
“Jim is a natural collaborator who understands the importance of early buy-in by key partners,” wrote Diana Robinson, interim director of NIU’s Center for Governmental Studies. “He’s very adept at finding common ground and balancing the needs of policymakers with those of practitioners, and the experiences he offers his students are invaluable.”
Several of those students submitted enthusiastic support for Ciesla’s nomination, including Daniel Focosi of Oak Lawn.
“Dr. Ciesla has been the most influential educator of my adult life,” Focosi said. “He involved me in field work with the Broadband Technologies Opportunity Project, and I learned about the struggles and barriers faced on a daily basis by those with low income, the elderly and people with special needs. I could not have imagined it before because of my limited view of the world.”
Ciesla’s leadership in evaluating what worked and what didn’t in the federally-funded broadband project brought him together with a wide range of public and private partners.
“Professor Ciesla is a perfect choice to exemplify NIU’s commitment to engagement,” said Gina Baxter, broadband project manager for Connected Living, Inc. “He is thoughtful in his messaging, engaging in his style, and generous with his expertise. His quiet confidence and commitment to excellence is a major benefit in any partnership.”
Among Ciesla’s numerous regional projects is a long-standing collaboration with Rosecrance Health Network, a provider of substance-abuse treatment for youth and adults. Ciesla, along with colleagues and students, undertook a 10-year outcome study that greatly informed Rosecrance’s approach to preventing patient relapse.
“Dr. Ciesla and his students have played an integral role in the advancement of this societal issue,” wrote Rosecrance COO David Gomel. “They spent countless hours collecting and analyzing data and doing phone interviews. The issue of recidivism and factors leading to relapse was taken head on, resulting in creation of a post-treatment monitoring program that is making a lasting impact on many lives.”
Ciesla will be honored at a reception and ceremony at 3 p.m. Thursday, April 19, in the Altgeld Hall Auditorium.
The Presidential Engagement Professorship award is accompanied by a $5,000 stipend, renewable annually during each year of a four-year award period. PEP professors also receive a specially minted medallion to be worn with their academic regalia.