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SPS recognizes 2014 recipients of Presidential Awards for Excellence

April 7, 2014

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

The recipients are Steve Estes, acting director of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Advising Office; Dana Gautcher, director of the Office of Student Academic Success; Kathryn Maley, assistant director of the History and Social Sciences Secondary Teacher Education Program; and Jeanne Meyer, director of the Office of Community Standards and Student Conduct.

The quartet will be honored at a reception from 2 to 4 p.m. Tuesday, April 15, 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.

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

Lesley Gilbert is the 2014 recipient of the SPS Service Award. Meanwhile, five new awards have been introduced this year.

  • Mike Stang won the SPS Award for Excellence in Supervision, which honors an employee who has demonstrated outstanding leadership and ethical practices when supervising professional and student staff.
  • Dan House is the winner of the SPS Award for Institutional Advancement, which honors and employee who has demonstrated leadership in activities, programs and/or research that has helped to advance his or her department and the university.
  • Greg Brady won the SPS Award for Advocacy, which honors an employee who has demonstrated advocacy for policies and practices that create a positive living-and-learning environment for students, faculty and/or staff.
  • Molly Holmes is the winner of the SPS Award for Cultural Competency, which honors an employee who has demonstrated leadership in helping to create a more culturally competent and diverse community at NIU.
  • Toni Tollerud won the SPS Award for Partnership & Collaboration, which honors an employee who has demonstrated a willingness to partner, cooperate and collaborate for the betterment of the NIU community.
Steve Estes

Steve Estes

Steve Estes
Acting director
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Advising Office

Steve Estes not only helps students navigate academic paths but teaches, inspires and advocates for them as well.

Lauded for the “care, respect and personal interest” he offers each of the thousands of students he has advised since 1996, Estes is also known for “establishing and cultivating relationships” with colleagues to create nurturing experiences for students.

Those friends call Estes is a “leader by example” who is just as generous with his time and enthusiasm in supporting their personal and professional growth.

“One of the things I value most about Steve is his energy and passion as a colleague,” says Cathy Doederlien, an internship coordinator in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

“He is always so positive, upbeat and supportive. He is a realistic about the challenges we sometimes face, but he approaches everything with a positive attitude, always striving for the best possible outcomes for all involved.”

Students in every college feel his impact.

Estes has taught UNIV 101 every fall since 2005, serves on the Common Reading Experience committee and helped to develop NIU’s first pre-law Themed Learning Community.

Denise Rode, director of First- and Second-Year Experience, attended one of those TLC classes last semester.

“Steve took his class to the DeKalb County Courthouse to view a trial, which helped the students visualize one type of work they might be doing in the legal profession,” Rode says. “(I) witnessed the excitement, learning and sense of community that he and his peer and graduate student learners had created.”

Dana Gautcher

Dana Gautcher

Dana Gautcher
Director, Office of Student Academic Success

The work of Dana Gautcher and the Office of Student Academic Success is serious stuff.

But that doesn’t mean it isn’t a blast – thanks to its director, whom employees and colleagues call a “mentor” with a “great sense of humor” who is “fun, friendly, creative and caring.”

“She takes the time to recognize her staff members and build a sense of community in her office,” says Julia Spears, associate vice provost of engaged learning.

“Whether she is planning friendly staff potlucks, celebrating birthdays or memorable occasions or managing office events, Dana always adds special touches.”

Gautcher, who joined NIU in 1998, leads her staff in developing and operating student success programs and retention initiatives such as academic coaching, MAP-Works, Edible Education, the Early Alert Referral system, Financial Cents and Student Success Collaborative.

All give students support necessary to graduate in a timely fashion and, says Vice Provost Anne Birberick, demand Gautcher’s imagination and commitment.

“It is not simply a matter of thinking outside the box but, in Dana’s case, of also having the ability to accomplish tasks, organize events and develop initiatives that show flair and style,” Birberick says. “She is collaborative, professional, innovative and committed to the success of NIU’s students, faculty and staff.”

Gautcher also offers her expertise nationally.

She has presented at the Higher Learning Commission Conference, the First-Year Experience Conference and the MAP-Works Conference, where NIU has collected several Excellence Awards. This month, she presents at the prestigious AAC&U national conference on student success and diversity.

Kathryn Maley

Kathryn Maley

Kathryn Maley
Assistant director
History and Social Sciences Secondary Teacher Education Program

Immediately after Kate Maley and her boss, Andrea Smalley, watched a documentary on teacher training in Finland, the director of secondary teacher certification programs in history and social sciences had a question.

“Why aren’t we doing this?” Smalley wondered.

Maley embraced the challenge, designing a “medical school model” for the early clinical program: Entire cohorts of teacher candidates would observe in the same school under the supervision of program faculty and practicing teachers.

The two-time NIU Department of History alumna (B.A., 2003; M.A., 2008), who sets high standards for teacher candidates, pitched her idea to the Office of University and School Partnerships and later to cooperating high schools.

“This was no easy task,” Smalley says, “as she was asking teachers and school administrators, already under considerable external pressures, to commit to hosting far more clinical students at one time and to experiment with new ways of doing things.”

But it worked.

DeKalb and Sycamore currently operate the model proposed by Maley, who won $2 million in Teaching American History grants.

“Long before we were preaching student-alumni connections, Kate was out there making it happen,” says J.D. Bowers, associate vice provost for University Honors. “She was able to involve our students in ongoing professional development activities but also was working to make the teachers better at their craft.”

Maley, known for her “warmth, wisdom and student-centered nature,” also keeps track of ever-changing state accreditation requirements, collects and reports assessment data and helped shepherd the program through the most recent NCATE review.

Jeanne Meyer

Jeanne Meyer

Jeanne Meyer
Director, Office of Community Standards and Student Conduct

Jeanne Meyer’s criminal justice career is reminiscent of some famous TV narration.

She’s served among “the police, who investigate crime; and the district attorneys, who prosecute the offenders.”

Her stories include the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and the NIU Department of Police and Public Safety. As a lawyer, she served in the Kane County State’s Attorney’s Office and the Kane County Public Defender’s Office. Her legal career also included private practice, during which she taught law enforcement at Kishwaukee College.

After Feb. 14, 2008, she joined the Office of Support and Advocacy. In 2009, she earned a master’s degree in counseling from NIU.

Finally, in 2012, she accepted what some call “one of the toughest jobs on campus.”

Students sent to the Office of Community Standards and Student Conduct receive her “careful and judicial approach” while she seeks “teachable moments” to ensure “fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory” resolutions.

“Her advocacy is strong and her legacy is fairness,” says Toni Tollerud, an NIU Distinguished Teaching Professor of counseling. “When you see her work behind the scenes, you know how hard she is working to keep students in school and to help them learn from their mistakes.”

“She does not take her job lightly; suspending or expelling a student in an interruption to his or her college career,” adds Donna Schoenfeld, director of Health Enhancement. “Every conversation … is an educational opportunity.”

Meyer, a willing volunteer, serves on several campus safety committees and is a national presenter at national conferences on student conduct.