SPS announces recipients of 2016 Presidential Awards for Excellence

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

Recipients are Gregory P. Barker, director of Testing Services and Academic Affairs Research Support; Melissa Burlingame, current research associate in the Center for Governmental Studies and former program coordinator for the Institute for the Study of the Environment, Sustainability and Energy; William C. McCoy, director of the BELIEF Program in the College of Business; and Mark McGowan, editorial associate in NIU Institutional Communications.

The quartet will be honored at a reception from 2 to 4 p.m. Thursday, April 14, 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.

Other honorees:

  • SPS Council Outstanding Service Award: Kathy Smith
  • SPS Advocacy Award: Debra Miller
  • SPS Cultural Competency Award: Greg Ross
  • SPS Excellence in Supervision Award: Jason Rhode
  • SPS Institutional Advancement Award: Anissa Kuhar
  • SPS Partnership and Collaboration Award: College of Education Student Services – Margee Myles, Jennifer Such, Kristin Rinehart, Lisa Pitney and graduate assistants Brittany Hall and Sandy Blazer

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

Gregory P. Barker
Gregory P. Barker

Gregory P. Barker
Director, Testing Services and Academic Affairs Research Support

As director of Testing Services and Academic Affairs Research Support, Greg Barker is used to grading others.

When the tables are turned, those who work with him say he earns straight A’s.

During his 18 years in Testing Services, Barker is credited with leading efforts that have dramatically improved the speed and efficiency of services provided by the office. Professors who drop off tests often have results by the time they return to their offices.

He also has created additional opportunities for placement testing, improved the efficiency of those tests and created an online course evaluation process.

Those advancements were achieved, his staff says, thanks to Barker’s ability to maintain an atmosphere of cooperation, collegiality and empowerment – all areas in which he leads by example. “Greg is a visionary,” says Dana Gautcher, director of the Office of Student Academic Success. “He considers the big picture and scrutinizes the importance of all parts and pieces of the university.”

His contributions extend far beyond testing. The “difference-maker” helps to identify, and correct, issues at the core of some of the university’s greatest challenges. That includes development of a tool to boost student retention.

A productive researcher who regularly publishes in academic journals and presents at conferences, Barker has produced data-driven studies on diverse topics such as how students “leave” NIU and the value of Themed Learning Communities.

“He asks the tough questions,” Gautcher said. “He takes on the hard tasks, the mundane tasks, the tedious tasks, and he does so without complaint.”

Melissa Burlingame
Melissa Burlingame

Melissa Burlingame
Research associate in the Center for Governmental Studies
Former program coordinator for the Institute for the Study of the Environment, Sustainability and Energy

Melissa Burlingame cares. She cares about students, her co-workers and even the entire environment.

In her former role coordinating activities within the Institute for the Study of Environment, Sustainability, and Energy that go beyond curriculum and advising, she created new avenues for students, staff and the community to get involved.

Burlingame was instrumental in developing the Sustainable Food and Agriculture Certificate, first bringing together interested faculty, brainstorming the program’s components and then seeing the program through the curriculum approval process.

Known for her dedicated and collaborative nature, Burlingame’s expertise and can-do spirit is perhaps most evident in the service learning projects related to improving campus sustainability.

She coordinated several student service projects, including a green office certification program; plans to grow food on campus to be served in the dining halls; designing prairie restoration plans for campus land; and creating a feasibility report to compost food waste from NIU’s dining halls.

“The projects my students worked on contribute to the broader mission of the ESE Institute,” said Courtney Gallaher, assistant professor of geography and Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies, “and her help … is an excellent example of how much Melissa cares for students and improving environmental sustainability on campus.”

Her strong character and devotion helped shape the ESE into a successful program, colleagues says.

William C. McCoy
William C. McCoy

William C. McCoy
Director, BELIEF Program
College of Business

Dedicated. Passionate. Exceptional. Outstanding.

These words come up frequently to describe Bill McCoy.

McCoy has taken the College of Business ethics program, Building Ethical Leaders Using an Integrated Ethics Framework (BELIEF), to national ranking and international recognition. He was instrumental in leading student organization Leaders in Ethics and Academic Discipline (LEAD) and in securing a $1 million grant to NIU from the Give Something Back Foundation.

“Bill is deeply committed to NIU and its students, faculty and staff,” said Denise Schoenbachler, dean of the College of Business. “He has taken his core position in the College of Business to a new level with his extraordinary energy and passion for ethics education.”

McCoy’s impact goes above and beyond.

He is a member of the NIU Presidential Commission for the Status of Minorities, served on the Progressive Learning in Undergraduate Studies (PLUS) Leadership and Ethics Pathway development team and sat on search committees for NIU’s president and chief of police.

McCoy also is involved in developing corporate sponsorships and fundraising, increasing BELIEF corporate sponsorships from six to nine in just one year.

Known for his “enthusiasm, smile and infectious laugh,” McCoy’s true passion is the students.

“I have Bill to thank… for the confidence he helped me find, and for the fact that he believed in me,” said NIU Department of Accountancy alum Sam Kunde, assurance senior associate at RMS US LLP. “I am not the only student Bill has impacted over the years – he is truly remarkable and impacts many lives.”

Mark McGowan
Mark McGowan

Mark McGowan
Editorial associate/NIU Today editor, NIU Institutional Communications

Mark McGowan is the man behind NIU Today.

As editor of the university’s online news and information blog, his work touches the lives of just about all students, faculty and staff.

McGowan creates original content, writes headlines, rewrites unpolished submissions, finds and sizes photos and posts the stories. His work keeps the university community abreast of events, programs, initiatives, awards, sports, research, student engagement and more.

The website receives about 900,000 page views annually.

“Because he prefers to labor behind the scenes, few people beyond his immediate co-workers can truly appreciate what a contribution Mark makes to ensuring that the university projects a positive and professional image,” said Joe King, associate director of Institutional Communications. “Mark works nonstop to ensure that one of the most visited sites on the university website is always attractive, accurate, polished and informative.”

An NIU alumnus and former Northern Star editor-in-chief, McGowan also serves media relations specialist and a lead writer for the NIU Newsroom. His stories about amazing students and faculty are often featured in the giant banners across the university home page. They help attract students, place faculty in the media as thought leaders and reinforce President Baker’s “strategic triangle,” connecting students to engaged learning.

Among many other responsibilities, McGowan serves as coordinator of the president’s bi-weekly Baker Report.

“Mark is a dedicated team player who regularly puts in extra time,” said Rachel Xidis, associate director of Creative Services. “He takes pride in his work, no matter how large or small the task.”

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