Four members of NIU’s Supportive Professional Staff (SPS) have been selected as honorees of the 2018 Presidential Awards for Excellence. Their contributions to NIU and the community have been innovative and influential—both enhancing NIU’s reputation and their own. Receiving presidential recognition for their work illustrates the vital role SPS have on building programs, improving operations and cultivating the character of the university.
Recipients are Denise Burchard, assistant to the chair of the Department of Public Administration; Gillian King-Cargile, director of STEM Read; Abbey Wolfman, director of Orientation and Family Connections; and Carrie Zack, associate director of Educator Licensure and Preparation. Each will receive a check for $1,500 and a plaque.
They will be honored during a ceremony at 2:00 p.m. on April 10, in the Altgeld Hall ballroom. Refreshments will be served during a reception preceding the ceremony at 2 p.m. The reception and ceremony are open to all.
Denise Burchard is proud to work for the master’s degree program she graduated from a few years back.
As the assistant to the chair of the Department of Public Administration, Burchard’s primary responsibility is to recruit students and manage the Master of Public Administration (M.P.A.) internship program. She develops, evaluates and maintains over 40 internship sites each term—requiring countless hours coaching students and building relationships with local governments and nonprofit agencies.
Benefitting from Burchard’s effective recruitment efforts of both full-time intern and part-time students, M.P.A. enrollments increased 75% from 2011 to 2017. In addition, Burchard goes above and beyond to consistently recruit full-time students to the M.P.A. by leveraging her personal standing in the local government management profession.
Lisa March, a colleague of Burchard, shares, “Denise is constantly looking for new ways to serve current students, recruit new students, get more alumni involved, find more internship opportunities, raise more money, build more partnerships and learn new skills. She is devoted to continuous improvement and her devotion is infectious.”
Burchard’s work further enhances NIU’s reputation as one of the leading local government management M.P.A. programs in the nation. She serves on committees for the Illinois City/County Management Association (ILCMA) and has initiated and coordinated events which promote the local government profession to undergraduate students in Illinois. She is also an advocate for increasing the number of women and minorities in public service and serves as a board member for the Women’s Legacy Project.
Students and colleagues are quick to point out Burchard’s professional, yet personalized attention. As an alumnus of the M.P.A. program, they say she shares the core values of the public service professionals she works with and is admired for her commitment to highly ethical, transparent leadership and service.
Burchard is the first to say that her successes have not come without the collaboration of the department faculty, staff and fellow M.P.A. alumni, for which she has tremendous respect.
Gillian King-Cargile is the creator and director of one of the most innovative literacy programs in the country, attracting support from literacy experts, state education agencies, foundations, publishers, libraries, museums, national laboratories and dozens of school districts. NIU STEM Read is King-Cargile’s brainchild. With her energy, passion and innovative ideas, the program has had an impact across the region, the state and the nation.
Never afraid to go outside of the box, King-Cargile is continuously working to provide educational ways for educators and parents to connect with students. Whether it’s collaborating with WNIJ to create and produce a series of STEM Read podcasts, writing children’s literature aimed at introducing STEM-related concepts to young children or establishing STEM Read field trips to bring students to NIU for advanced activities in conjunction with meeting high-profile authors, King-Cargile engages youth and elevates NIU as a true leader in preparing students for STEM-related careers.
“The STEM Read program helps build the pipeline into STEM majors at NIU and into the STEM professions,” says Anne Kaplan, vice president of Outreach, Engagement and Regional Development. “King-Cargile is an outstanding example of SPS creativity, innovation and ability to connect NIU’s expertise with community needs.”
Last year, STEM Read engaged over 6,000 children, parents, educators and community members at live events, and over 100,000 through www.stemread.com, which provides free educator resources, online games, expert videos and author interviews.
Colleagues call King-Cargile an “expert at developing relationships.” It’s her confidence and enthusiasm that bring nationally-recognized and best-selling authors to NIU—at little or no cost to the university. She also stays in contact with educators throughout the year, often providing professional development on using fiction to teach STEM principles in an interdisciplinary framework.
In short, King-Cargile’s innovative work brings high-profile publicity to NIU while inspiring thousands of students to consider STEM careers.
Conscious collaboration is how director of Orientation and Family Connections, Abbey Wolfman, leads to boldly improve the university’s orientation program to offer the best experience for students while keeping costs in line with peer institutions. During her first year in this role, Wolfman implemented a two-day, new-student orientation program supported by the entire institution through extensive collaboration with her campus partners.
The orientation program requires input and participation from across campus; unsurprisingly working with a variety of competing perspectives. Wolfman’s colleagues comment on her ability to respect every voice at the table with excitement and communication consistency. Because building consensus among stakeholders doesn’t happen overnight, Wolfman uses transparent communication, reporting and relationship building to work with her constituents to build a shared perspective on orientation changes.
It’s her collaborative spirit that paves the way for successful meetings and positive outcomes, making her a natural leader during challenging times. Wolfman’s colleague, Jenna Pracht, remarks, “Abbey’s creative and collaborative spirit have aided her in navigating challenging situations and complex conversations with colleagues.”
Serving on regional and national committees in professional organizations throughout the years, Wolfman is dedicated to professional development. She chaired the 2017 NODA (Association for Orientation, Transition and Retention in Higher Education) annual conference where she led 16 of her peers from across the country during her two-and-half-year commitment.
“Abbey is always willing and eager to participate in committees that promote innovation and improve structure within the university,” says Pracht. “She’s also quick to volunteer to help her peers and NIU students grow.”
Orientation plays a critical role in recruitment and retention—it is often an experience that helps confirm NIU for students who have not fully committed to an institution. Wolfman’s work has significantly enhanced this vital experience for students, but she doesn’t stop there. Under her direction and authoring, the NIU One Book was developed as a comprehensive guide to becoming a “successful Huskie.” The book recently won the award for an outstanding handbook from NODA.
Wolfman is the winner of the 2013 NODA Leadership award and 2013 Outstanding Regional Coordinator award.
A member of the NIU community for 13 years, Carrie Zack exemplifies an abundance of expertise, wisdom and professionalism as the associate director of Educator Licensure and Preparation. In this role, Zack has a wide range of responsibilities including licensure assessment coordination, report writing, supervision and accreditation preparation.
It is abundantly clear from her colleagues’ comments that Zack goes above and beyond to help others and support all licensure programs, aiming to alleviate much of the assessment burden they would otherwise shoulder to ensure their compliance with all state and national reporting mandates. She does this with a compassionate and calm attitude for 37 programs in four separate colleges.
“Data collection and report writing is laborious and time-consuming. Carrie shoulders all of her duties and responsibilities with finesse and remarkably, I have never once heard her complain!” says Judy Boisen, associate director edTPA.
Zack helped develop a university-wide student-teaching evaluation and disposition assessment and conducted research on their validity and reliability. “These assessment tools make it possible to collect valuable data on our teacher candidates which helps to inform programs as they move forward in their quest to make NIU the institution of choice for teacher education,” explains Boisen.
“Carrie is committed to further streamline the reporting of assessment data which will place NIU at the forefront of data-informed decision making for quality licensure programs and teachers,” remarks Educator Licensure and Preparation Associate Vice Provost Jenny Parker.
Zack is a member of American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, American Educational Research Association, and International Society for the Study of Behavioral Development. She serves on various sub-committees within the University Committee on Initial Educator Licensure and the University Committee on Advanced and Non-Teaching Educator Licensure Programs.
She is currently working on her Ph.D. degree in educational psychology at NIU.