Four outstanding employees have been recognized for their contributions to NIU. The Operating Staff Council named civil service employees Alan Clemens, Jennifer Ridge, Leslie Shive and Patricia Wallace as recipients of the Operating Staff Outstanding Service Award.
Recipients are chosen for demonstrating outstanding service and making significant contributions to NIU and their community. Meet the 2020 winners:
Clemens is committed in a way often described as “above and beyond.”
As director of the Illinois Interactive Report Card, Clemens has taken an active role in initiatives with the Office of the Governor, expanding the department’s relationships with additional agencies, launching a new web tool to the public, and developing new initiatives to better position NIU to participate in research and data analysis projects with partners across the state and nation.
“Alan’s commitment is the expansion of opportunities for the broader university community – its students, faculty, and staff,” said Mary Strub, assistant director, NIU Center for Governmental Studies.
His service to NIU includes chairing the Program Prioritization Academic Task Force, chairing the Presidential Commission on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, and continuing to co-chair the Marguerite F. Keys Fellows Program that honors school principals across the state who are making a difference in the ability of students to successfully complete college.
“Dr. Clemens is a collegial, supportive, and authentically kind colleague. He is known around the university for his positivity and willingness to assist colleagues and mentor students,” said Carolyn Pluim, NIU chair and professor, Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations.
Clemens is also an 18-year volunteer for Junior Achievement, teaching fourth graders about basic economic principals. Additionally, he formed a youth soccer league in his hometown Dixon, Illinois, and now volunteers with Friends of Stage Left, supporting non-profit community theater in Dixon.
“In addition to his numerous duties at NIU, Dr. Clemens makes time to serve the people in his own community,” said Kimberly D. Bork, Sauk Valley Reading Council President. “His selfless passion for teaching and helping others to succeed is apparent in every facet of his life. “
“Strong work ethic” is a phrase frequently attached to Ridge.
In her role as administrative assistant, College of Health and Human Sciences (CHHS), Ridge ensures the office runs smoothly. In her decade-plus time in the role, Ridge’s work has advanced from managing routine operations to becoming highly accomplished with new procedures and providing guidance and support to CHHS staff and students.
“Jennifer’s actions positively impact NIU,” said Beverly Henry, program director, NIU Ph.D. in Health Sciences. “From her communication with external partners, to her courtesy handling requests from the dean, to her positive, yet pragmatic, attitude to do the best job she possible can.”
CHHS Dean Derryl Block said Ridge consistently volunteers to make NIU function easier. Examples include helping simplify the University Council election process, and, volunteering to help the college pilot the HR system in PeopleAdmin. Additionally, she has participated in staff interview processes, volunteered for NIU Cares Day, Move-in Day, and the Regional History Fair.
“Jennifer is a super worker and an excellent citizen of the College, NIU and her community,” said Block.
Outside the university, Ridge is active in her community, Earlville, Illinois. She has served on the Friends of the Library, the PTO, and raised funds to develop a local park.
She is known for lending an emphatic hand where needed. Ridge has helped coworkers in distress – driving an ill staffer to the clinic, helping distressed coworker move to a new home, and cleaning the home of another coworker who was injured in a car accident.
“Jennifer is exemplary in how she respects others and puts their needs first time and time again. We couldn’t do our service activities without her support,” said Henry.
In a role where attention to details and logistics on an international scale is key, Shive is a “coordinator extraordinaire.”
As program coordinator of the International Training Office in the Division of International Affairs, Shive oversees the essential procedures of program development, management and implementation.
International participants come to NIU for academic training or to experience U.S. culture and higher education. For many, their visit to NIU is their first visit to the U.S. The details for their visit and trainings have to be well planned, and Shive is especially adept at this.
“Leslie’s forte is her attention to logistics and details from the big, small, and everything in-between,” said Sim Chin Tissa, program director, NIU International Training Office. “What sets her apart as the planner extraordinaire is that she brings empathy, foresight, and the quick-thinking ability to make unexpected adjustments.”
When working with international clients, “expect the unexpected” is typical. With grace and patience, Shive handles the unexpected – from delayed/late airport arrivals to getting a sick participant to medical care, to driving a visiting student into the city to get a new passport.
A hallmark of the international training program is providing clients with homestays. Shive goes the distance to find local host families – including her own. She has hosted 50 students/visitors for all over the globe for short stays in her home.
James Cohen, associate professor of ESL/Bilingual Education at NIU, credits Shive for helping organize a successful visit for 21 teachers from Uruguay to job shadow in DeKalb and Elgin.
“It was through her planning that we were able to create a phenomenal experience for the teachers, one that was not only expertly organized and prepared, but one in which a sense of detail was excruciatingly executed,” said Cohen.
Since she began the role of compliance coordinator for the NIU Office of Research Compliance, Integrity, and Safety (ORCIS), Wallace has regularly received praise for her helpfulness, attitude and knowledge.
She has created an open environment where students, faculty and staff alike feel comfortable asking questions and can be confident they’ll receive answers and assistance.
“Her presence has increased the visibility of compliance on campus and ORCIS is grateful for the thought and care she brings to the position,” said Shannon Stoker, director of ORCIS.
In addition to helping folks daily, she created an online submission form for all compliance boards, allowing the NIU community to get easier and quicker access to project approvals.
Beyond the office, Wallace is a member of the NIU Presidential Commission on the Status of Women, where she serves as secretary. She was responsible in part for NIU updating the parental leave program.
Wallace is also an instructor in the Department of Psychology and has mentored over 25 undergraduate research projects and served on 20 graduate committees.
“Dr. Wallace has made tremendous contributions to the university research mission and has gone beyond expectations by modernizing our compliance practices,” said Jerry Blazey, vice president, division of research and innovation partnerships.
Additionally, Wallace has continued her own research, recently as a research associate for the Center for the Study of Family Violence and Sexual Assault. Through that work, she has authored 15 scholarly articles/book chapters, and has recently received a grant from NIU to collect data on beliefs about consent practices and sexual assault as reported by students of color.
She is a regular judge at the NIU Undergraduate Research and Artistry Day, and at local and regional science and history fair competitions. She has coached “Destination Imagination” teams and is a volunteer at TAILS Human Society.
“Patricia represents the finest tradition of community involvement, serving both NIU and the larger communiversity, said Leslie Matuszewich, associate dean, Research and Graduate Studies.