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Sept. 28 , 2004
CONTACT: Ward Mullens

EMU honors innovative employees at annual institutional values awards

YPSILANTIEastern Michigan University honored its innovators at the Second Annual Institutional Values Awards presented at the fall convocation Sept. 24 at Pease Auditorium.

“These awards really represent the essence of what Eastern Michigan University is about – people helping people,” said Craig Willis, interim president of EMU.

            The purpose of this institution-wide award program is to recognize the exemplary efforts of individuals or teams working to support the EMU mission, guiding principles and institutional values. Individual awards were given in four categories and two awards were given to honor team excellence. Each of the awards carries a $3,500 monetary stipend, funded by the EMU Foundation. In cases where a team won an award, the stipend will be divided equally among the team’s members.

Winners and their respective categories are as follows:

Christine Lancaster, coordinator of the post-baccalaureate teacher certification program, won the award for Contribution to the Quality of Student Learning Experiences.

Lancaster is credited with increasing enrollment in the program by approximately 50 percent in three years. Prior to July 2000, there were approximately 425-525 students. Current enrollment is 820.

To help students make better choices by giving them timely information, Lancaster developed a quarterly newsletter for post-baccalaureate students and now edits a monthly, electronic e-mail message. Lancaster also has created an extensive set of checklists to help students proceed through the teacher certification program.

In a recent College of Education survey (of approximately 800 students), Lancaster was the highest-rated adviser named by students. She changed group advising from a “talking head” session to an interactive PowerPoint presentation where she shows students how to access information and understand college and University requirements using Internet resources.

Rhonda DeLong, director of Web communications, University Marketing and Communications, was honored with the award for Continuous Improvement, Innovation and/or Customer Service. 

DeLong was honored for her creation of a University Web site and her tireless devotion to helping departments and divisions on campus create their own Web pages. Her contributions include creating customized or specialized Web sites, including the EMU Historical Walking tour site and the Campus Concept/Master Plan site. DeLong also has worked with ICT and Instructional Technology in the creation of E-Postcards, a feature that enables faculty, staff and students to send personalized messages along with positive images of EMU to colleagues, friends, family and alumni. Admissions has integrated E-Postcards into its student recruitment efforts.

In addition, DeLong has worked closely with ICT on the development of EMU’s technology infrastructure, which ensures that servers, database structures, application development support, network protocols and attention to issues of security and privacy are integrated with the development of EMU’s overall Web service initiatives.

Jessica Alexander, assistant professor of communication and theatre arts; and Mary Jo Desprez, associate director, University Health Services, garnered the award for Diversity, Human Dignity and Multicultural/International Involvement.

Alexander and Desprez were recognized for their ongoing work with the CloseUP Theatre Troupe, which they created in 1997. The CloseUP Troupe is a group of EMU students that uses theatre to examine, inform and enlighten audiences about social, health and wellness issues with an emphasis on diversity and inclusion.  CloseUP themes have included racism, sexism, sexual orientation, religion and faith, personal health, civil rights, unemployment, affirmative action, terrorism, drinking and loneliness. The Troupe has been a significant force for tolerance, acceptance and multicultural understanding.

Peggy Harless, director of community service, leadership and VISION; and Kathleen Stacey, professor of communication and theatre arts and director of Academic-Service Learning (ASL), took home top honors for Public Engagement and Community Service.

The two have been instrumental in making community service a vital part of the academic experience for EMU students. VISION provides 800-1,000 volunteer opportunities annually and more than 21,000 hours of service to community agencies each year. To date, 109 faculty have gone through ASL seminars to learn how to integrate ASL experiences into their courses. Based on survey results, it is estimated that more than 100 courses are offered with a service-learning experience. These courses engage approximately 2,200 students, who provide approximately 33,000 hours of service annually to area nonprofit agencies and school districts.

The Innovagency (Division of Student Affairs) won the award for Team Excellence. Team members included Chris Aris, director, Children’s Institute; Vickie Bagherzadeh, director of business operations; Alan Beesley, student; Tracey Buhinicek, senior secretary, Campus Life; Kevin Devine, director of Student Media; Phoebe Foy, McKenny Union/Campus Life; Jeff Koras, assistant director of business operations; Kathleen Russell, assistant dean, dean of students office; Lewis Savage, assistant director of housing/apartments.

The Innovagency was recognized for infusing innovation into the work plans of departments within Student Affairs. Ideas implemented have helped maximize resources, save dollars, enhance revenues and improve customer service, both to the campus and the surrounding community.

Ideas executed have ranged from collecting cereal box tops to generate up to $20,000 in new funding for The Children’s Institute to offering instructional swimming to the Ypsilanti community.

The Secondary Methods Group, composed of 24 faculty members in three colleges and 14 departments, was rewarded in the category of Support Role in Teaching, Learning, Scholarship, Research and/or Creative Activity.

Team members include Douglas Baker, English language and literature; Wendy Burke, teacher education; Joanne Caniglia, mathematics; Phillip Cardon, School of Technology Studies; Margaret Coffman, biology; Cathy Fleischer, English language and literature; Ronald Fulkert, School of Technology Studies; Barbara Gorenflo, teacher education; Ellen Hoffman, teacher education; Larry Kolopajlo, chemistry; Georgea Langer, teacher education; Barbara Leapard, mathematics; Peggy Liggit, biology; Anne Nerenz, foreign languages and bilingual studies; Russell Olwell, history and philosophy; John Palladino, special education; Sandra Rutherford, geography and geology; Rebecca Sipe, English language and literature; Alane Starko, teacher education; Donald Staub, Office of Collaborative Education; William Tucker, English language and literature; Pat Williams-Boyd, teacher education; Bonnie Wylo, physics and astronomy; and Guey-Meei Yang, art. 

This network of professional education faculty is a learning community that offers opportunities for collaboration and outreach. The group has enhanced opportunities in campus for instruction, service, cooperation among colleges and departments, and student support.

For example, the group has positively impacted instruction at EMU by mentoring new faculty in academic-service learning, field-based teaching and classroom research.

Members of the group have served as presenters at community college adviser days, created demonstrations for EMU’s Family Day and served as mentors of students on grant projects, such as the U.S. Department of Education Teacher Quality Grant. Off campus, members have represented EMU at Ypsilanti and Willow Run Schools, the Science Olympiad and Natural History Day.


Eastern Michigan University is a public, comprehensive university that offers programs in the arts, sciences and professions. EMU prepares students with the intellectual skills and practical experiences to succeed in their career and lives, and to be better citizens.

Editor's Note: Looking for an expert source for a story? Check out EMU's Eastern Experts online at www.emich.edu/univcomm/easternexperts.

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