Information Bureau | ILLINOIS

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — A total of 12 academic professionals at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign were honored this week with the Chancellor’s Academic Professional Excellence award, encompassing the 2020 and 2021 award cycles. The recipients, six from each year, received their awards remotely due to the pandemic.

The CAPE award was established to recognize academic professionals for their work, personal and professional contributions. Individuals are nominated, reviewed by a committee and approved by Chancellor Robert Jones.

Each of the honorees receives a $1,000 cash award.

This year’s honorees are:  

Brian Brauer

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Brian Brauer, the associate director of the Fire Service Institute, is one of the behind the scenes leaders who are so important to the university. Responsible for the operations of a 28-acre training site that includes 30 structures and 100 vehicles, equipment trailers and fire apparatus, Brauer is critical to the success of an internationally known fire service education program.

Brauer is a leader and mentor for the campus EMS service, a program that trains and incorporates students as emergency medical technicians. This program staffs public events, including football games and the Illinois Marathon. Behind the scenes, he is a key contributor in the campus Joint Emergency Operations Center and the Campus Incident Command Post, task forces designed to respond to crises and high-profile events in the community.

Brauer played a critical role in the campus response to COVID-19 and its success in containing outbreaks. He was at the center of the campus response. He is a well-known speaker and presenter in the fire service field, regularly presenting at national and international conferences.

Sarah Christensen

Sarah Christensen

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Since her arrival at the University Library in 2013, visual resources and outreach specialist Sarah Christensen has consistently sought out opportunities to collaborate with a wide variety of campus departments and tirelessly advocated for outreach and public engagement, highlighted by The Next 150 campus strategic plan and the library’s current Strategic Directions and Priorities.

She has built upon the library’s commitment to its land-grant institutional mission by designing and leading numerous unique engagement and outreach initiatives, such as the Human Library, the Small Press Fest! and the Edible Book Festival. Christensen oversees the library’s Twitter account and supervises the graduate assistants who maintain the account and chair the library’s social media working group.

Christensen helps students, faculty members and staff to find and use images for their coursework research and contributes to the library’s central reference services – through the “Ask a Librarian” service, she answers questions from the campus, the community and around the world via email and online chat. She is also one of the founding editors of the Journal of Library Outreach and Engagement.

Jean Drasgow

Jean Drasgow

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Jean Drasgow, the director of career services in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, is dedicated to transforming students into astute employees and leaders of the future. Believing career readiness starts with freshmen, Drasgow develops programming geared toward meeting the developmental needs of a diverse student body.

Drasgow regularly involves alumni and employers in shaping students to be workforce ready. She collaborates not only across campus but also across universities to maximize opportunities for all students. She explores creative ways to relate to students such as developing podcasts, adapting existing career services software in unusual ways and designing interactive lectures. Drasgow initiated the first Diversity and Inclusion Networking Exchange event and ACES + LAS First Year Connect. She annually co-hosts the ACES + LAS Career Fair.

Drasgow has been a consistent contributor to the Illini International Networking event since its inception. In addition to the student- and employer-facing work, Drasgow collects and analyzes the ACES First Destination Report to assist ACES departments in telling their success stories.

Kristi McDuffie

Kristi McDuffie

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Kristi McDuffie, the acting director of rhetoric within the English department, runs one of the largest general education programs at the university. The first-year writing program classes are taught by approximately 75 instructors, both full-time specialized faculty members and graduate teaching assistants.

McDuffie’s responsibilities include directing curriculum, overseeing mentoring and professional development, leading staffing and scheduling, supervising rhetoric staff, directing placement and assessment efforts, liaising with campus partners and problem-solving student issues. McDuffie has been energetic and ambitious in enhancing the rhetoric program. Most of her work is focused on improving the learning experiences of students and the teaching conditions of instructors. She also represents the program to the external community and furthers social justice goals related to literacy.

McDuffie is a strong advocate for the thousands of undergraduate students who take rhetoric courses, making sure they are placed into the correct courses and have the support to succeed. She works closely with advisers, college offices and student-support units to ensure each student is treated as an individual with unique needs and circumstances. 

Jason Mock

Jason Mock

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Jason Mock, the associate director of program management in the Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning, led the university’s foray into online education and its partnership with Coursera.

As an instructional designer, Mock worked with more than 50 faculty members from across campus to enhance and transform their teaching for the fully online format. He has designed 60 fully online university courses, including seven of Illinois’ first 10 Massive Open Online Courses. Over 6 million people have accessed quality instruction from Illinois as a result of the partnership with Coursera. Mock’s designs are of such quality that Coursera directs other institutions to specifically review his MOOCs as the standard of excellence. He has reformulated CITL’s online course service models and reorganized the instructional design team he led from 2015-19.

Mock completely revamped the department’s onboarding experience for new hires to better equip staff to excel at supporting faculty and online education. Employing a “bottom-up” approach, he constructed a team of 24 individuals from every rank and department to compose his unit’s first-ever five-year strategic plan.

Deidre Weathersby

Deidre Weathersby

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Deidre Weathersby, the Counseling Center’s associate director of outreach and prevention, has been instrumental in enhancing campus services and internal systems. Even as an early career professional, she demonstrated her commitment by making connections with campus offices, academic departments, student organizations and key individuals who work closely with students.

Weathersby quickly gained their trust; very soon, faculty members and staff were seeking her expertise regarding students of concern, as a speaker for their meetings or classrooms, or even ongoing programmatic consultation. She is a true scholar who constantly wants to stay current and ahead of best practices and approaches. Most recently, Weathersby and a research data analyst developed a standardized outreach evaluation instrument that has received Institutional Review Board approval and is being prepared for a professional journal submission.

Her voice in the college counseling center world always ensures attention to the diversity of campus communities and the clinical complexity of student needs. She possesses a great deal of enthusiasm surrounding clinical work, training, and outreach and prevention.

Honorees from 2020 are:

Derek Attig

Derek Attig

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Derek Attig, the assistant dean for career and professional development in the Graduate College, oversees programming and advising services for over 18,000 graduate students and 600 postdoctoral scholars.

 Attig fosters collaborations across campus to support the preparation and planning for diverse careers. As a pivotal resource for careers on campus, Attig conceptualizes and implements programming, workshops and training events for students. Units, departments and student organizations have integrated their programming into first-year experience programs, orientations and online environments.

 Since 2015, Attig has conducted more than 2,000 career-advising sessions. In addition to promoting career education on campus, Attig serves as the Midwest regional director of the Graduate Career Consortium, a national professional organization for graduate career advisers that piloted a digital collaboration space among universities to enable connections and help increase career pathways for graduate students. Attig also has served as a member of the governance committee to help develop policies that have allowed the organization to grow significantly in recent years.

Jeannette Elliott

Jeannette Elliott

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Jeannette Elliott has served as the full-time physical therapist for the Division of Disability Resources and Educational Services since 2004. She manages operations of the DRES wellness gym, offers support services for the Adapted Varsity Athletics program and instructs courses for students pursuing physical therapy careers.

Elliott is committed to preparing tomorrow’s health care professionals for success, giving countless presentations to kinesiology and community health classes and student organizations. Each academic year, she provides over 1,200 hours of physical therapy sessions and educates an average of 60 volunteers. Each semester, she hosts a workshop for students seeking admission into an allied professional school.

Elliott also is active in the Champaign-Urbana community. Her involvement with the Champaign County Master Gardener Program helped make the Idea Garden in the University of Illinois Arboretum an accessible and welcoming environment for all. She also transformed the courtyard of the Rehabilitation Education Center into a landscaped garden enjoyed by students, staff and visitors.

Josh Keen

Josh Keen

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Josh Keen, a senior assistant director in the Office of Student Financial Aid, leads by example and draws from his experience in having performed many of the functions within financial aid, including supervising staff, meeting with students, clarifying financial aid policy and procedures, and providing a new vision in the areas of outreach.

Keen serves as the liaison to campus offices regarding financial aid student services and outreach issues, through which he consistently makes meaningful connections with stakeholders. He is in frequent contact with students and university staff to help provide support and address concerns.

Keen is dedicated to providing others with opportunities and knowledge. As a member of three financial aid professional organizations at the state, regional and national levels, he expands his own understanding and shares resources with the Office of Student Financial Aid. He also created professional development opportunities to use with the America Reads/America Counts program, a Federal Work-Study-funded tutoring program that matches approximately 200 undergraduate college student tutors with students in the Urbana and Champaign school districts who need help with reading and math.

Brenda Koester

Brenda Koester

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Brenda Koester, the associate director of the Family Resiliency Center, applies her understanding of scientific knowledge and communication to help others. Koester’s research and policy work centers on food insecurity, children’s nutrition programs, environmental health literacy and effective community collaborations.

Her talent at translating research into policy and practice has gained national and international recognition through targeted social media campaigns, conference presentations, workshops and webinars. With every project, Koester asks complex questions to further research, education and outreach endeavors that have led to significant policy changes at the local and national level.

Koester’s success at communicating interdisciplinary research has made her successful at every level – from organizing symposiums and garnering grants to supervising staff and engaging community stakeholders. Koester also routinely mentors undergraduate and graduate students, teaching others how to navigate the complex environment of managing large projects and various workstyles.

Stuart Levy

Stuart Levy

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Stuart Levy is known for his commitment to research, education and public outreach at the Advanced Visualization Lab within the National Center for Supercomputing Applications. A senior research programmer, Levy develops essential computer graphics software for visualizations used in museums, planetariums, science centers, television documentaries and IMAX films.

Levy has strengthened the power of data-driven visualization to millions of viewers around the world. One of his most famous contributions is the Hubble 3D IMAX film, narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio. Additionally, his work has garnered grants, sponsored research projects and fostered collaborations that have helped the Advanced Visualization Lab receive international attention and awards.

Levy enthusiastically contributes his time to the local community. A long-time amateur astronomer, Levy volunteers with two local astronomy clubs at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and the Champaign-Urbana Astronomical Society based at Parkland College. His background proves useful for astronomical outreach projects, where he serves as a liaison to students, astronomers and physical scientists.

Normand Paquin

Normand Paquin

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Normand Paquin, the associate director for research at the Coordinated Science Laboratory, is responsible for promoting research to collaborators and sponsors, as well as providing high-level support for major new initiatives.

Skilled in preparing and executing proposals, Paquin helps plan, negotiate and launch strategic partnerships. His creativity helps conceptualize new approaches and solutions. Paquin was instrumental in the process of forming the Center for Networked Intelligent Components and Environments and the Carle Illinois College of Medicine. He also made significant contributions to many campus projects, including the Information Trust Institute and the Center for Autonomy.

Paquin’s strong understanding of science, engineering, business and technology makes him a strong communicator to technical and nontechnical audiences. He continues to make significant contributions and connections in every project he works on; he is helping to implement the Grainger College of Engineering Strategic Plan in his capacity as special adviser to the dean, strategic planning.

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