Employee Awards Presented

Don Wernholm (right), receives one of the Excellence in Service Awards from Rhea Dever and President Brock Tessman

Northern Michigan University honored several individuals and teams during its recent Faculty and Staff Recognition Celebration. Years of service milestones and retirees were also honored. 

The NMU Excellence in Service Awards were presented to the following employees, with portions of their introductions:

Carly Harrington, Global Campus: She has been working to redefine faculty support of global campus students. Creating new spaces for connection among alumni, undergraduates, and prospective students, she organized Northern's first global campus event in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Harrington has been the primary advisor for over 800 global campus students, spanning across nine academic programs. Harrington builds a supportive community for her students by connecting them with peers and resources, and these qualities among her meticulous attention to detail, wisdom, and heart propel her to the forefront of the university's community, inclusion, and connections values. Overall, her contributions to the global campus community and the distance education experience have created a profound impact on the NMU community.

Leslie Herman, Finance and Administration: Over the past several years, she has stepped up to fill lost positions after buyouts in 2020, spending hundreds of hours dedicated to assigning Perkins Loans to the US Department of Education through their mandate. The process has involved dedication to tedious information gathering, compiling packets, and mailing them to Pennsylvania, resulting in an acceptance of 2,848 loans in total. Herman has been the only active on campus Perkins Loans servicer, making sure that the university satisfies their federal mandate and provides adequate service to former students.

Karey LaJoye, School of Art and Design: She goes above and beyond to help students, staff, and faculty. She is always willing to put others before herself. LaJoye interacts intentionally with students in order to discern their interests, skills, and areas of potential growth, ultimately connecting them with meaningful opportunities. LaJoye has demonstrated her dedication to the School of Art and Design by stepping up to fill the role of executive assistant during a period in which the school lacked an individual to fill this role. She put herself through extra training to ensure that students could begin working and receive compensation in a timely manner. She assists faculty members by providing life drawing models and ordering course-specific materials and creating kits for Art and Design students. She also connects the art and design departments to the local communities by heading K-12 tours of the DeVos Art Museum. LaJoye is able to balance her intense workload and maintain thoughtfulness and compassion throughout her interactions with everyone on campus.

Colby Lang, NMU Police Department: His contributions to NMU's access control systems, video surveillance and key control have been essential for maintaining the security of the university and the Marquette community. Having responsibility for over 900 security cameras across campus, Lang has developed an acute understanding of their functional operations and is often summoned as a resource to assist the police force in solving cases. Lang has been involved in an agreement between the university and local MAPS schools in which an upgraded revision of security camera coverage is being implemented on school campuses. He was also involved in a complete redesign of the Jacobetti Complex door access system, learning new skill sets that will continue to be an asset to the university. Lang's contributions and accomplishments embody the university's core values of community and opportunity.

Jill Leonard, Department of Biology: She is a passionate and zealous member of the Biology Department whose innovations have led to the development of the “Be Well in Weston” campaign. She has also contributed a great deal to the plants and furniture found in the Weston atrium, creating a space for students to spend increasing amounts of time in. She also maintains a “free foraging shelf” for students to grab a snack when they are in need. Her strong desire to help others succeed shines though via her actions, disposition and the mantras that she has established in her corner of the department.

Victoria Mattson, Behavior Education Assessment and Research Center: She serves student and community clients in the BEAR center, providing direct supervision and mentoring to every student employed by the BEAR center and direct clinical services to children with developmental disabilities, assisting them in the development of critical language and communication skills, social skills, and reducing difficult to manage behaviors. This line of work often necessitates working long hours across the county in order to provide supervision to the community's most impacted children and assisting in the development of professional skill sets for undergraduate and masters program students. She currently oversees 19 NMU students working as Registered Behavior Technicians and has recently completed a second master's degree in order to expand the field work experience of NMU students and expand the services offered by the BEAR center.

James Murray, Building Services: He is dedicated to support different building projects around campus, having assisted in numerable Berry Events Center conversions and turf pulls at the Superior Dome. He has gone above and beyond by dedicating hours during weekends to ensure that snow removal is completed in order to keep campus and community members safe. Murray does all of these feats with a jovial attitude and consistently brightens the mood of any project he is working on. He was at the forefront of preparing Gries Hall to serve as a temporary library during the renovation of Lydia M. Olson library, demonstrating his pride for campus and setting up the library staff for success.

Don Wernholm, NMU Housing and Residence Life: His commitment to maintaining excellent standards in the Norwood Apartments reflects his unyielding respect for the campus community and their homes. His work represents his belief that when a physical community is held to high expectations, the community itself will take pride in their place of residence and hold themselves accountable for contributing to its maintenance. Wernholm has played an integral role in keeping the Norwood community pristine and fostering a sense of interconnectedness that allows members to respect and support their neighbors. Wernholm has embodied the Wildcat spirit for 45 years, serving as a beacon of commitment to community, pride in ensuring the wellbeing of residents, and rigor in doing things the right way. He serves as an inspiration for all, and his legacy will continue to resonate with future generations as a reminder of the power that respect and care for one another holds.

The following Distinguished Teams were honored:

The Care Team was built from the Campus Assessment Team (CAT). It works to understand the emergent needs of students. Over the last year the team created a new CARE Team model. The new team's central focus is the wellbeing or “attentive and intentional care” of NMU's students, faculty, and staff as whole people, and in community with each other. The new CARE model adheres to the National Association of Behavioral Intervention and Threat Assessment (NABITA) standards for best practice. Members of the team have undergone extensive training on the use of the evidence-based tools for assessment and intervention.

The Honors Program team includes Michael Joy, Sam Marier and Anna Zimmer. They  have increased enrollment in the program at NMU. In fall 2023 student cohort of 122 incoming students represents a 58% increase from that of the fall of 2019 when 77 students entered, and a 114% increase from the fall of 2013 when 57 Honors students entered the program. The Honors Program team has also worked hard to ensure that incoming and returning students are getting an enhanced Honors experience at NMU. The team has increased recruitment of stellar NMU faculty to teach in the program and offer classes as varied and unique as “Pop Music After the Invention of MTV,” “The Philosophy of Bad Art,” and “Harry Potter in the Social Sciences.” Other Honors Program student opportunities include fall and winter trips to Minneapolis and Milwaukee to view plays and visit art museums—valuable educational trips that also sparked new friendships among students.

The Lydia M. Olson Library Move team consists of staff, faculty, and students worked together in a short period of only a few months to finalize the tasks needed to get the 2nd and 3rd floors of Harden Hall packed up and moved to other locations. They continue to provide services to the campus community while being housed in a smaller temporary location. They had to plan where/how computers would be used, create more reference places on campus and more online reference spaces, moving printing and media services. 

The Undergraduate Admissions Processing team includes three application and document processors. The normal scope of their duties consists of processing all undergraduate admissions applications and all associated application documents. The Admission Processing Team implemented the CommonApp while also continuing to receive and process applications using NMU's native application for admission. Application volume increased by as much as 75% over the previous year during what is already a peak volume period.

Innovation Awards were presented to the following staff members:

Kelly Larmour: When Student Support Services requested a new report or an update to existing reports on multiple occasions, she worked on 216 summary sheets, one per student. She went above and beyond creating a brand-new document that automatically gathers each student's information. Kelly also worked to bring the new reports to life, and reworked existing reports.

When Sarah O'Neill went to research a new NMU campaign, she surveyed 214 high school students, used their feedback and developed the “Find your Flame” campaign. This upholds NMU's mission of empowering students to contribute to a diverse and sustainable world. It also supports NMU's vision of fostering strong minds and bodies. Her well-researched campaign gives our university's target audience a sense of the overall experience they would receive attending NMU. The campaign was developed and executed by the entire UMC team in February 2022 with a new viewbook, billboards, advertisements, social media tactics, and more.

Lu Zhang is an Educational Analytics Specialist on the Institutional Effectiveness team. Her expertise drives the expanded use of data and analytics for student success initiatives at NMU. She builds dashboards and analytical models that provide insights into persistence, retention and graduation rates. Her statistical models help identify the key factors impacting student success. Lu's work facilitates monthly retention data review, course scheduling optimization, advising support, academic department metric tracking, surveying of new student expectations, monitoring of academic progress and ensuring fair admissions practices.

National Science Foundation (NSF) A-Team: This effort, led by Professor Joshua Carlson, helped to acquire advanced instrumentation to pursue research questions about neuropsychological processes in ways that virtually no one else has attempted before. For this, he needed a team and a lot of money. Joining Carlson were faculty members Jon Barch, Lin Fang, Cory Toegel and Forrest Toegel, all of whom contributed unique research questions of their own that helped shape a compelling research equipment proposal submitted to the National Science Foundation. These grants are highly competitive, and often go to large research universities rather than teaching-focused institutions like NMU. These funds were used to order custom made brain electrical recording and modulation equipment, which has made NMU only the second in the country and one of the very few in the world to have this equipment.

This story was prepared by student writers Bridgette Bowser and Ashley Kluting.

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Categories: Around NMU