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Academic year starts with UWPlatteville Convocation
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UW–Platteville held its annual all-campus convocation Aug. 27. 

Chancellor Dennis J. Shields led faculty and staff through his vision for the upcoming year, including the university’s strategic plan, work being conducted in preparation for next year’s reaccreditation by the Higher Learning Commission and the kick-off to the celebration of the university’s sesquicentennial. Shields also acknowledged all of the new faculty and staff. 

“There is nothing like the excitement of a new academic year,” said Shields. “This year we have many reasons to be excited.”

Dr. Mittie N. Den Herder addressed the audience assembled in Ullsvik Hall prior to recognizing the 2015 faculty and staff award winners. The award winners included Brianna Jentz, Cinda Furry, Amy Foley, Dr. Travis Nelson, Dr. Yuanyuan Hu, Dr. Rea Kirk, Dr. Austin Polebitski, Dr. Daniel Leitch, Mei Reeder, Vickie Dreessens, Dr. Mittie N. Den Herder and Dr. Annie Kinwa-Muzinga. 

Limited Term Employee Staff Award for Excellence: Brianna Jentz is a peer assisted learning coordinator in Writing and Tutoring Resources.

Jentz, originally from Bloomington, received bachelor’s degrees in both English and history with a minor in international studies from UW–Platteville in 2012. 

Classified Staff Award for Excellence: Cinda Furry, a department associate in the Department of Mathematics, has been with the university for nearly 18 years.

Originally from Lancaster, Furry received her bachelor’s in accounting from UW–Platteville and was employed as an accountant for several years prior to putting her career on hold to be a full-time mom. 

Academic Staff Award for Excellence: Amy Foley, outreach program manager in the Distance Learning Center, received her bachelor’s in business administration with an emphasis in management from UW–Platteville before going on to receive her master’s in organizational leadership from Nichols College in Dudley, Mass. She joined the Distance Learning Center in 2004, and also works as a functional analyst for the Pioneer Administrative Software System and is active with the U.S. Distance Learning Association and Online Learning Consortium.

Excellence in Advising for Education Abroad: Dr. Travis Nelson, associate professor of political science in the College of Liberal Arts and Education, program coordinator for International Studies and chair of the social sciences department, is originally from Starbuck, Minn. He received his bachelor’s in political science from St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn., before moving on to receive both his master’s and Ph.D. in political science from UW–Madison. Before coming to UW–Platteville in 2010, Nelson taught political science at the University of Vermont for four years.

Excellence in Advising International Students Award: Dr. Yuanyuan Hu, professor of English and program coordinator for the Master of Science in English Education China program, joined UW–Platteville in 2007 after receiving her Ph.D. as an international student at Purdue University. On campus, she teaches six undergraduate Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages programs, providing students with the professional knowledge and skills necessary to teach English to speakers of other languages in the United States or abroad. 

Faculty Award for Teaching Excellence: Dr. Rea Kirk, professor in the School of Education, joined the UW–Platteville School of Education in 1996, first as a member of academic staff and later as an assistant professor and associate professor. She currently works as a professor and has held that position since 2007. In addition to the School of Education, she has also taught in the women and gender studies and ethnic studies departments.

UW System Wisconsin Teaching Fellow: UW–Platteville Assistant Professor of civil and environmental engineering Dr. Austin Polebitski is originally from central Wisconsin. He completed his undergraduate degree at Seattle University in 2003. He then earned his master’s and doctorate at the University of Washington in 2005 and 2010 respectively.

Before joining UW–Platteville in January 2013, Polebitski worked as a research assistant professor for the department of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.

UW System Wisconsin Teaching Scholar Award: UW–Platteville Associate Professor of education Dr. Daniel Leitch completed his undergraduate degree in biology education at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. He then came to Wisconsin and earned his master’s in special education at UW–Stevens Point. He received his doctorate in continuing and vocational education from UW–Madison.

In 2008, Leitch began teaching at UW–Platteville. Currently, he teaches graduate courses, core education courses, and the inclusion program for children with disabilities, as well as travels to Wuhan, China, to teach abroad.

Woman of Color Award: Mei Reeder is the director of the Confucius Institute at UW–Platteville. She works with the university administration, faculty and staff to implement Mandarin teaching and cultural understanding on and off campus. 

The Confucius Institute, established in 2008, is part of an international network of more than 1,100 Confucius Institutes and Confucius Classrooms dedicated to enhancing the understanding of the Chinese language and culture around the world. It is the only Confucius Institute in Wisconsin.

Reeder is also the coordinator of the CHEPD 121 Program, a dual degree program that recruits students from China to study at UW–Platteville. Students study for one year at their own university in China, two years at UW–Platteville and their final year at their university in China.

Carol Sue Butts Woman of the Year Award: The award went to Den Herder and Vickie Dreessens, the administrative director for Student Health Services. 

Dreessens has worked in UW–Platteville Student Health Services for 20 years.

Den Herder is the provost and vice chancellor for Academic Affairs. In this role, she serves as the chief academic officer of the university, responsible for the oversight, development and implementation of programs, curricula and policies that support the academic mission of UW–Platteville. 

UW System Alliant Energy Underkofler Excellence in Teaching Award: Dr. Annie Kinwa-Muzinga is a professor of agribusiness in the UW–Platteville School of Agriculture. She earned her bachelor’s in economics from the University of Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo with a financial management emphasis and earned both her MBA in finance and Ph.D. in agricultural economics with specialization in food and agribusiness management and strategic management with a significant marketing component from the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign.

She joined the School of Agriculture in January 2002 and has been the agribusiness program director since fall 2009.