Northern Illinois University

NIU Office of Public Affairs



Nancy Apperson
Nancy Apperson

Barbara A. Fouts
Barbara A. Fouts

Lina Davide-Ong
Lina Davide-Ong

Connie Uhlken
Connie Uhlken



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News Release

Contact: Mark McGowan, NIU Office of Public Affairs
(815) 753-9472

April 7, 2009

NIU honors four Supportive Professional Staff
with Presidential Awards for Excellence

DeKalb, Ill. — Four members of the Supportive Professional Staff (SPS) at Northern Illinois University have been chosen to receive the university’s Presidential Awards for Excellence.

The recipients are Nancy Apperson, coordinator of the Employee Assistance Program; Barbara A. Fouts, acting assistant director for team supervision in Career Services; Lina Davide Ong, director of the International Training Office; and Connie Uhlken, nursing program coordinator in the School of Nursing and Health Studies.

The quartet will be honored at a reception from 2 to 4 p.m. Tuesday, April 21, in the Duke Ellington Ballroom of the Holmes Student Center. The awards ceremony begins at 2:30 p.m. Each will receive a plaque and $1,500 in appreciation for their outstanding contributions to NIU.

SPS Council President Bobbie Cesarek, NCAA compliance director in Athletics, will receive SPS Council Service Award.

Refreshments will be served, and the reception is open to all.

Nancy Apperson
Coordinator, Employee Assistance Program

When NIU needs a shoulder to lean on, more often than not it’s Nancy Apperson’s.

Apperson, who came to NIU in 1996 with 25 years of experience as a clinical social worker, is credited with keeping the university and its morale on an even keel by helping staff and their departments work though personal, family and workplace issues. Her assistance comes with a set of coping tools.

“Time after time,” Physical Plant employee Elaine Pannell said, “Nancy managed to encourage and support me with balanced advice and guidance.”

“She has gone well beyond the expectations of the position in her consultations to supervisors about how to handle those delicate situations that occur when employees have personal problems that affect their work performance or that involve interpersonal relationship issues,” said Sharon Howard, a recovery specialist in the Employee Assistance Program.

“Since she is skilled in providing this service, and is a trained mediator, and knows the culture of NIU, Nancy has provided critical assistance that has helped departments keep on track in order to better serve NIU students.”

Beyond her counseling work, Apperson is dedicated to training supervisors. Her popular programs teach management skills such as communication, team-building and appropriate treatment of employees. Her materials on managing the multigenerational workplace are attracting positive notice across the country.

“NIU is a better university, and a better and more functional workplace, because she is part of our staff,” said Deborah Pierce, associate provost. “(She) is impeccable with her word and generous with her support.”

Barbara A. Fouts
Acting Assistant Director for Team Supervision, Career Services

Barbara A. Fouts earned countless accolades during her 18 years at NIU’s Counseling and Student Development Center.

“She hit the ground running,” former colleagues Darsha Primich and Richard Long said. “Motivated by her desire to use her new knowledge and status to enhance our campus community she became, in 1991, the campus coordinator of Sexual Assault/Abuse Awareness Program.”

Those good works have continued in Career Services, where she arrived in January 2007.

During her interview for a career counselor position, she “simply dazzled” by highlighting the career concerns of students of disabilities. Two years later, she is acting assistant director for team supervision.

A sought-after provider of workshops and presentations to classes and student groups, Fouts also has revitalized the department’s service to NIU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.

“Her name and reputation are synonymous with excellence,” said Joyce Keller, associate director for Career Counseling and Internships.

“She has been instrumental in developing relationships with faculty,” Keller added, “and has worked collaboratively with them to address the quality of graduate school applications, the application process for registered dietetics internships and the lack of career-related experiences among many of her clients in the natural sciences.”

Meanwhile, Primich and Long said, Fouts found a way to merge her two areas of expertise.

As she prepared for last fall’s return of students six months after Feb. 14, they said, she “invited the Career Services staff to honestly evaluate their own ability to listen deeply and respond broadly to students’ concerns – career and otherwise.”

Lina Davide-Ong
Director, International Training Office

As director of the International Training Office, Lina Davide-Ong provides vital and integral support for creating “Global NIU.”

Through the leadership and efforts of Ong and her team, NIU has been awarded roughly $2.5 million in grant support from the U.S. Department of State-Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs since 2002.

“Dr. Ong is committed to the highest standards in her profession, conducting careful research on grant opportunities and how they can fit with NIU faculty strengths before committing to write grant proposals,” said Deborah Pierce, associate provost. “She has an extremely high ‘hit rate’ on her submitted proposals because of that research and because of her strong network on campus.”

Ong, “who can solve the most intractable problem with confidence and without angst, the supportive mentor who leads her staff with grace and caring,” also manages international exchanges and professional development programs.

“I have been thoroughly impressed with her energy, insights and outreach to a wide range of actors and organizations both on and off-campus,” said Susan Russell, professor of anthropology and Ong’s co-project investigator for their Philippine grant programs. “Her commitment to ‘teamwork’ is very evident in the organization of all these activities, and her background as educator ensures that the impact of these programs is intensive and experiential.”

Ong, who joined NIU full-time in 1995, is a faculty associate with the Center for Southeast Asian Studies. She also mentors graduate students, two of whom have now held internships at the United Nations headquarters in New York City.

Connie Uhlken
Nursing Program Coordinator, School of Nursing and Health Studies

More than 1,000 students seek enrollment to NIU’s nursing program each spring. A year ago, that number reached 1,800.

Connie Uhlken reviews hundreds of the most promising applications.

“It is no exaggeration to state that Connie Uhlken is the face of NIU nursing throughout the northern part of the state,” said Brigid Lusk, chair of the School of Nursing and Health Studies. “With Connie’s efforts, this is one of the most successful nursing programs in the state.”

Uhlken’s job has grown tremendously since she became nursing program coordinator in 2006.

Grant funding allowed a 40 percent boost in enrollment. Partnerships with hospitals and community colleges mean off-campus program delivery. It requires Uhlken to secure more clinical experience sites – and she strives to make excellent matches, not easy ones.

For the first four months, she juggled her new duties with her previous responsibilities as undergraduate student adviser. As a registered nurse, she even has volunteered to teach courses for absent faculty.

The job also requires Uhlken, who joined NIU in 1999, to maintain a delicate balance between student advocate, adviser, mentor and administrative enforcer.

“I have witnessed Connie as a cheerleader,” said Sandi Splansky, academic advising director in the College of Health and Human Sciences. “I have also witnessed the kindness and empathetic style with students who have not been successful in the program. These students are able to walk away without feeling like a failure but rather with an understanding that perhaps nursing is not the right fit for them.”

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