Northern Illinois University

NIU Office of Public Affairs


News Release

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

April 17, 2003

NIU announces 2003 recipients
of SPS Presidential Awards for Excellence

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

The recipients are Robert Burk, director of admissions; Michelle Emmett, associate vice provost for Student Affairs; Jack King, internship coordinator in the Department of Sociology, and Donna Prain, information systems manager in the Department of Biological Sciences.

They will be honored at a reception from 2 to 4 p.m. Tuesday, April 22, in the Clara Sperling Sky Room in the Holmes Student Center. Each will receive a plaque and $1,000 in appreciation for their outstanding contributions to NIU.

NIU President John G. Peters is scheduled to present the awards at 2:30 p.m. Refreshments will be served, and the reception is open to all.

Additionally, the Gary Gray Award will be presented to C. Eric Hoffman, coordinator of networked writing and research in the Department of English, and Daniel Turner, assistant director of orientation and campus information. The award, based on service to the SPS Council, honors the late Gary Gray, a past member of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences advising staff and the SPS Council.

Robert Burk
If one person could meet all 24,000 people who apply annually to NIU, the individual who might come closest is Robert Burk.

Burk, the director of admissions since 1986, is renowned for his innovative recruitment strategies, his guidance and motivation of a strong staff and his dedication to conveying NIU’s assets to external audiences, including students, parents and counselors at high schools and community colleges.

He meanwhile has transformed the focus of NIU’s admissions efforts into a marketing-based, systematic recruitment that is heavily reliant on database management.

“Bob has an encyclopedic knowledge of the intricacies of recruitment trends for both new freshmen and transfer students,” Interim Vice Provost Robert Wheeler said.

Burk’s supporters point to his leadership as a primary root of NIU’s enrollment growth.

“Northern has experienced valleys and peaks in its undergraduate enrollment over the past 10 to 12 years,” said Denise Rode, director of orientation. “It is largely to Bob’s credit that the university has navigated through these times in a positive way.”

Burk also is lauded for his deep commitment to students with special needs and to the recruitment and retention of minorities, annually administering 131 tuition waivers and nurturing the spring minority reception, which brings more than 400 students and guests to campus.

Michelle Emmett
At the heart of NIU’s mission are students – and at the heart of the student body is Michelle Emmett.

Emmett, who joined NIU 21 years ago as associate director of University Programming and Activities, is valued on campus as one who creates close collaboration between academic and student affairs.

She also is, for many, the face of the university: A frequent presence at summer orientation sessions. An instructor at UNIV 101 for new freshmen. A dedicated sorority adviser. A compassionate ear for concerned parents whose students are struggling with psychological issues. A caring comfort for students whose families have suffered tragedy.

“Micki brings a very special spirit,” Interim Vice Provost Robert Wheeler said. “It is a spirit of total commitment to the progress of our students as human beings and as educated persons.”

Emmett coordinates staff development at Student Affairs and manages the department’s assessment program; directs the university’s sexual assault, domestic violence and stalking program, and organizes the new student convocation program, even involving herself in raising funds for the event. She also works closely with NIU’s Greek community and Student Association officers.

“Clearly, Micki’s work here is more than a job,” said Denise Rode, director of orientation. “It’s a calling that she pursues with a passion and excellence.”

Jack King
Universities hope and expect their students put a good foot forward when they represent their schools off campus.

For students in NIU’s Department of Sociology, Jack King is polishing their shoes.

Regarded as the “guiding light” in the department’s internship program and a master networker who has built connections between the department and the NIU Cooperative Education/Internship Program as well as a plethora of Chicagoland employers, King also is a teacher who emphasizes social service.

He organized the Pilsen Neighbors Literacy Project, which sends NIU students into the predominantly Latino area of Chicago to tutor elementary school children. He coordinated and oversaw the delivery of NIU courses for the staffs of two suburban social service agencies.

Each spring, he spearheads a service trip to Florida for a group of sociology students that helps build a house through Pensacola Habitat for Humanity.

“Jack’s students return from spring break tired, but energized and committed to reducing the overall level of suffering in the world,” said William Minor, associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “Jack himself is energized by the students and the promise they hold for the future.”

“Jack is the NIU champion of the concept of service learning,” said Ronald Short, director of Career Planning and Placement.

Donna Prain
As computers have become essential, those who maintain the systems have become indispensable.

And although Donna Prain has made her indispensable work seem almost invisible, her positive attitude, technical performance, speed and efficiency and many hours on nights, weekends and holidays has not gone unnoticed by those who count on her.

“Probably the most dramatic evidence of Prain’s excellent work is the virtually trouble-free performance that we experience,” said J. Michael Parrish, chair of the Department of Biological Sciences. “The absence of glitches, and the regular, and virtually transparent, upgrades to software and hardware have allowed members of the department to stay on the cutting edge of the use of IT for research and teaching.”

The department’s growing network includes five servers, some 180 workstations, an extensive battery of printers, several “smart classroom” installations and a diverse array of computer-interfaced research tools.

Prain, who also teaches a class in biocomputing, spends countless hours introducing students and faculty to the computers and specific software. “I have often thought that she exhibits the patience of a saint in this regard,” said Richard Becker, assistant chair.

Formally trained as an ecologist, Prain is an active environmentalist who took daily walks around the lagoon during its recent renovation in search of trapped turtles.

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