2022 Faculty and Staff Award Winners

The UW–Madison School of Education would like to congratulate the recipients of our 2021 Distinguished Achievement Awards. The School’s highly regarded national reputation is due, in large part, to the dedication and talent of our faculty, staff, and students. Thank you to our award winners for your outstanding efforts.

Ann Wallace Academic Staff Distinguished Achievement Awards

The Ann Wallace Academic Staff Distinguished Achievement Awards recognize a staff member’s impact on the mission of the unit and their outstanding performance in that unit.

Danielle Maillette

Danielle Maillette Headshot
Wisconsin Center for Education Research

Over the past 12 years, Danielle Maillette’s contributions to the Wisconsin Center for Education Research are significant in both scope and impact and matched by few others.

Danielle has aided the center in “moving the needle” to become a more inclusive, adaptive, and high-functioning workplace by participating in the year-long process of codifying WCER’s core values of innovation and excellence, equitable education, affirming and increasing diversity, healthy workplace, and partnering across differences.

Without missing a beat, Danielle continued to develop and deliver professional learning opportunities for the center when all learning moved online due to COVID-19. She also used her personal yoga training expertise, and led weekly yoga sessions via Zoom for WCER employees.

Madeline Hafner wrote, “when I reflect on what it is about Danielle’s performance that [ ] makes her “more outstanding” than others, one simple but powerful characteristic comes to mind. She cares. Danielle is exceptionally gifted at caring about people, caring about organizational processes that are authentically collaborative and center diverse voices. Danielle’s ethic of care informs how she prioritizes goals, how she engages in discussions, how she reflects on her practice. She embodies the characteristics of a servant leader.”

We are delighted to honor Danielle Maillette with the Ann Wallace Academic Staff Distinguished Achievement Award.

Maria Widmer

Maria Widmer Headshot
Media, Education Resources, and Information Technology (MERIT)

Since the moment she was hired five years ago as MERIT’s first-ever online course developer, Maria Widmer has had a profound and positive impact on her unit, the School of Education, and our campus.

As Carolyn Kelley wrote, “Maria has worked incredibly hard to provide lift for School of Education strategic academic initiatives – online summer courses, revenue generating online professional master’s programs, quality online presence for all courses, and the pivot to remote learning during the pandemic.” But, most importantly, she has built trusting, long-term relationships with instructors and others across the school who value and seek out her professional expertise and her personal kindness, including Chancellor Blank.

As a result of Maria’s leadership, School of Education summer term online enrollments have grown from 412 students in 24 courses (with some online) in summer 2015 to 3,571 enrollments in 169 online courses in summer 2020.
Carolyn goes on to state that Maria “leads with a calm, kind, and professional demeanor that has been so important for the work that she does, particularly in the current pandemic climate when many of us struggle with the additional pressures of work and home lives.”

We are thrilled to honor Maria Widmer with the Ann Wallace Academic Staff Distinguished Achievement Award.

Tim O’Neill

Tim O'Neill
Art Department

In the words of his nominator Lisa Gralnick, “Tim O’Neill is an extraordinary individual on every level—a miracle worker of sorts—and he exhibits a unique and impressive array of personal and professional qualities that make him an indispensable and highly treasured member of the art department team. Everyone in the art department relies on Tim and his services are always in great demand. Every request is always met with kindness, generosity, efficiency, patience, dependability, resourcefulness, and extremely competent, creative and intelligent problem solving.”

Tim’s position demands a level of breadth not required of many other staff positions in the art department. One day he could be trouble-shooting a glass furnace, the next day he could be calibrating a 3D printer, and the next he could be working with a student who is having difficulty with the rudiments of 3D construction in an “intro to sculpture class” – and he may travel between two different buildings multiple times a day to perform them.

Tim’s quick, calm action and “Herculean efforts” to aid in the immediate relocation of heavy equipment and studio facilities during the recent evacuation of the Humanities building have deemed him a hero among his peers. He is deeply respected, appreciated, and adored by the entire Art Department.

We are proud to honor Tim O’Neill with the Ann Wallace Academic Staff Distinguished Achievement Award.

University Staff Distinguished Achievement Award

The University Staff Distinguished Achievement Awards recognize a staff member’s outstanding performance on the job; initiation or recommendation of innovative ideas that are implemented and result in better service or efficiency; and exhibition of grace under pressure.

Claire Carlson

Claire Carlson headshot
Communications and Advancement

Claire has worked in the Office of Communications & Advancement since 2018, leading administrative functions and supporting its four areas of communications, marketing, advancement, and creative services.

When reflecting on working with Claire, her colleagues had much to say: She works with grace under pressure, is welcoming, supportive, organized, caring, and a team player. Claire has a can-do attitude, strives for continuous improvement, and provides foundational connections across the team.

Claire wears many hats and helps out around the School. When she’s not in the C&A Office, you might find her filling in for her colleagues at the Dean’s Office front desk, supporting one of the School’s Board of Visitors meetings, orienting new employees, or meeting with colleagues in the Education Building to troubleshoot a problem.

She is a promoter of fun activities that give just the right amount of space for people to connect with each other – whether it’s encouraging people to join her for planks in her office, offering a chance to emotionally check-in at meetings, or even keeping spare chewing gum in her office so people have a reason to stop by and say “hello.”

As a colleague shared in Claire’s nomination letter: “[Our] philosophy… is partly: ‘We don’t let each other fail.’ ” Claire goes a step further and helps every one of us succeed.”

We are pleased to present the award for the 2022 School of Education’s University Staff Distinguished Achievement Award to Claire Carlson. Please join me in honoring Claire.

Faculty Distinguished Achievement Awards

The Faculty Distinguished Achievement Awards recognize faculty members who have made contributions and demonstrated continued excellence in each of the three areas of teaching, research, and service.

Lesley Bartlett

Lesley Bartlett Headshot
Department of Educational Policy Studies

Dr. Lesley Bartlett is widely recognized as one of the top U.S. scholars of anthropology and education and of comparative and international education. Her work is considered the gold standard and has been extensively published. And, through all of the projects in which she has been involved and the numerous awards earned, Dr. Bartlett has made it a point to involve her graduate students. Remarkably, she has published more than 25 articles or chapters with students, which demonstrates her commitment to being a mentor.

Since her hiring at UW–Madison in 2014, Dr. Bartlett has rapidly become a leader on issues of curricular and program development and student support. In the Spring of 2020, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, she led an unprecedented effort across the School of Education to check in with every undergraduate and graduate student regarding wellness, health, academic concerns, and financial needs. This data supported the construction of the Bridge to Success program.

The department, the School of Education, the university, and the fields of both anthropology of education and comparative and international education have benefited tremendously from Dr. Bartlett’s exceptional creativity, rigor, and productivity. Her scholarship, teaching, and service embody the Wisconsin Idea, both locally and globally.

We are pleased to honor Dr. Lesley Bartlett with a Faculty Distinguished Achievement Award.

Sadhana Puntambekar

Sadhana Puntambekar Headshot
Department of Educational Psychology

Dr. Sadhana Puntambekar is considered one of the pioneers in design-based research in the learning sciences, which includes designing technology-rich learning environments to improve K-12 science education. She has constructed curricular units for middle grades students in biology and physics that are used by over 1000 students each year in Wisconsin schools, including rural and underserved areas.

Since arriving at UW–Madison in 2004, Dr. Puntambekar has secured over $13 million in external funding, one of the largest totals of external funding in the Educational Psychology department.

Dr. Puntambekar enacts close ties between her teaching and mentorship activities and her scholarship. Her teacher ratings consistently match or exceed the departmental averages. She has trained an impressive set of research scholars, including two students who were the first in the School of Education to be awarded National Science Foundation graduate research fellowships, demonstrating both the innovative and impactful nature of her research, as well as the quality of her mentorship.

As her nominator and department chair Jim Wollack wrote, “Dr. Puntambekar is an internationally renowned scholar, with an outstanding array of accomplishments in research, teaching and service. Indeed, we believe that Dr. Puntambekar is one of the central reasons that the UW–Madison School of Education and the Educational Psychology Department continue to be ranked among the very best, most innovative and impactful research institutions in the world.”
We are pleased to celebrate Dr. Sadhana Puntambekar with a Faculty Distinguished Achievement Award.

Dick & Julie Daly Award for Education Student Staff Achievement

The Dick & Julie Daly Award for Education Student Staff Achievement recognizes a recipient who presents a positive image of the School through exceptional work and demonstrates creativity, problem-solving, excellent customer service, or other activities that go beyond the ordinary expectations of their role as a student hourly worker.

Jenna Harb

Jenna Harb
Morgridge Center for Public Service

Working in the Morgridge Center for Public Service’s Student Organization Partnership Program, Jenna Harb connects UW–Madison student organizations with groups in the Madison area looking for volunteers to help solve problems. Through Jenna’s facilitation, members of student organizations have felt empowered to address problems they learned about through her training.

“Ensuring a safe space for all facets of students’ lives, Jenna takes great care to respect people’s differing backgrounds, pronouns, and individual experiences,” one nominator wrote. She is comfortable working with diverse populations and brings her full experience as the child of immigrants and a first-generation university student to her role.

Jenna is one of 50 student interns in the Morgridge Center and demonstrates her skillful leadership in every facet of her work. She understands the needs of the Madison community partners and helps student organizations work with the partners in an effective way, making learning experiences for the students, and positive outcomes for the community partners.

“Jenna is responsible, thoughtful, brilliant, modest,and cares a lot about the world and its people,” wrote one nominator. “We are in good hands if people like Jenna Harb become our future leaders.”

In recognition of her exemplary work with student organizations and the Madison community, it is our pleasure to award the Dick and Julie Daly Award for Education Student Staff Achievement to Jenna Harb.

School of Education Student Staff Achievement Award

The School of Education Student Staff Achievement Award recognizes a recipient who presents a positive image of the School through exceptional work and demonstrates creativity, problem-solving, excellent customer service, or other activities that go beyond the ordinary expectations of their role as a student hourly worker.

Regan Trinastic

Regan Trinastic
Department of Educational Psychology

Regan Trinastic has worked in the Department of Educational Psychology for his entire undergraduate career. Regan has been a standout student employee. From adding extra hours to his schedule to prepare for campus visits to supporting the department as an in-person staff person during work-from-home, he manages multiple tasks with alacrity and efficiency, whether they are discrete tasks or more open-ended projects.

Regan was central in developing the department’s digital display, including drafting guidelines to help draft research posters for display. He keeps track of keys and collects syllabi from faculty for record retention.

On many occasions, Regan has demonstrated his desire to be helpful in any way he can, whether solving a computer problem minutes before a dissertation proposal meeting, or moving furniture and cleaning up before or after presentations.

Jennifer Krug, department administrator, wrote “I value having good community members in our department – individuals who are willing to help others, be polite, and genuinely desire to be of service to others. Regan meets each of those criteria. …”

Regan is a valued, entrusted member of the Educational Psychology department, wrote Chair James Wollack. “He has fantastic customer service skills, is courteous, and is a great communicator.”

We are delighted to award Regan Trinastic the School of Education Student Staff Achievement Award.

Award for Community-Engaged Scholarship

The Award for Community-Engaged Scholarship honors an individual who advances the Wisconsin Idea to a new level of partnership and reciprocity.

Luis Columna

Luis Columna Photo
Department of Kinesiology

Luis Columna has built community throughout his career. Since he’s been at UW–Madison, he has worked with community organizations supporting people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). A researcher who studies and teaches adaptive physical education, Columna created Fit Families, a three-month intervention that promotes physical activity for children with ASD and their families.

When the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic forced many programs to cancel, Columna took it upon himself to take the Fit Families program online. He recognized the pandemic would create even more social isolation for the families in the intervention program, a nominator wrote.

Columna has built relationships and partnerships with parents and families, as well as with other partners such as the Madison Children’s Museum. The connection the Children’s Museum has with its families is enhanced by the Museum’s partnership with Columna. Data from his research has benefited visitors to the Museum, even if they are not participants in the Fit Families Program.

“Dr. Columna’s work brings in the voices and ideas of Wisconsin families of children with ASD into research to co-create an experience where parents, children, and students can collectively learn how to promote physical activity opportunities for children with ASD,” a nominator wrote. The Fit Families program is being expanded into Iowa and New York as well as other parts of Wisconsin.

For these reasons and more, we are proud to award Luis Columna, PhD, with the Community-Engaged Scholar Award.

Excellence in Diversity Award

The Excellence in Diversity Award was established by the School of Education’s Equity and Diversity Committee in 2012. The award recognizes faculty and staff who have made significant contributions to campus climate toward building a diverse and equitable School of Education.

Stephanie Budge

Photo of Stephanie Budge
Department of Counseling Psychology

Stephanie Budge realized trans and gender nonconforming (TGNC) people were being underserved — and often stigmatized — by mental health professionals. As a graduate student, she interviewed a member of the trans community and was astounded by the treatment they received. She dedicated herself to addressing this injustice. “Budge found as much information as was available at the time and committed to understanding the issues and teaching others, including faculty, about this treatment, some of which could be considered cruel,” writes Stephen Quintana, chair of the Department of Counseling Psychology in his nomination.

Budge was advised against focusing on TGNC work; instead, she persisted and is now a national leader in this research and her work has had an impact on the mental health services of trans and gender nonconforming people in the U.S. and internationally. Budge continues her work and research as well as serving as a mentor to undergraduate and graduate students in clinical psychology. This is helping genderqueer young professionals find their voice in research and advocacy.

Due to her distinguished contributions to psychological research and practice with TGNC communities while demonstrating excellence in scholarship as well as in commitment to social justice, we enthusiastically award Stephanie Budge with the School of Education Excellence in Diversity Award.

Special Thanks

The Ann Wallace Academic Staff Distinguished Achievement Awards are sponsored by Ann Wallace. The Faculty Achievement Awards and the University Staff Distinguished Achievement Award are supported by the Charles Read Recognition Fund. The Student Staff Achievement Awards are funded by a gift from Jo Ann Carr (Dick & Julie Daly Award for Education Student Staff Achievement) and gifts to the School of Education. The Excellence in Diversity Award and the Community-Engaged Scholarship Award are supported by gifts to the School of Education.

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