RLC recognizes, honors employees during 2021 Faculty and Staff Award Ceremony

 

INA, Ill. (May 7, 2020) – Rend Lake College celebrated many achievements at its employees on Thursday during the annual RLC Faculty and Staff Awards Ceremony.

At the annual event, five retirees and a handful of current employees were honored for their service, as well as the awarrding of the Outstanding Full and Part-Time Award winners, the Outstanding Staff Award, and the Assessment Award.

Retirees

Beth Mandrell

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RLC President Terry Wilkerson is pictured here with retiring Reference Librarian Beth Mandrell.

Beth Mandrell first came to the RLC campus in 1999. She had initially planned to be a nurse before becoming a librarian. You could say Beth Mandrell has always cared for people.

Beth was the 2005 RLCF Outstanding Staff Award winner. She has been a great resource for many students at the college Her wonderful storytime sessions have made her a beloved figure to the RLCF Children’s Center over the years. She has helped sweeten dozens of campus events with her stellar baking and pastry skills.

She has been described as helpful, kind and caring. She is always willing to help someone in need, going above and beyond for any student. She has given students lunch money or buy something that they need. With retiring, we hope Beth gets to do more of the things she enjoys, like spending time with her loved ones or outdoors in her garden.

Robert Wilson

Chef Robert Wilson is an outstanding chef. He joined the RLC Culinary Arts program in 2011. The words used to best describe Robert are funny, dedicated and tireless. His laugh has made many a memorable moment for students, and his mentorship has helped the Culinary Arts program to be a shining light on campus. Robert is a master in the kitchen, and it may surprise some to learn that he is allergic to eggs, one of the main ingredients in lots of recipes. In his retirement, Robert will get to do more things he enjoys, like gardening, traveling, camping relaxing and enjoying great food with his family. 

Lana Wilson

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RLC President Terry Wilkerson is pictured here with retiring Business Office Accountant Lana Wilson.

Lana Wilson came aboard RLC in 2012. She has been described by a few people who worked with her as thoughtful, dedicated and hardworking. A big Elvis fan, Lana is also known for her great sense of humor and ability to keep up with off-the-wall conversations.

Now that she is retiring, she will get to spend time doing the things she enjoys, like working on puzzles, not caring about a schedule and taking care of her puppy dogs, Sophie and Rowdy. Now in her retirement, Lana will also be able to travel, ride motorcycles with her husband and spend more time with her family, especially her grandchildren.

Mike Burris

For 21 years, Ag Mechanics and Diesel Technology Professor Mike Burris has balanced a schedule of teaching with planting and harvesting on the farm. He’s going to miss the students. You see, Mike’s class is the first class for freshmen coming into the program.    

He started at Rend Lake College in 1999, and each August since he has really enjoyed seeing what new crop of students will show up to his class. What he enjoys most is the opportunity to work with them, especially those who are willing to work. They are, he says, “the only thing that makes you get up and go to work in the morning.”

Mike has made an impact on many students during his time at RLC, and those moments where a student is able to tinker and fire up an engine after lots of hard work are especially rewarding. Burris is the kind of professor who prefers to teach by example and doing, and the more he demonstrates how something works, the more interested and engaged the student becomes.

In his retirement, Mike’s going to continue farming. He will also mentor the next generation of agricultural professionals through his work with the Hamilton County FFA — particularly one member, Mike’s  grandson Marshall Schuster.

To the person who replaces him, Mike says to keep your head down, but know when to speak up … and have FUN! That goes for anyone looking to have a fulfilling career and retire from RLC.

Bruce Bowen

Bruce Bowen began working at RLC in 1994, and in those 26 years, the custodian has been at the center of what keeps the Rend Lake College a beautiful campus.

Outstanding Faculty Member

Nathan Brouwer

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RLC President Terry Wilkerson is pictured with the 2021 RLCF Outstanding Faculty Award winner and History Professor Nathan Brouwer.

 It’s not often Rend Lake College History Professor Dr. Nathan Brouwer doesn’t know what to say. But learning he’s the RLC Foundation’s 2021 Outstanding Faculty Award winner left him speechless.

“For someone to recognize all of that hard work feels really awesome,” Brouwer said. “Since the day I started at RLC, I have felt at home, whether with my co-workers or the students here. They are so awesome. My students and I have had a lot of fun together and learned a lot from each other over the years, and it is one of the biggest honors of my life to teach the students of Rend Lake College. It really is.”

Brouwer started teaching at RLC in 2009, a few months after he graduated with a master’s degree in history from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. He had originally intended to study zoology and biology, but after he chose a 300-level contemporary history course as an elective — it studied US events from World War II to present day — Brouwer knew within the first 10 minutes he needed to switch majors.

It was there where he learned that a history class does not have to be a recitation of dates and facts. From then on, he knew he would become a history professor who could – and would – make a difference.

 “When I realized that I could rethink humanity and help others that sought to do the same —and potentially help make the world a better place in some tiny way — it just became a passion for me,” he said. “Being in the classroom with my students is one of my favorite places to be, period. … I fell in love with Southern Illinois and the Shawnee [National Forest], so it was a dream come true that a position opened up at RLC just after my graduation.”

Several of Brouwer’s former students have testified to the positive impact that he has made on their lives.

"The focus was never on the memorization of names or dates of various events; the focus rather was why these events were significant and how they impacted regular everyday individuals,” one student stated. "Nearly any individual can present someone with a piece of information they did not know before; however, I believe Dr. Brouwer personifies the much rarer trait of inspiring his students. Being one of those former students, I owe him a lot of gratitude, not only for sparking my own passion for learning, but for modeling what it really means to call oneself a professional educator."

"I’ll admit, at first I thought he was a little bit crazy when he would show up for our 8:00 am class as bright and vibrant as an afternoon sun,” another former student wrote. “It soon became clear that his vibrancy was from a place of genuine passion. He was thrilled to be teaching us about history. He really loved it! … While I enjoyed the content of his class, the impact was much bigger than just learning about history. Dr. Brouwer also taught me a lot about being a good person and embracing life with an open, empathic heart. Dr. Brouwer eats, sleeps, and breathes gratitude and compassion and this unique attitude permeates everything he does, including his teaching."

RLC Psychology Professor Dr. Jeannie Mitchell called Brouwer “one of the best teachers I’ve ever known."

"He has mastered the ability to channel his passion, knowledge and pedagogical skills in such a way that students, even non-history majors, take all his classes,” Mitchell said. “He's a tremendous advocate for students and highly revered by faculty and staff at Rend Lake College."

RLC President Terry Wilkerson said: "Nathan models the ideals of an educator...taking pride and concern for his students and their path to their future.  I am proud to have him on our staff."

Vice President of Instruction and Student Affairs Lori Ragland agreed, adding: "Dr. Brouwer has a remarkable ability to engage and inspire students with his dynamic teaching style. He didn't skip a beat during the past year of remote instruction. Nathan capitalized on his passion, dedication, and organizational skills to continue teaching students in an online learning environment. Rend Lake College is fortunate to have Nathan Brouwer as an instructor."

Brouwer said one of the most important skills that can be taught in history courses is the ability to think critically. History has an endless cast of characters to draw stories from, and he often reads and rereads books in order to obtain fresh material that his students can relate to.

“The most important skill taught by history is the ability to critically think,” Brouwer said. “There isn’t one correct version of history, despite what many earlier generations thought. History is just one big argument, but any correct version has to be based on evidence and fact. Without the ability to think critically and the evidence to back it up, no one can really accurately understand history. They are simply spouting nonsense. And there is perhaps no better place to learn about critical thinking than in a college-level history course. People have surmounted the challenges of existence over the millennia because of a group of people that stood above the rest and made decisions that changed the face of humankind. They were only able to do this because they used critical thinking to move past the supposed limits that previous generations had told them were impossible. In addition to critical thinking, studying history also teaches students to problem-solve. In college-level history courses, students realize that nothing that had to happen in history. Events that have progressed human societies happened as the result of interactions between different people that were working together or against one another to create a certain outcome. In other words, history is — again — a debate over the course of humankind. Relatedly, the course of the future, just like the study of history, is in reality, just one big problem to solve. “

Brouwer was also recognized for his efforts to improve the RLC campus. He has served on several committees including the Oral Communication Assessment Committee, Learning Resource Committee the RLC Computing Committee, as well as many others. He has been a Dual Credit faculty contact for local high school history teachers for several years. He served as faculty advisor for Phi Theta Kappa and was the faculty advisor for both the History Club and the LGBTQ Club. He also held several diversity forums in which faculty, staff, and students discussed diversity at the college.

Brouwer has advocated for more diverse course offerings, such as Black American History and Latin American History, as a way to promote multiculturalism and equity in the RLC curriculum. He has developed several online courses within history and brought in several speakers to campus for presentations. The addition to the multicultural calendar helped expose students to new ideas and research.

Brouwer was also recognized for his efforts to improve the RLC campus. He has served on several committees including the Oral Communication Assessment Committee, Learning Resource Committee the RLC Computing Committee, as well as many others. He has been a Dual Credit faculty contact for local high school history teachers for several years. He served as faculty advisor for Phi Theta Kappa and was the faculty advisor for both the History Club and the LGBTQ Club. He also held several diversity forums in which faculty, staff, and students discussed diversity at the college.

Brouwer has advocated for more diverse course offerings, such as Black American History and Latin American History, as a way to promote multiculturalism and equity in the RLC curriculum. He has developed several online courses within history and brought in several speakers to campus for presentations. The addition to the multicultural calendar helped expose students to new ideas and research.

“Historical thinking also includes the significant use of information previously gathered, whether by sociologists, anthropologists, or others, and applying that to turn information into action,” he said. “And perhaps most importantly, college-level history teaches students that the most effective people in history, by definition, became significant historical figures because they were willing to challenge the ‘status quo.’ The world’s greatest societies were formed by those willing to challenge tradition and consequently move society forward. We owe societies’ transformations to individuals and groups that challenged, and continue to challenge, societal norms and ‘rules.’ In addition, the historical profession has, in recent years, undergone a revolution. Before the 1970s; women, minorities, and ‘regular’ people, among others, were completely left out of the historical record. Can you imagine how inaccurate any version of history is that fails to account for the majority of the population? As part of the revolution in the historical profession, historians have started to move the focus away from just the elites of society by including a tremendous amount of research towards the actions of the ‘regular’ people and other groups previously disregarded and/or omitted from the historical record. In most cases, those ‘regular’ people banding together proved to be the most significant engine of change of all. In short, by studying the people that ‘made things happen,’ the supposedly impossible becomes possible. Ask Nicolaus Copernicus or Marie Curie or Martin Luther King, Jr. Oh, wait…they are dead. Or are they?”

Brouwer holds memberships in the following professional organizations: Who's Who Among Students in American Universities, History Graduate Student Association, American Historical Association, Organization of American Historians, Illinois State Historical Society. He has also presented at the Organization of American History on pedagogy and presented his original research at the Organization of American Historians, the Association for the Study of African-American Life and History (ASALH).

He is a winner of the Edward O'Day Research Writing Award. He has also been a recipient of the SIU-C History Alumni Award, Stanley Zucker Award for Best Original Research Paper by a Graduate Student, and was awarded the Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) Faculty Excellence Award in his first year of teaching at RLC. That award is voted on by RLC students who are members of the PTK honor society.

Brouwer said the best experience in teaching is watching a student transform from someone who does not care too much about their future into a confident individual who is willing to do anything to chase a dream. Watching those transformations are, by far, his fondest memories, he said, and to be put in the position to help these students has been the “highlight of my career, without a doubt.

“It is such an honor to be able to teach them as well as learn about life from them,” Brouwer said. “The first thing I tell any class is that I genuinely care about them and their future success and that no matter how hard their life has been, or currently is, college is one of the few things that can help them achieve their dreams and wholly change their lives. I am certainly living proof.”

Brouwer and his wife Krista live in Carterville, and they have one daughter, Jessica, who graduated from the University of Missouri and now works in Kansas City.

Outstanding Staff Member

Taylor Atchison

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RLC President Terry Wilkerson is pictured here with the 2021 RLCF Outstanding Staff Award winner Taylor Atchison. Atchison works as the administrative assistant for the Applied Science an Technology Division.

This employee has done an outstanding job keeping track of everything that goes on in one of the busiest and most diverse departments on the campus. Tayor Atchison is always there and can be relied on by anyone, whether they are students, guests, from outside groups or industry partners. She is always at the pulse of what is happening and what needs to happen, and her delivery helps things run smoothly. Her thoughtful and thorough work ethic is paired well with a great positive attitude.

In her nominating letter, her team said this is especially important during COVID because the schedule has been even crazier than normal. The team said: “She does it all without complaining. She is always helpful, and with promptness that shows her competence.” In short, she is a pleasure to work with.

Outstanding Part-Time Faculty Member

Bill Garlich

Dr. Bill Garlich owned and operated a veterinary clinic for 24 years and has been an adjunct faculty member at Rend Lake College for 15 years. Not only does Dr. Garlich bring a wealth of information and fascinating stories about being a large and small pet veterinarian, he also establishes a welcoming classroom where students are encouraged to ask questions and participate in engaging labs. Bill has a method where he breaks it down for students. He is a knowledgeable resource for faculty as well and his visits are appreciated by his colleagues. In response to a professor’s frustration over test results, Dr. Garlich said: “As the teacher you are the quarterback. You have to make the very best pass you can, but the students have to play.”

Assessment Award Winner

Sara Alstat-Sanders

The Assessment Award was established in 2010 to recognize faculty members who have excelled in the assessment of student learning. This year’s winner is Music Professor Sara Alstat-Sanders for recognizing the importance of learning and the effect it has on student lives. Alstat-Sanders immediately migrated her methods so that her students could take advantage of various assessment tools.

Milestone Awards

25 Year Award

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Subsidized Child Care Specialist Catherine Jackson was recognized for 25 years of service.

 

20 Year Award

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Pictured from left are President Wilkerson with Sarah Bliderbeck and Kelly Downes, who were recognized for 20 years of service. Not pictured but also reaching the milestone was Sandy West.

 

15 Year Award

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Greg Hollmann and Nathan Wheeler were recognized for 15 years of service. Not pictured is Brad Helm.

 

10 Year Award

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Bria Robinson was recognized for 10 years of service. Not pictured are Lora Philips, Jeff Fairbanks, Garrett Collier, Robert Wilson and Zach Vahlkamp.

 

5 Year

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Several employees were also recognized for their five years of service to RLC. Pictured with Wilkerson, left, are Lynne French, James Gray, Kay Zibby-Damron and Kelsey Page. Not pictured is Nicole Martie.


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