PNW Pioneer

Festive on Founders Day

Second annual celebration highlights faculty, staff

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Festive on Founders Day

Chancellor Thomas Keon speaks to the attendees of the Founders Day celebration on March 2.

Chancellor Thomas Keon speaks to the attendees of the Founders Day celebration on March 2.

Jenna Gloy

Chancellor Thomas Keon speaks to the attendees of the Founders Day celebration on March 2.

Jenna Gloy

Jenna Gloy

Chancellor Thomas Keon speaks to the attendees of the Founders Day celebration on March 2.

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The future and the past accomplishments of PNW formed the major themes for the second annual Founders Day. Employees were honored for their years of service, and outstanding faculty, staff and students received awards at the March 2 celebration.

Kris Falzone, associate vice chancellor for Marketing & Communications, said Founders Day is always commemorated on the first Friday in March because the Higher Learning Commission approved the accreditation of PNW on Friday, March 4, 2016.

Chancellor Thomas Keon said the university will continue to focus on supporting students from the three counties where most of them have come from in the past: Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties in Indiana. On the contrary, this year’s admissions data points to opportunities to draw students from Cook County in Illinois and Berrien County in Michigan, he said.

“We are looking at these numbers daily, and my hope is that, with such a strong start, we will be in better shape maybe than we have been in the last seven years,” Keon said.

For first-time students, PNW overall has seen an increase in number of applicants and an even greater increase in the number of applicants admitted, he said. There was also an increase in the number of admitted students who said they are going to attend.

For transfer students, the number of admissions has more than doubled, Keon said.

PNW is also looking at adding degree programs in new areas, like forensics and healthcare-related disciplines. Health care is the second-biggest portion of the Northwest Indiana economy, Keon said. The administration is also considering a center for faculty development, teaching incentive awards and teaching portfolios.

“We have an exciting and bright future. I know that all of us in the room will help get us there,” Keon said.

Jonathan Swarts, professor of political science and interim head of the department of political science, economics, world languages and cultures, won the Outstanding Administrative Leadership Award for Academic Units.

Ralph Mueller, vice chancellor for Academic Affairs and provost, announcing the award, said Swarts is known for excellence in teaching and also in administration. He knows the subject thoroughly and how to explain it, and was also commended for patience, approachability and wit, Mueller said.

“It really is a team effort,” Swarts said about his work in his department.

Brian Miller, director of Public Safety, won the Outstanding Administrative Leadership Award for NonAcademic Units.

Stephen Turner, vice chancellor for Finance and Administration, read some of the comments of those who nominated Miller. They said he always goes above his duty, has a team attitude and has an eagerness to serve. One person wrote that Miller gives a special touch to interactions with the PNW Police Department, which the writer did not expect to “get the warm and fuzzies from.”

“It’s a pleasure to serve and protect you,” Miller said.

Nicoleta Tarfulea, associate professor of mathematics, won the Outstanding Faculty Award for Scholarship. Reading some titles of her publications, Geoffrey Schultz, Faculty Senate chair, said they sounded intimidating. He also noted Tarfulea has received great reviews from students, including one who said she is the best calculus teacher ever.

Tarfulea said she is extremely honored and thanked her colleagues and friends for helping her.

“I hope I’m not that intimidating in person,” she said.

Kenneth Kincaid, associate professor of history, won the Outstanding Faculty Award for Engagement and Service. Schultz commended him for taking the job overseeing student integrity and grade appeals when unfinished appeals were stacking up since no one wanted the job.

Kincaid said he associates with great people.

“Whenever you do service and engagement, you’re only as good as the people around you,” Kincaid said.

Mark Mabrito, associate professor of English, won the Outstanding Faculty Award for Teaching. He was away at a conference during the event. Schultz said Mabrito, who teaches writing for interactive media, has spent 15 years developing curriculum.

Schultz said that Mabrito has a 4.7 out of 5 on RateMyProfessors.com and was praised by a student for not thinking any question is too stupid. 

Caitlyn Swan and Daquan Williams won the Outstanding Student Awards.

Swan works for the Office of the Dean of Students, is a campus ambassador and is part of the Honors College, Circle K and the Dean’s Leadership Group.

“This university is so much more than a university; it’s a home for many of us,” Swan said.

Williams is SGA President, public relations chairman for the National Society of Black Engineers and vice president of recruitment for National Residence Hall Honorary. Williams also works in Mueller’s office.

Anne Duley, SGA vice president, said Williams has a natural leadership style, does not seek selfish gain and makes himself available to students on both campuses. Williams asked for the SGA Senate to be applauded.

“Being president of student government is one of the best positions I’ve ever held in my life,” Williams said.

Cynthia Graham and Javier Solis won the Outstanding Administrative Staff Awards. Graham, a data specialist in Enrollment Management, was commended for success in change management, and Solis, a supervisor in Information Services, was commended for leadership skills and team building.

Graham thanked her team for making her look good, and Solis said, “It’s all about teamwork.”

Susan Delatorre and Joanette Buss won the Outstanding Clerical Staff Awards.

Delatorre, a secretary for chemistry and physics, was commended for teamwork, willingness to assist and helping at events like the Science Olympiad. Buss, a secretary for construction science and organizational leadership, was commended for supporting her colleagues and knowledge of university processes. Delatorre said she can just represent the good work of the people in her department. Buss was not present.

Edwin Rodriguez and John Reed won the Outstanding Service Staff Awards. Rodriguez, who works for building services, was commended for providing quality service and ensuring his department meets quality standards. Reed, an electrician for maintenance, was commended for helping with training, going beyond his duties and ensuring people receive explanations for the decisions made.

Rodriguez, who worked for 17 years at hotel resorts before coming to the university, said, when his former coworkers discover he is a custodian now, they seem surprised. But Rodriguez said he is proud to tell them his job because he hated his old job and this one is right for him.

Jenna Gloy
Chancellor Thomas Keon (left), Provost Ralph Mueller (center) and SGA President Daquan Williams (right) speak together at
Founders Day on March 2.

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