University of Wisconsin System
Press Release

UW System, Alliant Energy recognize outstanding students, teachers for 2019

The awards are presented to students and teachers from UW System campuses located within Alliant Energy’s service area.

By - Oct 25th, 2019 04:00 pm

MADISON, Wis.—Five University of Wisconsin System students and three teachers are being recognized today by the UW System and Alliant Energy Foundation for their outstanding achievements. The Alliant Energy/Erroll B. Davis, Jr. Academic Achievement Award recognizes the outstanding academic and community-service efforts of students from traditionally underrepresented minority groups who are pursuing a degree in business or engineering at UW-Madison or UW-Platteville. The Alliant Energy/Underkofler Excellence in Teaching Award recognizes outstanding commitment to student success. The awards are presented to students and teachers from UW System campuses located within Alliant Energy’s service area.

“With the continued generous support of the Alliant Energy Foundation, we proudly recognize these remarkable students and instructors,” said UW System President Ray Cross. “Their ‘out-of-the-park’ academic and volunteer achievements inspire us all as we work to help more students achieve success and reach their full potential.”

“These annual awards reflect Alliant Energy’s long-standing investment in both education and our shared future,” said Julie Bauer, Executive Director of the Alliant Energy Foundation. “We are honored to continue the legacy of these awards to recognize the hard work of students and faculty.”

The recipients of the 13th annual Alliant Energy/Erroll B. Davis, Jr. Academic Achievement Award are:

  • Luis Balleno, UW-Platteville. Balleno used his innate curiosity about how things work – and his interest in making them work better – as a Quality Engineering summer intern at Fairbanks Morse Engine, where he completed a gauge study to find part interchangeability. Balleno plans to graduate in May 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering.
  • Malcolm Clark, UW-Madison. As a freshman, Clark began working in a research lab investigating processes of sputtering deposition of thin metallic films using a vacuum system, which introduced him to advanced laboratory procedures and spectroscopy equipment for quality control. He has continued structural materials research and plans to graduate in May 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in materials science and engineering with the goal of working in the energy industry.
  • Daniel Gnadt, UW-Platteville. Gnadt graduated in May from the College of Engineering, Mathematics and Science at UW-Platteville with a degree in electrical engineering and a minor in mathematics. He accepted a position as a design engineer at Electrical Consultants, Inc., in Madison, Wis. He has created YouTube tutorials on photo and video editing and worked as a math and electrical engineering tutor.
  • Maura McDonagh, UW-Madison. McDonagh’s senior capstone team project involved presenting a prototype for a robot that would perform skin closure following total knee replacement surgery. As a UW-Madison research assistant, she investigated the effect of bacterial meningitis on the blood brain barrier. She was selected to participate in an intensive clinical cancer prevention training program at the Medical College of Wisconsin. McDonagh plans to graduate in May 2020 with a double major in biomedical engineering and communication arts.
  • Julian Rodriguez, UW-Platteville. Rodriguez graduated in May with an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering from the UW-Platteville Engineering Partnership Program at UW-Oshkosh, Fox Cities campus. His mechanical engineering senior design project involved developing a new lower-cost cart for use in medical environments. He currently works in process engineering at Mercury Marine in Fond du Lac. He plans to pursue a master’s degree in mechanical engineering.

The 27th annual Alliant Energy/Underkofler Excellence in Teaching Award recipients are:

  • Jamie Henke, Distinguished Faculty Associate, Division of Continuing Studies, UW-Madison. Dr. Henke teaches face-to-face, online, and honors sections of Basic Concepts of Music Theory for non-majors for the School of Music. She also teaches online music theory, composition, and music appreciation for the Division of Continuing Studies. Her teaching awards include the Hilldale Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. She published an online music theory textbook entitled “Theory Gizmos: Fundamental Tools to Understand, Analyze and Build Music.” Henke has been awarded grants to work on projects such as podcasting, collaborative learning, an e-learning video, and simulations and games.
  • James Kabrhel, Associate Professor of Chemistry, UW-Green Bay, Sheboygan Campus. Dr. Kabrhel teaches general chemistry and organic chemistry lectures and labs, including a preparatory organic chemistry “boot camp” designed to facilitate student success. Kabrhel is committed to providing students with guidance in understanding the difference between science and pseudoscience. He engages students with hands-on video assignments and new software that helps students gain an understanding of chemical structures and reactions. He organizes “Cool Chemistry” shows for the campus community – helping students select and perform chemistry demonstrations for audiences of up to 300 people.
  • Amanda Tucker, Associate Professor of English, UW-Platteville. Dr. Tucker teaches courses in writing and research, humanities and literature, gender studies, and international education. These courses are geared toward different student populations, including English majors and minors as well as general education students. Tucker incorporates research from the cognitive sciences into her classroom, introducing findings that show a strong link between reading literary texts and building empathy and social cognition. This link helps students find literary study valuable, particularly when paired with data that shows employers highly value college graduates’ abilities in these areas. She was the College of Liberal Arts and Education Outstanding Teacher of the Year in 2014, and in 2017-18 she participated in the UW System’s Wisconsin Teaching Fellows and Scholars program.

About the Awards

The Alliant Energy Foundation established an endowment in 2006 to honor Erroll B. Davis, Jr.’s distinguished record of public service. Davis, the first African-American leader of a “Business Week 1000” company, is a former chief executive of Alliant Energy and a former member of the UW System’s Board of Regents. He was interim Superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools from 2012 to 2014.

The Underkofler awards are given as a tribute to the energy company’s long-time senior executive, James R. Underkofler (1923–2015), who was a staunch proponent of excellence in undergraduate teaching. He spent his entire career with the Wisconsin Power and Light Co. (now Alliant Energy), ending with his retirement in 1990 as chairman and CEO.

Both award programs are administered by the UW System’s Office of Academic and Student Affairs. For more information about each of the 2019 recipients, see the awards program online.

The University of Wisconsin System serves approximately 170,000 students. Awarding nearly 37,000 degrees annually, the UW System is Wisconsin’s talent pipeline, putting graduates in position to increase their earning power, contribute to their communities, and make Wisconsin a better place to live. More than 80 percent of in-state UW System graduates stay in Wisconsin five years after earning a degree. The UW System provides a 23:1 return on state investment. UW System institutions also contribute to the richness of Wisconsin’s culture and economy with groundbreaking research, new companies and patents, and boundless creative intellectual energy.

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