WWHEL celebrates 20 years of service 1996 - 2016!

2008 Award Winner

DR. KATHLEEN O'BRIEN

Dr. Kathleen O’Brien, senior vice president for academic affairs at Alverno College in Milwaukee, has won the 2008 Outstanding Achievement Award presented by Wisconsin Women in Higher Education Leadership (WWHEL).

“Dr. O’Brien exemplifies the spirit of excellence that WWHEL strives to foster throughout higher education in Wisconsin,” said Kaylen Betzig, vice president for administrative services at Waukesha County Technical College and the outgoing WWHEL state president.

O’Brien’s nominators praised her professional guidance and commitment to the improvement of the lives of women through the transforming power of education, calling her a role model “who leads with courage and compassion, with intelligence and patience.” Her strong leadership extends into the greater Milwaukee community as well as into state, national, and international arenas. She played a key role in the “Status of Girls in Wisconsin” research project, which looked at virtually every aspect of the life of girls age 10 to 19 in our state, and also helped to develop Alverno’s diagnostic digital portfolio that has become the gold standard in higher education assessment.

O’Brien, a member of the School Sisters of St. Francis, received her bachelor’s degree from Alverno College, her master’s degree from Vanderbilt University, and her Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

2007 Award Winner

CAROL SUE BUTTS

Carol Sue Butts, Provost of the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, has won the 2007 Outstanding Achievement Award presented by Wisconsin Women in Higher Education Leadership (WWHEL). The announcement came at the annual WWHEL state conference held October 18-19 at Fox Valley Technical College in Appleton.

“Dr. Butts has been a superb mentor and role model for women in academia,” said Mari McCarty, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Association of Independent Colleges and Universities and the outgoing WWHEL state president. “She exemplifies the spirit of excellence that WWHEL strives to foster among all involved in higher education in the state.”

Dr. Butts’ nominators praised her professional guidance as she encouraged them to participate in organizations that in turn support other women in education, creating a multiplier effect. One nominator said, “I could not ask for a better role model to work under as I hone my own leadership skills.”

Dr. Butts’ influence extended beyond her own campus to the state level, where she served two terms on the WWHEL Board, including a term as state president, during which time she established the WWHEL website and created an electronic archive to help preserve WWHEL’s institutional memory. This initiative inspired others on a national level to follow her example. In addition, she expanded the WWHEL sponsorship program, allowing WWHEL to bring in national speakers for conferences and to keep costs low to encourage the highest possible attendance. In presenting the award, outgoing WWHEL president Mari McCarty said of Dr. Butts, “She embodies the spirit and purpose of WWHEL.”

2006 Award Winner

JOAN NORTH

Joan North, Dean of the College of Professional Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, has won the 2006 Outstanding Achievement Award presented by Wisconsin Women in Higher Education Leadership (WWHEL). The announcement came at the annual WWHEL state conference held October 26-27 at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“Dr. North has been a superb mentor and role model for women in academia,” said Mari McCarty, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Association of Independent Colleges and Universities and the current WWHEL state president. “She exemplifies the spirit of excellence that WWHEL strives to foster among all involved in higher education in the state.”

A founding member of WWHEL, Dean North has supported the advancement of women and minorities in higher education throughout her career. Under her leadership, the UW-Stevens Point WWHEL Advisory Board developed recommendations leading to internships through which women could gain the experience and insight necessary to move forward into administration. A series of First Friday Breakfasts offered the opportunity for women to talk informally and share information, and with Dean North’s support, many new leaders were born. As Professor Joan Karlin of UWSP stated in her letter of recommendation, “Our conversation is no longer about the glass ceiling, but about the quality of our sunroof.” Another participant in those early meetings was Mary Mosier, Director of Career Services and Academic Advising at UWSP. She described the experience as “a leadership lab with hands-on, practical tips and constructive feedback.” In presenting the award, WWHEL president Mari McCarty said of Dean North, “She embodies the spirit and purpose of WWHEL.”

2005 Award Winner

VICKI LORD LARSON

At the recent annual conference of the Wisconsin Women in Higher Education Leadership (WWHEL) at Marian College of Fond du Lac, Dr. Vicki Lord Larson, Interim Chancellor, UW-Eau Claire, was presented the Outstanding Achievement Award for 2005 by Dr. Carol Sue Butts, President of WWHEL and Provost & Vice Chancellor of UW-Platteville at the dinner and reception at the Fond du Lac Ramada Plaza Inn on October 20. A founding member of WWHEL, Vicki has supported the advancement of women and minorities in higher education in Wisconsin throughout her career. Dr. Lord Larson joined UW-Eau Claire's faculty in 1973. Later she became a professor of communication disorders and served as chair of the department fro

m 1978-1983. From 1984 to 1993, she was assistant, associate, and ultimately dean for Graduate Studies and University Research at UW-Oshkosh. In 1994 and 1995, she became acting and then official provost and vice chancellor at UW-Oshkosh. After her retirement in 2000, she served as a consultant to the UW System president on women’s leadership development.

From highly visible top-level leadership positions such as co-chair of the UW System Committee for the Study of the Status of Women, she has been a courageous role model, providing an improved climate and opportunities for women and minorities to move into leadership positions in Wisconsin higher education. In 1999, she directed a rigorous analysis of the experiences of women students, faculty, and staff in the UW system and co-authored a report which was accepted and endorsed by the UW System President and Board of Regents. This report’s recommendations created a blueprint for action to improve the status of women at UW System institutions. In 2001, she became an acquisitions editor and in 2004 acquisitions manager for Eau Claire-based Thinking Publications. She is on leave from the business while serving as interim chancellor at UW-Eau Claire.

In her enthusiastic letter of nomination, Dr. Louise Root-Robbins noted, "It is truly remarkable that Vicki has managed to have such a successful academic career while continuously taking the time to provide assistance and vision on behalf of improving the status of women and thereby the effectiveness of the entire UW System organization. It is also noteworthy that Vicki is highly respected by the people she works with; every person without exception that I have spoken to in reference to Vicki have unanimously positive comments. I do not add this comment as evidence of her popularity but instead as an indicator of her effectiveness at collaborating and bringing people together around important, and often times controversial, issues such as gender equity in higher education. . . . [She] embodies the purpose and spirit of this award."

2004 Award Winner

MARY DEE WENNIGER

The first WWHEL Outstanding Achievement Award was presented in October 2004 to Mary Dee Wenniger at the annual state conference held at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. Ms. Wenniger is the founder/editor of Women in Higher Education (WIHE) and since 1992, this monthly publication has enhanced leadership opportunities for women. Because the newsletter has an international readership, Ms. Wenniger's influence extends far beyond the Wisconsin borders. However, because WIHE is based in Wisconsin, the strategies and successes of Wisconsin women leaders in higher education are often presented as the model for the world.

Ms. Wenniger's lifetime career of supporting opportunities for Wisconsin women in higher education began when she was a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she earned BA and MA degrees in the 1960s. As her co-authored book with Mary Helen Conroy Gender Equity or Bust describes her career, "her true credentials are surviving being fired from three professional positions in fifteen years, in the academic, business and non-profits sectors of the workplace, attesting to the widespread failure in all three sectors to accept a woman with brains and an attitude." She was the only female at University of Wisconsin-Madison's Management Institute in a management position. She inspires audiences of women to whom she speaks about the success of WIHE by highlighting her own career path of failures in the workplace, failures of leaders in the three sectors to recognize and value the alternative viewpoint she presents and to espouse the doctrines of fair play and diversity. Their failures provide the foundation for Mary Dee's success as a supporter of women's opportunities for leadership.

Mary Dee Wenniger has promoted women into leadership positions in Wisconsin through her personal as well as professional life. Mary Dee was born and raised in Waukesha. For twenty-five years, she played on the Women's Hockey club team, the team that finally led to UW-Madison approving an NCAA Division I team. Those who know Mary Dee know that she has always been active in support of women's equity issues. She loves to play sports; she is an active tennis player and kayaker and has recently begun sailing. As a single mother, she supported her daughter Elizabeth, who grew up in Madison and earned an BA in 2000 from Smith College. Elizabeth is currently living in San Diego and is managing editor of the monthly publication.

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