December 2004 Commencement Speaker and Honorary Degree Recipient:


Dr. Jane Piirto is a Trustees’ Professor of Education and Director of Talent Development Education at Ashland University in Ashland, Ohio.  She was born and raised in Ishpeming.  She graduated from NMU in 1963 with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Liberal Arts-English; received a Master of Arts Degree-English from Kent State University, Ohio in 1966; a Master of Education Degree-Counseling from South Dakota State University in 1973; and a Ph.D. in Educational Administration and Supervision in 1977 from Bowling Green State University, Ohio.  


She held a number of positions as an educator in Michigan, South Dakota, and Ohio, and served as principal of Hunter College Campus Schools in New York City.  She was an Instructor in Northern’s English department from 1966-1971.  She is sought after world wide as a conference speaker and consultant in her field.  She has published several major nonfiction books, two of which went into second editions.  She has also published numerous journal articles, chapters in books, encyclopedia entries, reviews, and articles in conference proceedings.  She was a featured speaker at NMU in 1996 at the Teaching and Learning Conference.  Dr. Piirto is also an extensively published creative writer. 


I am proud to recommend her as commencement speaker and honorary degree recipient.  The recommendation is in the Formals. 



NMU Faculty Award Recipients:


I am pleased to introduce to you members of the NMU faculty who are being recognized this year for outstanding service to the University. 


The Excellence in Teaching Award is sponsored by the Teaching Learning Advisory Committee and the Office of the Provost.  Nominees for this award must demonstrate a sustained record of high achievement in teaching evidenced by, but not restricted to:  positive peer observation, high student qualitative and quantitative evaluation; a thorough knowledge of subject matter taught, clarity, organization, and consistency in subject presentation and assessment; enthusiasm for teaching and learning; creation of a safe and open learning environment; and experimentation with teaching and learning paradigms. 


Will Professors Ventre and Niebauer please come forward? 


Just about everyone on campus knows of Dr. Ray Ventre’s remarkable service to this institution, his amazing energy and resourcefulness, his compassion and creativity in helping colleagues and students solve difficult problems.  His selection as Grievance Officer for AAUP and as Director of English MA Programs are but two of many indications of his good will, administrative talent, and wisdom.  Fewer outside the English Department know of his extraordinary work in the classroom, his knowledge of American and English literature, and his great passion for learning.  Semester after semester since 1979, Dr. Ventre has had a profound effect on his students.  He has been at the vanguard in the English Department and at NMU in experimenting with laptops and the use of WebCT in his classes, and he has generously given his time to make several presentations on the use of technology in the classroom.  Beyond this, he has mediated between great authors and our students, doing justice to all. 


Congratulations Dr. Ventre.


When the Department of Communication and Performance Studies lured Dr. Walter Niebauer away from Iowa State University five years ago, they believed they had hired an exceptional classroom teacher.  His performance since joining the department has not only met their expectations, but surpassed them.  As one student put it, “Wally’s experience in the field makes him an expert in what he’s teaching.”  Another noted that “I’ve had many writing courses, but it wasn’t until his class that I started thinking critically about what I was writing.”  Still another commented “Over Thanksgiving break I realized how much I’ve learned from Wally.  My uncle asked what public relations people did beyond going out to lunch with clients.  I proceeded to explain problems and opportunities, key publics, objectives and then it was like WOW…I know what I’m talking about!” 


Congratulations Dr. Niebauer.


The TLC Award for Faculty recognizes exemplary faculty use of TLC laptops in the areas of teaching, research, and community service.  The award is designed to recognize essential uses of the laptop in the academic environment. 


Will Professors Kathleen Heikkila, Mitchell Klett, Laura Reissner, and Suzanne Standerford please come forward?


Dr. Kathleen Heikkila's areas of study and teaching include Cognitive Impairments and Learning Disabilities.  Her students quickly discover that it is impossible to memorize everything about all possible disabilities.  She has focused their attentions on learning to access information and to collaborate with others as they develop strategies for working with students who are 'different.'  Dr. Heikkila has created a website which facilitates connection to other websites to access information relating to disabilities, lesson planning resources, parent-specific information and material pertaining to her courses at NMU.  Parents and local teachers have found her website to be a valuable resource to them.  Providing her students with 'real world' examples, teachers have e‑mailed her website requesting help with specific cases.  The students in her classes then have developed materials in response to these requests.   In addition to the lessons learned creating such materials, her students get a sense of being part of a community beyond the university.


Congratulations Dr. Heikkila.


Dr. Mitchell Klett just completed his first semester at NMU.  He has quickly immersed himself in the technology and resources available to faculty and students.  In his Earth Science for Educators, Dr. Klett has integrated the laptop capabilities with course content.  His students use Inspiration, a commercial software package that uses visual learning techniques to help people to structure their thoughts and ideas as they create documents from primitive outlines to complete reports.  To learn about minerals, students in his class first made a key document to help in learning to identify different minerals using known mineral samples.  They then used their key to identify samples which were not known.  Using Excel, students created graphs and charts to understand plate tectonics and volcanoes using actual data from the eruptions of Mt. St. Helens in Washington State.  This activity integrated a generic application, historical data of a real event, and Internet research.  


Congratulations Dr. Klett.


Dr. Laura Reissner prepares education students for the challenge of working with students who have special needs.  One of the charms of living and working in Marquette is the rural nature of the U.P.  For a professor preparing future teachers for understanding and working with students who have special needs, this rural charm limits the number and diversity of local K-12 school children who might be examples for education students.  Dr. Reissner has overcome this difficulty by introducing a set of computer programs which provide interactive video case studies of a variety of students with special needs.  She uses these programs in both her Introduction and Methods courses.  The programs provide two primary benefits that would not be available otherwise.  The first is that students are exposed to a wider range of emotional impairments than are normally available in a rural region.  The second is that the interactive video case studies can be used as a common benchmark.  This helps Dr. Reissner be sure students have a certain level of ability before they go out into the schools and begin working with the K-12 students. 


Congratulations Dr. Reissner.


Dr. Suzanne Standerford is an active participant in use of technology with teaching.  Her Language Arts Methods and Materials for Elementary Teachers and her Elementary Reading Instruction classes have been heavily integrated with the use of the NMU laptop.  Students participate in online discussions, submit homework electronically, retrieve class handouts and lecture notes from a campus server, create public presentations and fliers for use at a local elementary school, and perform online research investigations for projects.  Video clips of student teaching have been created and are available for classroom discussion and for the students' electronic portfolios which can be used for university assessment and for job.  Much of this technology use occurred at a local elementary school which has no access to the Internet.  Dr. Standerford and her students had to think ahead to make the most productive use of their time at the school.  Students learned to pre-load their laptops with information they required from the Internet prior to their arrival at the school.  They exposed the elementary school children and their teachers to uses of technology beyond the entertainment areas. 


Congratulations Dr. Standerford.