Outstanding volunteers recognized

July 22, 2013
Barbara Parsons
Melissa Gavin

PLATTEVILLE, Wis.­­­ — Recipients of the Outstanding Volunteer Award were recognized at the UW-Platteville Foundation annual Donor and Volunteer Recognition Dinner on July 20. This year’s recipients were Barbara Parsons, Paul Van de Sand and Melissa Gavin.

Parsons is a retired professor of philosophy at UW-Platteville. Since her retirement 10 years ago, she continues to stay significantly involved with the social and environmental justice program at UW-Platteville. She has served on the Social and Environmental Justice Council since its inception, and played an integral role in the establishment of the social and environmental justice minor.  Although retired, she continues to contribute to the teaching of the Introduction to Social and Environmental Justice course. She lectures in the course at the beginning and end of the semester and also attends the course throughout the semester to engage with the students, contribute to the class discussions and help further enhance the program.

“I love teaching. It’s a passion of my life,” said Parsons. “When I retired 10 years ago, I really had not thought I would be back in the classroom, until the opportunity came along to engage in creating the social and environmental justice minor. It is a very important area of study, particularly in our time.”

“It has been my great honor and joy to have served with her on the SEJ Council and to have taught with her in the Introductory SEJ course,” said Richard Waugh, professor of geography at UW-Platteville, in his nomination letter. “I can testify to the many, many hours of work that she has volunteered to make this significant program successful.”

Parsons began teaching at UW-Platteville in 1969 and has witnessed the university expansion over the years. “I’ve seen UW-Platteville grow and develop in many positive ways,” said Parsons. “I’ve enjoyed the students and my university colleagues very much.”

Van de Sand is a senior energy engineer with Franklin Energy Services LLC, in Port Washington, Wis. He initially became involved with UW-Platteville through his recruiting work for Franklin Energy at the UW-Platteville Career Center’s annual career fair events. He also assists the Career Center with mock interviews, presentations and résumé critiques. Van de Sand’s support for the university extends beyond the career center. He has been a strong advocate for the sustainable and renewable energy systems program — advising in the curriculum development, as well as guest lecturing classes in the program. Last year, he helped facilitate the creation of the UW-Platteville chapter of the Wisconsin Association of Energy Engineers, which was the first-ever student chapter of the association.

“Paul is the type of person who goes out of his way to get to know you, as well as what your needs are so he can assess the situation and see if he can help,” wrote Diana Trendt, director of the UW-Platteville Career Center, in her nomination letter. “Paul has been instrumental in regards to building relationships with the Career Center, several academic departments — not just engineering — and with our students.”

“What I see at UW-Platteville is a very dedicated faculty,” said Van de Sand. “I also see a group of students who are very committed to their studies. They are serious about what they are doing. UW-Platteville is the number one campus I like to come to when I am recruiting. I can always count on the students being extremely polite, professional and dedicated to what they are doing.”

Gavin earned her Master of Science in project management from UW-Platteville in 2008 and currently works for the UW-Platteville Distance Learning Center as an advisor for project management. She has been a member of the Distance Education Alumni Advisory Board since 2008 and serves as president. She is also a director of the Alumni Association board.

In 2011, Gavin helped organize the first-ever Homecoming Hustle – a 5K run open to students, alumni and the community, to raise money for scholarships. Gavin assisted in seeking donations and advertisers, and arranging for banners to be printed and T-shirts to be made. The first event had 33 attendees and raised approximately $250. Participation in the second event, which Gavin also helped to organize, more than tripled; over 100 runners took part in the event and raised $3,000, with an additional $1,200 of in-kind donations.

Plans for the Homecoming Hustle begin nearly a year in advance, and Gavin is already assisting in this fall’s third annual run. “The first year we only had 10 weeks to get it all done, and we knew we needed more time,” said Gavin. “The extra time allows us to find sponsorships, advertise, get the word out and look at routes.” This year, the goal is to have 150-200 runners participate.

Gavin has also volunteered her time teaching two card-making classes, organized by the Alumni Association, which she hopes to repeat this year.

“Melissa has been a true asset to the Alumni Association and the university these past five years,” said Alumni Services Director Kim Schmelz, in her nomination letter.

“I like to be active and I like to give back,” said Gavin. “If it’s a cause that I truly believe in, I’m going to give back. I earned my undergraduate degree from UW-Madison and my graduate degree from UW-Platteville. Even though I was in UW-Platteville’s Distance Learning Program, I felt so much more connected to UW-Platteville than I ever did when I was in Madison. It makes it easy to give back and keep that connection going.”

Written by: Alison Parkins, content manager, (608) 342-1526, parkinsal@uwplatt.edu


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