A trio of St. Cloud State employees were honored at a Minnesota State Board of Trustees Awards for Excellence luncheon April 18 in St. Paul.
Jane Olsen, director of the Women’s Center, was honored with the Professional Excellence in Service Award. She was the lone recipient.
Earning the Excellence in Teaching Award were Sarah Petitto, associate professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, and Tracy Ore, sociology professor and coordinator of the Community Garden.
Petitto and Ore were among six winners of the teaching award. St. Cloud State nominees in that category include Stephen Philion, sociology professor, and Benjamin Witts, assistant professor in the Department of Community Psychology, counseling and Family Therapy. Philion and Wittes were designated Outstanding Educators.
The Board of Trustees Awards are conferred annually to acknowledge superior professional achievement and to encourage the pursuit of excellence. Appointed by the governor, the 15-member board has policy responsibilities for Minnesota State, a system of 37 state colleges and universities that includes St. Cloud State.
“This year’s award recipients are helping Minnesota State build a vibrant, robust, new landscape of learning,” said Devinder Malhotra, chancellor of Minnesota State.
Olsen is the founding director of the Women’s Center, a leading voice for women for nearly three decades, at St. Cloud State and across Minnesota.
She led the development and implementation of anonymous sexual assault reporting protocols that encourage reporting by victims/survivors.
She co-wrote a grant creating a program that includes mandatory sexual violence awareness training for incoming students, making St. Cloud State one of the first universities in the nation to do so. To date, more than 100,000 students have been trained.
“Jane is an excellent example of the pioneers who charted the course for the field of gender equity work on college and university campuses,” said Vaidya. “Jane lives her mission with a passion. This is evident from the many remarks that were repeated throughout her letters of recommendation.”
Olsen’s alma mater is University of Illinois at Springfield, where she earned a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in psychology.
Petitto seeks creative ways to encourage deep learning, updating her methods to increase interest and relevance for students. She identifies barriers to learning, then re-designs instruction to create environments where it is safe to explore and learn.
She is a co-founder of the WeSTEM initiative, which recruits, retains and empowers female St. Cloud State students in science, technology, engineering and math. Petitto teaches introductory and upper-level classes, including General Chemistry 1 (CHEM 210) and Physical Chemistry Lab 1 (CHEM 422).
“Sarah’s passion for chemistry has even extended to working with K-12 students to better prepare them to embark on a journey of continuous learning,” said Vaidya. “She exemplifies the very best in the Teacher-Scholar Model.”
Petitto earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the Rochester Institute of Technology. Her doctorate in chemistry is from University of Nebraska, Lincoln.
Ore has an exceptional record of scholarship with a strong commitment to personal grow as a teacher. Among the classes she teaches is Principles of Sociology (SOC 160). In that class, low-income and international students benefit from her Peer Learning Assistants program, which has improved retention rates and the raised grade average from 76 percent to 88 percent.
Ore is the founder and director of the Community Garden, a campus-community collaborative that grows food and flowers.
“Tracy has an outstanding history of applying the teacher-scholar model to meet the educational needs of our students. Her passion for teaching and for the changing nature of our students comes through clearly in her course design, assessment and improvements,” said Vaidya.
Ore holds holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology and social psychology from Hope College, Holland, Michigan. She earned a doctoral degree in sociology from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.