2017 Distinguished Alumni Award Recipients

Dave EdyburnDave Edyburn
Ph.D. 1987 Special Education
College of Education and Human Performance, Associate Dean for Research, University of Central Florida
Dave is a visionary leader in the field of special education. He has served the field in the capacity of an editor of five journals; published more than 150 articles; received more than $7 million in funding; and has presented his research nationally and internationally. His research interests include the application of technology to enhance teaching and learning. He has published and presented extensively on his work in the area of technology during the past 30 years, and his work in the field of special education has been cited often. Dave is a thought leader and a committed professional who seeks to help change and shape the lives of professionals, students, and families in the field of special education.

Mark GierlMark Gierl
Ph.D. 1996 Educational Psychology
Professor and Director of the Centre for Research in Applied Measurement and Evaluation, University of Alberta in Edmonton
Mark’s specialization is educational and psychological measurement. His current research is focused on automatic item generation. Mark works closely with government agencies, testing companies, and academic publishers to implement item-generation principles produced from his research into their test development practices. He has published extensively during his 20-year career and is an extraordinary mentor who has inspired and fostered the intellectual development of many of his students. They, in turn, have gone on to do exceptionally well in their careers. Mark is the Director in the Centre for Research in Applied Measurement and Evaluation (CRAME) at the University of Alberta.

Elaine HorwitzElaine Horwitz
Ph.D. 1980 Curriculum & Instruction (MA 1975, LAS)
Curriculum and Instruction Professor, University of Texas at Austin
Elaine has conducted groundbreaking research on the emotional experiences of second language learners and has influenced language teaching worldwide. She has been the director of an internationally recognized graduate program in the field of second Language learning and teaching at the University of Texas at Austin and continues to be an influential mentor to countless language teachers and researchers. Elaine holds a master’s degree in French language teaching, and her doctorate is in second language learning and teaching from the University of Illinois. She has 73 doctoral dissertations completed under her direction, as well as numerous master’s theses and two undergraduate honor theses.

Leslie RutkowskiLeslie Rutkowski
Ph.D. 2007, MS 2005 Educational Psychology
Centre for Educational Measurement Professor, University of Oslo, Norway
Leslie is internationally recognized for her research on large-scale assessments. She earned a master's degree in statistics from the College of LAS and a doctorate from the Department of Educational Psychology. Leslie has made a lasting impression through her research and teaching on educational inquiry and analysis. After completing research on post-traumatic stress disorder, she worked as a research associate with the Data Processing and Research Center in Germany, which is part of the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement. Leslie returned to the U.S. in 2010 and became an assistant professor of inquiry methodology in the Counseling and Education Psychology Department at Indiana University. Five years later, her experience in the international statistics field led Leslie to her current position as a professor at the Centre for Education Measurement at the University of Oslo. She has been published in numerous journals and has published a handbook on large-scale assessments.

Michael WischnowskiMichael Wischnowski
Ph.D. 1996 Special Education
Ralph C. Wilson School of Education, Dean and Professor, St. John Fisher College
Michael has served as dean of the School of Education at St John Fisher College since 2012. He has focused much of his scholarly work on systems-level policy and administration within the early childhood special education and early intervention fields. Michael has been published in both research and practitioner journals, as well as other publications. Highly regarded in his field, he has presented at state, national, and international conferences and has been a mentor to many. Michael has served as associate editor of  Young Exceptional Children, a practitioner-focused, peer-reviewed journal published by the Division for Early Childhood of the Council for Exceptional Children.

Steven WiseSteven Wise
Ph.D. 1981 Educational Pschology
Northwest Evaluation Association, Senior Research Fellow
Steven has been successful in various roles: professor, editor, mentor, author, supervisor, researcher, and leader. His achievements during his career in both academia and industry have extended to outstanding research and significant contributions to his field, to scholarly dissemination, to service to his profession, and to the mentoring of emerging scholars. At the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Steven co-developed the Quantitative and Qualitative Methods in Education doctoral program and served as its first program head. He was also a founding member of the journal Applied Measurement in Education, one of the most influential journals in the field of educational measurement and assessment. Steven has also been a member of the editorial boards of multiple prestigious journals and participates on the Technical Advisory Committees for high-stakes testing programs. Steven has also served as a program co-chair for Division D, the American Educational Research Association, and the National Council on Measurement in Education.

2017 Young Alumni Achievement Award Recipient

Steven LukeSteven Luke
Ph.D. 2011, MS 2008 Educational Psychology
Department of Psychology and Neuroscience Center Assistant Professor, Brigham Young University
Steve received his doctorate in the Department of Educational Psychology in 2011, with a certificate of advanced study in second language acquisition and teacher education. During his time at Illinois, he received two teaching awards, including the Sandra Goss Lucas Award for excellence in teaching introductory psychology. Since graduating, Steve has published 25 papers that have appeared in the top research journals within his field. His work has been cited collectively more than 300 times, demonstrating a substantial early impact in the field of educational psychology. According to Kiel Christianson, Steve’s nominator, “Steve is on his way to becoming a superstar in the fields of cognitive and educational psychology.”

2016 Distinguished Alumni Award Recipients

Christine Adrian

Christine Adrian ’92 C&I, Ed.M. ’93 C&I, Ed.M. ’06 EOL
Social Studies Building Leader, Jefferson Middle School

Christine’s passion for social studies and preparing students to become citizens is evident in her role at Jefferson Middle School in Champaign. In this position, she organizes schoolwide activities and constructs personal learning plans for the social studies department. Christine also facilitates professional development for the Champaign Unit 4 School District and works to align the district’s curriculum to the new College, Career and Civic Life framework. She won the Lincoln Lesson Plan contest from the History Channel in 2009 and was the 2009 Outstanding Mock Election Project recipient. In 2010 Christine was named the Illinois History Teacher of the Year by the Gilder Lehrman Institute for American History; in 2011 she received the Outstanding Middle School Teacher of the Year award from the National Council for the Social Studies; and in 2012 she won the Award of Teaching Excellence in Illinois. Nominated by Kimberly Seobhan.

Elise DarwishElise Darwish ’88 C&I
Chief Academic Officer, Aspire Public Schools

Elise began as a kindergarten teacher in the inner city of Chicago and later relocated to California to work as an instructional coordinator at the San Carlos Charter Learning Center, California’s first charter school. Elise later collaborated with mentor Don Shalvey and Netflix co-founder Reed Hastings to start Aspire Public Schools, one of the nation’s first charter management organizations. Serving more than 14,600 students in 38 schools, Aspire’s model utilizes expanded learning time and small class sizes to optimize learning. During the last five years, 100 percent of Aspire graduates have secured admission to a four-year college or university.  As chief academic officer, Elise supports principals, oversees research pertaining to curriculum and assessment, and manages internal professional development programs. Nominated by Lizbeth Katsinas.

Kevin FavorKevin Favor, Ph.D. ’87 Ed. Psych.
Psychology and Human Services Professor, Lincoln University

Kevin has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to facilitating mental health outcomes for people of color and enjoyed a stellar career at Lincoln University, providing extraordinary service to students, faculty, and staff. At Lincoln University he has served in the roles of dean of Campus Life, department chair of the psychology department, and as a tenured professor. Kevin is a licensed psychologist in Pennsylvania and Maryland and maintains certification in the treatment of alcohol and other psychoactive substance use disorders from the APA College of Professional Psychology. He has served on committees and review panels for the National Science Foundation, Ford Foundation, and Centers for Disease Control. Kevin was named a People to People Ambassador for Mental Health and participated in the delegation to China and Tibet, investigating mental health systems within this cultural context. He also taught psychology as a visiting professor at Addis Ababa University. Nominated by Denice Ward Hood.

Gary SwansonGary Swanson ’74 Ed.
CEO and President, Dimage Studios LLC and former Professor

Gary is an internationally recognized and highly acclaimed educator, photojournalist, documentary and news producer, director, editor, speaker, and consultant. He has given numerous keynote speeches, served as organizer and chair at conferences, and presented workshops and lectured at embassies, festivals, and universities worldwide. Prior to his work in academe, Gary compiled a distinguished professional broadcast career spanning 13 years at NBC News, producing award-winning documentaries, prime-time news magazine stories, and covering breaking news in 26 states and Canada for the network. He has earned more than 76 awards for broadcast excellence and photojournalism, including three national EMMYs. His photography has won numerous awards and his works have been published in magazines, books, and displayed in art galleries worldwide. Nominated by Thomas G. Endres.

2016 Young Alumni Achievement Award Recipient

Brandon Wright

Brandon Wright, Ed.M. ’04 EOL
Partner, Miller, Tracy, Braun, Funk & Miller Ltd.

Brandon’s current position as an attorney combines his belief in civic responsibility with an understanding of the laws that drive the functionality of schools. He was the youngest person to be elected to a school board in Illinois, as he was completing his undergraduate degree at Southern Illinois University. He has developed a particular specialty in the field of special education law and assists superintendents and directors statewide, helping them navigate the legal waters of the decisions under the purview of their leadership. Brandon regularly provides administrator academies and school in-services, and he has spoken at a variety of roundtables, division meetings, school board workshops, and conferences. Nominated by Donna M. Davis.

2015 Distinguished Alumni Award Recipients

Alumni award recipient Lisa DiekerLisa Dieker, Ph.D. '94
Special Education

Dr. Lisa Dieker is a Pegasus Professor and Lockheed Martin Eminent Scholar Chair at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, Florida. She received her doctorate at the University of Illinois. In her current role at UCF she coordinates the Ph.D. program in special education, is director of the Lockheed Martin Mathematics and Science Academy, and is one of three faculty members who created and has a patent pending on a classroom simulator called TeachLivE™, which was adopted by 55 universities in the U.S.

Shelley HymelShelley Hymel, Ph.D. '82
Educational Psychology

After completing her doctorate in 1982, Shelley Hymel served as a faculty member in developmental psychology at the University of Waterloo. She later joined the Faculty of Education at the University of British Columbia (UBC), where she holds the Lando Professorship in Social-Emotional Learning and has established a master’s degree program and a teacher training specialization in social-emotional learning. Hymel serves on research advisory teams for the interdisciplinary Human Early Learning Partnership at UBC and for the Committee for Children in Seattle.

Lucinda Lee KatzLucinda Lee Katz, Ph.D. '76
Early Childhood Education

Dr. Lucinda Lee Katz currently serves as the head of Marin Country Day School in Corte Madera, California. Prior to that position she worked as chief education officer with Mayor Daley in Chicago and served as director and principal of the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools from 1986 to 2002. Katz began her career with the National Teacher Corps Program in low-income schools in San Francisco and was the first Chinese bilingual bicultural teacher in the city's public schools.

Kenneth SlawKenneth Slaw, Ph.D. '87
Educational Psychology

Dr.  Kenneth Slaw’s fields of concentration include adult education, education administration, and children with special learning and health needs. He spent six years engaged in consulting work, working with state departments of mental health and developmental disabilities to monitor patient populations for early onset psychotropic medication side effects such as tardive dyskinesia. He helped put policies and care systems in place to remove children and young adults from medication prior to developing long-term, irreversible neurologic damage.

Lawrence L. SmithLawrence Smith, Ph.D. '72
Elementary Education and Educational Psychology

Dr. Lawrence L. Smith is President of Entrepreneurs in Education and a professor emeritus at Ball State University. His academic expertise is in diagnosing and teaching children with severe reading problems. Smith has researched for 20 years how technology can be used in the elementary classroom to help children improve their reading. He conducted the first study that compared children’s progress in understanding literature when they read from books and from interactive CDs.

Elizabeth TrummelElizabeth Trummel, B.S. '78
Elementary Education

Betty Trummel is an educator with 35 years of elementary classroom teaching experience. She taught Science Methods for Elementary Teachers at Northern Illinois University for 10 years. Trummel has a master’s degree in science, outdoor education from Northern Illinois University and is a recipient of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science Teaching. As part of education outreach associated with science research projects, she has had three Antarctic deployments that have been catalysts in her career and life, introducing her to polar science in action and providing the opportunity to spend months working alongside outstanding science researchers.

2015 Young Alumni Achievement Award Recipient

Neffisatu J.C. DamboNeffisatu J.C. Dambo, Ed.M. '13
Education Policy, Organization and Leadership
Neffisatu J.C. Dambo is a native of Urbana-Champaign. She graduated from high school at 16 and pursued her post-secondary studies at Southern Illinois University, where she earned bachelor’s degrees in psychology and elementary education. In 2006 Dambo earned her master’s degree in counseling and student development from Eastern Illinois University. She continued her studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and earned a master’s degree in the Department of Educational Policy, Organization and Leadership.