March 21, 2008

Suarez, Edgren win annual Excellence awards

by Christi Mathis

suarez carmen

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Carmen Suarez and Susan C. Edgren are the 2008 recipients of Southern Illinois University Carbondale's Excellence through Commitment Outstanding Administrative/Professional Awards.

Suarez, director of the Office of Diversity and Equity, is the Outstanding Administrative/Professional Staff member while Edgren, acting director of the Division of Continuing Education, is the winner of the Outstanding A/P Professional Teaching Support Award.

Edgren and Suarez will be honored during the Excellence Through Commitment Awards dinner on April 22 in the Student Center. Each receives $3,000, a certificate and a wristwatch from the SIU Alumni Association.

Suarez is "a force for positive change, a talent that I admire and respect, and a person that exceeds normal job expectations," wrote Carl W. Ervin, coordinator of Student Development-Multicultural Programs and Services, in nominating Suarez for the award. Ervin praised Suarez for her support of cultural diversity and noted that regardless of her extensive official duties as director of the Office of Diversity and Equity, Suarez makes time to assist students and serve on a variety of campus and community committees as well as present programs.

"Carmen gives of herself to students, staff and faculty without reservation," Ervin wrote. "She provides both the time and personal commitment that far exceeds the expected. She is an actively and personally engaged educator that does what it takes to get the job done."

Suarez's tenure at SIUC dates back to August 1990. Previous roles included serving as coordinator of the Office of Diversity and Equity, interim assistant vice chancellor for enrollment management, assistant dean of the School of Law Career Services, Hispanic community liaison and affirmative action officer.

SIU President Glenn Poshard also praised Suarez for her dedication, for her work on behalf of the University's enrollment, her accuracy and commitment and more.

"Carmen dedicated so much of her time last year to help improve the enrollment problems at SIUC." Poshard wrote. "She stepped up at a time when the task assigned was not an easy one to undertake. However, she enthusiastically jumped in and spent countless hours trying to find innovative ways to be more effective in our recruitment and retention efforts – she more than exceeded my expectations. Carmen works with great accuracy and is one of those rare individuals who eagerly invests 110 percent of herself to go above and beyond what is required."

Suarez, of Carbondale, earned her bachelor of arts in history, her master of arts in medieval history with a minor concentration in ancient history and her doctorate in philosophy at SIUC. Her employment experience also includes stints as director of administration for Time Definite Services Inc. in Elk Grove Village, night administrator and instructor at John A. Logan College in Carterville, director of the Office of Hispanic Educational Development at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago and much more.

Anastasia Hernandez, president of the Hispanic Student Council at SIUC, calls Suarez "a wonderful mentor. I have seen her work with students and I am one of many who know how passionate she is about helping them succeed, not only here at the University but also in life," Hernandez wrote.

Georgia Beasley, office systems specialist II within the Office of Diversity and Equity, concurred, noting that Suarez not only leads by example but also lives her commitment to diversity. She also praised Suarez's boundless compassion, evidenced when she used her own vacation time to care for Beasley's ill child to help Beasley avoid more unpaid time away from the office.

Awards already amassed by Suarez include the Lindell W. Sturgis Public Service Award, the George S. Counts Doctoral Research Award, Service to Student Affairs, University Woman of Distinction and Inroads Educator of the Year. She's served in a variety of positions within the community and state, including chairing Carbondale's Human Relations Commission, serving on the Illinois Attorney General Latino Advisory Council, being an officer and member of Rotary International, the Rainbow Café' Board and League of Women Voters along with working in dozens of service positions at SIUC. She's currently a Carbondale Park District commissioner.

Todd D. Sigler, director of Public Safety at SIUC, commended Suarez for her insight, compassion, training seminar presentations, and fostering of SIUC's reputation for diversity. Likewise, she drew praise for her experience, passion, and tireless work to advance the University from Katharine Johnson Suski, associate director of Undergraduate Admissions.

"Carmen has played a critical role in the University by ensuring that all of the voices within the University are heard and counted," wrote John M. Dunn, president of Western Michigan University, formerly interim SIUC chancellor.

Suarez has made numerous presentations at a variety of forums, often focusing on affirmative action, diversity and higher education.

Edgren "is a strong advocate for SIUC," wrote Sharon E. Walters, acting assistant director of the Office of Distance Education, in nominating Edgren for the teaching support excellence award. She credited Edgren for "leading the distance learning initiative at SIUC," saying her work led to the University offering online semester-based courses with about 135 Information Systems and Applied Arts and 109 Workforce Education and Development course enrollments this spring and an average of 375-400 enrolled in online semester-based courses each semester.

"Without her leadership and determination, distance learning and off-campus programs at SIUC would not be what they are today," concurred Mark R. Dixon, professor at the SIUC Rehabilitation Institute and one of the first recipients of a distance education grant for the Behavior Analysis and Therapy Program.

SIUC's online students offer ample praise and admiration for Edgren, her assistance, and even her personal dedication and commitment to helping in any way possible.

Brandyn Cline recalled that as a single mother working on her degree at SIUC, she couldn't afford the required textbook for an online course. When she inquired about completing the course without the book, Edgren offered to loan her the book, enabling her to successfully complete the course.

"Without Dr. Edgren's assistance, I would have had to drop the course or try completing it without the textbook," Cline wrote. "This probably would have meant my either failing the course or dropping below full-time and not being eligible for the Pell grant."

Wynton Hodges praised the assistance of Edgren and her staff in helping him complete courses he had registered for before called to active duty in Iraq.

"Dr. Edgren and her staff were able to assist me in the process of completing the courses," Hodges wrote. "Dr. Edgren was also willing to waive any fees that were not covered by my financial aid. Because of her assistance, I was able to complete my bachelor's degree and have now started on my master's degree from SIUC. Dr. Edgren definitely goes beyond the requirements in supporting not only SIUC students, but understands the needs of military students."

John S. Haller Jr., vice president for academic affairs, also lauded Edgren for her work in preparing a faculty-mentoring program, and for her talents, hard work and devotion to SIUC.

"Dr. Edgren demonstrated a level of competence for which I was truly appreciative," Haller wrote. "I found her to be a self-starter and a quick study in learning new concepts."

Edgren's involvement and commitment to SIUC are long-standing. She earned her bachelor's degree in home economics education and her master's in consumer economics at SIUC, along with her doctorate in educational administration and higher education.

Her employment experience includes serving as a graduate assistant at the University's department of family economics and management, as an intern in the office of the vice-president of financial affairs and with University Women's Professional Advancement, as assistant to the chairperson in the Department of Finance and as academic advisor.

Within the Division of Continuing Education, Edgren has worked at the distance learning facility, as instructional developer, program manager, assistant director and as associate director. Currently, as acting director, she's the fiscal officer for more than $4 million and supervises about 60 employees. She recently led the search for a new assistant director for the Touch of Nature Environmental Center, and Walters noted that Edgren included all staff members in the process.

From helping develop a religious diversity course to helping create a Web-based version of the course, Edgren's efforts have helped bolster enrollment and improved curriculum, according to Dale R. Bengtson, retired SIUC history professor.

Edgren, of Buncombe, has served on a variety of University, state and national committees dealing with planning and budget, collective bargaining, core curriculum, distance learning, education, intellectual property, non-traditional student initiatives, higher education and much more. Her newest SIUC initiative involves working with the Writing Center to develop a program so distance education and off-campus students can receive important help with writing and research.