Celebrating Excellence

Celebrating the accomplishments of faculty, students, staff and alumni from August 2022 to November 2023. 

Hall of Excellence inductees include COE faculty

Hall of Excellence 2023Julianne Gassman, ('92, BA, '96, MA), UNI director of community engagement, Health, Recreation and Community Services, and James G. Hall, ('13, EdD) previously with the college in Kinesiology, were among the four honorees who were inducted in October to the Elinor A. Crawford and William R. Thrall Hall of Excellence. Joining them in the festivities at the McLeod Alumni Suite prior to formal installation were inductees Connie J. Shafar, ('69, BA), a physical education graduate now living in Bettendorf, Iowa, and holder of multiple coaching honors, and John Robbins, ('76, BA, '81, MAE), Cedar Rapids, Iowa, currently president of the Iowa State Board of Education and former teacher, coach, principal and superintendent. Read full release. 

Finkelstein receives distinguished alumni award

Judith FinkelsteinJudith Finkelstein (‘68) received the Alumni Service award as part of the Distinguished Awards Celebration honoring notable UNI alumni and friends in November 2022. The retired professor, formerly with the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, began her career as an instructor at Malcolm Price Laboratory School. She later taught in the curriculum and instruction department and served as interim director of the Iowa Regents’ Center for Early Developmental Education, which includes the integrative model classroom studio which now bears the name of Drs. Melville and Judith Finkelstein due to the couple’s generous donation to the UNI Foundation. More recently, Finkelstein served as the grand marshal for the 2023 UNI Homecoming Parade. 



Ed Lead team honors Speer, Pino as Legacy Award recipients

Members of the educational leadership team traveled to Lisbon, Iowa, on September 27, 2022,  to award the 2022 UNI Educational Leadership Legacy Award to Autumn Pino. This past spring, they traveled to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to  bestow the 2023 award upon John Speer.

Both lifelong educators have demonstrated exemplary educational leadership and core values as leaders of learning, service and/or change. These values are the foundation of educational leadership studies in principalship, superintendency and the doctoral program intensive study area in educational leadership at the College of Education. 

Speer 2023 Ed Lead Legacy Award

Speer holds multiple degrees from UNI, from English teaching (‘94)  through to his Doctor of Education (EdD, ‘17). After initially teaching, he moved into administration as a high school principal, and then served in superintendent positions with the College Community, Ballard and Allamakee school districts before becoming the Grant Wood Area Education Agency chief administrator. 


Pino 2022 Ed Lead Legacy Award


Pino serves as superintendent of the Lisbon and Springville Community School Districts. A ‘21 alum of the advanced studies certificate program in superintendency, she has served at all levels of K-12 education in her 20-year career. She previously served as administrator at Roosevelt Creative Corridor Business Academy in Cedar Rapids. 



Faculty and Staff Honors

UNI faculty awards bestowed upon Muhayimana, Edwards & Gilson

Among the recipients of 2022-23 University of Northern Iowa awards honoring teaching and service this year were: 

  • 2022-23 UNI Outstanding Teaching Award: Laura Edwards, Curriculum and Instruction,  and Theophile Muhayimana, Educational Psychology, Foundations and Leadership Studies
  • Class of 1943 Award for Excellence in Teaching: Tim Gilson, EPFLS. 
  • Ross A. Nielsen Professional Service Award: Leigh Zeitz, C&I. 
  • Outstanding Graduate Coordinator, Graduate College: David Schmid, EPFLS. 

Faculty and staff earn recognition of peers 

COE Faculty Awards

Annual COE Faculty Senate awards for 2022-23 were announced at the All Staff Retreat held August 18. They included:

  • COE Teaching Award: Morgan Anderson, EPFLS
  • COE Service Award: Kim Hurley, Department of Kinesiology
  • COE Scholarship Award: Matt Townsley, EPFLS 

This year’s honors followed resumption of the awards, post-COVID 19, in August 2022. Those honorees included: 

  • COE Teaching Award for 2020-21: David Schmid, EPFLS, and Karla Krueger, C&I 
  • COE Teaching Award for 2021-22: Magda Galloway, C&I
  • COE Service Award: Susan Roberts-Dobie, Health, Recreation and Community Services
  • COE Dean’s Diversity and Equity Award: Theo Muhayimana, EPFLS

Inaugural Staff Excellence Award 

Yin Yee, secretary III, Iowa Regents’ Center for Early Developmental Education (RCEDE) was named the recipient of the new College of Education Staff Excellence Award in August. The honor was based on selection criteria including support, initiative, engagement and collaboration. 

KDP celebrates centennial, Hawbaker, chapter earn national awards

KDP turns 100, Hawbaker honoredHomecoming 2023 meant even more to Becky Hawbaker, current chapter counselor, and members of the Psi Chapter of the Kappa Delta Pi international education honorary as current and past members and alumni celebrated the centennial for the chapter. Among the many joining in were Stephen Fortgang, who taught in the Department of Educational Psychology and Foundations. He served as the longstanding chapter counselor from 1975-2013 and counselor emeritus since then and is credited with transforming the chapter into one of the top in the nation. 

In November, the chapter formally received the Achieving Chapter Excellence (ACE) award at the national KDP conference, Hawbaker received the national Lucinda Rose Outstanding Counselor of the Biennium award.  

Focus on data visualization and artificial intelligence research earns funding 

Taraneh Matloob Haghanikar, curriculum and instruction, was among four recipients who received a $500 prize and university support to move forward with a research project as part of the Intellectual Property (IP) and Innovation Disclosure Competition at UNI. Haghanikar has proposed a system using data visualization and artificial intelligence (AI) to analyze fictional diverse characters. It will inform users on diversity features and improve information from end-users. Her goal is to help teachers and librarians promote diversity and overcome biases instead of perpetuating them. Full story here.

Volunteer efforts with Leader Valley lead to award  

Amy Lockhart, Teaching, was named Leader Valley Volunteer of the Year earlier this year. Leader Valley is the umbrella over the Leader in Me initiative that is part of the Cedar Valley.

Online and graduate education programs ranked by US News

US News Online Master'sWhen the year’s rankings from U.S. News and World Report were revealed, graduate education programs in the College of Education were once again acknowledged for quality programming. 

In January 2023, the online master's in education programs ranked in the top 15% for the 2023 rankings, climbing 10 places to rank 43rd among 329 schools. Included in the programs reviewed for this ranking were:

  • Early Childhood Education Master of Arts in Education
  • Elementary Education Master of Arts in Education
  • Literacy Education Master of Arts in Education
  • Art Education Master of Arts
  • Teacher Leadership for International Educators Master of Arts
  • Principalship Master of Arts in Education / Advanced Studies Certificate
  • Superintendency Advanced Studies Certificate
  • Physical Education-Pedagogy Master of Arts
  • School Library Studies Master of Arts
  • Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) Master of Arts
  • Special Education: Consultant emphasis Master of Arts in Education
  • Special Education: Instructional emphasis Master of Arts in Education
  • Learning Technologies and Instructional Design Master of Arts

US News Best Graduate Education SchoolsIn March 2023, 10 College of Education master’s programs as well as the Doctor of Education program were among those included in the submission reflected in this year’s U.S. News and World Report’s 2023–24 ranking of University of Northern Iowa as among the nation’s “Best Graduate Schools: Education.” 

All the programs are led by COE faculty, with recruitment and management of admissions handled in partnership with Online & Distance Education and the Graduate College. 

“This ongoing recognition speaks to the quality of our faculty, curriculum, students and alumni from across campus,” said Colleen Mulholland, COE dean. “Through these programs, we advance the expertise of teachers, principals, superintendents, teacher librarians, learning technologists and school psychologists in classrooms, school districts and area education agencies across the state and beyond.”

Summer fellowships let faculty explore, build expertise

Nine faculty were awarded up to $4,000 in Dean’s Summer Fellowship for summer 2023. Curriculum and Instruction: Laura Edwards, Taraneh Matloob Haghanikar, Sohyun Meacham and Carolyn Weber; Educational Psychology, Foundations and Leadership Studies: Gregory Bourassa, Eva Chen, Suzanne Freedman; Kinesiology: Kelsey Bourbeau, Terence Moriarty.

Student Honors

Doctoral students Weiland, Fisher earn top dissertation honors 

Taking the top spots in the 2022-23 Graduate College Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation awards were:

Among master’s students, Kenzie Heusinkvelt, EdS, school psychology, placed first with “Training for Challenging Behaviors in the School Setting,” advised by Nicole Skaar. 

COE students among student leadership award designees 

Among the student leaders honored at the 2023 Student Leadership Awards ceremony this year were these COE students:

  • Drake Martin Gold Star Award, Bailey Leitner, elementary education; and Kylie Rink, postsecondary education: student affairs
  • Outstanding Student Leader Award: Jeremy Charles, kinesiology and exercise science; and Luigi Lopez, postsecondary education: student affairs
  • Rising Global Star Leader Award: Ava Deitrich, postsecondary education: student affairs

Students recognized for Koob Fund student community engagement

Public health graduates-to-be Ainsley Oldenburger, intern at Allen Women’s Health, Kassidy Lovig, intern at Friends of the Family, and Ayanna Rost, intern at Black Hawk County Public Health, were recognized for receiving the Koob Fund for Student Community Engagement at the spring 2023 Community Engagement Celebration Day. 

Alums named to Cedar Valley ‘20 Under 40’ Class

Three College of Education alumni were among those honored in 2023 as part of the “20 Under 40”  class selected by the Waterloo Courier. They included: Alicia Rogers (’13 BA, elementary and early childhood education), director of training and development, Goodwill Industries of Northeast Iowa; Hannah Luce (‘21, BA, leisure, youth and human services), executive director, Waterloo Schools Foundation; and Sarah Helleso (‘15, leisure, youth and human services), director, Try Pie Bakery.