Northwestern honors outstanding teachers, administrator and students

Liala Helal | April 14, 2015

The 26th annual Student Leadership Awards Recognition Dinner held March 9 honors outstanding faculty and student leaders

student leadership dinner 2015

Look for feature stories about each of the award winners for 2014-15, including four Teacher of the Year awards, Administrator of the Year, and Student Leadership Hall of Fame. The recipients include Teachers of the Year Dr. Jane Wittich, Tom Braem, Tao Gong, and Martin Javinsky, Administrator of the Year Kathy Allen and Student Leadership Hall of Fame award recipient Michelle Speranza.

Students, faculty and staff who make Northwestern Health Sciences University an engaging, inspiring place to learn and prepare for a natural health care profession were recognized at the 26th annual Student Leadership Awards Recognition Dinner March 9.

In some surprise announcements kept secret until the ceremony, four Teacher of the Year awards nominated by the students were announced — one for each college or program, one Administrator of the Year award, and one Student Leadership Hall of Fame award for 2014-15. The ceremony was held at Radisson BLU Mall of America in Bloomington.

Dr. Jane Wittich, a professor in the basic sciences department, was the recipient of the award for the College of Chiropractic. She has taught at Northwestern for more than 30 years.

“I was surprised to be chosen for the award because I teach things that aren’t very popular,” Wittich said. “I have high expectations and I’m seen as demanding. It’s because my students are going to be doctors, and I want them to be good. I’ve worked in the medical field a long time, so I know the impact a doctor can have on a patient’s life and wellbeing.”

Wittich brings years of experience in emergency rooms, intensive care, and pediatric nursing care and neonatal care as a nurse and later a pediatric nurse practitioner to her classrooms where she teaches anatomy and other foundational sciences.

faculty recipientTom Braem, assistant professor in the basic sciences department, who teaches classes to massage therapy, acupuncture, and undergraduate students, received the award for the College of Undergraduate Health Sciences this year. He has taught science for 27 years, the past nine at Northwestern. He has received the award twice before from the School of Massage Therapy students.

“I ask a lot from the students, so it means a lot that they would choose me for this award,” Braem said. He enjoys having a mix of students from various programs in the same classroom. “I value the opportunity to teach students in all those programs. We emphasize integrative health care, and when you have a class with undergraduate students, pre-chiropractic students, acupuncture students, massage therapy students, and people who want to become physical therapists or medical doctors —that’s really when students in different professions get to know each other. And if you’re working together in the same course, there’s a higher likelihood to form professional relationships. Students have to work hard, and they have to work together.”

Tao Gong, associate professor, received the award for the College of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. She was educated and trained in China and brings her knowledge of Traditional Chinese Medicine and acupuncture from the source. She’s been teaching at Northwestern for about 12 years.

“I feel so honored because I know the award is coming from the students,” she said. “It really encouraged me, too. I want to keep teaching from the heart because I want the students to continue to love this medicine.”

Martin Javinsky, instructor and clinic supervisor for the massage therapy program, received the award for the School of Massage Therapy. He started teaching massage therapy classes last fall and prior to that supervised students at University Health Services.

“Both in the classroom and in clinic, my intention is to connect with my students,” Javinsky said. “In clinic, I consider myself more of a mentor, a guide. In the classroom I try to make material interesting, challenging, and inclusive. I don’t see myself above them, we’re all in this together.”

‌Teacher of the Year award recipients were chosen because they inspire students to learn, are approachable, available, punctual and organized, help prepare students for practice and professional exams, have up-to-date text and well-prepared study materials and notes, are willing to spend extra time with students, make the best of the courses they teach, and incorporate current research into lectures. These were some of the criteria listed on ballots in which students voted for a teacher in their program.

Kathy Allen, Associate Dean of Academic Services for the College of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, received the award for Administrator of the Year. She has been with Northwestern for almost 15 years, and advises all students in the program and is the go-to source for faculty and staff.

“They call me the Mom of the Acupuncture department,” Allen said. “Because I do try to make sure everything is going well for students and faculty. People tell me that I listen and always try to help find a solution. I care a lot.”

Michelle Speranza, a chiropractic student, was this year’s recipient of the Student Leadership Hall of Fame Award. Speranza is a tutor, a member of the Student Senate, and president or leader of numerous clubs. “Students, staff and faculty see her as being totally dedicated to her peers, her profession and Northwestern,” said Kevin Wagner, associate dean of student affairs. For that award, nominations are taken from students, faculty, Wagner, Vice President of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management Dr. Emily Tweed and the Student Senate president each year.

“I’m very honored to have been recognized,” Speranza said. “It motivates me to continue with everything I am doing. A lot of the reasons that pushed me to get involved come from role models, past professors, other instructors of mine while I was growing up who shaped who I am today. I became involved to see if I can give back and influence people the same way my role models influenced me.”

The purpose of the ceremony is also to honor the work of student leaders, club presidents and officers, and Student Senate leaders, who received plaques for their contributions.

“The awards give us the opportunity to recognize those students who go above and beyond the call of duty, think outside the box, and are go-getters,” Wagner said at the ceremony. “The student receiving the award tonight (Michelle Speranza) has made a huge impact on Northwestern. The description of the award on the plaque that will be hung at Northwestern states that this award recognizes exceptional students whose involvement, dedication, service and sacrifice have impacted the Northwestern community and furthered the mission of the institution.”

The ceremony also honored the work of student leaders, club presidents and officers. Student Senate Cabinet members received plaques, and Student Senate Class Program Representatives received certificates of recognition and gifts. The Student Leadership Scholarship Award was awarded to Melissa Makranyi. Alumni Dr. Cody Hoefert founded the scholarship.

“Our student leaders create opportunities for other students to be involved and engaged in their education, and help make an outstanding student life experience on campus,” Dr. Tweed said. “All of them went above and beyond what is expected of a student. The programs are difficult, and yet they find time to lead others through their clubs and organizations.”

She added that the extra effort and dedication of faculty, staff and students deserves recognition for making Northwestern exceptional.

“They add a great deal to student life at Northwestern, and we want them to know their hard work does not go unnoticed and is very much appreciated,” Dr. Tweed said.

Back to Top