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The Communicator

Faculty and Staff

Six faculty/staff members earn University-wide awards

Headshots of six award winners

Each year, Penn State recognizes outstanding faculty and staff with annual awards in teaching and excellence. These awards highlight many at the University's who go above and beyond.

The 2020 faculty and staff awards included five people from the Bellisario College:

Denise Bortree, Associate Professor

The Milton S. Eisenhower Award for Distinguished Teaching

As a teacher and mentor to tomorrow’s public relations professionals, Bortree said it’s her duty to prepare students to communicate and act with integrity and to approach issues ethically. In an environment of disinformation, she said it’s essential that her students think critically about the communication they create and disseminate.

“I find that students have a strong sense of purpose and want to contribute to society, and when encouraged, see the connection between their own personal decision-making and the impact their work will have on society,” Bortree said. “I encourage students to explore their values through personal reflection and then explore how those values would influence their work style and their communications decisions.”

Headshot of Denise Bortree

Denise Bortree

Bortree also excels at creating an effective learning environment for online learners. She finds that those students require flexibility, empowerment and connection and she’s focused on improving learning for Penn State World Campus students.

Because so many of her students are veterans, busy parents or employed, she’s always looking for ways to engage students with useful content. To achieve that, her course material is presented in several formats including video, audio and written material that can be studied in chunks as time allows. In one ethics course, she’s rolled out an online debate that let’s students engage with her and their peers.

Bortree finds that communication with students outside the classroom leads to better learning inside the classroom. She’s a mentor to her students and engages them through individual meetings — sometimes online — to review their portfolios, discuss career options and review internship and career opportunities.

In her public relations campaign course, she tasks students to work with community partners and develop their own campaigns.

“This engagement with teammates, the community partners, and me outside the classroom models their future career work and helps them develop work-related behaviors that will benefit them as they transition into the profession,” Bortree said.

Additionally, Bortree chairs the Ethics Committee for the Commission on Public Relations Education. There, she leads a national group that identifies and recommends best practices for teaching public relations ethics. Recently, the committee led a team of faculty and professionals to draft guidelines for the required course in public relations ethics.

Boaz Dvir, Assistant Professor

Award for Community Engagement and Scholarship

The award recognizes a project that best exemplifies Penn State as an “engaged institution,” which the Kellogg Commission defines as an institution that has redesigned teaching, research, and extension and service functions to become even more sympathetically and productively involved with its communities.

For the Holocaust, Genocide and Human Rights Education Initiative, Dvir created a unique statewide effort to give K-12 educators advanced educational tools to teach difficult subjects related to bigotry and racism. The project began after the Pennsylvania Department of Education requested to add two of Dvir’s documentaries to its Holocaust instructional material.

Headshot of Boaz Dvir

Boaz Dvir

The initiative helps school districts meet Pennsylvania’s Act 70, which encourages providing children with “an understanding of the importance of human rights and the potential consequences of unchecked ignorance, discrimination and persecution.”

“Anyone who knows Dvir is familiar with the energy, passion and commitment he brings to this initiative and anything else he is involved with,” a nominator said. “He has sparked interest and support across Penn State for this work. He has also raised the profile of the project with political leaders across the commonwealth and even Governor Tom Wolf, whom he has met with twice to discuss the importance of this kind of education for students.”

Dvir is an award-winning filmmaker whose films have shown on PBS, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and The New York Times.

Nominators said the effort was essential to improving K-12 education and creating critical thinkers beyond.

“Effective instruction of difficult topics can sharpen students’ critical thinking, instill empathy and inspire them to become agents of positive change,” Dvir said. “Yet, according to a 2018 study by Schoen Consulting, four out of 10 young Americans possess little to no awareness about the Holocaust.”

Josephine "Jo" Dumas, Associate Teaching Professor

Barash Award for Human Service

Created in 1975 by the family of the late Sy Barash, the award honors a full-time member of the faculty or staff or student body on the University Park campus who, apart from his or her regular duties, has contributed the most to human causes, public service activities and organizations, or the welfare of fellow humans.

Colleagues said Dumas has been an accomplished researcher, dedicated teacher and public servant for more than two decades. Her career has been filled with pioneerism and activism.

Headshot of Jo Dumas

Jo Dumas

She was one of a few women in a class of 500 to earn a degree in electrical engineering from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. She became the first female senior broadcast engineer with WNYW, Fox Television Stations Inc.

“From a young age, she has consistently been engaged in her community, whether in political campaigns or as a leader in grassroots efforts to make neighborhoods more welcoming and safe,” a nominator said.

For the college, Dumas serves on the Committee for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. There, the committee is tasked with assessing the college climate while mapping out goals, strategic plans and initiatives.

Dumas served as Education Co-Chair on the University’s Commission on Racial/Ethnic Diversity (CORED) and currently serves on the University’s Commission for Women. She served on the University’s Framework to Foster Diversity review committee.

She is a lifetime member of the Forum on Black Affairs and established a diversity scholarship along with her husband, Charles Dumas.

In the community, Dumas volunteers with Global Connections and Cultural Conversations, two programs that foster a welcoming environment.

“Dr. Dumas is an exemplar of public service at Penn State and the community,” a nominator said. “She’s someone who works tirelessly to promote diversity, inclusion and community. I know many whose lives she has touched will be cheering when she receives this honor that she deserves and has won many times over.”

Janet Klinefelter

Staff Excellence Award – The Support Staff Award

Established in 1993, the award recognizes the consistently outstanding performance of a staff member who has demonstrated and practiced the philosophy of continuous quality improvement, team spirit, managerial excellence in the performance of assigned duties and leadership in establishing a quality service orientation, so as to benefit his or her unit and the University.

Headshot of Janet Klinefelter

Janet Klinefelter

Nominators said Klinefelter, alumni relations and stewardship officer, is committed to students and carries out her duties with integrity, empathy and passion for improving the process.

Klinefelter is credited with expanding her role and responsibilities while serving the college for more than two decades. There, she works with alumni, donors, faculty and students, overseeing both scholarship and stewardship efforts.

She also chairs the college’s Scholarship Advisory Committee where she works closely with University peers and the Office of Student Aid to provide financial aid to students. That’s an expanding task, nominators said, because of a recent gift from alumnus Donald Bellisario that expanded the college’s available funding by one third. The college’s endowment for faculty and programs also expanded by $20 million.

Nominators said Klinefelter is also able to shine when forced to give students and others the “not-good” news.

“In her role, the answer to some requests is not always a ‘yes,’ unfortunately, for many reasons beyond our control,” a nominator said. “No matter what the answer, we are confident that Janet will deliver it with tact, kindness and empathy.”

Steve Kraycik, Assistant Teaching Professor

Undergraduate Program Leadership Award

The award recognizes a faculty member who has demonstrated exemplary leadership benefiting a Penn State undergraduate degree program. Specifically, it recognizes those individuals who have major responsibilities for the delivery of undergraduate education within a unit and who are providing leadership that has transformed or revitalized the undergraduate program in some way.

Kraycik, who is director of student television and online operations, brings three decades of industry broadcasting experience to Penn State, where he began working in 2012. In one of the University’s most popular majors — journalism — colleagues said Kraycik has a hand in growing one of the fastest-growing segments: broadcast journalism.

Headshot of Steve Kraycik

Steve Kraycik

Kraycik supervises “Centre County Report,” an award-winning, student-produced newscast that airs in about half the state on the University’s PBS television station (WPSU-TV). Under his leadership, the newscasts have earned numerous awards including two national college Emmys, multiple regional Emmys and awards from The Associated Press, Society of Professional Journalists and the Broadcast Education Association. Centre County Report was named the nation’s best college newscast by the Broadcast Education Association and the College Television Awards.

Wrote one nominator: “In every facet of his job — from encouraging students to report difficult stories to challenging them to make those stories compelling to critiquing their work each week — Steve has elevated the “Centre County Report” to a nationally recognized student broadcast operation.”

Colleagues say Kraycik has built a strong feeder system that attracts great students who enter “stepping stone” experiences throughout college. He’s also a force in finding career opportunities for his graduating students.

The college’s reputation as a premier broadcast institution has grown exponentially, colleagues said. They said his drive to create award-winning programming that trains his students on a path to future success and his keen eye for talent continue to propel the program to new heights.

Previously, Kraycik spent a decade as news director at top-20 market stations in Sacramento and Seattle. He also worked in various TV news capacities in Tampa and Orlando, Florida, and other cities on the East Coast.

Matt McAllister, Professor

McKay Donkin Award

Established in 1969 in honor of the late McKay Donkin, who served as vice president and treasurer of the University from 1957 to 1968, the award is presented to a full-time member of the faculty or staff or to a retiree who has contributed most to the “economic, physical, mental or social welfare of the faculty” of the University. The contribution should be for duties or services above and beyond the recipient’s regularly assigned duties.

Headshot of Matt McAllister

Matt McAllister

Colleagues say McAllister goes above and beyond to improve their careers, elevate their spirits and show a mutual respect and appreciation for them. He’s known for following the careers of his colleagues closely — going as far as setting Google alerts and scouring news releases — to call attention to them on social media. This extends to faculty, staff, graduate students, and alumni throughout the college where he routinely promotes their latest book chapters, journal articles and awards.

“Matthew strives every day to promote a culture where the work of all faculty is appreciated and celebrated,” a colleague said.

McAllister also commits his time by serving in many leadership roles including chairing the college’s graduate program. He’s an asset for committees, job searches, promotions and tenure and awards searches.

“To say that Dr. McAllister is a talented and giving colleague and mentor is an extraordinary understatement of his remarkable career,” a colleague said. “People across the board sing his praises, be they members of his department or college, his former students who have now begun their careers or his current students who benefit from his giving and careful mentorship. He exemplifies talent, passion and genuine care for others. It’s an extraordinary combination that has won him the hearts of his colleagues throughout his career.”