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UMPI announces Educator of the Year, Distinguished Alumni awardees

The University of Maine at Presque Isle and the Alumni Association will honor two alumni with awards of distinction during its Homecoming 2012 activities the weekend of Sept. 14-16. The annual alumni award presentations will be made during the Homecoming Alumni and Friends Brunch, which will take place on Saturday, Sept. 15, at 10:30 a.m. in the President’s House.

Alumnus Theodore Van Alst will be honored with the Educator of the Year Award, which is presented to an alumnus/alumna who has received ongoing recognition as an outstanding educator. This recipient may also have shown active or supportive involvement with the Alumni Association, support of the university, a successful career that reflects well on the University, and outstanding leadership qualities.

Alumna Donna Lisnik will receive the Distinguished Alumni Award, which is presented to an alumnus/alumna who has made long-term contributions to the Alumni Association or the University, or who has received professional recognition that has reflected positively on the University.

Theodore Van Alst graduated from the University in 2004 with a Bachelor’s degree in Behavioral Science-Sociology. He went on to earn his Master’s degree in 2007 and his Ph.D. in 2008, both in Comparative Literary and Cultural Studies from the University of Connecticut.

He currently serves as an Assistant Dean of Yale College and the Director of the Native American Cultural Center. Van Alst has served in several educational capacities, including Assistant Professor of Comparative Literary and Cultural Studies and the Director of Graduate Studies for the program at the University of Connecticut, as the Coordinator of the Native American Cultural Society Office at the University of Connecticut from 2005 to 2008, and as a GED Examiner/Instructor for the Connecticut Department of Corrections working with prison inmates.

Van Alst is the recipient of the 2007 Provost’s Award for Excellence in Outreach and Public Engagement from the University of Connecticut. He is a member of the Native American Literature Symposium, the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association, and the National Indian Education Association. He also has served as a grant reviewer for the National Geographic Society and as a consultant for National Public Radio’s All Things Considered.

He has garnered several publications, delivered scores of presentations and lectures at venues from the New York University School of Law to the University of Arizona to Princeton University, and is currently working on a book-length project.

In nominating Van Alst for the Educator of the Year Award, Dr. Raymond Rice, the Chair of UMPI’s College of Arts and Sciences, stated: “In the four years since receiving his Ph.D. at the University of Connecticut, Ted has served as an Associate Professor, Program Chair, and, concurrently, an Assistant Dean at Yale University. To put it simply, Dr. Van Alst’s academic achievements are extraordinary by any measure of any institution, and the fact that the University of Connecticut solicited his application for a tenure track position immediately upon graduation and, two years later, Yale in turn solicited his application to serve as an Assistant Dean, is a remarkable testimony to his abilities.”

Also being recognized is Donna Lisnik, who graduated from the University in 1986 with a Bachelor’s degree in History, and in 1987 with a Bachelor’s degree in Education/Mathematics. She went on to earn her Master’s degree in Educational Leadership from the University of Southern Maine in 1999.

Lisnik has served as the Principal at Presque Isle High School since 2010. At the beginning of her career in education, she served as a Mathematics Teacher in MSAD#1 from 1987 to 2000, for five years of that time as the Mathematics Department Chair. Between 2000 and 2005, she served the Easton School Department as its High School Principal. She returned to Presque Isle in 2005 to serve as the Assistant Principal at Presque Isle High School before taking on the principalship in 2010.

Lisnik is a member of the Aroostook Principals’ Association, the Maine Principals’ Association, the National Association of Secondary School Principals, and the Association of Curriculum Development. In her community, she is a member of the Presque Isle Kiwanis Club and the Presque Isle Historical Society. She has served on the University’s Alumni Board and Board of Visitors.

In 1996 and 1998, she was awarded a Tandy Scholar Award. She is also the recipient of the State Award for Excellence in Mathematics Teaching (1993, 1996), the National Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics Teaching (1996), and was nominated for Principal of the Year in 2005.

In praise of Lisnik being named the Distinguished Alumni Award recipient, Clare Exner, Interim Chair of UMPI’s College of Education, said: “All of us at UMPI are very proud to see Donna recognized with this outstanding alumni award. Beginning her career in the field of education as a teacher in MSAD #1, she has received both state and national awards for teaching excellence in mathematics. More recently, she has transitioned into administration and is doing wonderful things as the principal of PIHS. Our region benefits every day from Donna’s commitment to excellence in public education. We’re pleased that her UMPI degrees in History and in Education/Mathematics helped launch this outstanding career.”

The Alumni Awards will be presented to Lisnik and Van Alst by Trisha House, Alumni Association President, at the Sept. 15 Homecoming Brunch. During the event, the classes of 2002 (10 years), 1987 (25 years), and 1962 (50 years) also will be honored. For more information about this event, please contact Keith Madore, Director of Development and Alumni Relations at 207-768-9568.