Saint Michael’s professors honored at Academic Convocation for serving as a ‘vital pillar’ to students

September 20, 2023
Elizabeth Murray
Associate Director of Public Relations

The academic year at Saint Michael’s College is officially in full swing following the annual Academic Convocation on Sept. 15 – traditionally, the official commencement of the semester. 

The ceremony honors the achievements and milestones faculty members reached as of the start of this year, including those awarded tenure, those who have become full professors, and several major awards based on nominations from across the College. Faculty members also heard from a selected student speaker, the College’s President, and one of the faculty award recipients from the previous year.  

This year, Ann Marie Janell ’24, the Vice President of the Student Government Association, shared stories of how faculty members throughout the College had impacted her academic and personal College experience – something she never anticipated as an incoming student.  Janell is a Data Science major with Creative Writing and Business Administration minors. 

“In my freshman year, I solely wanted to focus on my future career,” Janell said. “I was not super interested in a social life or expanding on myself more than required. What I did not know was all that would come my way over the next four years and how I would have no say in this. I attended Saint Michael’s for the esteemed academics but found a greater experience.” 

Ann Marie Janell ’24 speaks during the 2023 Academic Convocation on Sept. 15, 2023. (Photo by Alex Bertoni)

Janell, who hails from Franklin, Massachusetts, said her professors often went above and beyond their charge as a member of the faculty. This became especially apparent, she said, during the COVID-19 pandemic, both while students were learning remotely and after they returned to campus.  

“You each are here today as a vital pillar to each student’s experience, not only as someone who has taught within the classroom but impacted students outside of the classroom as well,” Janell said to members of the faculty. “You attend events, eat in Alliot, and have been here for what matters, supporting us through the times we have struggled and being there to guide us back on our path.” 

She added, “You have impacted and left your mark on each student who has been here and given us all a reason to be proud of having chosen Saint Michael’s College.”  

Annual awards for service, scholarship and teaching 

Three awards given each year recognize professors who have been nominated by their peers and students. Each award is accompanied by a citation read at the ceremony. Descriptions of the awards and the citations that were read for each faculty member honored can be found below. 

Norbert A. Kuntz Service Award 

This award is named for Norbert Kuntz, a longtime professor and chair of the History Department.  The recipient of this award will serve as the Faculty Marshal next year. 

Awarded to: Karen Popovich, Department of Business Administration and Accounting 

Professor Karen Popovich of the Department of Business Administration and Accounting is recognized during the 2023 Academic Convocation on Sept. 15, 2023. (Photo by Alex Bertoni)

Our 2023 Service Award recipient epitomizes service and community building, yet it may seem challenging to separate her exceptional teaching, scholarship, and service contributions as they are so frequently and effectively integrated. For the last 21 years, Professor Popovich has intentionally reached out to get to know colleagues, establish friendships across departments, and foster interdisciplinary collaboration across campus. A colleague shared: “One of the qualities that makes Karen so effective is her authentic openness to connection and the way she honors each individual with whom she interacts.” Another added: “In my work with students, I’ve witnessed Karen time and again offer a wonderful balance of both care and challenge. Karen is also a community builder across campus departments. I am so grateful for her inclusion and openness.”  

The remarkable portfolio of her contributions to the College includes service leadership on faculty committees, including Faculty Council, the Dean’s COVID Strategic Planning Committee, Judicial Review and Academic Integrity, and serving as the current search team chair for the Director of the Center for Equity and Justice. Professor Popovich has co-led service-learning trips to Guyana with Professor Kirby, engaged students in projects with off-campus organizations such as Steps to End Domestic Violence to build Excel dashboards, and provided support for campus clubs, including the SMC Business Society. She has fostered international collaborative learning communities, hosting our State Department international fellows from Russia and Vietnam in 2019, spearheading pedagogy-sharing workshops among business faculty from Saint Michael’s and Da Nang Architecture University in Vietnam in 2021, and presenting at the American Councils for International Education online workshop for Romanian educators regarding pandemic teaching challenges and response in 2022.   

Among her most outstanding services to the long-term success of Saint Michael’s is the care Professor Popovich takes to develop the talented faculty of our future. During six years as Department Chair, she recruited a third of current department faculty and increased diversity. A colleague reports: “Karen has also successfully established effective faculty mentoring and collaborative relationships. As a great mentor, she is open-minded, responsive, and dedicated to the development of others.” Professor Popovich works tirelessly to advocate for our faculty and students and to showcase Department achievements at every opportunity, from participation in frequent Admission activities and enrollment support (she especially enjoyed a co-presentation with Professor Purcell of the “Half-Baked” program for parents of admitted students), to her leadership preparing three comprehensive Department assessment reports.  

Professor Popovich has happily and tirelessly dedicated countless hours, to mentor, coach, and accompany students to workshops or competitions, allowing them to compete – and shine – against peers, within Saint Michael’s and other institutions. These include the CFA Research Challenge of Vermont and the State University of New York: Free Enterprise Marathon intercollegiate competitions, our campus Business Enterprise Plan and Pitch your Passion (which generated broad interest across many disciplines) plus statewide Launch Vermont competitions and taking students to a Women in Business and Technology panel and networking event. 

Professor Popovich would share that she loves Saint Michael’s College, and our Business Administration and Accounting programs and values the opportunity to be a part of this community. Saint Michael’s, our programs, students, alumni, and our community benefit greatly from the love and care Karen expresses daily through selfless service, leadership, and a giving spirit.  

The Scholarship and Artistic Achievement Award 

The recipient of this award will present the Convocation Address at the 2024 Academic Convocation. 

Awarded to: Paul Olsen, Department of Business Administration and Accounting 

Professor Paul Olsen of the Business Administration and Accounting Department walks on stage to be honored during the 2023 Academic Convocation on Sept. 15, 2023. (Photo by Alex Bertoni)

Professor Olsen exhibits the qualities of an effective leader with his ability to inspire and motivate students to write effective co-authored research. It will likely not be long before he has a “baker’s dozen” of published student researchers. One DBAA faculty member wrote, “in our program, we often use applied research, or case studies, in the classroom to describe, understand, and explain theories that we teach. For students, case studies integrate complex concepts from a variety of viewpoints and are an effective tool for preparing future decision-makers for dealing with new challenges.” In addition, his impact reaches beyond the classroom, where he has received a Class Appreciation Award, recently was the first repeat recipient of the Dave Landers Faculty Mentor Award from the SAAC and has been a long-time faculty affiliate to the Men’s Ice Hockey program.   

Dr. Olsen, who has dual certifications as a senior professional in human resources, has developed an impressive research record, which includes theory research and case studies with extensive theory-based teaching notes. He has also co-sponsored frequent alumni panels with the Boucher Career Education Center to promote co-curricular student learning. Professor Olsen’s research spans a wide variety of the functional areas of business, including ethics & social justice, human resource management, leadership, business & marketing strategy, law, and digital marketing.   

Recently published was “Land O’Lakes abandons Native American logo: Brand authenticity or virtue signaling?” In this co-authored case, students examine whether the company made the right choice as part of its commitment to community, social responsibility, and DEI. He enjoys asking challenging questions, such as whether corporate giant Kellogg’s venture into pro-LGBTQ brand activism was worth the consumer backlash. He seems to have endless finds, tidbits, and situations that are worthy of class discussion, from social media blasts gone wrong to a company that had made a toy bomb that had to be defused before it, well, blasted. His clever titles, like “See Spot run? The dogs in the workplace debate” or “WTF? McDonald’s Minion unhappy meal” leads students into an event, or possibly a kerfuffle, where a decision must be made and evaluated.   

Professor Olsen has also collaborated with other faculty, including Professors Apesin, DeCarlo, Popovich, and Siplon for interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary research. Professor Olsen is aspirational to students across the college and has served as a co-leader for the Burgundy trip with Professor Kinder and more recently co-led and taught a study abroad trip to Denmark with Professor Siplon. He was recognized in 2021 for having the Most Downloaded Case and he was awarded the 2015 Best Critical Incident Award for a crisis management case at Lego toys. 

Dr. Olsen’s scholarship informs his teaching and adds experiential value to his classes as well as those of countless other faculty who adopt his cases or benefit from his pedagogy, such as a recent paper on “Teaching Leadership during a Global Pandemic.”   

Joanne Rathgeb Teaching Award 

This award is named for Professor Joanne Rathgeb, a skilled and beloved actor, director, teacher, and Breast Cancer activist.  The recipient of this award will provide welcoming comments to incoming students at the New Student Convocation in 2024. 

Awarded to: Declan McCabe, Department of Biology 

Members of the faculty applaud Biology Professor Declan McCabe as he makes his way to the stage to be recognized with the Joanne Rathgeb Teaching Award during the 2023 Academic Symposium on Sept. 15, 2023. (Photo by Alex Bertoni)

Declan McCabe has had a long and storied teaching career at Saint Michael’s College. He became a member of our community way back in 1997 when he started as an Adjunct Professor in Biology. He then served as a Lecturer at UVM for a year, before thankfully making the decision to return to us in 2000 as a Visiting Assistant Professor. The following year, Declan became a full-time, permanent Instructor, and then made the leap to tenure-track in 2004 and became an Assistant Professor. Now a Full Professor, Declan has been a consistently positive presence in the Biology Department, providing students with a high-quality learning experience while offering guidance and mentorship to junior faculty, and even serving as chair of the department for six consecutive years.  

Declan is an ecologist with particular expertise in communities inhabiting freshwater streams. Naturally then, his courses have largely been in the areas of ecology and evolution. He is currently teaching our Introduction to Ecology and Evolution course, as he has done for many years. This is one of the very first classes that Biology students take when they arrive on our campus, and Declan has been a great representative for the Biology program. He has a gift for getting students excited to learn about the diversity of life on this planet and how it got here. Of course, this success with students is why he is receiving this award.  

One thing that sets Declan apart in the classroom is his creativity. Declan is an idea generator, and his creative mind shines through in course design, lectures, discussions, and laboratories. He is constantly coming up with new ways to teach lessons, and he freely shares those ideas with others, as evidenced by his publications in such journals as American Biology Teacher, Bioscene, Nature Education Knowledge, and Proceedings of the Association for Biology Laboratory Education. Declan has also been creative in where he teaches. He has taken students to Boston to see the great natural history collections of Harvard University and Amherst College, and he recently brought his first group of students to Ireland to learn about coastal biology of the great Emerald Isle. There is even rumor of a possible semester at sea in the future.  

Declan’s classroom success is also because of his easy-going personality and his enthusiasm for the natural world. He is friendly and has a casual, conversational teaching style that quickly gains him student trust. This allows him to offer a rigorous course without a sense of antagonism.  

Additionally, Declan is one of those individuals whose passion for their field is palpable. He continually seeks and generates interesting questions, and he gets his students to conduct original research on those questions. His students don’t just learn about science, they do science, and they’re better equipped for life after college as a result. One can also see evidence of Declan’s passion for ecology in the incredible amount of work he has put into developing the Natural Area into a top-notch site for nature-lovers and researchers of all kinds. The latest development in this area is the new outdoor classroom, which will hopefully introduce a whole new group of learners to this amazing resource. 

Declan’s contributions to the education of biology and environmental science students over the years have been immense. He is a gifted, successful, and respected teacher who continues to make an enormous difference in the lives of our students, and we are all grateful that his efforts are now being recognized with this award.       

View a photo gallery of the 2023 Academic Convocation:
Academic Convocation 2023

Other faculty recognized during the ceremony 

Faculty members promoted to full professor:  
Faculty members awarded tenure:  
Faculty members who retired and transitioned to Emeritus status:  
  • Valerie Bang-Jensen, Department of Education – 22 years of service  
  • James Hefferon, Department of Mathematics and Statistics – 33 years of service  
  • Kristin Juel, Department of Classical and Modern Languages – 18 years of service 
  • Richard Kujawa, Department of Environmental Science and Studies (Professor of Geography) – 32 years of service 
  • Christina Root, Department of English – 34 years of service 

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