The Professor and Staff Member of the Year were announced May 6 during Student Awards Night. Other nominees include Brandi Ahlers, Student Success Center; Heather Venema '06, '08 MOL, Bechtel and Townhouses Hall Director; Terri Switzer, PhD, Professor of Art History and Art Department chairperson; and Nancy Hayes, PhD, Assistant Professor, English Department.
Matthew Halfhill, PhD, Biology
Here's what some of Prof. Halfhill's nominators wrote about him:
"[Prof. Halfhill] is very willing to help students, and I feel like he has always wanted everyone in the class to succeed."
"[Prof. Halfhill's] creative and often humorous teaching style allows for learning to take place naturally, but also challenges students to think analytically and not simply regurgitate trivia."
A member of the Biology Department for the past five years, Dr. Halfhill is a geneticist and earned his PhD from North Carolina State University. He has over 30 publications in the fields of plant biotechnology and genetics. He is the project director for a competitive National Science Foundation S-STEM grant that provides scholarships for biology and chemistry students. During his time at St. Ambrose, Dr. Halfhill has mentored five independent undergraduate research students seeking graduate degrees in the biological sciences.
Sister Rita Cameron, Director of Music Ministry and Spirituality, Campus Ministry
Read a few of the excerpts from nominations for Sr. Cameron:
"If a student needs something, she stops everything she is doing to help."
"She is always encouraging, and she prays with us and for us."
"Sister Rita sets such a good example of how we should live our lives every day. She is so passionate about what she does and I can tell she truly loves working with the students of St. Ambrose."
Born and raised in eastern South Dakota, Sr. Rita graduated from Northern State University in Aberdeen, SD with her BA in Music Education. She married and taught in South Dakota for 25 years while also earning her Master's in Guidance and Counseling from Northern State University. After her husband died in 1986, Sr. Rita moved to Iowa and taught in Mason City at Newman Catholic Schools and then became interested in the Sisters of the Presentation. Sr. Rita joined the community and moved to Dubuque to work at Wahlert High School. She took her final vows in August, 2008. Sr. Rita has one son, one daughter and four grandsons. Sr. Rita will be leaving St. Ambrose in June to move back to Dubuque to become the Vocation Director for the Presentation Sisters.