The faculty were selected for their excellence in teaching, service to the College, scholarly activities, community service and advising skills. Each will receive a monetary award from the College of DuPage Foundation.
Outstanding Divisional Full-Time Faculty Members
Kathy Cabai (Hampshire), Professor of Anesthesia Technology, Nursing and Health Sciences Division
Kathy Cabai has been instrumental in the development of the curriculum for the College’s Central Sterile Processing, Perioperative Nursing, Surgical Technology, Operating Room Patient Care Technician, Eye Care Assistant, Ophthalmology Technician, and Anesthesia Technologist programs. Cabai continues to act as a leader, mentor and educator to staff and students and inspires people to enter an area of health care about which she is passionate. For many years, she has served on various committees and has worked with educators in the Nursing program.
Robert Clark (Glen Ellyn), Associate Professor of HVACR, Business and Applied Technology Division
Bob Clark has led a redesign and restructuring of many of the classes, certificates and degrees within the HVACR program while dedicating countless hours to building out lab facilities with students, giving them practical knowledge and experience with a wide range of heating, cooling, electrical, airflow and electronic systems, equipment and technologies. Clark has provided expertise to the Welding, Manufacturing, Electro-Mechanical, Electronics, Horticulture and Automotive programs with electrical and hydronic consulting and installation guidance. He was the recipient of the Association for Career and Technical Education state and regional Career and Technical Education Educator of the Year awards in 2019. He has been a driving force in the Project Hire-Ed program creation and recruitment process.
Kathy Dexter-Mitchell (Naperville), Associate Professor of Mathematics, Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Division
As chair of the Math Transitions Committee, Kathy Dexter-Mitchell has invested extra hours and hard work to ensure the success of the College’s Math Transitions initiative. Her leadership has been critical to the memorandums of understandings with participating high schools and the formation of the local area panel. In addition to serving on the Calculus and Pre-Calculus committees, Dexter-Mitchell actively presents at conferences promoting the innovative Math Transitions initiative, including this spring at the League of Innovations, and is continually looking for new ways to improve the experience for her students.
Lisa Higgins (Oak Park), Professor of English, Liberal Arts Division
With a keen understanding of teaching and learning, Lisa Higgins carefully thinks about every aspect of her teaching, including the content she presents, how she organizes it, how she delivers it and how she evaluates learning outcomes. She chairs the College’s Honors Program and has expanded the Honors course offerings and recruited more faculty to create and offer classes. Higgins creates programming for honors students, including pizza study groups and ice cream socials, and she provides significant academic advising for students throughout the College.
Colin Koteles (Park Ridge), Reference Librarian, Social/Behavioral Sciences and the Library Division
Colin Koteles has continuously provided forward-thinking leadership in Library technologies since he began working at the College 18 years ago. He has created and maintained increasingly excellent iterations of the Library’s website, has built the library catalog interface and has developed crucial work tools for staff and library faculty. As the Library’s computing technology, graphic arts and multimedia technologies subject specialist, Koteles maintains a thoughtfully developed resource collection and delivers outstanding instructional support for his students and faculty. He also teaches a core course in the Library and Information Technology program and offers workshops to faculty and students on a variety of technical subjects, including electronic portfolio development and privacy protection.
Ken Paoli (Wheaton), Professor of Music, Art, Communication and Hospitality Division
Ken Paoli demonstrates a breadth of expertise, strong positive energy and leadership in various COD programs. He is an active composer and performer and brings to his work a true credibility in both areas. He has presented and had his music performed in North America, online and in Asia. Paoli is forward-reaching as a composer, bridging the areas of electro- and electro-acoustic music. He regularly presents at the College’s Music Fridays@Noon series, enlarging students’ perspectives with a firm grasp of the innovative and modern, as well as its historical grounding. He ably demonstrates that one can be an innovative composer and a commercial performer.
Julie Trytek (Elgin), Assistance Professor of Human Services, Social/Behavioral Sciences and the Library Division
Trytek has been a consistent driving force over this past year, planning and arranging a Recovery Symposium in September 2019, taking on a wide variety of courses, serving as a faculty advisor to a student club, and collaborating on a new open educational resource project for the Introduction to Addictions course. She is a strong researcher who consistently seeks out new information and findings from the field, which she shares with others and brings into her classroom.
Outstanding Divisional Adjunct Faculty Members
Ben Buchenot (Villa Park), Art Instructor, Arts, Communication and Hospitality Division
Ben Buchenot has been teaching wood firing, alternative firing methods and Introduction to Ceramics at the COD since 2013 and has brought a new voice and energy to the ceramics curriculum. Buchenot provides an endless pool of information and artistic experiences to his students to help them reach self-realization and find their individual voices as artists and independent thinkers. He has an amazing ability to engage students in critical and analytical discussions that inspire enthusiasm for the ceramics medium.
Denise Kurtz-Walden (Westmont), Horticulture Instructor, Business and Applied Technology Division
Denise Kurtz-Walden is a dedicated, thorough and passionate instructor who brings real-world experience to the classroom and embraces new opportunities to challenge design students. She serves on the College’s Horticulture Program Advisory Board and is an integral part of the team that makes sure classes and events are industry-appropriate. She donates her time to lead the very popular annual Horticulture program’s Holiday Container Design classes, open to students, staff and the community. Her students’ work has been displayed in the Techcetera student gallery and at various College events.
Zhi Liu (Naperville), Languages Instructor, Liberal Arts Division
Zhi Liu supports both the French and Chinese disciplines and distinguishes herself in teaching and co-curricular activities. She has been a tireless advocate for student involvement and has contributed to countless activities and events, including the Multicultural Mashup, Celebration of the Francophone World, County Institute Day, European Studies Committee, the Wheaton Festival of Cultures and Mardi Gras. Lui has been one of the College’s most enthusiastic and successful recruiters for global education and served as faculty director in the College’s Study Abroad programs in France and China.
Jenny Cerpa (St. Charles), Surgical Technology Instructor, Nursing and Health Sciences Division
Jenny Cerpa stepped into the Clinical Chair role for the Surgical Technology and Central Sterile Processing and Distribution programs and tirelessly worked to secure sites for 25 students. She welcomed phone calls and texts on Sunday afternoons to make sure COD students received the best possible experience. She often met during off hours to help struggling students and worked with the Health Sciences team to offer as much support as possible.
Stacie Haen-Darden (Naperville), Criminal Justice Instructor, Social/Behavioral Sciences and the Library Division
Stacie Haen-Darden teaches both Criminal Justice courses like Juvenile Delinquency and two personal development courses, Career Development and College Success Skills. Haen-Darden also has taken the lead to ensure the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice program for youth from the Illinois Youth Center-Warrenville is successful and that participants earn 10 college credit hours in speech, English, career development and college success skills.
Kaitlin Burgess (Aurora), Mathematics Instructor, Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Division
Kaitlin Burgess goes above and beyond in her adjunct role. She has stepped up to substitute for faculty members and is currently teaching Math 0465, an intensive project-based course to accelerate remediation. Burgess also assisted in a pilot of a potential new book for Math 0465. She is open to new ideas and always willing to help or meet with full-time faculty to discuss any topic.
Laura Nenninger (Wheaton), Student Success Counselor, Counseling, Advising and Transfer, Student Affairs Division
Laura Nenninger has been a member of the adjunct counseling faculty with the Counseling, Advising and Transfer Services department for 24 years. She carries a wealth of knowledge about general academic advising and personal counseling, with a particular involvement in the Honors program and COD scholarship students. Nenninger is an active member of the departmental Programming and Mentor/Mentee committees, as well as the E-Communications and Honors committees.