FSW Employee Success

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Katharine O'Connor Receives Teacher of the Year Award

FSW communications professor Katharine O’Connor was recently named Teacher of the Year by the Florida Communications Association (FCA). The FCA is the governing organization for communications scholars in the state of Florida.

The FCA Teacher of the Year award is given to communications faculty who have taught in the communications field for at least two years, have received letters of support from their colleagues and have positive student evaluations.

“I am so humbled to receive the Teacher of the Year Award from a remarkable organization like FCA,” O’Connor said. “I've been a member of the organization for years and have learned so much from the scholars and professionals involved. This award has inspired me to work hard as a professor so that my students can continue to use their voices to make the world a better place.”

O’ Connor joined FSW as an adjunct faculty member in 2017 before becoming full-time faculty in 2019.

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2020 Faculty & Staff Success Stories

Brandi George Publishes Play In Verse "Faun"

Inspired by her experiences as a young girl in the forests of Michigan, FSW English professor Dr. Brandi George recently published the play in verse, “Faun.”

In “Faun,” Dr. George explores the sudden erasure of human and nonhuman populations from the town of Ovid, Michigan. Embodying various voices, forms, and media, a young girl named Lily undergoes a series of transformations, guided by nymphs, flora, and fauna. A reworking of Ovid’s “Metamorphoses,” “Faun” also reflects on the themes of sexual violence that often occur in the mythic.

“I wrote Faun to honor the place where I grew up, Ovid, Michigan, and to try to reconnect to the natural world,” Dr. George said. “By the time I was born, the original hardwood forests of Mid-Michigan had been logged out, and a lot of species, like the passenger pigeon and the grayling, were already extinct. The indigenous peoples, mainly Chippewa, Ottawa, and Potawatomi, had been forced from their lands. In short, the place was nothing like it had been even one hundred years ago. This disturbed me. I felt that the land I knew and loved was still bleeding from this violence. I could feel it, even as a child, but I didn’t know how to put this pain into words.

Many years later, I began writing about a young girl who turns into a deer while her father is hunting in the forest. After the girl is shot, she transforms into a pine tree and then a river, until finally, she travels back in time, first 100 years ago and then 200 years, to reconnect to her body and the earth. The book is written as a play to showcase the voices of animals and elements—rivers, wildfire, deer, wood anemones, etc.—and because that is the most efficient form for my narrative. However, each voice is written in a poetic form, and so the book is really half-poem and half-play.”

“Faun” is Dr. George’s second book of poetry. Her first book of poetry, “Gog,” won the gold medal in the Florida Book Awards. Her poems have appeared in Gulf Coast, Prairie Schooner, Best New Poets 2010, Ninth Letter, Columbia Poetry Review, and The Iowa Review journals. Dr. George has been awarded residencies at Hambidge Center for the Arts and the Hill House ISLAND residency, and the Time & Place Award in France. She has been featured on The Monster Professor podcast.

“Faun” is available for purchase at Plays Inverse.

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Glenn Miller Publishes Debut Novel

A chance encounter in the Adirondack Mountains inspired FSW English, literature and Cornerstone adjunct professor Glenn Miller’s young adult novel “Camper Girl.”

“At an intersection one day, I saw an old motorhome that was in rough shape,” Miller said. “I expected it to be driven by a retiree, but behind the wheel sat a young woman. She looked excited but anxious, like she was setting out on a big adventure. I imagined that she had arrived at a crossroad that was both literal and figurative.

As a writer, I enjoy looking for unexpected juxtapositions, and I wondered about her story. What had brought her to this point? Where was she headed and why? As I continued on my way, a young adult novel started to take shape—one about social expectations, family secrets, and self-determination. I drafted the book during National Novel Writing Month, and after many, many revisions, “Camper Girl” eventually found a home with a wonderful independent publisher.

“Camper Girl” tells the story of 18-year-old Shannon Burke. While her friends head off to college, Shannon is stuck in a dead-end job and burdened with the responsibility of saving her mother’s small business. When her beloved aunt dies and leaves behind a beat-up camper van, a cryptic note, and a string of mysterious maps, Shannon journeys into the heart of the Adirondack wilderness. During her scavenger hunt of self-discovery, she faces her greatest fears while uncovering a tragic family secret.

“Through my work as a teen counselor and college professor, I'm very much interested in the decisions that young adults make after high school. Is college the right path? What kind of college is the best fit? What should I study? Should I work or travel instead? What path do I want to make for myself?  Shannon struggles with these and other decisions as she navigates a new reality that is as unpredictable as the wilderness around her.”

“Camper Girl” is Miller’s debut young adult novel. He also authored the picture book, “Red's First Snow,” which follows a young fox pup who discovers the importance of accepting change. 

“Camper Girl” is published by Fitzroy Books, a subsidiary of Regal House Publishing. It’s available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Bookshop.org.

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Thais Baziquetto-Allen Wins AVCA Diversity Award

FSW Head Volleyball Coach Thais Baziquetto-Allen has been named a winner of the American Volleyball Coaches Association's (AVCA) 2020 Diversity Award. She is one of just two NJCAA recipients and one of 25 recipients nationally across all levels of volleyball.

The AVCA Diversity Awards Program is a platform for showcasing leaders that positively impact the sport of volleyball every day. The AVCA Diversity Development Team and the Association is excited for the opportunity to engage winners as leaders and be intentional in empowering them as aspiring professional and volleyball coaches. 

Baziquetto-Allen, a Brazilian-American, enters her second season with the Bucs in 2020-2021. In FSW’s inaugural campaign in 2019, the Bucs went 16-8 overall and 4-2 in Suncoast Conference play, earning their first trip to the FCSAA State Tournament where they finished 4th. Baziquetto-Allen’s Bucs captured five wins over ranked opponents including three wins over top 15 foes and a top 10 victory. Equally as successful in the classroom, Baziquetto-Allen's Bucs earned a pair of prestigious academic awards in 2019-2020 as they were named one of the selections for NJCAA Academic Teams of the Year as well as a recipient of the AVCA Team Academic Award with their 3.53 overall team GPA on the year. 

“I am very proud to be able to represent FSW with this award," Baziquetto-Allen said. "I have been given an incredible opportunity here as a minority female to lead a group of young women from all sorts of backgrounds as they pursue their academic and athletic dreams. I will use this award to show them that no matter where you come from or what the norms may have been in the past, you can truly achieve anything you want to with hard work and determination.”

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Keith Callaghan Receives United Way Award

Keith Callaghan, executive director of the FSW Foundation, is the recipient of the Charlotte County United Way’s award for leadership in the Employee Campaign Sector. He was chosen for his diligence in engaging and leading his sector and his engagement with the community. Callaghan has been involved in the United Way for many years. He currently serves as the chair of the United Way’s employee giving sector annual campaign, which focuses on encouraging new businesses to hold internal United Way giving campaigns. Additionally, he served on the community impact panel for five years, and he previously coordinated United Way campaigns at FSW.

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Lisa Cefalo

Kristina Platt

Faculty Excellence Awards Renamed for FSW Professor Myra Hale Walters

During the State of the College presentation, retiring faculty member, Professor Myra Hale Walters, was recognized in honor of her 37 years as a professor, faculty leader, and advocate of professional development and engagement.

Professor Walters' name was bestowed upon three unique awards. The purpose of the FSW Myra Hale Walters Faculty Excellence Awards is to recognize the contributions of outstanding full-time faculty members in the areas of teaching and instruction, college and community service, and professional development and scholarship. Professor Walters' commitment to teaching excellence, her tireless service to the college and community, and her lifelong scholarship and willingness to help develop the knowledge and skills of her colleagues is the inspiration for these awards and demonstrate the highest level of achievement in all categories.

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FSW Faculty and Staff Receive Excellence Awards

Three FSW faculty members and one FSW staff member received FSW/NISOD Excellence awards during this year's State of the College address.The recipients were nominated by FSW administration, faculty, staff, and students, and the winners are chosen by a committee of their peers.

Elizabeth Whitmer, professor, Health Information Technology, received the FSW Professional Development and Scholarship Excellence Award. The award recognizes full-time faculty who have exceeded the standards for professional development and scholarship.

Dr. Mary Ellen Schultz, professor, Student Life Skills, received the FSW Profession or Community Service Excellence Award. The award recognizes full-time faculty who have exceeded the standards for college and community service.

Stuart Brown, professor, Theatre, received the FSW Faculty Teaching and Instruction Excellence Award. The award recognizes full-time faculty who have exceeded the expectations for teaching and instruction.

Jackie Beard, coordinator, Campus Student Engagement, received the NISOD Staff Excellence Award. The award recognizes individuals doing extraordinary work on their campuses and who have demonstrated an outstanding commitment and contribution to students and colleagues.

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2019 Faculty & Staff Success Stories

FSW Receives Recognition at AFC Conference

Members of FSW's chapter of the Association of Florida Colleges (AFC) recently participated and received statewide recognition during the AFC 70th Annual Conference in November. AFC is the professional association of Florida's 28 public member institutions of the Florida College System. AFC actively promotes, represents, and supports members and institutions as they provide their students and the citizens of Florida with a world-class college system.

During the conference, FSW was presented the Florida College System Chancellor's Best Practice/Promising Practice Award for the Collegiate Institute (CI) at Clewiston High School. The Chancellor's Best Practice Awards provide Florida College System institutions the opportunity to promote exemplary initiatives to statewide and national audiences. The Division of Florida Colleges annually recognizes colleges in the Florida College System that have established innovative practices or have enhanced existing programs.

FSW student success advisors Maisy Adams, FSW chapter president, and Tim Maricle, FSW chapter president-elect, earned Certified College Professional (CCP) designations following their participation in the CCP program. The CCP program provides a statewide overview of the Florida College System (FCS), enhances individual job performance, builds future leaders, and designates college professionals who demonstrate the knowledge essential to the practice of higher education. Designees participate in 100 hours of professional development and show competency in four core content areas: leadership, legislative process and advocacy, the Florida College System, and building community and customer service. Additionally, Adams was named director-elect for AFC Region IV and Region IV representative for the Student Development Commission.

FSW also received Awards of Excellence from the AFC Communications and Marketing Commission. FSW's 2018-19 viewbook placed second in the Viewbook/Recruitment Piece category. The article "From a Dream to a Degree," was awarded third place in the Article/Pitch Resulting in Publication category.

Pam Macander, senior staff assistant, Hendry/Glades Curtis Center, was awarded the chapter Unsung Hero Award.

Amy English, academic support specialist at the Hendry/Glades Curtis Center, presented the breakout session "Bridging the Gap: Creating Pathways to College for Rural Students," which focused on the challenges rural, college-seeking students face and FSW's Curtis Pathways Program available to students in LaBelle.

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FSW Author's Haitian Folktales Earn New Translations

The population of Southwest Florida is growing more diverse and it's often challenging for children in a non-English speaking household to find reading material in their native language. According to the Lee County School District, nearly 40,000 students live in a home where English is not the primary language and that amount is likely the same in neighboring counties.

Since 2010 Dr. Mireille Lauture, a Student Success Advisor at FSW College, has been writing children's books based on Haitian folktales passed on by her mother and they've been available in English and Haitian Creole, but this year they've being translated into both French and Spanish. Each of her books offers the translation of two languages paired alongside another.

Teachers of English Language Learner (ELL) students often use books in a student's native language as a side-by-side comparison to learn the structures of English. Dr. Lauture, who travels across Florida and Haiti reading to elementary school students, said having multiple translations helps students learn a new language.

"It's always pleasing when you hear something in your own language," she said. "It's authentic and you quickly connect with it. My ability to speak four languages serves me well when reading my bilingual books to children from those cultures."

Dr. Lauture added that many local teachers have expressed interest in her books to build their classroom libraries and offer ELL students books that they can relate to personally.

Her travels to Haiti have involved reading and distributing her books to the École Hervé Romain School in Port-au-Prince, the Children of Hope in Saintard, and Grace International as part of the JetBlue Airways' humanitarian trip in 2014. She also frequently ships books and school supplies from the United States to Haiti.

Copies of Dr. Lauture's books are available online at www.amazon.com. They are written for children between the ages of 4-10 and help spread classic folktales to a new generation.

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Jackie Beard Wins State Awards

FSW Student Engagement Coordinator Jackie Beard was recently awarded the 2019 FCSSGA Region 4 Advisor of the Year award and the Bob Graham Distinguished Service Award for SGA Advisors.

The Advisor of the Year Award is given to a nominated advisor who has provided distinguished service to their Campus Student Government. The Bob Graham Distinguished Service Award is given to a nominated advisor for outstanding support of their campus SGA.

"There were key teachers, advisors, and staff members that helped me throughout my educational journey," Beard said. "Their compassion and willingness caused me to develop a strong desire to help students once I became an educator. I could not repay them for the support and resources they provided, but I promised them to help every student I could for the rest of my life. As a SGA advisor, it is part of my commitment and dedication to help students reach their personal and professional goals. Because of individuals that supported and motivated me, I will forever be compassionate and strive to make a difference in student lives. When I retire, I want to look back and say I made a difference and have lived a life fulfilling my purpose."

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FSW Law Professor Pens Children's Book

Law and college success professor Sandi Towers has taught at Florida SouthWestern State College (FSW) for years using textbooks she's written on the legal ins and outs of real estate, media, and the hospitality industry, but this year she published her first children's book, "Sandi and the Ladybug."

From Prolance Book Publishing in California, the book follows Walter the ladybug as he searches for his home back at the farm.

"This is based on a true story, when I found a ladybug on some lettuce I brought home," said Towers. "I named the ladybug Walter because it's a strong name and to point out the fact that there are boy ladybugs."

For this project Towers worked with Teresa Abboud, a Georgia-based illustrator and 2D animator, to bring Walter to life as well as the characters of Sandi and her father. Towers said the process of writing the book took 10 years and five drafts.

"This project was a whole decade of my life. The rule of thumb is that children's books need to be under 1,000 words and ‘Sandi and the Ladybug' is at 480. The story has two narrative arcs, which are resolved by the end, and it has teachable moments for children between the ages of 2-7."

Because teaching is her passion, on June 4 she'll be bringing "Sandi and the Ladybug" into FSW children's literature classes taught by Dr. Caroline Seefchak in the School of Education. Towers wants to work with students earning their degrees in elementary education so they can teach the youngest generation that all creatures big or small, or even as small as a ladybug, should be honored and cherished.

As part of this mission to cherish all living things, Towers will be presenting her book at the Calusa Nature Center & Planetarium's Earth Day celebration on Saturday, April 27, as well as on May 4 for "School's Out Day" and June 1 for "Foster Kid's Day." The book is for sale at the FSW Buc Store, Calusa Nature Center, and Barnes & Noble in Fort Myers Market Square. She'll be hosting multiple "Storytimes" this summer at Barnes & Noble.

"Sandi and the Ladybug" is also available for sale online at Barnes & Noble, Wal-Mart, Amazon, and Books-A-Million. Towers said she's also in the process of publishing her second children's book with Prolance Book Publishing, "The Adventures of Dusty the Tortoise and Tickles the Camel," another true story based on her pet tortoise Dusty.

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Psychology and Revolution

When FSW Political Science Professor Dr. Bruno Baltodano was a nine-year-old boy, his father, Richard Vargas, was killed in the Nicaraguan Revolution. A picture of his father hangs prominently in his office. The events surrounding nine-year-old Baltodano would go on to shape his future.

His history with Nicaragua and the lack of information on female fighters in the Nicaraguan Revolution led to a book collaboration with his coauthors, Martín Meráz García and Martha L. Cottam, titled: "The Role of Female Combatants in the Nicaraguan Revolution and Counter Revolutionary War," published in 2019 by Rutledge Books.

This book is an exploratory study based on 85 first-hand accounts of female ex-combatants who fought in the Nicaraguan Revolution and Counter Revolutionary War from the 1960s to the 1980s. Dr. Baltodano spent more than a year and several trips to Nicaragua and the Atlantic Coast gathering the necessary data for his work. Drawing from political psychology, "The Role of Female Combatants in the Nicaraguan Revolution and Counter Revolutionary War" explores the sacrifices women fighters made, their ideology, gender stereotypes and images, and ethnic, racial and national identities.

When asked what is the most important thing he hopes people understand about his book, Dr. Baltodano explained, "Gender is not a monolith. Women and men are more alike than they think, and the desire to make change goes beyond gender."

Dr. Baltodano teaches classes on international relations, terrorism and political violence, comparative politics, and American government.

He has a doctorate and a master's degree in political science from Washington State University and a bachelor's degree in government from Eastern Washington University. His academic research centers on insurgencies with a central focus on indigenous land rights and political violence in Nicaragua.

Dr. Baltodano's publications include: "The Role of Female Combatants in the Nicaraguan Revolutions and Counter Revolutionary War," published in 2019 by Rutledge Books; contributing writer in "Confronting Al-Qaeda: The Sunni Awakening and American Strategy in Al-Anbar," published in 2016 by Rowman & Littlefiled; a chapter in "Trends in Policing: Interviews with Police leaders Across the Globe," a book edited by Otwin Marenin; a chapter in "The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: War Coverage and Peace Journalism," a book edited by Wilhem Kempf; as well as journal articles appearing in Conflict and Communication and Latin American Policy.

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Wendie Thompson: NISOD Award Winner

When Wendie Thompson was announced as the 2019 NISOD Staff Excellence Award winner during FSW's annual President's State of the College event, she wasn't sure they were talking about her.

"I couldn't believe my name was called," Thompson said. "I was in shock and just sat for a second making sure it was me."

Thompson is an administrative assistant for FSW's School of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences and the recipient of the 2019 National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development (NISOD) Staff Excellence Award.

Every year, NISOD honors college staff and administrators who have demonstrated an outstanding commitment and contribution to students and colleagues at their institution. Thompson plans to represent FSW at the annual NISOD conference in Austin, TX, in May.

Thompson has worked at FSW for 10 years, and the nomination letters her fellow employees wrote for her prove why she is so deserving.

"Wendie allows the faculty, the rest of the staff across the college and me to help our students to be successful because she does her job so well."

"Wendie has an astounding capacity for, and tolerance of, the hundreds of interruptions that are endemic to the office of a dean. She greets each new distraction with good cheer and calm attention to detail. She is rarely allowed a moment of peace, and yet through this maelstrom, manages to accomplish an astounding volume of work each day. Contracts, scheduling, flummoxed students, errant faculty and desperate deans are all taken in turn and treated with kindness, competence and grace."

"Wendie takes time to find the best method for completing all tasks. I have asked her on numerous occasions to provide training for my team. We hired a new, part-time operations associate who needed to get up and running during a busy time of year, and Wendie graciously offered to sit with her and provide any assistance she needed. Her contributions to the college are invaluable!"

Thompson credits her dad for instilling in her to go above and beyond when helping people.

"What we do here is important," Thompson said. "I enjoy coming to work every morning and working with the people here. Everyone really cares about our students and our programs. I was humbled to be recognized, and it's amazing to know that people appreciate what I do."

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