Jill Welter, associate professor of biology and currently the endowed professor in the sciences, was honored with St. Catherine University’s 2016 Bonnie Jean Kelly and Joan Kelly Award for Faculty Excellence. The presentation was made Wednesday by Colleen Hegranes, executive vice-president and provost of St. Catherine at the University’s opening celebration in front of packed house of students, faculty and staff in The O’Shaughnessy on the St. Paul campus.
Welter joined the St. Catherine biology faculty in 2005. An ecosystem scientist, her enthusiasm for field research has attracted students to St. Kate’s and collaborators from universities across the nation and the world. From the Eel River Watershed in northern California to her recent research projects studying Iceland’s river ecosystem, students have been Welter’s research collaborators and have shared their research findings at national, regional and state conferences. Following graduation, Welter’s student collaborators have been accepted into prestigious graduate programs or launched their careers in leading corporations.
Her scientific work has attracted National Science Foundation grants and University student faculty collaborative research awards. She has participated in the St. Kate’s undergraduate faculty–student research program, Summer Scholars, and been a faculty mentor for student presenters at the National Undergraduate Research Conference. While supporting and mentoring students, Welter has herself been a prolific author and presenter of her research. Among her many presentations, she has addressed the Imperial College in London, the Ecological Society of America, the University of Iceland in Reykjavik and the Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory. She has been a co-author of numerous journal articles published in Ecology, Freshwater Biology, Geomorphology and Biogeochemistry.
She has introduced in-service teachers to the wonders of science in the University’s graduate certificate program in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and also co-taught environmental biology classes in the undergraduate STEM certificate program. One undergraduate education major, Angela Rosendahl ’11, was so transformed by the course that she became a member of Welter’s field study team in northern California the following summer. She now teaches in the Cannon River STEM School in Faribault.
In 2009, Welter’s students conducted the first greenhouse gas audit on campus. She believes that environmental sustainability is an important part of the University’s mission — embodied in the daily work of the Sisters of St. Joseph and the core principles of Catholic Social Teaching. Since then other student led sustainability initiatives across campus have been created.
She also collaborates with faculty in the arts and humanities to teach interdisciplinary courses that explore subjects from multiple perspectives. Welter has also been a member of the Bonnie Jean Kelly and Joan Kelly Distinguished Visiting Scholar organizing committee, bringing scholars into classrooms to share their knowledge and experience with students.
“Jill Welter's passion for understanding, her commitment for preserving the environment, and her student-centered approach has contributed to a 30 percent increase in the number of students pursuing science degrees,” says Hegranes. “Jill is among a stellar group of science faculty who attract and nurture young women as the next generation of science leaders."
About the Bonnie Jean Kelly and Joan Kelly Awards
Joan Kelly — a St. Catherine 1946 alumna, donor and a member of the St. Catherine Centennial 100 — honors the memory of her parents and her sister with generous gifts that fund three prestigious programs designed to recognize academic excellence and advance the national visibility of St. Catherine University. A successful businesswoman and Phi Beta Kappa graduate in English, Joan Kelly attended both high school and college on the campus of St. Catherine with her sister, Bonnie Jean, who died while a student here.
In addition to the Bonnie Jean Kelly and Joan Kelly Faculty Excellence Award, Kelly established the Bonnie Jean Kelly and Joan Kelly Distinguished Visiting Scholar Fund that makes it possible to bring a nationally-known scholar to the University annually for seminars, workshops and classroom discussions. The third program is the Bonnie Jean Kelly and Joan Kelly Student Excellence in Writing Award that recognizes superior work in writing. Two exceptionally talented student writers are each presented with a $2,500 award at the annual Honors and Awards Ceremony in May.
Past recipients of the Bonnie Jean Kelly and Joan Kelly Faculty Excellence Award
2015 — Laura Sisola Gilchrist, professor in the Doctor of Physical Therapy program
2014 — Mark Blegen, associate professor, chair of the Nutrition and Exercise Science Department and co-director of the Women’s Integrative Research (WHIR) Center.
2013 — Mary U. Henderson and Megan Kalina, professors, Business Administration
2012 — Kathleen Matuska, program director, Master of Arts in Occupational Therapy
2011 — Geri Chavis, professor of English
2010 — Amata Miller, IHM, professor of economics and director of the Myser Initiative on Catholic Identity
2009 — Susan Dandridge Bosher, professor of English, and Margaret Dexheimer Pharris, professor of nursing
2008 — Mary Ann Brenden, associate professor of social work
2007 — Laurie Swabey, professor of American Sign Language/Interpreting
2006 — Mary Wagner, professor of Master of Library and Information Science
by Julie Michener