Holmes receives LAS Academic Professional Award
Amber Holmes, who serves as student services coordinator for NetMath, has been named one of three recipients of the 2022-2023 LAS Academic Professional Award. The LAS Academic Professional Award was established in 1993 to identify and honor academic professionals who have made outstanding contributions to the college. Holmes has been specifically recognized for learning new skills and taking on greater responsibilities to support overall student success.
Holmes, who joined the mathematics department in 2013, describes her role thusly: “In a nutshell, my job is to make sure the [NetMath] student experience is fairly seamless, from when a student starts inquiring about taking a course, to when they complete a course and are looking to obtain their transcript from the registrar.” What does that entail? As it turns out, quite a lot.
NetMath provides online courses in mathematics for matriculated college-age students, but also for high school students and adult professional students. “We have had some students who, just for fun, wanted to take a math course,” adds Holmes. Her role requires her to be adaptive and flexible, and considerate of the varied interests and motivations students have for taking online mathematics courses.
Holmes says that throughout her time in this role, she has learned how to anticipate some of the hurdles students will face when enrolling in and taking online courses, as well as how to resolve issues when they do come up. She constantly finds herself coordinating with new and various units on campus to help provide students they assistance they need. During the most critical points during the pandemic, she ran weekly webinars to give students deeper insights into the NetMath program, and she also published online learning tips to help students adapt to distance-learning environments. Holmes says getting to hear back from students that the program was helpful to them, or that she was able to provide a satisfactory solution to a problem is one of the best parts of her workday.
Holmes says she is both surprised and elated to have won the LAS Academic Professional Award. “It took a few days for the news to sink in,” she says. “I feel really appreciated by my colleagues and it’s great to be recognized for the work I am doing.”
Byers receives LAS Staff Award
Ann Byers, who serves as a business administrative associate in the Department of Mathematics, has been named one of the three recipients of the 2022-2023 LAS Staff Award. In 1993, the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences established the LAS Staff Awards to identify and honor excellence among staff members. Byers joined the Department of Mathematics in 2008. Today, she fulfills several vital functions in her role, namely assisting with federal grants and coordinating vendor contracts and supply purchases for departmental conferences and other events—including the annual ALGECOM conference and Summer Illinois Mathematics Camp (SIM Camp).
In the past year alone, Byers has also played a large role in coordinating the Tom Nevins Memorial Conference, Actuarial Research Conference, the Mathematics Development Advisory Board annual meeting, and even the department’s homecoming celebration. Her colleagues commended her for staying up-to-date on campus business policies and always being willing to lend a helping hand. Byers has been instrumental to the department in assisting newer staff members as they acclimate to the department—particularly those who joined the department after the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, during which many routine departmental procedures changed drastically.
Byers says it feels great to know that she was even nominated for the award, let alone have received it. “Having the department’s support is very much appreciated,” she says. Byers hopes to continue learning new skills to better support the students, faculty, and staff in the Department of Mathematics.