Distinguished Alumni

The UW-Parkside Distinguished Alumni Awards celebrate and honor the rich legacy of learning and accomplishments by those graduates who have excelled in their chosen field or performed exemplary service to our community.

Award Recipients

Ellen Dobson

Dr. Ellen Dobson, 2005 
BS, Molecular Biology and Bioinformatics 

Assistant Scientist in Image Processing & Analysis
UW-Madison Laboratory for Optical & Computational Instrumentation  

Madison, Wis. 

Dr. Ellen Dobson earned her Bachelor of Science in Molecular Biology & BioInformatics from UW-Parkside in 2005. While attending Parkside, she entered the laboratory of Dr. Carmel Ruffolo, studying the causative agent of fowl cholera, Pasteurella multocida, for completion of her undergraduate thesis research. That experience is what solidified her interest in bacterial pathogenesis and prepared her for the next stage in her scientific training as a Ph.D. candidate in the laboratory of Dr. B. Brett Finlay at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC, Canada. Dr. Dobson’s doctoral research focused mainly on tissue microbiology, specifically on the characterization of Salmonella typhimurium infection of the gallbladder during an acute, murine model of typhoid fever. 

During her doctoral training, Dr. Dobson was first introduced to imaging, where she carried out mainly wide-field microscopy, as well as a small amount of electron microscopy. As a result of this exposure, a genuine interest was formed. For the next step in her scientific training, she therefore aimed to continue studies of the host’s response to invading pathogens during her postdoctoral work. However, she also wanted to expand her experience in optical microscopy, choosing a research environment that would allow her to regularly apply advanced imaging techniques. Dr. Dobson found exactly that within the laboratory of Philippe Sansonetti at the Institut Pasteur in Paris, France.

During the first years of her postdoctoral training within the Sansonetti laboratory, Dr. Dobson’s interest and training in microscopy grew considerably. She was not only applying multiple imaging modalities and basic analysis methods within her own research, but she also attended various courses and conferences to better improve her knowledge, as she continually sought more extensive training outside the biological confines of her own laboratory. Dr. Dobson also shifted her research focus within the Sansonetti laboratory towards projects where she could put her new skills to full use, projects whose primary focus was the application of imaging and analysis methodologies.

As time went on, Dr. Dobson became more driven by the desire to develop and apply new technologies to better understand dynamic biological phenomena rather than limiting herself to the pursuit of a single biological question. As a result, she found herself drawn towards an environment that engages in software development within a biological context, directly linking imaging to biology. The laboratory of Dr. Kevin Eliceiri, the Laboratory of Optical and Computational Instrumentation (LOCI), at the University of Wisconsin - Madison provided exactly such an environment.  Dr. Dobson carried out a second postdoc with Dr. Eliceiri training in software development of the open source software ImageJ, integrating improved statistical algorithms within those computational tools that could be applied directly towards quantitative image analysis within relevant biological models. She now works as an Assistant Scientist at LOCI, and her main role is in training new ImageJ users, assisting them with their image analysis workflows, as well as running regular training workshops and outreach activities. Dr. Dobson is truly passionate about the interdisciplinary field of microscopy and bioimaging, which for her represents the perfect balance of science, collaboration, and innovation. 

Dr. Dobson is also very passionate about the field of Career Development, working closely with the UW-Madison Office of Postdoctoral Studies and the Morgridge Institute for Research in designing and delivering career development programming for postdoctoral researchers and staff scientists on campus. Therefore, her drive is not solely on the study of science, but on how to best work with other scientists to help them reach their full potential in their own careers as well.  Ultimately, Dr. Dobson’s goal is to aid scientists in their own research and career pursuits, as well as advocating for them to the broader community.

Dr. Dobson and her husband, Justin, are expecting their first child in January 2021. They reside in the lovely city of Madison, WI, where they enjoy hiking, cooking, traveling, and tasting great Wisconsin beer.

Kristin Fritz

Kristin Fritz, 1987, 1990 
BS, Business Management; MBA 

Vice President of Human Resources
Rockwell Automation

Racine, Wis. 

Kristin Fritz is vice president of Human Resources. In this role, she leads the business partnership for our products and solutions technologies for Architecture & Software, Control Products & Solutions, Strategic Development, Corporate Development and Connected Enterprise Consulting.

Kristin began her career at Rockwell Automation in 2002. Most recently, Kristin served as vice president, Architecture & Software and headquarters functions. Previously, she served as vice president, Organization and Talent Effectiveness, and before that, vice president, Human Resources for Operations and Engineering Services (OES) and for headquarters. 

Prior to joining Rockwell Automation, Kristin spent nine years with Golden Books Publishing Company, the world’s largest printer and publisher of children’s books, in Racine, Wisconsin and New York City, progressing from human resources representative to vice president for the organization. 

Kristin has a bachelor’s degree in business administration with an emphasis in human resources and a master’s degree in business from the University of Wisconsin-Parkside in Kenosha, Wisconsin. In addition, she has spent time in the United States Army Reserves.

In addition to working at Rockwell Automation, Kristin also is an adjunct instructor for Human Resources at UW-Parkside, serves on UW-Parkside College of Business, Economics, and Computing advisory board and volunteers at the Wisconsin Humane Society.

Gil Gonzalez

Gil Gonzalez, 2000 
BA, Dramatic Arts; BA, History 

Professor of Acting and Directing
Whittier College 

Los Angeles, Calif.  

Gil has worked for theatre companies in Virginia, New York, Wisconsin, and California. He is an actor, director, producer, and Professor of Acting and Directing in the Department of Theatre & Communication Arts at Whittier College in Los Angeles, California, where he also serves as Associate Dean of Academic Support and First Year Programs.

He is the founder and producing artistic director of Enceladus Theatre Company, a professional company staging new and classical works in southern California. Recent acting and directing credits include: Hamlet, Two Gentlemen of Verona, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Comedy of Errors, The Merchant of Venice, As You Like It, It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play, Angels in America, Part One, Millennium Approaches, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. He was also a founding member of the Remnant Theatre Company.

Gil is the recipient 2016 Excellence in Theatre Education from the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival. In 2018, Gil received Key to the College Award for his dedication and support of students at Whittier College. 

In February of 2020, Gil was once again recognized by the Kennedy Center with the Kennedy Center Gold Medallion. Each year, the eight KCACTF regions honor individuals or organizations that have made extraordinary contributions to the teaching and producing of theatre and who have significantly dedicated their time, artistry and enthusiasm to the development of the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival . It is the most prestigious award given by KCACTF and is considered one of the great honors in theatre education. 

Gil is a proud member of Actor’s Equity Association, Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, Stage Directors and Choreographer Society, and Association for Theatre in Higher Education, He holds an MFA in Acting from the University of Virginia and earned a BA from the University of Wisconsin-Parkside as a double major in Dramatic Arts and History.

Linda Ham

Linda Ham, 1982 
BS, Applied Science; BS, Mathematics 

Chief, Partnership Development Office
NASA Johnson Space Center  

League City, Texas

In her years with NASA, Linda has been a trailblazer --- first female Propulsion Officer in Mission Control, first female Section Head - Systems Division, first and only female Manager of Space Shuttle Program Integration, first and only Space Shuttle Program Launch Integration Manager and, perhaps her proudest achievement, first female Flight Director - Leader of Mission Control.

Linda has served as Flight Director on fourteen Space Shuttle missions during launch, orbit, and re-entry mission phases. Also, she managed Space Shuttle Program integration for the $3.3 billion (annual budget) national program, which employed 19,000 contractor and civil service employees. Notably, Linda received a special appointment to the Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and served to create a hydrogen economy.

Currently, Linda is Lead, NASA JSC’s Technology Infusion. She leads the efforts of Johnson Space Center (JSC) to collaborate with industry in developing America’s return to the Moon 2024 Program. She pioneers innovative techniques to collaborate with strategic partners worldwide; spearheading efforts to collaborate for technology transfer and to cooperatively develop cross-industry technologies. In addition, Linda led JSC’s effort in creating the newly formed Technology Collaboration Center of Houston.

Linda holds a Master of Science in Astronautical Engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School, a Master of Business Administration from Rice University, a Bachelor of Science in Applied Science from the University of Wisconsin-Parkside and a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics from the University of Wisconsin-Parkside.

Rick Harris

Rick Harris, 1985 
BS, Labor and Industrial Relations 

RJ Harris & Associates  

Gurnee, Ill. 

Rick Harris is a seasoned Human Resources Executive specializing in improving individual and organization performance. He has over 30 years of experience in Human Resources and Manufacturing Operations at Fortune 500 companies. In 2008, Rick founded RJ Harris & Associates, a consulting firm that specializes in general HR, Diversity & Inclusion, Leadership Development, Equal Employment Opportunity, and Talent Management services. In his various roles over the years, he has remained consistent in helping organizations become more successful in creating equal opportunities for people of color, women, veterans, and people with disabilities. As a known and respected voice throughout North America, Rick is sought out as a speaker and subject matter expert in Diversity & Inclusion, Talent Management, and Compliance and is also considered an innovative thought leader in the Human Resources field.

For his contributions to his community, Rick was named "Most Influential African American" of Lake County, Ill. in 2008, inducted into the Lake County Civil Rights Hall of Fame in 2009, and received the Lake County Dreamer’s Award in 2016 and Profiles In Excellence Award in 2020. Rick received his Bachelor of Science degree in Labor & Industrial Relations from UW-Parkside in 1985. He is a member of the Parkside Beta Gamma Sigma fraternity chapter and served as the College of Business, Economics, and Computing’s Executive in Residence in 2019. Rick is a member of the Vista Health Systems Board of Directors and in 2019, he became a member of the UW-Parkside Foundation Board of Directors.

Monica Herena headshot

Monique Herena, 1993 
BA, Communication 

Chief Colleague Experience Officer
American Express  

Scarsdale, N.Y. 

Monique Herena is Chief Colleague Experience Officer at American Express. As Chief Colleague Experience Officer, Monique is responsible for all aspects of the colleague experience, including talent management, leadership development and compensation and benefits. Monique leads all colleague experience functions globally. As part of the Executive Committee, Monique works closely with the Chief Executive Officer and other Executive Committee members to ensure we continue to build a culture that attracts, retains and develops the best colleagues. She also serves as an officer of the American Express National Bank.

Monique joined American Express from BNY Mellon, where she was Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) and Senior Executive Vice President, Human Resources, Marketing and Communications since 2014. She worked closely with the Chief Executive Officer and senior management team to lead the development and execution of a business and culture transformation strategy that has made the bank more competitive in the market for talent.

Prior to BNY Mellon, Monique was at PepsiCo for 13 years where she served in a number of increasingly senior HR leadership roles, including assignments in Dubai and Chicago, as well as in their Purchase, NY headquarters. Her career also included several years at both Honeywell and The Quaker Oats Company, where she held leadership roles in a wide range of HR disciplines. She began her career as an executive retained search and organization change consultant.

Monique sits on both the Executive Committee and the Board of Directors of the Human Resources Policy Association, a leading professional organization. She is a member of the Advisory Board of the Cornell Center for Advanced Human Resource Studies (CAHRS) as well as a graduate and faculty member of the Cornell ILR School CHRO Top Seat program. She is also a Board member of the Girl Scouts of Greater New York and co-leads their Strategic Development Committee. Additionally, American Banker recognized Monique as one of the "Most Powerful Women in Banking" and “Women to Watch” two years in a row (2017 and 2018).

She holds a B.A. in communication studies from the University of Wisconsin – Parkside, and two Masters of Arts degrees, one in Communications Studies from Northern Illinois University and one in Organization Psychology and Change Leadership from Columbia University.

Monique lives in Scarsdale, NY with her husband Louis, their three children, Matthew, Michael and Mia and their French Bulldog, Stella.

Brooke Jones-Story

Brooke Jones-Story, 2006 
BA, Criminal Justice 

Former Illinois State Trooper 

Deceased March 28, 2019 

Brooke Jones-Story’s life is a story of honor, courage, and commitment to helping those around her. She was a model student during her academic career at UW-Parkside, earning her degree in criminal justice and competing on the women’s volleyball team. After graduating, Jones-Story joined the Illinois State Troopers in 2007. She died in the line of duty on March 28, 2019.

Brooke was a 2003 graduate of Warren (Ill.) High School, where she was named MVP of the Warren High School volleyball team. Her commitment to helping others was demonstrated in every facet of her life. Not only was her profession a service to the community, but her personal life was also devoted to helping those around her and making the world a better place.

In addition to her career service, caring for and improving the lives of animals was also a passion for Brooke. Brooke and her husband, Robert Story Jr., opened the Storybrooke Farm in 2015. The farm saved two thoroughbred race horses along with a number of other animals including other horses and potbellied pigs. The farm also serves as a satellite adoption center for Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue, a nonprofit organization whose founders received a CNN Hero award.

Rick Kilps

Rick Kilps, 1975 
BA, Sociology

Head Coach, Men’s Soccer, UW-Parkside (retired)  

Mount Pleasant, Wis. 

As the head coach of the UW-Parkside men’s soccer team from 1984 to 2011, Rick Kilps boasted a 363-137-40 record and had 26 consecutive winning seasons. As a student-athlete at UW-Parkside himself, Rick was on the soccer team for four years while earning his degree. After graduating from UW-Parkside, he continued his education at Bowling Green State University and earned his master’s in education.

Rick has positively affected the lives of countless student-athletes throughout his coaching career and contributed to their success on and off the field. Prior to UW-Parkside, Rick coached for seven seasons at Aurora University, all of which were also winning seasons. He also led the Rangers through the transition from the NAIA to NCAA Division II without sacrificing any of the success to which they had become accustomed.

Rick had 85 players named to the National Soccer Coaches of America (NSCAA) all region team including 47 players named NAIA All-Region team (prior to the transition from NAIA to NCAA in the 1990’s), 41 players named All-Americans, 18 players have been drafted by or signed contracts with professional soccer organizations. Four players from his tenure earned the title of Great Lakes Valley Conference (GLVC) player of the year and two have earned freshman of the year honors.

Rick’s guidance led his athletes to success in the classroom as well. He had 113 players named to the GLVC All-Academic team, five named GLVC Academic All-Americans, and three named GLVC All-Academic Player of the Year.

Under Rick’s direction the Rangers were a mainstay in post-season tournaments and recorded ten GLVC final-four appearances including winning the GLVC Championship in 2000. His excellence in coaching has been recognized with numerous awards, including Wisconsin State Coach of the Year, multiple awards as NAIA District Coach of the Year and NCAA Regional Coach of the Year, and induction into the Wisconsin Soccer Association Hall of Fame.



Frances “Fran” Jaeschke, 1971 
BA, Political Science 

Former community leader and volunteer 

Deceased March 27, 2016 

Frances “Fran” Jaeschke was a life-long advocate for the University of Wisconsin-Parkside. Before UW-Parkside was founded in 1968, Fran was one of the few women on the "Committee of 100," the original advocacy group that worked to garner support in the community and throughout the Wisconsin Legislature to establish a four-year UW campus in southeastern Wisconsin.

Fran was not only involved in the efforts that helped create UW-Parkside, she was also among the first students to ever earn a degree from the new UW school. In May 1971, UW-Parkside’s second commencement, she was honored with the UW-Parkside Outstanding Graduate award.

While UW-Parkside held a special place in Fran’s heart, she was also very active in the Kenosha community throughout her life. Over the course of seven-plus decades in Kenosha, Fran served on the Kenosha Unified School Board for 10 years and participated in more than 40 community organizations, from the PTA to the Kenosha Woman’s Club and the League of Women Voters.

 UW-Parkside Chancellor Debbie Ford was well acquainted with Fran before her death in March of 2016. Chancellor Ford remembers, "She was passionate about all forms of education and remained a lifelong learner." Fran created scholarships that, to this day, provide access to education for students in each of the university's four colleges. Her generosity also established the Ralph Jaeschke Solutions for Economic Growth (SEG) Center in memory of her husband, who passed away in 1996.

In October 2013, Fran’s commitment to education was honored when she was introduced to the UW System Board of Regents during the Regents' meeting at UW-Parkside. Chancellor Ford described her as a "UW-Parkside giant of education and learning." Fran was presented with a commissioned sculpture titled "Come About" which was created by former UW-Parkside art student Mallory Olesen ‘13. The sculpture remains on permanent display in the Rita Tallent Picken Regional Center for Arts and Humanities, to honor the memory of UW-Parkside's most ardent supporter – Frances Jaeschke ‘71.

2021 Distinguished Alumni Nominations Now Open


Submit a Nomination

Do you know a UW-Parkside alum who exemplifies the impact of a UW-Parkside education? Nominate them for a Distinguished Alumni Award! 

The UW-Parkside Distinguished Alumni Awards celebrate and honor the rich legacy of learning and accomplishments by our graduates who have excelled in their chosen field or have performed exemplary service to our community.  

Nominations are open and must be received by February 5, 2021 for 2021-22 consideration. The selected Distinguished Alumni Award recipients will be recognized throughout the 2021-22 academic year, with an award event in spring 2022.  

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