Friday, September 5, 2014 - 4:25pm

Two Information Technology Services staff members are being recognized for exceptional leadership and service to the University of Iowa. Chris Clark, director of learning spaces, was selected for the David J. Skorton Award for Staff Excellence in Service, and Jean Florman, director of the Center for Teaching, is a recipient of a UI Outstanding Staff Award.

Chris Clark
Clark played pivotal role in Learning Commons

Clark was selected for exceeding expectations in leading the development, design, and operations of the new Learning Commons, which opened at the Main Library in 2013. He accepted this long-term, complex project in addition to his regular duties and pulled stakeholders together to brainstorm and outline shared goals for the facility. Clark then worked to turn those ideas into concrete plans.

He met frequently with students to find out what they wanted in a study space and advocated for features that were important to them, such as 18 group study rooms, a convenient entrance, and good food options. While working with designers, architects, and Facilities Management staff on the daily concerns of construction, he was also working with library staff to develop an operations plan for the new one-stop service desk, and creating a new staff position to coordinate the new space.

The resulting facility is a 37,000-square-foot technology-infused, comfortable, and flexible learning space that includes a one-stop academic and information help center and a café. The vibrant, state-of-the-art space is bustling with students, and serves as an innovative model for other learning spaces at the UI, as well as at other institutions. As nominators noted, many individuals worked hard to bring the Learning Commons to fruition, and Clark was the key to bringing all of these efforts together.

Florman instrumental in developing instructors
Jean Florman

In a decade of leadership at the Center for Teaching, Florman has provided insights and support for teaching and learning excellence across campus. In addition to serving as an excellent mentor, Florman provides a variety of opportunities for faculty, instructors, and TAs—workshops, programs, consulting, classroom visits, and support for publishing and attending conferences. She is a scholar of teaching and learning, publishing most recently on pedagogies related to team-based and inquiry-guided learning.

Florman demonstrates vision. Recently, with her emphasis on TA development, the center hired an associate director to focus on programming for TAs. She has also encouraged technology-driven teaching initiatives to build in pedagogical components. Her efforts have been key to the success of the UI’s TILE (Transform, Interact, Learn, Engage) classrooms, which use technology and innovative teaching strategies to create a more student-centered, active learning environment.

Dedicated and committed are words used to describe Florman, and she is known for going above and beyond to help others succeed. Faculty members especially commend her receptiveness; if they come to Florman with an idea, her response is “yes … let’s figure out how to make that work.” 

About the awards

The David J. Skorton Staff Excellence Award for Public Service is given annually to individuals who have made significant contributions and have shown “exceptional imagination and dedication to improving the university community.” Service must include activities of high quality in staff governance, committee work, policy improvement, program creation, etc. and must be outside normal job responsibilities. Recipients receive $500 and a commemorative gift.

The Outstanding Staff Award recognizes UI staff that have made outstanding accomplishments and contributions that significantly benefited or brought honor or recognition to the university.