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Northwestern Dean, Faculty Member Earn National Honors

Thomas Gibbons, Felicity Vabulas, win 2016 UPCEA awards in continuing education

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Thomas Gibbons, dean of Northwestern University’s School of Professional Studies (SPS), was recognized for his “extraordinary leadership” this year with a top award from UPCEA, the association for leaders in professional, continuing and online education.

In announcing the recipients of its 2016 Association Awards, UPCEA also recognized Northwestern’s Felicity Vabulas, a political scientist at the School of Professional Studies, with an award for “excellence in teaching.” The UPCEA Association Awards program includes recognition of both individual and institutional achievement across the UPCEA membership.

Since 1953, UPCEA has recognized its members’ outstanding contributions to the association and the field, as well as their achievements in innovative programming, marketing and promotion, community development and services, research and publications, and many other areas.

UPCEA's membership is made up of more than 400 of the nation's leading schools of professional and continuing education. Award recipients will be honored at the UPCEA 101st Annual Conference April 8 in San Diego.

The awards and recipients this year include the Julius M. Nolte Award for Extraordinary Leadership, which was awarded to Gibbons, a former president of UPCEA. The award is given to an individual in recognition of unusual and extraordinary contributions to the cause of continuing education on the regional, national and/or international level.

In describing SPS, Gibbons has noted that the school changed in recent years and evolved “beyond our original focus of helping adult and non-traditional students complete their undergraduate studies. We're still deeply committed to that goal, but we have widened our scope to include a broad range of programs that support the needs of working professionals to enhance their skills and take on new challenges.”

Gibbons also is the editor of UNBOUND: Reinventing Higher Education, a new online journal published by UPCEA. As he notes in an article in the current issue, “The name UNBOUND calls to mind the many innovations that are taking place in education across our country and our world, where technology is helping us break the bonds of space and time to make education accessible and more affordable to a broad audience.”

UPCEA’s Excellence in Teaching Award was given to Vabulas this year as well as to Aric Rindfleisch of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The award is presented to individuals who have provided outstanding teaching, course development, mentoring of students and service to continuing education.

Vabulas is a political scientist whose research focuses on international organizations, international political economy, international law, human rights and foreign policy. She also is a post-doctoral lecturer at the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy, where she has taught classes in political economy, American political institutions, international organizations and writing for public policy.

UPCEA is the association for professional, continuing and online education. Founded in 1915, UPCEA now serves most of the leading public and private colleges and universities in North America. With innovative conferences and specialty seminars, research and benchmarking information, professional networking opportunities and timely publications, UPCEA supports its members' service of contemporary learners and commitment to quality online education and student success.

Based in Washington, D.C., UPCEA builds greater awareness of the vital link between adult learners and public policy issues. Visit