Ron Zimmerman, the director of Schmeeckle Reserve, was one of three UW System staff members across the state to earn an Academic Staff Excellence Award of $5,000.
Zimmerman was honored by the UW System Board of Regents on Thursday, March 6 in Madison, Wis. The monetary prizes awarded to each recipient will benefit their respective program or function at their university. Zimmerman said he hopes that Schmeeckle Reserve will be positively affected by this money.
“We have not decided what to do with it yet, but I hope that whatever is done is of lasting value to Schmeeckle,” Zimmerman said.
Zimmerman said he hopes the money goes toward a project at the reserve that would not have been possible if this money had not come along. He said that although the award was addressed to him, he was not the only person receiving it.
“It isn’t just the person who gets the award, but a lot of people,” Zimmerman said.
Zimmerman, who was named director of Schmeeckle 35 years ago, said that previous students who had worked with him on the reserve recommended him for the award. He said people working with him on the reserve throughout the years became family.
“Sometimes generations of people come here. I work with kids of alumni that I’ve worked with in the past,” Zimmerman said.
Carly Swatek, a graduate assistant at Schmeeckle Reserve, assists in environmental education and interpretation at the reserve. She also is in charge of the overall assistance with reserve operations and management of student staff.
When asked about Zimmerman’s directorship, Swatek spoke praises.
“A great director is one who is professional, approachable and observant. Ron possesses all of these qualities and more, making for a truly unique and supportive work environment,” Swatek said.
Swatek said she feels inspired by Zimmerman’s leadership She said in particular his lasting care for functions on the reserve, including making positive experiences for visitors.
Swatek said that previous graduate assistant at the reserve, Megan Espe, had done her own graduate research, which lead to the creation of the community-based organization Friends of Schmeeckle Reserve.
This organization supports the work of the reserve and is growing to build the capacity of the reserve in the future. Swatek said she looks forward to seeing how this project impacts community interest in the reserve and its functions.
Currently, Swatek is working on her own master’s thesis that will focus on conducting a needs assessment for expanded yearlong educational programming at the reserve.