Michigan Sea Grant is pleased to present the 2024 Van Snider Award for Distinguished Partnerships to four valued and dedicated partners: Lois Wolfson, Jamie Racklyeft, Don Carpenter, and Diane Doberneck.

Image of the Van Snider award language superimposed on an image of Sleeping Bear Dunes.MISG’s Van Snider Award for Distinguished Partnerships recognizes individuals who exemplify what it means to be a partner and friend of the organization. MISG established the Van Snider Award in 2010 to honor the memory of Van Snider, former president of the Michigan Boating Industry Association and a long-time collaborator. Through his work, he showed all the attributes of what it means to be a partner — considerate, willing to help, diplomatic and a great, all-around resource.

The inaugural award was given to Snider and has since been awarded regularly to recognize individual partners who have gone above and beyond. Recipients are nominated by MISG staff and selected by the MISG Management Team. Find a list of past recipients here.

Join us in celebrating these valued partners in 2024:

For more than 40 years, Lois Wolfson – in her role as a Senior Specialist in Michigan State University’s Department of Fisheries and Wildlife – dedicated her career to the advancement of water resource protection and management. She built networks among water resource stewards in Michigan and nationwide while contributing her own expertise and enthusiasm.

For 33 years, until her retirement last year, she served as the main organizer of the annual Great Lakes Conference. When the event was held in person, MISG used the conference as a professional development program for Michigan teachers. MISG staff often participated by serving as session speakers or moderators at the conference.

Lois also developed and delivered long-term outreach and Extension programs, including the Michigan Lake and Stream Leaders Institute, a leadership training program, and the popular online Introduction to Lakes course. She also contributed to the award-winning Water School program, developed by MISG and Extension to help public officials understand more about water management and water issues.

Lois’ wealth of knowledge and experience surrounding water resource protection, and her years of partnering with MISG, makes her a deserving candidate to receive this Van Snider Award.

In 2012, Jamie Racklyeft nearly drowned in a rip current while swimming in Lake Michigan. This life-changing experience prompted him to begin advocating for safer practices among Great Lakes beachgoers and public safety managers. While working as the communication director for the University of Michigan Institute for Clinical and Health Research, Jamie began building a network of water safety advocates. In 2015, he teamed up with MISG and other regional organizations to found the Great Lakes Water Safety Consortium (GLWSC). GLWSC now has more than 1,000 members, including first responders, community leaders, scientists, drowning survivors, meteorologists, and more. The organization provides free water safety materials for public use, hosts conferences, and pushes for policy changes to make beaches safer for swimmers and rescuers.

Jamie served as GLWSC’s director until 2023, when he moved to a new role at the U-M College of Engineering. Jamie now serves as a GLWSC board member under the leadership of educator and boat captain Drew Ferguson. MISG recognizes Jamie’s dedication to making sure Great Lakes beaches are safer for all. Read more about his journey from drowning survivor to anti-drowning advocate in this University of Michigan article.

Many Michigan communities have benefited from the work of Don Carpenter, principal at Drummond Carpenter, PLLC, and director of the Great Lakes Stormwater Management Institute at Lawrence Technological University. He has led a series of MISG-funded research projects designed to help small waterfront communities become more economically, ecologically, and socially sustainable. This long-running Sustainable Small Harbors project is now operating with support from state partners, and Don continues to lend his expertise by creating toolkits, hosting webinars, and coordinating with participating communities.

“Don has been a pleasure to work with in that he is very responsive, dedicated, and an excellent speaker,” said Heather Triezenberg, MISG associate director and Extension program manager. “During our Sustainable Small Harbors project visits, when working with village or town governments, volunteers, and the general public, he is a great listener and is able to convey the process and concepts in a way everyone can understand. Under the quick deadline of a [community visioning meeting], he is calm and cool and has always delivered a great product.”

An accredited green design professional and practicing professional engineer, Don’s expertise and research interests include engineering ethics, low-impact development, stormwater management, hydrologic modeling, and more. MISG is grateful for Don’s dedication to helping Michigan communities move toward a prosperous and sustainable future.

Engaging with communities can be a critical way for researchers to identify needs, give greater depth and relevance to their work, and ensure that their findings inform solutions to tricky problems. Diane Doberneck has been a powerful ally in MISG’s commitment to training the next generation of community-engaged scholars and practitioners. She serves as the director for faculty and professional development within the Michigan State University Office for Public Engagement and Scholarship and as an adjunct associate professor in the Department of Community Sustainability. She also directs the National Collaborative for the Study of University Engagement and coordinates the MSU Graduate Certification in Community Engagement.

Diane has partnered with MISG since 2015, when it began offering the MSU Extension Graduate Fellows Program. She has provided Michigan State University graduate students an opportunity to grow as community-engaged scholars through the graduate certificate program, which includes a seminar series and portfolio project.

In 2017, MISG partnered with Diane to host a week-long community engagement training for graduate students, fellows, and faculty in aquatic sciences from around the country. The training was held again in 2019 through the Great Lakes Center for Fresh Waters and Human Health. As a result of the program evaluations for these collaborative engagement training, MISG’s work was published in Fisheries and the Journal of Contemporary Water Research and Education.

MISG thanks Diane for working to empower researchers to serve communities in meaningful ways.