Miles, Zeng honored with Distinguished Service Awards

Contact: Erin Flynn

KALAMAZOO, Mich.— Drs. Ann Miles and Ying Zeng will be presented with Western Michigan University's Distinguished Service Award during a ceremony Thursday, Oct. 7.

“One of higher education’s most important contributions to society is conducting work that advances the public good and serves the community," says Dr. Jennifer Bott, provost and vice president for academic affairs.

The award recognizes faculty and staff members who have demonstrated exceptional service in areas that reflect innovative and effective programming, increase Western's stature or extend the University's impact and presence into the community. Miles is a professor of sociology and director of the University Center for the Humanities; Zeng is director of the Haenicke Institute for Global Education's Asian Initiatives, the Soga Japan Center and the Timothy Light Center for Chinese Studies. But those titles only scratch the surface of the impact they've had on the institution.

"It’s humbling to hear about the great contributions that these Distinguished Service Award winners have made and the creativity they have shown in developing effective and unique programs," Bott says. "I’m honored to present them with this award on behalf of a grateful campus and larger community.”

The Distinguished Service Awards ceremony begins at 3 p.m. on Oct. 7 in Sangren Hall room 2019. It is part of the larger Academic Excellence Awards Series that continues throughout the fall semester.


Dr. Ann Miles

In the more than 25 years Miles has been at Western, the sociology professor has worn a number of hats—from serving on search and steering committees and working groups to leading classes in the community and serving on advisory boards.

"She has had a remarkable career that has made WMU a better place for students, faculty and staff, and she has done so quietly, doing what needs to be done, without any thought of self-promotion or accolades. She is my idea of a leader: She listens well, works to build consensus, advocates tirelessly for the cause and combines strategic thinking with great kindness," says Dr. Kristina Wirtz, professor and chair of the Department of Spanish.

Miles is currently director of the University Center for the Humanities and faculty advisor for the Latino Student Alliance.

"Ann’s humble, pragmatic, ethical and no-nonsense demeanor, coupled with her critical thinking, problem-solving and an earnest desire to contribute to the betterment of students and this institution, have often made her administrators’ and colleagues’ choice when it comes to leadership positions," says Dr. Irma Lopez, professor of Spanish and interim dean of Lee Honors College. She has worked with Miles throughout her tenure at the University. "Her complete dedication to the cause she has undertaken, big or small, has gained her the confidence of those she leads. Her peers know that excellence defines Ann’s endeavors."

Lopez points to Miles' genuine interest in enhancing the education of Western students and making them better citizens and leaders as a hallmark of her teaching. It's something echoed by the Broncos she's helped guide into the world.

"Her passion for this work, her consideration for those around her and her mission to understand and serve others were characteristics that greatly inspired me when I was her student and continue to do so to this day," says Caitlin Wiley, a 2019 Western graduate. "I could tell from the very first class how passionate Dr. Miles was about ensuring that all students were not only challenged to think critically about real-world issues but to do so with empathy and great attention to the human element in every situation."

While serving on the Faculty Senate International Education Council (IEC) from 2011 to 2018, Miles helped to define what it meant for the University to be globally engaged and in turn helping to grow Western's global reputation over the past decade.

"Saying that she 'was a member' (of the council) understates her contributions; she participated in working groups that prepared proposals to the full IEC for curriculum development, external fundraising, the internationalization initiative and the highly successful daylong internationalization workshop in 2013. Few know the hours she put in outside of formal IEC meetings," says Dr. Jim Butterfield, professor of political science and former IEC chair. "She has played an integral service role in multiple dimensions in getting us where we are today."


Dr. Ying Zeng

Global engagement is also a strength of Dr. Ying Zeng. In her role at the Haenicke Institute, she is charged with supporting international students, fostering international partnerships and building a bridge between Western and the community.

"One of WMU's great strengths is its ability to recruit and support international students. Much of the success in the realm of being a 'globally engaged' university is directly attributed to the intellect, talent and efforts of Dr. Ying Zeng," says Dr. John Dunn, chancellor of Southern Illinois University and former WMU president.

"Dr. Zeng continually promotes WMU and has developed strategic planning for partnerships in China and Asia. She works with both the Chinese and Korean alumni groups. She is active in the local community through outreach programs and participation on board of directors and committees," adds Dr. Paulo Zagalo-Melo, associate provost of the Haenicke Institute for Global Education

He lists launching the Asian Forum, which draws scholars from across the Midwest; directing the Kalamazoo Chinese Academy (KCA); founding the China Festival; and expanding the Chinese New Year Festival in Kalamazoo among her many accomplishments.

"Dr. Zeng is the reason that so many people have the opportunities to learn and experience the Chinese culture right here in Kalamazoo," says Elaine Lui, KCA principal.

Those who nominated Zeng for the Distinguished Service Award note her history of service and visionary leadership make her an invaluable asset to Western and the community. Even during the height of the pandemic when so many services and programs were put on hold, Zeng ramped up her contributions, initiating fundraising efforts to feed international students who remained on campus while also continuing the Asian Forum and cultural celebrations in a virtual format, exponentially expanding their influence in the process.

"Ying Zeng is a unique jewel here at WMU. She has more and a larger variety of talents than I have encountered in a single person," says Dr. Timothy Light, professor emeritus in the Department of Comparative Religions and namesake of Western's Center for Chinese Studies, which Zeng directs. "She is one of the most remarkable people I have ever met. A kind, thoughtful and encouraging person, she is wonderful to work with and her skill set includes so many capacities that I cannot enumerate them."

For more WMU news, arts and events, visit WMU News online.