2023 Alumni Award Recipients in the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences

CLASS Alumni Award of Distinction for Global Engagement

The distinction for global engagement is awarded to alumni who make a global impact. Whether working domestically or abroad, these alumni have acquired the cultural proficiency and skills to improve the lives of people where they are and impact their lives in a significant way.

Isabel Montemayor

Political Science / Spanish, 2005

Listening to Latino Voices in the Transformation of Healthcare Policy

Dr. Isabel Montemayor, '05, is living proof that you never know where a liberal arts degree will take you. A McNair Scholar, she graduated from CMU with a degree in Political Science and Spanish. She went on to earn two master’s degrees and a PhD in Anthropology, and now serves as an Assistant Professor of Anthropology and as a Research Associate for the Center for Mexican American Studies at the University of Texas at Arlington. Montemayor focuses her research and policy work on health care and immigration, especially as they pertain to Latino Americans. She has analyzed Medicaid policy in Michigan and served on the executive board of the Lansing Latino Health Alliance. Currently, Montemayor says she interviews Latino immigrants to examine the intersection of health care and immigrant policy so that “the immigration situation and the healthcare situation has a human face, so their stories can actually be heard.”

Montemayor says that her undergraduate years at CMU prepared her well for life beyond undergrad. Her experience with policy analysis in her Political Science studies proved useful in her work with Medicaid, and she utilizes knowledge from both of her CMU majors in her current research with Latino immigrants. Montemayor also says that her time at CMU profoundly shaped her teaching style. Because of her experiences with smaller, personal classes at CMU, she works on cultivating one-on-one relationships with her own students, creating engaging, discussion-based classes that especially appeal to first-generation college students. A first-generation student herself, Montemayor says she hopes she can serve as inspiration for this group and for Latino students; she says, “I feel like I’m opening the doors for future generations to do the same thing and change the face of academia.”

CLASS Alumni Award of Distinction for Professional Practice

The distinction for professional practice is awarded to alumni who are highly skilled practitioners in their field. These are people who make a difference in the lives of people every day through their craft and deep understanding of the human condition. 

Dan Eichinger

Master of Public Administration, 2014

Stewardship of Environmental Resources for the State of Michigan

As the former Director of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Daniel Eichinger, '14, cares deeply about conservation of wildlife, habitats, and environments for people to build connections with nature. Receiving a Master of Science in Fisheries and Wildlife from Michigan State University, but also a Master of Public Administration here at CMU, Eichinger ties elements of science and conservation with policy and government. He describes his role as, “being a translator between both disciplines that fundamentally view things very differently.”

Daniel Eichinger has served in many positions through his extensive career, from the Executive Director of the Michigan Unites Conservation Clubs (MUCC), to the Legislative Liaison of the DNR, then to being appointed by Governor Gretchen Whitmer as the Director of the DNR, becoming the youngest person in history to hold that position. He has spoken in many conferences, and is in multiple organizations as well, such as holding a professional member position in the Boone and Crockett Club, State Affiliate for the National Wildlife Federation’s Sporting Caucus, and current Chair of the Great Lakes Fisheries Trust.

Eichinger finds that his work is impactful in that the decisions he makes in his position impact large state forest systems and habitats, and the results aren’t immediate, but long lasting. This raises the stakes of decision making and makes the rewards greater. 

In April of 2023, Eichinger stepped down from the Governor’s cabinet to become the Vice President for Governmental and External Affairs at Ferris State University.

CLASS Alumni Award of Distinction for Scholarly Activity

The distinction for scholarly or creative activity is awarded to alumni who have contributed to our understanding of the human condition. They are experts in their field and share their knowledge widely.

Kris Phillips

Philosophy, 2003

Broadening Our Foundations by Adding the Diverse Voices of Classical Philosophical Perspectives

Kris Phillips, '03, is a professor of philosophy with a passion for teaching and accessibility of philosophy curriculum. Since receiving his undergraduate education from CMU, Phillips has earned two master’s degrees and a PhD, worked as a visiting professor at Northern Michigan University, and now is a professor in the philosophy department at Southern Utah University.

One important area of focus for Kris Phillips is of course, students. He says that he always tries to improve on his teaching, and his students help develop a stronger sense of self and being good citizens in his classes. He has received seven teaching specific awards in his time teaching and loves seeing how his students develop as individuals in the time he works with them.

Another passion of Phillips is expanding philosophy curriculum to pre-college education. He worked on this from 2015-2018 when he was appointed to the American Philosophical Association’s (APA) Committee for Pre-College Instruction in Philosophy. Here, he developed AP Philosophy curriculum that will pilot in 10-15 years. Phillips is currently working on this as well as an Associate Editor for Precollege Philosophy and Public Practice, a peer-reviewed and open access online journal. A final way, and a way that Phillips feels is his biggest accomplishments, are the Iowa, Utah, and Western Michigan Lyceums.  These are five- to six-day-long high school nonresidential philosophy summer camps in which students learn about foundations of philosophy and concepts, creative critical thinking, and in general how to think and reason for themselves.

CLASS Alumni Award of Distinction for Public Service

The award of distinction for public service is awarded to alumni who broadly serve the public good. Their involvement at the local, state or national level shapes public practices and they are effective change agents. These alumni value diverse perspectives and aim toward a more fair and just society.

Kadi Prout

Social Work / Psychology, 2008

Protecting Families and Children

Kadi Prout, '08, has dedicated over 11 years of work to advocate for the welfare of children and families in and out of the foster care system. Prout is currently the Associate Executive Director of the Michigan Federation for Children and Families, which is a membership association of nonprofit organizations that do work in child welfare and behavioral health field. They work with these nonprofits and the Department of Health and Human Services to push for legislation, policy and funding that is beneficial for children and families.

Kadi Prout received her BSW here at CMU, and her MSW from Michigan State University. Prout realized after her educational experiences and internships that she wanted to take social work to the macro level and combine it with social justice and community organization.

She started as an intern at the Michigan Federation for Children and Families, then worked as a Policy Analyst for three years, then Director of Child Welfare Policy for seven years, and has been the Associate Executive Director for the past year. Additionally, Prout has also been the Project Manager for the Child Welfare Inservice Training Grant at MSU for the past 10 years, which provides in-service training to those in social work, caregivers, and supervisors.

In her career, Prout has worked with legislators and clients to push for greater funding in family preservation services. In these services, people work to keep families together and children out of the foster care system, as long as the children would be safe and healthy. She says she has seen change within her time working, in that there was an increase in funding for family preservation services for the first time in a decade. Going forward, Kadi Prout hopes to continue the growth of family preservation services and advocating for the welfare of children across Michigan.