Michelle Papakie Recognized with Octavius V. Catto AwardProfessor Michele Papakie, chair of the Indiana University of Pennsylvania Department of Journalism and Public Relations and a lieutenant colonel in the Pennsylvania Air National Guard, was recognized with the Octavius V. Catto Award for outstanding public service.

Papakie is the 171st Air Refueling Wing inspector general at Coraopolis.

Catto, an assassinated civil rights leader and Civil War-era militia soldier, was an educator with what is now Cheyney University and led desegregation efforts in Philadelphia in the 1860s. He was a racial equality activist and the highest-ranking black officer with the National Guard of Pennsylvania at the time he was assassinated near his home in October 1871 while on duty defending African-Americans at polling places by those who opposed their right to vote.

Papakie received the award from Pennsylvania deputy adjutant general-Air, Brig. Gen. Tony Carrelli.

“Most service members are too humble to find joy at being singled out for what they do, but [this year's recipients] have earned it.” Papakie was recognized for her “extensive civic engagement, enhancement of military-mission accomplishment, and involvement in volunteerism.”

“Service is extremely important to me,” Papakie says. “I strive daily to exemplify the Air Force Core Values – Integrity First, Service before Self and Excellence in All We Do. While it's not at all necessary for me to be recognized for my service, I hope the gesture inspires my friends and family, which includes all of my students past and present, to give back to their communities as best they can.”

Papakie also said it “meant the world to her” that her base commander, Col. Gregg Perez, would make the trip to IUP from Pittsburgh, and Gen. Carrrelli would make the trip to IUP from Fort Indiantown Gap, to personally present the award to her.

“Most importantly, my son, Staff Sgt. Derek Papakie, was excused from economics to be there with me,” she said. “Provost Timothy Moerland and at least two dozen of my friends at IUP made time to be there, too. It was very appreciated and extremely overwhelming.”

Fourth Time Awarded to Members of the PA National Guard

This year marks the fourth time this medal has been awarded to members of the Pennsylvania National Guard. After Catto's death in 1871, Brig. Gen. Louis Wagner, commander of the National Guard of Pennsylvania's 1st Division, 5th Brigade, established the medal in his memory.

Papakie, a 1993 graduate of IUP, returned to IUP in spring 2007 as a faculty member after 20 years of experience in journalism and public relations.

Although she has spent her entire career—nearly three decades—as a traditional guard member (reservist) in Pittsburgh, Papakie's service has taken her to at least a dozen countries and more than half of the United States. She has served as the unit's public affairs officer, equal opportunity officer, and today as the wing's inspector general. In 2010, she served a six-month tour in Bagram, Afghanistan, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, as a Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program manager.

In May of this year, IUP honored Papakie with the Distinguished Faculty Award for Service.

One of 12 of the Region's Most Distinguished Veterans

In 2014–15, Papakie was honored for her service as one of 12 of the region's most distinguished veterans. Her photo, story and oral history were featured at an exhibit in Pittsburgh's Lantern Building, located at 600 Liberty Avenue, from November 2014 through March 2015.

Also in 2014, Papakie was named Outstanding Business Communicator of the Year by the Pittsburgh chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators.

Advises Student Organizations, Led Student Project

At IUP, Papakie serves as the faculty advisor to five clubs on campus: IUP's chapter of the international organization Public Relations Student Society of America, HerCampus, Chi Upsilon, Sigma Kappa, and IUP Inline Hockey.

Each summer, she teaches a two-week journalism and public relations workshop for high school students as part of IUP's Summer Honors Program. In 2013, she was charged by IUP President to implement the first phase of the Strategic Visioning Project campus-wide. She developed a team of 30 students in her Public Relations Presentation Making class to work on the project, which included more than 400 interviews, documentation of the data gathered and entry of the data into qualitative analysis software to discover themes.

Serves her Community

In her community, Papakie serves as: an elected township supervisor, president of the Indiana County Association of Township Supervisors, a volunteer at the Alice Paul House—a domestic violence shelter—and the education officer of Indiana's chapter of Toastmasters International.

Papakie earned her Master of Arts degree in regional planning at California University of Pennsylvania in 1996 and her Doctor of Science degree in communication and information systems from Robert Morris University in 2002.

PHOTO INFORMATION: Professor Michele Papakie, chair of IUP's Department of Journalism and Public Relations, with Pennsylvania deputy adjutant general-Air, Brig. Gen. Tony Carrelli. Brig. Gen. Carelli presented the Octavius V. Catto Award to Papakie, a lieutenant colonel in the 171st Air Refueling Wing of the Pennsylvania Air National Guard.