RIT honored employees on Tuesday, Oct. 8, with the annual Presidential Awards for Outstanding Staff ceremony in Ingle Auditorium. The awards are presented to staff members who exemplify outstanding service and dedication to the university and who exhibit a high degree of personal ethics and integrity while consistently demonstrating a strong commitment to student success.
The Rising Star Award recognizes a staff member with three years or fewer of service to the university who gives high-quality service, has demonstrated a willingness to collaborate with colleges and university constituents and embodies the RIT spirit by showing imagination, creativity and innovation. This year’s recipient is Matthew Casella, coordinator of administrative laboratory operations in the Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science.
According to one nominator, “Matt is a forward-thinking problem solver whose tenacity and determination have brought numerous improvements to our operations and facilities. But more importantly, his efforts have made a real difference in the lives of colleagues and the students he supports.” Casella designed and built a custom audiovisual system for Carlson Auditorium that allows the center to stream and record video of weekly guest seminars. He also developed and implemented a prototype system that allows researchers to showcase their work using digital displays in public areas, giving the center a more professional and high-tech appearance and eliminating the need to hang posters in hallways. He also devotes several hours of his time each week to helping students in the Freshman Imaging Project.
Excellence Awards recognize staff members who excel in their duties, promote team work and inspire excellence in others. Winners are:
Michael Buffalin IV, manager of RIT’s Construct: Student Maker Space. Through Buffalin’s efforts, RIT’s Construct program has prospered and has become a nationally recognized success story. He has worked closely with maker-focused programs in RIT’s colleges, as well as with programs that traditionally have had little maker emphasis, to assist students in learning the fundamentals of making. He has also partnered with organizations to create community makerspaces. One nominator said that the primary concern about him is that he works too hard.
Student Conduct Interpreters: Hannah Cameron, Deb Cooper, Nicole Crouse-Dickerson, Wendi Gammon, Monique Harris, Carolyn Kropp, Kristi Love-Cooper, Gayle Macias, Cheryl Reminder, Sarah Schneckenburger and Todd Thieu.
This interpretering team provides communication access for student conduct meetings, which often includes participants who are emotional and stressed about the process and outcomes. This adds to the challenge of the interpreting process. The team is relied on to provide accurate language, tone and intentions. One nominator said, “The interpreters on this team are not only incredibly skilled at American Sign Language and communication, they are passionate about the work. Each member of the team is attentive to the needs of all involved in the conduct process. They bridge the gap between languages and cultures, and they are constantly asking questions and contributing to enhance the student experience.”
Ericka Smith-Schubart, associate director for technology and systems, Center for Residence Life. According to one nominator, “Ericka consistently approaches projects with a willingness to embrace change and use technological advances to innovate and streamline business practices. She has worked tirelessly to bring partners to the table in the spirit of collaboration and has proposed numerous ways to leverage automation tools to improve communication between departments, helping to ensure that all partners have accurate and timely information.” Some of her accomplishments include utilizing online move-in appointments to manage wait times, reconfiguring the resident advisor hiring process to simplify it for students, and working with university departments to track assistance animals on campus. As one of her colleagues says, “Ericka is a stellar role model, a strong voice of reason, and has played a tremendous role in my professional growth and development. I am genuinely proud to call her my supervisor, colleague and mentor.”
Heidi Boland, events and promotion management, Saunders College of Business. In her role, Boland is responsible for planning several events throughout the year as well as creating relationships with faculty, staff, students, alumni and potential donors, parents and families of current students, and the local community. One nominator said, “Heidi is competent, friendly and hard working. One thing that stands out is her ability to remain calm, cool and collected at all times. She can adjust on the fly, is a creative thinker and is amazing under pressure. She uses her time, energy and unique talents to make sure everyone has a great experience at one of her events.”
The Isaac L. Jordan Sr. Staff Pluralism Award recognizes and affirms RIT’s collective aspiration toward a community that celebrates differences and allows individuals to develop to their fullest potential. This year’s recipient is Harold Fields, director, Center for Residence Life. As a leader, Fields says that he strives to cultivate a department that not only espouses the value of inclusivity, but embodies it. “We seek to be a diverse and inclusive organization that celebrates and is representative of the multitude of identities possessed by our students,” said Fields. “Building a diverse team of professional staff and student leaders that reflects our student body’s diversity not only helps our community members see themselves reflected in the fabric of campus, it also challenges us as a department to be aware of our own biases, preferences and areas where we can grow.”
One nominator added, “Some leaders on our campus stand out as giants in the work of pursuing a more socially just world. Harold Fields is one of those leaders. He is someone who has served as a pillar for RIT, inspiring and activating those around him with his patient, yet ardent, consistency in the pursuit of a more humane and inclusive campus.”
The Dancy Duffus Award for Outstanding Citizenship within the RIT Community recognizes a staff member that embodies the utmost integrity and who consistently shows imagination, creativity and innovation, as well as a deep commitment to RIT. This year’s award is presented to Patricia Maillet, administrative specialist in the Student Health Center. According to her colleagues, Maillet emphasizes student-centered, fiscally responsible services and is an unflagging supporter of students and the center. She has led the center through three accreditation cycles. As part of her work, she championed the conversion from paper charts to an electronic medical records system. She also works closely with RIT Ambulance, handling its budget and mentoring many generations of ambulance volunteers. Said one nomination, “Because this award came from the students, it is very special to her. She cares very deeply for all students, always putting them first and striving to make sure they are successful.”
The Albert J. Simone Legacy Award was presented for the first time this year. It recognizes and rewards a staff member whose long-term body of work is exemplary and who has contributed significantly to RIT in an ongoing manner over a number of years. This year’s recipient is Miriam Lerner, staff interpreter. Lerner has made several contributions to her field including creating a documentary on the history of American Sign Language poetry movement and deaf poets in Rochester. She is co-author of several articles and book chapters on topics such as deaf mental health interpreting, creating ASL signs for technical fields, and the literature movement at RIT’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf. She is also a co-director of ASL Core, a translation environment comprised of deaf content experts and translators that create linguistically and conceptually accurate signs for university-level academic content.
One nominator added, “RIT has an ideal model for future awardees because Miriam’s commitment to bettering our learning environment, our communication and our university have been so very steadfast and so successful.”
At the end of the ceremony, Peg Meyers, longtime Staff Council coordinator who is retiring, was recognized for her service.
For more information on the awards, go to the RIT Staff Council website at www.rit.edu/staffcouncil/awards.