Nominations are now open for the 2018 Staff Making a Difference Awards. Nominate a deserving colleague today in one of seven categories. Each award recipient will receive $500.
This year’s categories are:
Above and Beyond
Behind the Scenes
Eligibility: All regular full-time and part-time staff are eligible. Award recipients will receive $500, after taxes. Past recipients are not eligible again until five years after their award year and are listed on the Staff Council blog.
Nomination Criteria: Nominations must be no more than three single-spaced pages. Nominators should prepare a letter that provides specific examples of the nominee’s accomplishments. Winners will be chosen based on examples of the category criteria. Nominations are limited to single individuals. No team or group nominations.
Statements of Support Criteria: We recommend nominators collect up to three letters of support from other colleagues, clients and members of the community to strengthen their nomination. Please note – support letters need to be no more than one page each.
Staff Council is coordinating the awards and asks that you follow these steps:
Download the nomination form (individuals only, no team or group nominations)
Create your nomination letter
Collect your statements of support (no more than three letters)
At an awards program in the MUB Wednesday, the following staff members were honored with the Staff Council Making a Difference Awards. The winners, along with an excerpt from their letters of support, are as follows:
Above and Beyond Award
Lisa Hitch, Business Manager/Technical Communication Specialist, Electrical and Computer Engineering. “During our recent ABET visit, our department chair was suddenly called away from our department at a critical moment in the evaluation process. Without hesitation, Lisa organized the details of the department meetings between our ABET visitors and more than 50 students, staff, and faculty in a matter of hours. As a result of her intervention, the visit proceeded without interruption. When our chair returned, he found a department visit so smoothly tuned and ready that it went forward flawlessly. Without her initiative, the meetings would have been hopelessly uncoordinated and left a terrible impression on our visitors. She saved the day for all of us.”
Karen Salo, Director of College Administration, College of Sciences and Arts. “Every coordinator in the department can tell of a time when Salo (as she calls herself since there is another Karen in the office) dropped what she was doing to resolve a budget issue, a personnel difficulty, or just fix things by knowing who to call in HR, budgeting, or accounting. This all comes rather naturally since Karen basically designed this job, built the templates required to do the job, established the processes for how and what a coordinator at the college and department level does, and then set the stand for performance.”
Allison Mills, Director of Research News, University Marketing and Communications. “Allison is a leader in finding new ways to tell Michigan Tech’s story. She created the Unscripted blog, which breaks science down without diluting it. She uses the @mturesearch Twitter account to reach out to other institutions around the world. She pitches our stories on a national stage and we’re more of a presence because of it.”
Mike Abbott, Director – Great Lakes Research Center. “Not only does Mike stimulate personal and professional development for his employees through his flexibility in scheduling and encouragement for his employees to attend seminars and classes; Mike is often found right alongside the team pitching in when needed despite the mountain of work at his desk.”
Zack Fredin, Enterprise Program Coordinator, Pavlis Honors College. “It is rare for a newcomer to step right into a new job role without missing a beat but Zack did exactly that in his first year. He has a special skillset that has enabled him to succeed on several fronts: securing project funding, managing client expectations, working with faculty advisors and students, and upholding the standards of the Enterprise Program. I greatly appreciate a person like Zack who focuses on finding solutions, not identifying roadblocks.”
Mary Yeo, Manager Auxiliary Fund & Banking Operations, Financial Services & Operations. “Mary is the face of Michigan Tech in our relationships with financial institutions. The University’s long standing relationship with Superior National Bank has been very successful due to Mary’s excellent customer service and knowledge in responding timely and positively to any issue that arises.” A Superior National Bank employee echoes this in her letter of support. “We are thankful to have Mary as our partner. Her positive attitude and commitment to do the right thing for the University, it’s employees and students are the reason I support her nomination.”
Ed Trinklein, Research Engineer, Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics. “This past spring our Michigan Tech student-built nanosatellite was at risk of missing a technical milestone set by the Air Force. If this milestone was missed our 7 year long program would have come to an end without a launch into space. Ed dropped everything he was working on, rolled up his sleeves, and inserted himself into my laboratory where he discovered complicated errors in our serial communication architecture—which he quickly fixed. The satellite shipped to the Air Force in June and, as a result of Ed’s work, will launch into orbit in April, 2018.”
Everyone is invited to a reception honoring the 2017 Making a Difference Awards nominees. The reception will be held on Wednesday, January 10, 2018 from 2:00 to 3:30pm in the Memorial Union Ballroom. The recipients for each category will be announced at the reception. Here is a list of the 2017 nominees:
At an awards program in the MUB Wednesday January 4, 2017, the following staff members were honored with the Staff Council Making a Difference Awards.
Above and Beyond Award
Maragret Landsparger, Testing Center Coordinator, Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning
Margaret received two nominations in this category. When Margaret was initially hired the Testing Center gave 77 exams. Three years later, Margaret oversees an operation that recently proctored 88 exams on a single day and 2,679 exams throughout the spring 2016 semester. During low demand times Margaret found ways to keep it busy AND bring in extra revenue. In addition to proctoring exams for online students from other universities, she has worked through the certification process for more than 15 different commercial tests, including the GRE, the Fundamentals of Engineering exam, and Microsoft Certifications for IT professionals. Margaret will often return to work on evenings and weekends to ensure everything is set for the next day, to score the multiple choice exams so the instructors and students can receive feedback by the next day, to deal with last minute scheduling requests, or to resolve technical issues in the testing space. She does not have to do this but believes that going above and beyond her work hours is needed when the issues are time sensitive.
Bringing out the Best
Ian Repp, Director of University Marketing and Communications
As one letter of support puts it “his southern accent is fading. But his authenticity, positivity, and creativity remain. When any member of his team feels the pull, or tug or outright drowning effect marketing and communications can have, does he swoop in and save them? No. He meddles only when asked. Instead he brainstorms solutions, ideas, options, and perspectives to lay new ground and create our footing once again. Ian brings out the best in us because of what he does – and doesn’t- do.” As another letter states Ian “recognizes that we are not just a collection of job titles. We’re people. And he recognizes the worth in each of us. In turn, we strive to do the best we can in large part because of his temperament, leadership, and example he sets each day.”
Jesse Nordeng, Master Machinist, Physics
As one letter of support states “How many times have I walked into the Physics machine shop with a group of students to ask Jesse for assistance with an urgent challenge? I can’t count how many times and I positively and constructively Jesse responds. He inevitably is able to help us come up with a creative solution that is more practical, more cost effective, and more direct than we had in mind.” Jess is very collaborative in nature, he is very versatile, he routinely finds ingenious solutions to our problems efficiently and effectively and he often goes well beyond his expected role. He also excels in his role as safety liason in the department. His nominator also states “Often I will mention a project that I want to do in the near future and will pass Jesse in the hall and he will throw out 10 ideas that he was thinking about and how to make things better.”
Karla Aho, Director of Gift Planning, Advancement
As her nominator put it “Karla continually pushes me and is fully supportive of the work I do. Karla lets me run with projects I am passionate about and reigns me in when I need to settle down. I often refer to her as my work mom, in which she chuckles. But she’s as caring for her employees as a mother would be for their children.” Another of her employees agrees and says that “Karla has always been a firm advocate for keeping life in balance, and not becoming overwhelmed/overburdened but our working lives. She has done this quietly by example and overtly by reminding me of the need for family time.” Karla readily acknowledges the contributions and successes of both her direct reports and her coworkers. She does this not only on an individual basis but also often in a group setting.
Sharon Attaway, Associate Director of Employer Relations, Career Services
One could not have possibly picked a more hectic department on campus to join at the most hectic time of the year in one of the most hectic recruiting seasons we’ve ever seen. Within 1 ½ months of her start date Sharon would be doused with gasoline and thrown into the CareerFEST fire. She assisted with the execution of 9 industry days and over a dozen more educational events which brought 71 companies to campus prior to the Career Fair. Sharon jumped right in meeting with everyone from our facilities and transportation staff to academic department heads and our leadership team while stopping to meet and assist the many corporate recruiters and their on campus needs. Sharon’s supervisor said it best “Sharon is like our graduates, they on-board quickly to their career roles and begin to immediately contribute value to their employers.”
Nancy Byers Sprague, Director of Graduate Degree Services, Grad School
One of her letters states “She devotes all of her time, energy and emotion into enriching the lives of others, particularly those who are vulnerable or less able to help themselves.” Nancy is involved in several campus and community organizations including – Keweenaw Pride, Canterbury House, Good Shepard Lutheran Church, Sailing Club, and she religiously visits nursing homes to talk with residents. She also invites 20+ students to her home for every holiday. Another letter states “I am so happy knowing that she is there to look out for and take care of students and members of the community in her generous, genuine, loving way.”
Jeffrey Toorongian, Senior Educational Technologist, Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning
“From providing narration for many safety and educational videos to serving as the person behind the camera in a desert documenting a field geology class in Utah, Jeff has reliably used his skills to provide and excellent quality project. Like innumerable faculty I have benefited tremendously from Jeff’s advice about what to wear, how to position a microphone, which color pen to use, and how to organize my class when recording for online display. Jeff’s attention to detail and quality has long been an unrecognized but essential part of most every video produced at Michigan Tech in the last two decades.”
Everyone is invited to a reception honoring the 2016 Making a Difference Awards nominees. The reception is scheduled for Wednesday, January 4, 2017 from 2:00 to 3:30pm in Ballroom A of the Memorial Union Building. The recipients for each category will be announced at the reception. Here is a list of the 2016 nominees:
At an awards program in the MUB Wednesday January 6, 2016, the following staff members were honored with the Staff Council Making a Difference Awards.
Above and Beyond Award Jodi Lehman, Assistant Director of Research Development
One of Jodi’s nomination letters states, “This year, following the departure of another staff member, I asked Jodi if she would take on the additional task of managing Michigan Tech’s relationships with private foundations. Not surprisingly (to anyone who knows her), Jodi enthusiastically accepted these additional duties. She retained many of her existing duties – which would have made taking on this additional job ‘above and beyond’ on its own. However, the timing of this job change coincided with the start-up of a major new foundation in the community – the Portage Health Foundation.” They noted that even though a significant portion of the work on this partnership came during her two “off months” (she is a 10-month employee), she stayed engaged in the project, shepherding it through the entire process. It was noted that Jodi did this because she deeply cares about Michigan Tech, and saw the big picture of how this partnership with PHF will strengthen Michigan Tech not just for the next couple years, but for decades to come.
Bringing out the Best Award Patty Kyllonen, Director of HR Information Systems
“When new changes or policies must be implemented, Patty has the ability to spread enthusiasm to all involved, whether it be the entire department, a single work center, a committee, or an individual.”, stated one nominator. Another said, “Being a relatively new member to her support staff, Patty has always made the extra effort to help guide me to make the best decisions for the circumstances I come in contact with. I’ve watched her mentor at least four people in the last five years, and I’ve seen all of them grow to be better employees and better people.” Also stated, “Her leadership provides endless chances to dive a little deeper with each goal, mission, and project. Giving those chances to grow is how Patty brings out the best in me.” Patty is also involved in activities outside of work with other individuals in the department that encourages comradery when back at work.
Creative Solutions Award
Steve Lehmann, Research Associate in Mechanical Engineering – Engineering Mechanics
One reason stated for nominating Steve was: “Steve is an expert LabView programmer. He is now implementing a LabView application in several Mechanical Engineering – Engineering Mechanic laboratories and in the new Engineering Practice courses. Not only does it offer all of the functionality required by the users, maintenance and modification of the program is significantly streamlined since there is only one program instead of a dozen. It is estimated that after implementation of this software application, the time required to maintain it has dropped from what could have otherwise been a full time position to just a few hours per week. This represents a tremendous savings in personnel costs, besides freeing up Steve’s time to work on other important tasks.” Also, “Steve’s ability to see things from the student’s perspective has resulted in new ides in their under graduate labs that have produced better student learning experiences.”
Outstanding Supervisor Award Joe Cooper – Director of Financial Aid (Director of Student Activities when nominated)
One nominator stated, “When someone asks me what I love about my job, the first thing that comes to mind is my supervisor, Joe Cooper. Joe continually pushes for my professional development by supporting my UAW classes and suggesting campus lectures/classes that would benefit me professionally.” Another added, “During my time in the department, he has been among the most visible proponents of positive support, in addition to encouraging personal and professional development in our area. He is aware that learning is a life-long practice; he doesn’t shy away from a challenge and receives feedback with an open mind.” And also said, “Joe has been nothing less than 100% supportive of my demanding master’s program, which at times can divert my attention away from my position in Student Activities.” When it came time to making a change in the department, Joe provided suggestions on how to go about making the changes, but gave his employee enough leeway to implement the changes, while providing a safety net in case things did not go their way.
Joseph Thompson, Sponsored Projects Manager in the Pavlis Honors College
One nominator stated that after just two weeks of Joe being on the job, he knew they had found the ideal candidate when Joe accompanied him on a business trip to meet with ten of their very important industry sponsors. He said, “His input was thoughtful, genuine, and engaging; he was able to identify mutually beneficial opportunities. His follow-through on these visits was equally impressive. As a result of this trip alone, Joe successfully secured $165k in sponsored projects for the fall semester.” Equally important is his ability to build relationships on campus with faculty and staff. He is often out of his office meeting across campus, learning first-hand about the Enterprise programs, so that he can promote them successfully to their external sponsor base. Beyond his performance, you couldn’t ask for a more genuine, sincere, and authentic colleague and employee. Another noted, “While fulfilling the role for which he was hired with great commitment and creativity, he also began identifying opportunities and exploring innovative ways to promote effective growth and evolution of our programs.”
Serving Others Award – There was a tie between Sue Niemi and Kathy Goulette
Susan Niemi, Office Assistant in Chemical Engineering
It was stated, “She is always very professional, helpful and offers to do whatever is needed to take care of the needs of others. This is not always an easy task as the majority of her work load in non-repetitive, there are so many different things that arise on a daily basis. She handles them with ease, finding solutions, and no one ever leaves the department unsatisfied. She takes initiative to work on special projects and takes pride in all of the work she does in assisting the department run smoothly.” Another said, “Sue routinely investigates the graduate student financial support and ensures that the students’ pay is always correct and on time.” “Frequently when asked about various specifics about the meetings the department holds, her response is that the task has already been completed.” “Sue always strives to put the needs of everyone else before herself.”
Kathy Goulette, Executive Assistant in Mechanical Engineering – Engineering Mechanics
It was stated, “While Kathy’s assigned duties keep her extremely busy, she has always found the time to go beyond this to serve others in additional ways.” With a department of this size, comes complexity at every turn which often leads to exceptions and her having to break new ground and create new processes. When a faculty member complained he could not find a planner/calendar to meet his needs, Kathy met with him to determine what he was looking for. When she could not find one on the internet, she developed one for him. She has been known to bring in flowers for staff to brighten their desks.
She started a Friday evening “meet and greet” to serve alumni during the Academy weekend. Another stated, “last year the person who was expected to enter the data into Digital Measures left the department with a short notice. Therefore, Kathy stepped forward to enter the data in Digital Measures herself.
Unsung Hero Award
Margaret Perander, Administrative Aide in Mathematical Sciences
One nominator stated, “Margaret doesn’t do anything just to get praise or recognition. When there’s something that needs to be done and Margaret sees it, she does it, no questions asked.” For a faculty member, she walked the halls of Fisher for 50 minutes with his daughter in a stroller so he could attend a Colloquium. It was also said, “Margaret makes me feel good about myself, especially if I make a mistake and I’m beating myself up. She’s a good listener and co-worker. Her office door is always open and she’s there to help all the students, instructors and staff.” Also, “I am pleased to say that Margaret has continued to take the initiative in lending assistance whenever needed during my time here. She is always willing to take on any task given to her, which usually means that she needs to drop what she is doing and do something else on short notice. That kind of staff support is invaluable.”
Everyone is invited to a reception honoring the 2015 Making a Difference Awards nominees. The reception is scheduled for Wednesday, January 6, 2016 from 2:00 to 3:30pm in Ballroom A of the Memorial Union Building. The recipients for each category will be announced at the reception. Here is a list of the 2015 nominees: