2023 Staff Awards Ceremony 

Congratulations to the nine staff members and three teams who were honored with the Arts and Sciences Awards for Distinguished Service.

The 2023 recipients of  the annual Arts and Sciences Staff Excellence Recognition Awards for Distinguished Service were honored at an event on Friday, February 9 at Winants Hall on the College Avenue campus. Executive Dean Juli Wade and Interim Vice Dean of Administration Anabell C. Williams presented the awards to individuals who have gone above and beyond, demonstrating excellence in their roles, and making a significant impact within the School of Arts and Sciences.

The annual recognition program acknowledges the efforts of staff members who have made extraordinary contributions to the School through their hard work and dedication to the faculty, staff, and students of the community. The recipients are recognized in three different categories: contributions to operational excellence, contributions to the staff culture, and contributions to the student experience. The Staff Excellence Awards Selection Committee reviewed a total of 40 SAS staff nominations.

Scroll down or click on a name to read the citation

2023 Award for Outstanding Contributions to Operational Excellence: Nicole Clark-Johnson, Arielle L'Esperance, Olga Lozano, Jennifer Manuola, Christina Pettola

2023 Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Staff Culture: Candace Green, Sarah Tobias

2023 Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Student Experience: Lynell James, Eileen Sharkey

2023 Team Award for Outstanding Contributions to Operations: Development Team–Maxine "Max" Sowinski, Michele Zito

2023 Team Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Student Experience: Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology (CCB) - Julia Colvin, Ola Elshorafa, Kelly Martini-Hazard, Department of Spanish and Portuguese - Rosy Ruiz and Jennifer Flaherty

2023 Award for Outstanding Contributions to Operational Excellence Winners


Nicole Clark-Johnson, Program Coordinator

DIMACS (the Center for Discrete Mathematics and Theoretical Computer Science)

Nicole Clark-Johnson

As DIMACS’ workshop coordinator, Nicole is the face of the center, and, given DIMACS’s global reach, she is a welcoming ambassador for all of Rutgers. Nicole is the engine that drives the entire event process, often working on several workshops simultaneously. This past year, the Workshop on Modern Techniques in Graph Algorithms—showcased the scope and complexity of Nicole’s responsibilities. The event had over 160 registered participants, making it the largest workshop in recent memory. The attendees represented 54 institutions, including 11 international universities in 9 different countries across four continents, as well as colleges and universities across the U.S. Sixty of the attendees received some form of travel support from Nicole. She goes out of her way to make people feel welcome and is often called upon to solve unexpected problems in real time. It is not unusual for Nicole to pick up a special meal for a participant, find A/V support, or call for emergency pizza. Nicole is a problem solver, and every workshop presents a new challenge for her to handle on-the-spot. Participants greatly appreciate her friendly and professional assistance, and she often receives a spontaneous round of applause at the close of a workshop. Nicole is a trusted resource within DIMACS and makes a positive and lasting impression on the community serve.


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Arielle L'Esperance, Senior Department Administrator Supervisor

Department of Philosophy

Arielle L’Esperance

Arielle is the department administrator supervisor for the Department of Philosophy. Arielle’s approach to department administration is characterized not only by thorough diligence, efficiency, and attention to detail but also by an abiding consideration for equity and inclusion among all department members. Nearly everything Arielle does for the department on a daily basis demonstrates her steadfast commitment to going above and beyond. Arielle has transformed the Philosophy department’s handling of grants, greatly improving the department’s ability to apply for and manage them. She has been instrumental in implementing new procedures by which graduate students can apply for and receive travel awards to fund travel to conferences to present their research. The department currently only has two multi-stall, single-gender restrooms. Arielle worked closely with department leadership to devise a creative solution to this problem. Together, they overcame the institutional and legal hurdles and crafted an elegant plan that involved sharing facilities with our 4th-floor neighbors in the building (the Office of Career Exploration and Success). She is a brilliant administrator, combining organizational skills, intelligence, initiative, and creative problem-solving. As Karen Bennett notes, “hiring Arielle has been one of my best accomplishments as chair.”


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Olga Lozano, Administrative Assistant

Department of American Studies

Olga Lozano

Olga is the administrative assistant for the Department of American Studies. Olga is responsible for all aspects of the department’s operations and faculty needs and interfaces with other Rutgers units. Olga’s strengths in office administration are follow-up on frequently missing information on (payment, purchase, and personnel) processes and her professional and patient demeanor with faculty, students, and other university units. Olga quickly learned academic departmental administration, course scheduling, space management, event planning, communications, and financial and personnel administration despite the many changes, glitches, and adjustments the RU systems had undergone. She managed the purchase and installation of a new tech monitor in our departmental seminar room. She has taken the lead in training faculty on the new equipment and addressing technical difficulties. This past year, she coordinated the alumni evening event with students, the lunchtime colloquia, major-minor recruitment fairs, and co-administration of the NJ Folk Festival. In addition, she has distributed publicity for events by email listserv and campus mail. Olga has a strong work ethic, is a good team player, and takes the initiative to problem-solve and strengthen the department’s administrative systems. "As a department chair for the first time, I would be lost without Olga. She has helped me figure out how to do my job with patience and good humor, especially in terms of keeping the various deadlines inherent in the academic calendar,” states Jefferson Decker.


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 Jennifer Manuola, Executive Director

Psychology Child Development Center

Jennifer Manuola

Jennifer is the executive director of the Rutgers Psychology Child Development Center. She started working in the center as a student and worked her way to the current director rank. Throughout the past decades, Jennifer has worked tirelessly to offer childcare to new students, faculty, and staff on campus. She worked with state and other funding agencies to secure support for families in need and successfully applied for multiple state grants that helped the staff and the center. During the pandemic, she worked tirelessly to support the staff and designed and implemented online education for the students. Jennifer spearheaded the center's expansion and has been a great contributor and collaborator with the School of Environmental and Biological Science. She oversees all the students and work-study students who work for credit or financial support in the center. She also assists all the faculty and grad students interested in conducting research in the child development or care field. Moreover, Jennifer is constantly looking for new opportunities to support the education of students in collaboration with the childcare center. The 93-year-old center survived Covid-19 and continues its mission today because of the dedication and tireless work of Jennifer before, during and after the pandemic.


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Christina Pettola, Administrative Assistant  

NHETC (New High Energy Theory Center)

Christina Pettola

Christina is the administrative assistant to the New High Energy Theory Center (NHETC) in the Physics Department. Besides being an all-around indispensable staff member who is the absolute linchpin of the center, Christina has gone far above and beyond the call of duty on numerous occasions. This past year, she played an absolutely indispensable role in the organization and operations of the international conference ML4Jets, despite being nearly nine months pregnant at the time. The event hosted over 100 in-person participants from around the world (from as far as Taiwan and Australia), more than 200 additional participants registered for remote participation via Zoom, and Christina took fantastic care of them all during the four days of the event. Her dedication to her job, boundless energy, can-do spirit, and commitment to excellence exemplify the best that Rutgers has to offer. She is responsible for nearly all the center's operations. She accomplishes all these tasks and more with enormous professionalism and care, and we owe the smooth functioning of the center to Christina's unceasing efforts. Director Scott Thomas notes, “I used to say that Christina is the institutional memory for the NHETC, but now I would say she is both the memory and the brains.”


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2023 Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Staff Culture Winners 


Candace Green, Senior Department Administrator Supervisor

Department of Psychology

Candace Green

Candace is the senior department administrator in the Department of Psychology. She goes above and beyond to keep the department afloat. For nearly a year, Candace alone coordinated everything that needed to be done administratively within the department. Candace has consistently demonstrated a high level of dedication, professionalism, and expertise in the HRM functions of the department. From the constant and direct assistance provided to the chair to HRM expertise, the department simply would not run without the quality work that Candace does. What truly sets her apart is her ability to juggle various important tasks and maintain timely execution. Aside from her routine department tasks, Candace is well known for her ability to manage the unexpected mishaps that often arise, such as building floods. She has also demonstrated exceptional adaptability and willingness to take on new challenges in filling the holes brought on by the various staff retirements. Candace is an exemplary team member whose contributions have significantly elevated the department's performance and reputation. Candace excels in their core responsibilities and consistently goes above and beyond to support her team and contribute to our overall success. The Psychology department is lucky to have such a caring and engaged team member and mentor with Candace.


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Sarah Tobias, Executive Director

IRW (Institute for Research on Women)

Sarah TobiasAs the executive director of the Institute for Research on Women (IRW), Sarah is an exceptionally competent, dedicated, and valuable staff who has demonstrated unsurpassed generosity and collegiality, as well as ongoing commitment to nurturing and supporting a diverse and inclusive community of feminist scholars and students of all levels at the university. While each director makes their mark on the center’s programming by proposing annual themes and offering intellectual direction, the executive director position at IRW also entails exercising intellectual and administrative leadership. Sarah maintains the budget, manages paid and volunteer staff, and attends Institute for Women’s Leadership meetings. She also oversees and develops programming by selecting seminar fellows and organizing the Distinguished Lecture series. For a decade, Sarah has co-facilitated IRW’s weekly seminar and modeled feminist pedagogy for the participants. She makes every effort to ensure that hierarchy is diminished and that everyone has a voice. She has served as a faculty advisor to Transmissions, a transgender student group, and as an LGBT liaison. Sarah is a rare person on staff who possesses all of the regular qualifications of a professor and more. She is a most deserving colleague for recognition by SAS as an outstanding staff.


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2023 Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Student Experience Winners 


Lynell James, Senior Program Coordinator

SAS EOF (Educational Opportunity Fund)

Lynell James

Lynell is the SAS EOF senior program coordinator for financial aid, outreach, and recruitment. She serves as a liaison with the Office of Financial Aid and the recruitment team in the Office of Undergraduate Admissions. She chairs the SAS EOF admission Further Consideration team, reviews all Satisfactory Academic Progress appeal plans, oversees the many outreach and recruitment events, creates SAS EOF marketing materials, presents workshops to students, and monitors our state grant roster in the New Jersey Financial Aid Management System (NJ FAMS). This past year, Lynell coordinated 36 recruitment events that had a combined attendance of nearly 3,000 prospective students, guidance counselors, teachers, and community partners. She partnered with the Rutgers Alumni Association (RAA) to create WeaR It Forward, an initiative to collect regalia donations for future graduates. Lynell even became a Notary Public to assist students and their families when a notarized signature was required on a form. Lynell has a wealth of knowledge about financial aid and is an essential member of the SAS EOF team. We are incredibly fortunate to have Lynell on the team.


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 Eileen Sharkey, Program Coordinator

Department of Statistics

Jennifer Manuola

Eileen is the program coordinator for the Department of Statistics. During her tenure in the department, the percentage of students who meet their yearly academic goals within stipulated deadlines has almost reached 100%. Eileen’s key contribution lies in building better systems through proper documentation of tasks, improved communication with students and faculty, and creating proper monitoring devices like automated reminders. She has also consistently scheduled meetings with the department chair and the graduate directors to establish work plans and notably provides reminders and follow-ups. This is also an area where Eileen has shown all the qualities that an efficient problem solver should possess – communication, timeliness, adaptability, flexibility, and above all, empathy, and compassion. Eileen has quickly gotten into the role of the de facto-mother figure for students who need encouragement or a morale boost. Her care for the students often translates into being the first to know whether students need special attention or being invited to celebrations of personal successes. Eileen is an invaluable asset to the department and the team can’t survive without her.


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2023 Team Award for Outstanding Contributions to Operational Excellence

SAS Development Team: Maxine "Max" Sowinski and Michele Zito

The SAS Development Team’s work advancing the mission of SAS would not be possible without the administrative support team's expertise, hard work, and dedication: senior administrative assistant Max Sowinski and development specialist Michele Zito. While fundraisers typically get the spotlight of working directly with donors to solicit and close gifts and celebrate their impact, a tremendous amount of development work  happens “behind the scenes.” Max and Michele perform work that makes it possible for fundraisers to help alumni, friends, corporations, and foundations make a real and lasting impact on the school and our students. They help ensure that systems are up-to-date and accurate, that donor gifts are processed and acknowledged correctly, that philanthropic funds are managed properly, that connections with SAS divisions and departments are strong, and that each team member has the information, resources, and support they need to operate at the highest level. Their combined wealth of knowledge and understanding is immeasurable, their relationships are invaluable, and their customer service skills are unmatched. Performing the often-difficult role of liaison between the school, the foundation, donors, volunteers, and students, Max and Michele are consummate professionals and expert relationship managers. Max and Michele have excelled under challenging circumstances and have maintained a professional attitude, a sense of humor, and a high level of personal performance without fail. The SAS Development Team is better at their jobs for working with Max and Michele, and their contributions are greatly appreciated.


Team Award SAS Development

(left to right: Michele Zito, Maxine Sowinski) 

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2023 Team Award for Outstanding Contributions to Student Experience

Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology (CCB): Julia Colvin, Ola Elshorafa, and Kelly Martini-Hazard

The team comprises Julia Colvin, associate director for academic operations, Ola Elshorafa, senior program coordinator for the undergraduate program, and Kelly Martini-Hazard, senior program coordinator for the graduate program. The CCB academic team has consistently demonstrated excellence in service, exhibited initiative and creativity, fostered positive relationships, and upheld the values of SAS. The team has shown unparalleled dedication to serving the needs of students and those of the faculty and staff who work with students. As students return to campus, the team has ensured they are greeted with smiling faces and a welcoming department. They make sure that there is always someone available in person for students who come in with questions and have additionally set up remote office hours so students can take advantage of personalized advice and guidance without having to make an extra trip to campus. Their dedication and flexibility mean that students in both the undergraduate program and graduate program, as well as students who are just taking chemistry courses, know that there will always be someone to answer their questions. With the challenges of new systems and procedures, the team has risen to the challenge while ensuring that the student experience is unaffected. They also ensure students are recognized for their successes, organizing recognition events for both programs each year. They go above and beyond to ensure that these are meaningful celebrations where students can celebrate with their families, friends, and fellow students. During the recognition events, the volume and duration of the applause from the audience filled with CCB students make it clear that they are thanking the CCB Academic Team for all of the support they provided to the students throughout the year.


Team Award Chemistry 2

 (left to right: Kelly Martini-Hazard, Julia Colvin, Ola Elshorafa)

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Department of Spanish and Portuguese: Rosy Ruiz and Jennifer Flaherty

This team comprises Rosy Ruiz, graduate program director, and Jennifer Flaherty, assistant director of finance and administration. Rosy and Jennifer exhibit an unparalleled level of dedication that significantly contributes to the seamless navigation of graduate programs for students on a daily basis. Their collective experience serving the Spanish and Portuguese department spans over a decade, with Jennifer boasting nearly two decades of invaluable service in this capacity. Their profound impact on the department is evident through their pivotal roles, showcasing a deep-seated dedication to higher education, diversity, equity, and inclusion across multiple facets. Their unwavering support goes far beyond their administrative roles. Their friendly and courteous demeanor towards guest lecturers, active participation in events, and comprehensive support throughout the entire process culminating in successful outcomes. A notable illustration of their instrumental role was the collaborative execution of the Spring 2023 Latin American Film Festival. This event, facilitated with the assistance of Rosy and Jennifer, attracted an impressive audience of more than 78 spectators. Their dedication, passion, and compassionate approach significantly elevate the quality of the educational journey. Recognizing the pivotal role played by Rosy Ruiz and Jennifer Flaherty, this award not only honors their exceptional service but also serves as a testament to their invaluable impact on the academic community.


Team Dept of Spanish and Portuguese 2

 (left to right: Jennifer Flaherty, Rosy Ruiz)

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