2019 Arts and Sciences Staff Excellence Awards
Read about the contributions of twenty-two stellar staff members who were honored with these Arts and Sciences Awards for Distinguished Service
The first annual Arts and Sciences Staff Excellence Awards for Distinguished Service recipients were honored by Peter March, Executive Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, and JoAnne Williams, Vice Dean of Administration, for their distinguished record in service excellence and dedication to the School of Arts and Sciences and our students and constituents at a reception at Winants Hall on February 22. The awards honored twelve individual staff members and two teams. Executive Dean Peter March opened the ceremony by emphasizing the critical role that staff play in meeting the mission of the School of Arts and Sciences.
Scroll down or click on a name to read the citation
Individual Awards: Jimmy Bennett, Mercedes Diaz, Jennifer Flaherty, Elizabeth Folk, Lisa Iorillo, Sarah Laboy-Almodovar, David Maiullo, Christina Overmyer, Sara Pixley, Anuja Rivera, Cheryl Robinson, Alyssa Siege
Team Awards: Master's in Mathematical Finance Program Coordinators and Office of Advising and Academic Services Leadership Team
Individual Award Winners
Jim Bennett, Program Coordinator II, W.M. Keck Center for Collaborative Neuroscience
If there is one person who knows the names of everyone in the W. M. Keck Center, it is Jim Bennett, and everyone knows Jim as he is the ‘go-to’ guy whenever help is needed.
Printer out of ink, see Jim. Can’t get your email to work, call Jim. Swipe card, not functional, Jim knows what to do. Coming to an Open House program, Jim will have coffee and cookies ready for your arrival. Stranger in the Center … you will get a warm welcome and kind assistance from Jim. If anyone truly exemplifies dedication and excellence in their work and in their relationships, it is our W. M. Keck Center Program Coordinator Mr. Jim Bennett.
Jim has worked in the Keck Center for almost ten years. Each year, as he has grown in understanding about the work and activities of the Center, he has become increasingly valuable. When he sees something that needs to be done or someone who needs assistance, he does not wait to be asked, but is right there to help. Every day he makes a difference.
Here are just a few examples:
The Keck Center offers tours to a wide variety of people and groups – people who are injured and their families, prospective Rutgers students, international guests, high school groups, FIGS classes, transfer students, etc. Jim works closely in training our undergraduates to give tours including how to be ‘bilingual’, that is, to be able to talk science to both scientists and lay people. And when a request for a tour comes up unexpectedly, Jim always is willing to step in and give a tour himself.
In October 2018, the Keck Center hosted the International Association of Neurorestorology (IANR), the first time this organization has met in the United States. In addition to his on-going responsibilities, Jim served as registrar and key trouble-shooter. His helpful attitude and welcoming spirit calmed attendees, many of who were in the United States for the first time. At the end of the conference, several of the speakers took time to thank Jim for his help. After the conference he continued to play an essential part in keeping accurate records, paying bills, and other follow-up.
Jim is well-known and deeply respected in the community of people who are spinal cord injured and their families. He is the primary moderator for our CareCure website, the most active spinal cord injury website in the world. In this role, he takes all questions seriously and responds with respect. If he doesn’t know the answer, he has the knowledge and care to direct people to the correct resource; sometimes to make it easier, he initiates the contact for them.
Because of who he is and what he does for the Center, Jim Bennett was given the seldom granted Spirit of the Center award for his exemplary service to the entire center. For the same reasons of service well beyond just ‘doing his job’, Jim is very worthy of receiving a SAS Staff Excellence Award.
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Mercedes Diaz, Senior Administrative Assistant, Department of Philosophy
Mercedes Diaz epitomizes high standards of service excellence and success in her work as the Graduate Administrator for the Philosophy Department and senior administrative assistant supporting the Department Chair, Graduate Director, Graduate Admissions and Placement Directors, and the Business Manager with countless tasks, projects, and initiatives.
In 2018, Mercedes exceeded her performance and service during a time of transition for the department. As the department administrator was retiring and a new undergraduate assistant being hired, and a new Director of Undergraduate Studies assumed office, Mercedes was the one true constant for academic year 2017-2018. Her strong work ethic helped the Department through a turbulent time of retirement, reorganizing, and recruitment. Mercedes went above and beyond in 2018 to support faculty, students, and the educational community of customers, as their comments show: "Her interactions are always positive, pleasant, and cheerful," “Mercedes’s dedication to serving the needs of the undergraduate and graduate students is exemplary.”
During the spring semester, the department also held over ten major events, conferences, and lectures where Mercedes took initiative and extreme dedication to see each of them through successfully with oversight of logistics and administrative management. She exemplified grace under pressure for creating and maintaining a positive atmosphere for all, taking initiative to support others, providing advice and guidance, and encouraging others – what a great team player!
She continued to provide formal and information advice to legions of undergraduates in her role as Advisor to Sigma Tau and the Honors Club; as well as former graduate students as they were moving on in their professional lives. Mercedes has also served as the longtime assistant for the Rutgers Summer Institute for Diversity in Philosophy. The Summer Institute is a seven-day residential program designed to encourage undergraduate students from diverse backgrounds to consider careers in academic philosophy, give students a better idea of what graduate studies in philosophy is about, introduce students to the various areas of specialization in the discipline, and explore various perspectives on what it means to be a professional philosopher. She has displayed remarkable leadership qualities and excellent communication and organizational skills. In this capacity, she goes beyond the call of duty. All who have been involved with this award-winning program have called special attention to her contributions.
Mercedes leaves an optimistic lasting impression with everyone she encounters; she embodies staff excellence in service, initiative, and outstanding performance, particularly noticeable and appreciated during the entire year where it was essential. Mercedes is a longstanding employee who demonstrates a powerful commitment to the department, SAS, and the university in everything she does.
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Jennifer Flaherty, Senior Department Administrator Supervisor, Department of Spanish and Portuguese, Department of Linguistics, Department of Italian, and The Language Center
Since she first joined the ranks of SpanPort in 1993 as the Administrative Assistant to the Graduate Program, Jen’s love for her alma mater was immediately evident in her willingness to go beyond the call of duty. From day one, she demonstrated her ethical character and professional resourcefulness, exceeding everyone’s expectations and showing a maturity well beyond her years as a recent graduate from Rutgers. Under the tutelage of then Chair Carl Kirschner, she thrived in navigating the wild waters of Rutgers bureaucracy. She quickly developed a rich proficiency in dealing with issues pertinent to all areas of academic life: scheduling, visa arrangements for faculty and graduate students, submission of rosters, proctoring exams for undergraduates and graduate students, promotion packets, whatever task she took on.
Year after year, Jennifer has tackled an increasingly complex course scheduling process that combines varied requests from faculty, TAs and part-time lecturers, space restrictions, and student needs. Fairness has always been her top priority, as well as keeping as many people happy as possible, and explaining to everyone how decisions are made. In doing so, Jen has gained great respect from everyone in the department, and has become an invaluable asset for chairs, faculty, graduate students and PTLs. Her heart and mind are in perfect sync.
Every project under Jen’s care turns to gold, but unlike King Midas’s self-serving attitude, Jen’s goal is to uplift and strengthen the sense of community in our unit. None of our initiatives--study abroad programs, Masters in Teaching, certificates in Translation and Interpreting--would have been successful without Jen’s selfless energy and vision. Throughout the years, she has managed to strike a perfect balance between tradition and innovation by bringing together faculty and students across generations and making sure that the legacy of our emerita faculty, current students, and alumni stays strong. Beneath Jen’s quiet demeanor lies a superb set of organizational skills, dynamic managerial skills, and tireless leadership. She has the gift of keeping multiple needs and priorities all front and center.
SpanPort runs efficiently because Jen understands that the foundation for a solid academic program starts at the administrative level. She assumes that responsibility with pride. Despite differences in administrative styles and personalities, departmental officers unanimously agree that their confidence in Jen’s knowledge of Rutgers as an institution, her intuition, and clear-minded advice are crucial during their tenure, particularly when handling sensitive matters that merit the ultimate degree of discretion and diligence. She follows every procedural step in personnel matters with utmost precision and care, assuring the highest degree of professionalism and leaving nothing to chance under her supervision. On the creative side, any time the department showcases our programs, she turns something ordinary into an extraordinary and memorable event.
It is not surprising that Jen’s unusual combination of gifts as a departmental administrator earned her promotion to a supervisory role as one of the first Senior Department Administrators in 2017, overseeing several departments for SAS. Faculty from all units under her watch will now have the opportunity to appreciate first-hand the extraordinary professional competence and generosity SpanPort has benefited from for over 25 years in Jennifer Flaherty. She is simply extraordinary. Her discretion, clarity, creativity and vision make her a distinguished and beloved colleague whose dedication to our department and Rutgers has re-written the standards of excellence in the art of service.
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Elizabeth Folk, Senior Department Administrator Supervisor, Department of French, Department of Classics, Department of German, Russian, and East European Languages and Literatures, Department of African, Middle Eastern and South Asian Languages and Literatures, Comparative Literature Program, and Cinema Studies Program
Elizabeth is an outstanding employee consistently demonstrating excellent service to all six departments that she is assigned to. Her ability to juggle multiple departments and more specifically work with multiple department chairs, a diverse staff, and a wide range of students is inspiring.
Elizabeth impresses with her enthusiasm, knowledge and work ethic when working on the budgets and budget forecasting for her six departments. Her detailed accounting, reconciliation and ability to analyze the finances and future expected revenue and expenses for each unit helps guide the Area Dean in turn to help and advise the chairs to think strategically about their funds. Throughout this past year, Elizabeth has taken the initiative to develop and facilitate new policies and procedures to ensure the smooth operation of not only her departments and programs, but the departments, centers and programs housed in the new academic building. Some examples of this include working with University personnel and SAS IT on the signage and digital media displays that guide all faculty, staff, students, and visitors to classroom locations and special events. Elizabeth developed and set up rules and policies for the digital media displays in the Academic Building. She initiated and facilitated meetings with University Facilities to correct signage in the building that was causing confusion for students (not knowing how to get to classrooms and offices for specific departments) and for delivery of mail and packages (UPS and FedEx were being dropped off in the wrong wing of the building).
Elizabeth has shown herself to be a terrific team player and has taken a leadership role in representing all occupants (faculty and staff) on a variety of issues that have arisen in the new academic building. Elizabeth has also been effectively managing other efforts involving all the departments. The first one includes creating an event calendar for all the language department offerings. In meeting with all of the language departments for the academic planning meetings, it was realized that there are many events happening that may be of interest to all of the language community at large. Elizabeth has been working with SAS IT on creating an electronic calendar of events where all language department administrators can enter their information to form a cohesive “one stop shop” for the major events that would be of interest to a broader audience (as opposed to being advertised to just those affiliated with the originating department). She has also effectively coordinated shared expenses for a combination of the 12 departments and programs residing in the Academic building.
In summary, Elizabeth’s dedication to her departments as well as to SAS is exemplary. she has successfully built good relationships with her chairs, staff, and students to ensure successful outcomes for issues brought before her. Elizabeth Folk richly deserves the SAS award for Staff Excellence.
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Lisa Iorillo, Senior Department Administrator Supervisor, Department of Sociology
Lisa has served as an exemplary and extraordinarily competent department administrator for the Sociology department over the past decade, managing seamlessly a wide array of department operations that include personnel, budgets, and procurement among many others. She is a remarkably strong advocate for our department’s interests and by extension, those of the School of Arts and Sciences.
Lisa consistently provides excellent service to all members of the Sociology department and is the go-to person for all manner of support and service. She organizes and shares important information with department members in a timely fashion. She is the initial contact person for all new faculty, graduate students, and PTLs, orienting them to the department and University in a friendly and efficient manner. She serves as the departmental benefits representative and capably handles numerous queries on benefits issues and problems. Finally, she is THE source of institutional knowledge in our department and answers questions and provides help with issues of any kind. We all know that if there is a problem, Lisa is the one who will help solve it—promptly, effectively, and cheerfully.
In the very important area of faculty reappointment and promotions, Lisa expertly advises candidates on the preparation of materials, coordinating the collection of all promotion-required forms including letters from outside reviewers and compiling pristine and complete packages for submission to SAS. This past semester alone, Lisa skillfully prepared two packets for promotion with tenure to associate professor and one packet for promotion to distinguished professor. When it comes to faculty recruitment, Lisa is simply indispensable. Lisa also worked effectively to bring onboard three new faculty members, setting up their new offices and helping them to navigate all aspects of the Rutgers system. Two of our three new hires are foreign nationals, and Lisa coordinated effectively with the Global Center to gather the information necessary for the permanent residency applications. At the same time, the Sociology department simultaneously had two new faculty searches. Lisa coordinated all aspects of these searches effectively.
Lisa is also extraordinarily effective in her role as budget manager, tracking multiple databases with considerable expertise. Her skill in this regard allows her to reconcile all departmental projects, including unrestricted, endowment, extramural, intramural, gift and personal research funds, in ways that benefit the department and its members. She is proactive in reaching out to counterparts in other departments to share her knowledge and gather ideas from them in an effort to become as proficient as possible with the financial management system.
Beyond these significant contributions to the department and SAS, Lisa is an effective and supportive supervisor to our staff. She routinely helps out at department events, such as new-student orientations, graduation celebrations, and Rutgers Day. In sum, Lisa is a superb department administrator. She works independently, she anticipates issues before they arise, and she is truly expert in juggling multiple responsibilities and ensuring that no detail falls through the cracks. Lisa regularly resolves a diverse range of problems consistent with an understanding of the mission, vision, role, and goals of the department, and with a comprehensive understanding of administration/office management. Lisa has been an invaluable and trusted source of information, support, and advice–she’s good fun too!–and very deserving of SAS recognition for her service.
Sarah Laboy-Almodovar, Department Administrator Supervisor, Criminal Justice Program
Sarah Laboy-Almodovar has been at Rutgers since she began her studies here as an undergraduate over three and a half decades ago. What sets Sarah apart is her indefatigable appetite to make everything around her better for the students, faculty and staff at Rutgers. Sarah has been the Academic Advisor and Program Administrator for the Program in Criminal Justice for the past 19 years. In this capacity, she oversees the undergraduate careers of our 850 majors, coordinates schedules for the twenty-five or so full and part-time faculty who teach our courses on three separate campuses, and tends to the myriad administrative tasks of running a program.
Sarah shepherds our students through with a minimum of fuss and what can only be described as a herculean effort. Each year we graduate approximately two hundred and forty students and a few years back Sarah proposed that we mandate that all students with 90 or more credits meet with her in the Fall semester of their senior year to have a “graduation wellness check.” Sarah visits classes that have seniors, sends out emails and schedules meetings with every senior in the program. On those hectic days she arrives early, and stays late, and forensically goes through each student’s transcript to ensure that everything is in place for them to graduate. For some students the meeting is short, but others are with Sarah for a considerable period of time. Uniformly the students are very positive about the meeting All the things Sarah does, as part of her job or just because she loves Rutgers and its students, set a gold standard for administrators and advisors.
Sarah is a terrific mentor to other staff. She innovated several new initiatives, such as the student groups Criminal Justice Organization and Criminal Justice Honor Society, a peer advising program for all Intro to Criminal Justice students. Program Directors can come and go, but Sarah is the rock upon which the Program stands and will provide the continuity necessary for such a thriving unit.
A final way in which Sarah demonstrates her mastery of her craft is the way in which she takes care of the many faculty that serve the Program. Sarah coordinates the schedule for each faculty person, and ensures that they have what they need in terms of amenities, technology, and assistance to teach to the best of their abilities. There is no question that Sarah cannot answer and no request that she doesn’t try her best to grant.
In closing, Sarah Laboy-Almodovar embodies the very best of Rutgers. She is super at her job, and is absolutely dedicated to the students, faculty and staff of the Program in Criminal Justice. Each year at the senior celebration, Sarah is the last speaker of the evening for our graduates as it is only fitting that the person who has done so much for the students be the one to give the final benediction. Just as the student’s recognize her contribution to their educational experience, it is fitting that SAS recognize Sarah for her excellent service to the program, school, and university.
David Maiullo, Laboratory Support Specialist, Department of Physics and Astronomy
David Maiullo has served the Department of Physics and Astronomy for over 33 years as Physics Support Specialist in charge of the Physics Lecture Hall (PLH), developing, maintaining, and often inventing the numerous demonstrations that are used to complement the lectures and presentations given in the PLH. In that capacity, David continuously performs at the highest level of excellence and professionalism. He provides high-quality supervision and training for a large-number of Rutgers undergraduates in setting up and maintaining the numerous lecture demonstrations used in physics lecture courses. Not only are these students receiving important hands-on training in the principles and phenomena of physics, but they are also preparing for their future careers. For example, a long-time student worker with a 2016 Bachelor’s in Physics was hired by Arizona State University as their physics demonstration coordinator, showing the value of working in Dave’s special environment, and increasing the visibility and national appreciation of the Rutgers Physics program.
As demonstration specialist, David supports courses which are constantly incorporating more demonstrations as faculty revise their curriculum, and increase the frequency, variety, and use of the demos in their classes. In addition, David collaborates with our Machine and Electronics Shops, creating many more beautiful and well thought out demonstrations that become part of our collection. Some of these are now the ideal model of a successful demonstration copied by other Physics Departments around the country.
David is also an excellent ambassador for the Department of Physics and Astronomy, SAS, and the University as a whole. For the past 20 years, Professor Mark Croft and David have presented the Faraday Holiday Lecture in December, typically attracting over 1400 attendees. On his own initiative, David typically performs over 40 public physics demonstration shows for K12 schools, libraries, 4-H groups, and senior centers. The Faraday Show is now one of the signature events on Rutgers Day.
David has also supported numerous events held here at the University for the New Jersey Section of the American Association of Physics Teachers, providing equipment, demonstrations, and student support, and teaching many NJ high school teachers how to build and perform various physics demonstrations and was in charge of the large two hour physics demonstration held in front of over 500 attendees at the 2016 Summer AAPT meeting.
Another remarkable achievement of David’s is the Off-Broadway version of his immensely successful traveling physics demonstration, called “That Physics Show,” which has been bringing physics to life in a Time Square theater for more than three years. This past summer David was awarded the 2016 NYC Drama Desk award for “Most Unique Theatrical Production” in NYC. Over 300 performances of That Physics Show have exposed 33,000 attendees to physics. Extended indefinitely the show will continue to expose physics, physics demonstrations, and the Rutgers University Physics Department to an amazing number of people over time.
To conclude, David Maiullo is an exceptional asset to the Department of Physics and Astronomy and personifies the pride and excellence that represents the best that Rutgers has to offer, and tirelessly shares those qualities across the campus, throughout the region, and across the country. He richly deserves the recognition of this Staff Award.
Christina Overmyer, Supervisor Laboratory Instructional Support, DLS Office of Undergraduate Instruction
Christina Overmyer oversees the Laboratory Instruction for The Division of Life Sciences’ Office of Undergraduate Instruction’s Introductory Biology Program (IBP). The IBP includes seven biology courses serving upwards of 3000 students per semester. As the IBP’s Supervisor of Laboratory Instructional Support, Christina’s primary area of responsibility is supervision and support for Biological Research Laboratory (BRL 117) laboratories; however as IBP resources, facilities, and procedures are shared and aligned through our courses, she also supports the Director of Introductory Biology Program, the Course Director of BRL 117, the three faculty lecturers for General Biology, the more than 50 graduate student teaching assistants in the program, the two Laboratory Operations Coordinators for BRL 117 and of course the thousands of students enrolled in our courses. She is an integral and essential part of our team. She has been instrumental in creating a positive, safe and productive work environment for faculty, staff, and undergraduate students. In addition to her excellent execution of standard duties, here is a select list from the many additional contributions in the past year.
Contributions in support of the Introductory Biology Program in general: Christina voluntarily took the lead in managing IBP procurement and budget issues and implemented a major upgrade of the personal response system software used in IBP courses for active learning activities and assessments, improving the experience the faculty, staff, teaching assistants, and 2700+ students enrolled in our courses.
Contributions specifically in support of BRL Teaching activities: She optimized the protocol for administering the BRL 117 midterm practical exam for the Summer 2017 and Fall 2017 semesters, oversaw the response to a major academic integrity problem in the spring 2018 semester, researched and implemented the use of a new plant DNA extraction kit that halved the cost of the materials and which allowed for use of greater diversity of plant species provided greater quality results, and managed student designed research projects so that the students did not need to redesign or abandon the project that they wanted to pursue.
Contributions in support of graduate student teaching assistants and IBP Staff: She developed a new tool to improve TA class management by creating hyperlink sequencing files to link student data and assignments.
Contributions supporting IBP engagement in the University community: Although not elements of her job responsibilities, in the past year, she has represented the program at Rutgers RWJMS’ INSPIRE and Digital Classroom Support’s Active Learning Symposia, the Raritan River Consortium Award Conference and participated as a judge for the Waksman Student Scholars Program.
We are tremendously fortunate to have Christina Overmyer’s as part of our program. She is clearly committed to the students, faculty, and staff colleagues, and the larger mission of the University. She is an outstanding representative for both our program and the University.
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Sara Pixley, Director Supervisor, Rutgers Center for Cognitive Science
Sara Pixley is absolutely superb in her position as Executive Staff Director at the Rutgers Center for Cognitive Science (RuCCS). Here are just a few highlights demonstrating her commitment to excellence: Since joining RuCCS just a year and a half ago, she has been enormously successful in matching researchers with funding opportunities; she was awarded an SAS Entrepreneurial Reward Grant and an NSF Research Initiation grant as Co-PI specifically focused on women in engineering and helping them in a path to success; she played a major role in organizing a number of conferences, some which were international conferences, and some which were open to the general public; she played a role in linking RuCCS with the Erdos Institute, which brings Rutgers alumni working for industry to campus with the goal of getting Rutgers graduates positions in industry; and she supported and oversaw the growth of RuCCS’s undergraduate student body, which has increased by more than 600% since her arrival. In addition, because the major is growing so rapidly, there were key challenges in the organization of the staff. She successfully restructured the staff to fill service gaps related to finance and academic administration. She has regular professional development meetings with the staff.
Sara has served as a critical figure in joining faculty together across the several departments that have members in RuCCS. Many new collaborations and projects have formed as a result of her extraordinary efforts. Moreover, as a key contact person, she goes above and beyond the call of duty in serving the needs of both faculty and students. When either a student or faculty member approaches her with a good idea, she works in overdrive to help bring it to fruition and then to help implement it. An example of this is when members of the undergraduate Cognitive Science Club wanted to create an official undergraduate cognitive science journal. The faculty members that the students approached told them that it was too complicated to be workable. But when Sara learned of their interest in starting such a journal, she worked tirelessly with these young entrepreneurs on their proposal and then found a publisher for the journal. She is now serving as their mentor as they construct the journal, which will be the first such journal in the country.
Sara not only works closely with faculty and students associated with RuCCS, she has also formed a very large number of partnerships with other faculty and staff throughout Rutgers. Sara, at her core, promotes innovation and inclusion of all groups. In fact, faculty have commented on her inclusivity and how she has inspired them to get more involved. She works across Centers, schools, colleges, and campuses to create partnerships in which all participants benefit. She has formed a very important partnership with the Honors College and has become a “go to person” for people in the Foundation, the Dean’s office, and the VCRI’s office. Sara is highly deserving of the SAS Distinguished Staff Excellence Recognition Award.
Anuja Rivera, Administrative Assistant, Department of History
Anuja Rivera has been the History Undergraduate Administrator for two years, and in this short period of time she has emerged as an exceptionally knowledgeable, collaborative, and well-respected member of the History Department and the SAS administrative community. She excels in every aspect of her role and so often goes far beyond the parameters of her job description to make extraordinary contributions to the History Department, the School of Arts and Sciences, and Rutgers University.
In addition to scheduling, registration, and undergraduate record maintenance, Anuja is the official advisor for the History undergraduate program, which now has nearly four hundred majors, all of whom receive a warm welcome and expert advice from Anuja. She reviews transcripts and progress to degree, explains the major and minor requirements, and even provides practical suggestions on how to navigate Rutgers bureaucracy or adjust to college life.
Anuja is an invaluable resource for our faculty as well. She manages a complex scheduling process for nearly sixty faculty members each year to coordinate their teaching schedules. A recognized authority on all matters pertaining to the undergraduate program, Anuja fields myriad questions from faculty and part-time lecturers on everything from how to use the copy machine to how to help a student in crisis. Anuja also demonstrates remarkable initiative in contributing to major projects at the university level. A quick thinker, Anuja is especially adept at looking several steps ahead in a new system or process to understand its implications for established protocols. As the rollout of the new Infosilem scheduling system began, Anuja emerged as a key participant in a series of trainings held by the Scheduling Office, asking incisive questions and sharing her expertise whereupon she was invited to join an ongoing Infosilem focus group of high-ranking administrators and faculty.
At the departmental level, Anuja has increased History’s visibility and outreach to undergraduates by transforming our social media presence. Anuja maintains departmental Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts, and she launched a creative initiative this fall in which undergraduate History majors were invited to take over the Instagram account for a day and post photographs related to their scholarly activities.
Anuja is at the center of History’s positive morale and collaborative work environment as well as our productive and collegial relationships beyond the department. Anuja’s expertise in CSS, ROCS, DN, and other Rutgers systems has made her an important resource for other departments in SAS. Anuja has demonstrated an extraordinary commitment to strengthening community within the History undergraduate program. Determined to attract a bigger crowd at this fall’s Major/Minor Fair, Anuja revised our department’s approach to that event, creatively using social media and History-themed t-shirts to draw a far greater number of students to our table than in the previous year. Anuja also plays a major role in our department’s relatively new Public History Program, working closely with program coordinator Dr. Kristin O’Brassill-Kulfan and the many students pursuing the Public History Certificate.
Anuja Rivera is the epitome of excellence as the History Undergraduate Administrator. She is the anchor of the undergraduate program and it quite simply could not function without her.
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Cheryl Robinson, Senior Administrative Assistant, Department of English
Cheryl Robinson is committed to making sure that the graduate office runs well, and—largely thanks to her—it does. Amazingly well. Several aspects of Cheryl’s high level of performance are striking: one is her exceptionally strong managerial and organizational skill; another is her resilience in the face of difficulties and her vigilant attention to potential problems; but most important, perhaps, is her absolutely astonishing, tireless dedication to the welfare of the program as a whole and of each individual student.
Cheryl is brilliant, hardworking, and selflessly devoted to the program and to the well-being of the students. She is energetic, knowledgeable, resourceful, and effective. She goes the extra mile for every student, every assignment, every project, and every task that falls within her range of extraordinary skill and compassion. She is one of the gems of our university.
Cheryl responds to new challenges extraordinarily well with exemplary creativity and effectiveness. As the terms of the Mellon grant shifted, she helped the Director anticipate problems and compose solutions. She effectively furnishes information necessary for various funding procedures and overcomes funding challenges without flinching. Over the past five years she has taken on the complex new task of administering graduate fellowships and tuition, and she has been tremendously helpful with identifying potential difficulties and imagining creative ways to overcome them. We also established a new vetting protocol for students seeking internal dissertation fellowships. Cheryl revised the application for these fellowships and established a system for the submission of materials, which could be read and assessed by our faculty committee. She produces multiple budget scenarios – anticipating various contingencies – several times during the year, and she is remarkable in her ability to weigh all the different factors, such as the differential tuitions of in-state and out-of-state students, sources of external fellowships, sources of internal (university fellowships), health care needs, and admissions and attrition fluctuations.
Two years ago, we established a new policy and system for assigning teaching to graduate students, which has been enormously complex and involves negotiations with several other units of the department. Cheryl has been immeasurably helpful in advising the Director about the financial complexities of making teaching assignments to students at different stages of the program, and she has helped put in a place a new protocol for those assignments, as always taking questions of fairness and professional development into account.
Cheryl’s assistance to Directors has been so invaluable it is nearly impossible to describe, given how thoroughly she understands the operation of the program and how canny her suggestions about policy decisions always are. Moreover, she functions as an ambassador for the program, interacting with the staff and the Senior Associate Dean of the Graduate School as well as with the SAS business office and administrators in many other offices (both within the department and elsewhere in the university), so as to facilitate the operations of the program. At the Annual Graduate Symposium dinner, for example, which Cheryl makes possible, the “thank you” to Cheryl for her contributions never fails to erupt in a standing ovation and thunderous applause. Cheryl is the ideal recipient for the SAS distinguished staff excellence award.
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Alyssa Siegel, Senior Program Coordinator Supervisor, Department of Mathematics
In her capacity as senior program coordinator supervisor, Alyssa Siegel is responsible for the operation of the instructional offices in the Mathematics Department. This is a truly massive operation: Every year the department runs over 1,000 sections of over 80 courses, with an instructional staff of well over 100, and a total enrollment in excess of 20,000 students. The instructional offices provide support to faculty and program administrators and assistance to the many students needing special help. In the face of this daunting task, Alyssa has established a remarkable standard for service, responsiveness and efficiency. In addition, using her extensive coding and programming skills, Alyssa has created a number of tools that make the instructional mission in the mathematics department run smoothly. One very significant example from many is the Request Portal tool to facilitate the evaluation of student requests. This tool solved the huge challenge within our department of managing, evaluating, and following up with the multitude of student requests each semester. Before Alyssa, this was done exclusively with paper forms, and was a very chaotic process. The Request Portal tool now processes these requests. In Fall 2018 our department evaluated and processed 366 Special Permission Honors requests, 295 prerequisite override requests, 286 transfer credit requests, 20 special permission for non-matriculated student requests, and 110 requests for students who have failed a course multiple times, for a total of 1,077 requests processed for one semester alone. Our instructional office is now effectively paperless, and that is a lot of trees saved. The Request Portal, across all semesters it has been used, has so far processed 8,136 requests.
Alyssa not only develops these tools, she collaborates collectively working closely with chairs, faculty, and staff. Alyssa has been a dedicated mentor to junior staff under her charge, has trained them in using and maintaining the myriad of innovations that she has come up with for the department, and takes pride in their successes and promotions. As a woman who codes, Alyssa inspires other young women to do the same, and indeed has done so by training junior staff and involving them in brainstorming sessions aimed at continuing the task of innovation and improvement.
Alyssa strives to keep things positive, friendly, and as fun as possible, on a daily basis. She also launched the Math Department's Rutgers Day participation and has run and managed this popular and highly successful program celebrating all aspects of mathematics at Rutgers for three years. In the course of deciding on best directions to move forward with all her innovations, Alyssa has held many meetings and conversations that require collaboration between different populations within the department who would not ordinarily interact on this level. Alyssa’s background in computer programming has taught her that an optimal design requires the full work-flow to be understood, which necessitates collaborative feedback from all perspectives. These discussions have contributed to breaking down barriers to communication that may have existed both within the Department, and between the Department and other units at the School and University. They have contributed to bringing about a more collaborative, interactive and friendly environment for everyone involved. Based on all of the above criteria, Alyssa is one of the best candidates for receiving the Staff Excellence Recognition Award.
Master's in Mathematical Finance Program Coordinators
Sunita Jagtiani-Sanghvi and Ana Mastrogiovanni, Senior Program Coordinators
Sunita Jagtiani-Sanghvi and Ana Mastrogiovanni, both Senior Program Coordinators, work together on the administration of the Mathematical Finance Master’s Degree program (MSMF), within the Department of Mathematics. They provide outstanding service to students in our program from the time they first inquire or apply until they graduate. This master’s program enrolled its first class of 15 entering students in Fall 2006 from among 50 applicants; it now receives as many as 500 applicants annually from the U.S. and around the world, with an entering class of about 50 students. The program is ranked in the top 20 among all master’s programs of this kind (based on rankings published by QuantNet and Advanced Trading Magazine) and our graduates are highly sought-after. Ana’s and Sunita’s work has contributed in an essential way to this extraordinary growth.
Ana Mastrogiovanni initially joined the program in 2008 and was promoted several times in recognition of her excellence and dedication.
Sunita Jagitani-Sanghvi joined the program in September 2016 as a Senior Program Coordinator and she serves as our program’s Director of Career Services. Sunita supports MSMF students and alumni through a comprehensive career services program.
In addition to providing excellent service to faculty, staff, students, and alumni, they Ana and Sunita have worked tirelessly to improve the quality of our program.
Recruitment of a well-qualified and diverse body of students is a core activity in a master’s program such as MSMF. As a team over the past year, Ana and Sunita have helped make significant improvements to MSMF and the services that we offer to incoming, current, and final year students and increased visibility of our program at Rutgers as well, with more of our undergraduates now taking more advantage of our 4+1 accelerated master’s degree program. Both Ana and Sunita with Dr. Triet Pham introduced a two-week August “boot camp” so that entering students who need additional help have an opportunity to review core prerequisite material in mathematics, statistics, and computer programming.
Both Ana and Sunita were early proponents of our development of certificate programs for our students and their encouragement and enthusiasm played a key role in the development for our master’s students of Certificate Programs in Data Science and in Financial Statistics and Risk Management, as well as a Certificate in Mathematical Finance for master’s students in other programs.
Noting that many of our international students have communications skills that require further development, Ana and Sunita worked with the Department of English to provide a Workplace Communication Course designed to improve our students’ overall fluency in English and become more familiar with the business environment in the U.S.
Ana and Sunita have been instrumental in growing the Rutgers MSMF alumni network and keeping alumni involved with the program. An alumna, Soumya Kalra, wrote to say that Ana is the heart and backbone of the MSMF program and emphasize that Ana has always gone over and above to help students in the program to keep track of requirements and help international students adjust to living and working in the U.S. Soumya writes that there were many instances of Ana’s influence on students and can personally attest that Ana always had open door for everyone.
Soumya also emphasized that Sunita is a phenomenal career development leader in the program organizing our students for a visit to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York last year, where Soumya works to learn about financial markets and the history of monetary policy in the U.S.
Sunita is extraordinarily active in creating closer connections to alumni through networking events. Sunita’s leadership has led to an increase (from one to five) in the number of financial industry competitions in which our student teams compete, providing valuable experience for our students in practical aspects of trading, risk management, and quantitative finance. This has contributed to an improvement in our already strong career placement numbers. With the assistance of Dr. Triet Pham (one of our regular faculty), industry professionals, and alumni, Sunita helps mentor student teams for these competitions. We are very proud of the fact that in 2017, an MSMF teams won first place in the prestigious annual International Association of Quantitative Finance (IAQF) Competition. Her mentorship played an essential role in that success. Sunita and Ana make a first-rate team that supports our students and makes them deserving of the SAS distinguished staff excellence award.
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Office of Advising and Academic Services Leadership Team
Erica Anderson, Assistant Dean and Director of Academic Standing, Probation, and Assessment; Milagros Arroyo, Assistant Dean and Director of Non-Traditional Students and Special Populations; Vanessa Coleman, Assistant Dean and Director of Student Records and Administrative Systems; Robin Diamond, Assistant Dean and Director of Transfer Students; Lenore Neigeborn, Associate Dean of Advising and Academic Services; Garth Patterson, Assistant Dean and Director of Advising Centers and Professional Development (not pictured); Courtney Stanzione, Assistant Dean and Director of Senior Office; Iris Zipkin, Assistant Dean and Director of First-Year Students
The SAS Office of Advising and Academic Services’ (OAAS) collaborative leadership team consistently demonstrates ongoing excellence, initiative, creativity, efficiency, and positive morale in service to students, parents, faculty, and staff across Rutgers New Brunswick. Every day, the OAAS leadership team guides students as they discover the many opportunities Rutgers offers; models inclusivity in serving our diverse student body; and handles innumerable crises--big and small--for students and for the faculty who are teaching our students. Each year, the team shepherds over 20,000 students through SAS, beginning with initial academic planning and pre-registration and culminating in joyful graduation.
The OAAS leadership team’s commitment and energy have made SAS Rutgers-New Brunswick’s best practice leader in many academic services and advising functions. Exceptional best practices include the addition of evening and virtual advising hours; LiveChat during pre-registration evenings and other key times, including at hours appropriate for incoming international students (SAS is the only school that provides this); outreach and collaborations with university partners to reach students where they are; and 18/7 monitoring of an undergraduate information email. The OAAS leadership team developed the Students in Transition Seminar which is a national model for transfer student support. It has implemented a liaison program to increase communication and partnerships between Advising and the major programs SAS students pursue. The leadership team is developing new programs and processes for advising newly admitted students that reflect how our current students operate in the digital world. The team is also collaborating with the Career Explorations Initiative as it develops more supportive programs for students as they select courses of study and plan for their futures.
The OAAS leadership team provides innovative targeted programming supporting retention and decreased time-to-degree among at-risk populations such as the Academic Success Seminar and the First-Year Retention Program along with the RU-Ready Workshops for students who have indicated an intention to graduate in the coming year, but whose metrics suggest that they may be at risk. The team provides special support to non-traditional students, returning students, veterans, students who are also mothers, and other student groups with distinctive needs, ensuring that their needs are met and that they are welcomed into the SAS community. The team has increased the timeliness of administrative processes that are generally performed by the registrar and/or executive units at other universities. Although these processes are invisible to students and faculty, their execution is vital to student success and many must be performed manually. The leadership team has completely overhauled the OAAS web site which is a key advising resource for students and faculty alike.
The OAAS leadership team has collaborative and productive working relationships with offices across the university whether through its work in the recent update of Degree Navigator for all three campuses; its support of students in collaboration with Dean of Students; or its coordination with Disabilities Services, the Registrar, and Admissions – to name but a few.
Over the past two years, OAAS has hired fifteen additional advisors and replaced several long term members who retired or took other positions at the University. The OAAS leadership team has developed training and mentorship programs that have quickly incorporated these new advisers into the OAAS and allowed them to hit the ground running in providing support to our students. The additional staffing has led to a significant increase in the number of advising appointments, a decline in the wait time for these appointments, and improved timeliness of administrative processes. Perhaps most notably, Transfer Evaluations are now available to students six weeks earlier than in previous years. In addition, the leadership team is using this opportunity to reexamine many existing practices and develop more programmatic initiatives such a supplementing our Transfer Mentor Program with an SAS Ambassador Program) This change has afforded us the opportunity to explore alternative strategies for advisor assignment, specialization, and programming, as well as increase our student contact hours. In addition, administrative responsibilities assigned to the advising staff have benefited from increased staff resources to allow for enhanced and accelerated student service. There is a new energy and excitement, along with lots of enthusiasm for developing new and better ways to meet the needs of this generation of students.