December 2008

GW Honors Service Excellence Award Winners

University Registrar Elizabeth Amundson, B.A. ’86, M.A. ’01

By Julia Parmley

Individual contributions, University-wide collaborations, and program achievements were recognized at the 2008 Service Excellence awards ceremony in the Marvin Center Grand Ballroom Nov. 3.

The awards ceremony marked the end of the annual Service Excellence Celebration, two weeks of events and activities—including panels, training seminars, and receptions—on GW’s three campuses.
According to Jennifer Seile, co-chair of the service excellence celebration planning committee, this year’s celebration was the most successful yet. “I am pleased that so many individuals participated and that we were able to recognize the exceptional service provided every day by staff across GW,” she says.

At the awards ceremony, GW President Steven Knapp thanked the winners for their service to the University. “They have fostered an environment that has enabled us all to flourish and have contributed to our dreams and aspirations to be a great university,” said Dr. Knapp. “I thank each and every one of you for your personal contributions and for setting such a good example with your hard work and dedication.”

Seile says the committee received more than 450 service excellence award nominations, representing more than 200 individuals, departments, and collaborations across the University. “It’s an amazing testament to GW’s most dedicated staff and faculty,” she says.

And the Awards Went to….

Departmental Service Excellence Award: Office of the Registrar
University Registrar Elizabeth Amundson, B.A. ’86, M.A. ’01, and her staff were recognized for the creation and implementation of the RTF-EZ form, which allows students to add and drop classes and sign into closed courses without the approval of their dean’s office. Students, parents, and staff members hailed the form as “quick and easy” and a timesaver for students and administrators alike. “Students absolutely love it and are pleased the process is now much quicker,” says Amundson. “It’s one of the most significant things our office has done for students.”

Service Collaboration Award: Science Olympiad
Last May, the University successfully hosted more than 5,000 middle and high school students, families, and friends for the 2008 Science Olympiad National Tournament thanks to the hard work of the Science Olympiad Core Planning Committee and the hundreds of University staff, faculty, students, coaches, and alumni who supported the effort. The 10-member committee, including Associate Vice President and Dean of Freshmen Frederic A. Siegel, Assistant Vice President for University Relations Chris M. Kormis, Professor Emeritus of Chemistry Edward Caress, and Managing Director of Mount Vernon Campus Life and Marketing Robert Snyder, was recognized for the many hours it spent planning for the premier science competition, including organizing the logistics, registration, dining, events, transportation, communications, and merchandising.

“Bringing this event to GW was a lot of hard work, but the way it came together was magical,” says Snyder. “Its success was the result of a true partnership and collaboration with every aspect of the University.”

Service Collaboration Award: GW Housing Programs and Columbian College of Arts and Sciences
GW Housing Programs and Columbian College of Arts and Sciences joined forces to offer 575 hours of free tutoring, advisement on selecting majors, exam preparation, and faculty meet-and-greet events. Students and faculty have praised the cross-divisional partnership for addressing the needs of students and “bringing academics outside the classroom.”
“Student response has been overwhelmingly positive, and the program has laid a great foundation for bringing more faculty members into our residential buildings,” says Lyndsey Walther-Thomas, assistant director for GW Housing Programs.

Student Staff Award: Lauren Orvis, residential property manager
Lauren Orvis admits working for GW Residential Property Management is not the easiest job—but she wouldn’t have it any other way. A senior majoring in industrial-organizational psychology, Orvis balances her schoolwork and her daily responsibilities of residential maintenance and quality assurance for students. In their nominations, parents and students commended Orvis for her diligence and her commitment to addressing the housing needs of every concerned parent and student. “When I solve problems, I help someone,” says Orvis. “It’s really rewarding.”

Student Staff Award: Andrew Guran, house scholar
Senior Andrew Guran was recognized for helping hundreds of GW students cope with personal and academic issues in his three years as a house proctor and now a house scholar at Building JJ on F Street. Staff and students noted his willingness to listen to students no matter the hour and his responsive and effective handling of a variety of crises.

Guran says he has been a mentor to his younger brother and friends and realized he could help students at GW as well. “I’ve gone through a lot of what they are going through,” he says. “My ultimate goal is for people to see their residence hall as a house and their fellow students as brothers and sisters.”

Alumni Choice Award: John Pistole, executive coordinator for SEAS/ECE master’s program
On Saturdays, you can find John Pistole in his office at GW’s Virginia Campus helping electrical and computer engineering master’s students. These students nominated Pistole for going the extra mile to make their academic lives easier, citing his efforts to bring a shuttle service to the campus, coordinating breakfast and lunch catering, and his timely responses to their questions, as well as his support with registration and course texts.

A former horse trainer, Pistole lives on a farm 25 minutes from the Ashburn campus. He takes classes in the environmental sciences and says he always hoped to be a part of the GW community. “The people I work with are great, and the master’s program has doubled since I’ve been here,” says Pistole. “GW seems to be doing something for me.”

Faculty Choice Award: Kate Seabold Brannon, M.B.A. ’07, manager of medical center budgets
Kate Seabold Brannon began working at GW in 2002 to take advantage of tuition benefits but loved the University so much she decided to stay. And the University reciprocated the feeling—faculty in GW’s School of Medicine and Health Sciences nominated Brannon for her exceptional work as a budget manager for health sciences.

Brannon works with the department chairs and administrative managers to develop budgets, forecast tuition, monitor spending, and ensure policy compliance, but she also finds herself training staff and helping her coworkers solve problems. Her readiness to help is one of the reasons her colleagues nominated her; they also cited her creativity, efficiency, and pleasant personality. “Educating future health care workers is so important,” says Brannon. “I like GW because I know I’m working for a greater cause.”

Parent Choice Award: Nathan Slusher, associate director of academic advising
Students in GW’s Elliott School of International Affairs face a rigorous curriculum, but they have an ally in Nathan Slusher. Parents cited Slusher for being always accessible, taking the time to reach out to students, and empowering them to get the most out of their GW education. This year, Slusher is advising 200 students on issues including registration, study abroad, internships, and any personal issues that affect their academic success.
Slusher says he loves establishing relationships with students and seeing them develop into their own. “Watching students experience that ‘Aha!’ moment is exciting, because I was a part of that process to help them find answers and guide them,” says Slusher.

Staff Choice Award: Yordanos Baharu, director of GW’s Instructional Technology Laboratory
In an increasingly online world, staff members like Yordanos Baharu are invaluable to the University. In addition to managing Blackboard, which has 19,000 daily users; GWU Second Life, a virtual 3-D world for students in GW’s School of Business; and Elluminate, an e-learning tool, Baharu oversees activities at GW’s Instructional Technology Lab. Faculty and staff praised Baharu for his “excellent” customer service and his ability to negotiate competitive technology contracts for the University.

Baharu says he has enjoyed his 17 years at GW. “Working in an academic institution has given me the opportunity to participate in exciting initiatives supporting the use of advanced technology in teaching and learning,” he says.

Student Choice Award: Lauriston Hemmings, facilities personnel
It’s Lauriston Hemmings’ cheer and hard work that inspired students and faculty in GW’s Department of Anthropology to nominate him for the Student Choice Award. Staff and students praise his “positive personality” and going “above and beyond his responsibilities” every day to make sure the building is clean and organized. Hemmings has become friendly with many of the department regulars and occasionally brings in home-cooked meals featuring recipes from his native Jamaica to share with the department.

“Students and faculty in the department always greet me,” says Hemmings. “They also let me use their kitchen, so to thank them I clean the kitchen and bring food in for them. They are very nice to me.”

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