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Campus Life Shines at Staff Awards

Staff Awards 2012

Photo by Jeff Watts.

As part of Staff Appreciation Week at AU, the university recognized a number of employees across various divisions, from academic units and technology to human resources. Of these various divisions, the Office of Campus Life saw its staff take home a number of honors during Tuesday’s Years of Service & Awards Luncheon.

Profound Performance

Under award categories noting innovation, team work, and diversity, the Office of Campus Life (OCL) and its group of committed staff members took center stage.

Maureen Breslin, assistant director of the Academic Support Center for student-athletes, received the Customer Service Award for her work supporting AU’s athletic wonks. With her help, the average student-athlete GPA is a stellar 3.4.

“I think it’s a great program that the university does,” she says. “Most of my motivation comes from helping the students, helping resolve issues or anticipate things we could be doing better, building students’ academic skills, and seeing them grow and change over four years.”

The Center for Community Engagement & Service’s Donald Curtis accepted the Diversity Award. He has dedicated himself to building ties with students that connect them to the people of Washington DC through service. Curtis oversees one-day service events such as the Martin Luther King Day of Service, which sends students to nonprofits across the District to support local youth, elderly, and homeless.

“I love the students,” he says. “I love the work that we do in this center. I think we do a good job of reaching out to the community and trying to develop strong relationships, the kind that teach students about life beyond the books.”

Alongside staff from the Offices of Information Technology and Institutional Research, Housing & Dining Programs’ Ryan Anderson and assistant dean of students Marianne Huger accepted the Team Work Award. Their efforts with the Map-Works initiative launched software that aims to increase retention and support of at-risk students.

“What I liked is that the team work is what was recognized,” Huger says. “What I really loved about this project was working with these three other people. We spent a ton of time together, and the reason it was successful was because of the team. I think it’s nice that AU recognizes team work specifically.”

Dedicating Years

While no OCL staff member found him or herself honored for 20 years of university service, many did receive recognition for their five, ten, and even 15 years committed to excellence at AU. Representing Campus Life at the five-year level was Disability Support Services’ Kamran Rasul, the GLBTA Resource Center’s Sara Bendoraitis, and the Student Health Center’s Kelli Karacki and Maylin Wallace.

On the ten-year side, the luncheon honored the Counseling Center’s Tavia Harper, International Student & Scholar Services’ Fatmira Hoxha and Christy Nichols, and – from the University Center – Mike Elmore.

Since receiving the award, Elmore has recalled the reasons he chose AU and what he thinks he’s accomplished here so far.

“I came here because there was an opportunity to help AU build a 'student-centered' reputation,” says the University Center’s senior director. “We've been able to create a solid student center operation and to expand an activities program that keeps student leaders at the forefront.  We've had a significant role to play in putting activities beyond the classroom into the mainstream of the educational mission at AU.”

Hoxha enjoys the impact she can have on the life of an international student – something she once was.

“Working for a well-known institution makes me feel successful,” she says, “but working for international students makes me feel [re]warded. Being able to help an international individual like myself, give back from my experience, and help to make their journey easy and a reality at American University, that is [re]warding.”

Alongside Student Activities’ Karen Gerlach and the Counseling Center’s Marsha Shaw, University Chaplain Joe Eldridge was honored for the 15 years he has spent at his post. His sentiments echo many of his colleagues, showing that – while there may be plenty of wonks in the student body – American University staff demonstrate the same passionate dedication by supporting students and improving the campus community each and every day.

“Endurance in a marathon is to be recognized and awarded. Endurance at American University is a gift, a joy,” says Eldridge, who recently spoke at the Baccalaureate Commencement ceremony of his alma mater, Tennessee Wesleyan College. “I’ve worked here longer than I’ve worked anywhere else. From the beginning it was a congenial place, and it’s seemingly a more congenial place as the years go by. I feel like it’s been a privilege to be here. The award should go to the institution for keeping me here.”