The Distinguished Staff Awards, the university’s highest staff recognition, annually honors 12 staff members for their exceptional leadership, accomplishments and service to The Ohio State University.
Ohio State University Extension Educator
College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences
Sometimes it’s hard to summarize in one word the impact an outstanding Ohio State employee has on his university department, colleagues and students. “Excellence, diversity, change and innovation, simplifying our work and leadership are all words that exemplify the efforts of Nate Arnett, Extension educator and Adventure Central director,” wrote a colleague.
Arnett has worked for Adventure Central, a nature-based learning center for at-risk children and their families, for nearly 11 years. In those years, he has served more than 200 youth annually through nearly 600,000 contact hours, something rare for a director of a large center, and he has raised an average of $300,000 a year for Adventure Central and has even garnered the program multiple awards from OSU Extension and the National 4-H Program.
According to another colleague, “Under Nate’s leadership, youth participation has increased, and the staff has grown to include a diverse mix of paid and volunteer positions.”
“It is Nate’s ability to work with a diverse staff, different types of programs, diverse audiences and a variety of partner agencies that has resulted in such innovative programming with an impact,” wrote another colleague.
Perhaps what is most remarkable is the impact Nate Arnett and his staff and program have on the young, at-risk students and families they serve. “Because of programs like Adventure Central and the leaders who make it happen like Nate Arnett, our community is simply better, and the future looks even more promising.”
Department of Physics
Technically, Terry Bradley’s official role as systems manager in the Physics department is to support the technology for department classrooms and instructional labs. But, as her colleagues attest, Bradley “does so much more for the department and the university at large.”
As systems manager, Bradley must ensure classrooms are running efficiently, which is important considering a single day’s outage can mean a class misses an entire week’s worth of lab experience.
“In her role supporting classrooms, Terry is hard-working and effective,” wrote a nominator. “The technology classroom is a demanding environment. Terry has demonstrated the willingness and drive to ensure systems run properly, all while working to integrate new ideas, software and equipment.”
Bradley also supports the Fundamentals of Engineering for Honors (FEH) program, which brings together students and faculty from Engineering, Physics and Mathematics for integrated instruction.
According to one nominator, “A major aspect leading to the success of the FEH program is the continued cooperation among the three departments. Terry selflessly assists us whenever we have a need or question that calls for her expertise. Without her involvement, our program would not be nearly as strong as it is.”
But what makes Bradley an outstanding Ohio State staff member is her dedication to numerous other areas of the university. She has been active in the Staff Advisory Committees, involved with the Registrar’s Office, assists with the Engineering Education Innovation Center and even volunteers for Pelotonia.
“All of these items are beyond the scope of her specific job,” wrote a nominator, “and they serve to promote cooperation and thus improve the environment in the department, college and university.”
Department of Animal Sciences
Most people wouldn’t think of putting information technology and farms together, but that is exactly what Michael Chakerian’s position as systems manager for the Animal Sciences department entails.
“Service in the department is not a simple matter, as Offices and laboratories are split between the Columbus and Wooster campuses, Don Scott farm, Waterman Dairy and four Wooster animal units,” wrote a colleague.
Beginning more than 12 years ago, Chakerian worked hard to make sure he excelled in providing IT service to the department, even though he had no previous experience in Animal Sciences.
“He made sure that he learned college and university IT protocols by working closely with IT personnel, that he understood the needs of the department and its satellites, that he learned the language of the customers and that he formed productive business relationships with department personnel,” wrote a nominator.
Chakerian also uses his IT expertise to innovate new technology solutions in the department. He has developed portable teaching systems for older buildings on campus, such as Plumb Hall and the Animal Sciences Building. He also has facilitated web-based and distance learning activities across The Ohio State University satellites.
As one nominator explained, “His technical prowess is exemplary; that combined with his collegial attitude and service orientation makes him not only necessary but seemingly irreplaceable to the unit.”
Special Assistant to the Executive Director
The James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute
For more than 19 years, Sue Haggerty has been a driving force behind many of the important changes that have taken place at The Ohio State University’s James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute.
Among Haggerty’s numerous inputs and accomplishments, she supported the completion of the Comprehensive Cancer Center’s competitive renewal grant through organizing numerous meetings, rehearsals and grant formatting for more than a year at a time.
“This is a critically important application as it results in millions of dollars of support for the center as well as retaining the national stature and respect as one of the premier cancer research centers in the US,” wrote a nominator.
Moreover, Haggerty worked tirelessly for nearly seven weeks to organize a highly efficient schedule of communications to facilitate the center’s application for a $100 million grant as part of the Affordable Care Act.
“This heroic effort on the part of Sue was critically important to Ohio State receiving the grant for our expansion project,” wrote a nominator. “This is largest grant ever received in the history of Ohio State.”
Despite the tireless work she does, Haggerty’s colleagues stress that she maintains a positive, professional and creative attitude. Added a nominator, “She always searches for the silver lining to most dilemmas. She is a bridge builder. She is truly a star.”
As another nominator put it, “I have been an Ohio State faculty member for almost 40 years. During that time, it has been my privilege to work with innumerable talented and dedicated people. However, Sue’s skills, commitment and passion for making a difference have clearly created a huge impact on literally thousands of faculty, staff, students, volunteers and especially patients.”
Sarah (Sally) Haltom
Director of Student Affairs
College of Optometry
It’s not far-fetched to say that Sally Haltom is the College of Optometry’s “mom.” She is a reassuring presence who strives to build confidence and success in the students she sees from orientation through graduation. In every way for Haltom, students’ personal and professional success is top of mind.
“She’s been the force behind the scenes that makes the day-to-day life in the college look like it ‘just happens,’” one nominator wrote. “But what is truly exceptional about Sally is that she does all these things without asking for credit or honor. She does them because she feels our students deserve and need this level of support to be successful.”
For Haltom, who held similar positions in the colleges of Pharmacy and Nursing and University College, there are no job description boundaries where students are concerned. Though she oversees student recruitment, admissions, first-year student orientation and more, she has expanded her role to become a valued member of the college’s Diversity Enhancement Committee and is a certified facilitator for the National Coalition Building Institution prejudice reduction workshops, which the college added to its first-year curriculum.
She has instituted an early warning system to head off student academic and emotional problems. She sets students up with tutoring resources and is always available to lend an ear. In 1991, Haltom received the Ohio State Distinguished Service to Student Development Award.
“Her optimistic attitude is uplifting for many students who enter school intimidated toward the vigorous academic path ahead of them,” a nominator wrote. “She has an inspiring personality that will touch the lives of optometry student for years to come.”
Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures
As an Office associate at Ohio State, one is expected to be a welcoming presence to all who interact with a department. Jane Harper, who’s been with the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures for five years, goes above and beyond traditional duties. As one nominator put it, “Jane’s title of Office associate hardly begins to describe the work she does for the department.”
Though she does so much more than what her role requires, Harper excels in her Office duties. “These include being our receptionist, and no one could make people feel more welcome, either on the phone or in person,” wrote a colleague. “She is the best possible ‘first glimpse’ of our department.”
Harper also distinguishes herself in the department through her dedication to the graduate admissions process. As one colleague puts it, she was “absolutely essential” in reorganizing the process as the program grew. She set up a consistent and effective filing system for applications, reviews all materials with meticulous detail and communicated between prospective students, the Near Eastern Languages department, Graduate Admissions Office and the Graduate School.
Once graduate students arrive on campus, Harper offers constant support to them, many of which are international students.
“She is a kind of rock to them, constantly giving advice on how to live at OSU and providing consistent emotional support,” wrote a nominator. “I cannot count the number of graduate students who have come to me and expressed gratitude for Jane’s kindness to them.”
Ohio State University Extension, 4-H Youth Development
College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences
The official 4-H motto is “To Make the Best Better.” According to her coworkers, one of the things Linda Hast does best is make all of the employees at the Ohio State University Extension better.
“In my 30 years of professional life, I have seldom encountered an individual with such a significant ability to enhance the quality of work-life here at OSU,” wrote a nominator. “As one of our colleagues put it, ‘One of the perks of working at the State 4-H Office is Linda Hast.’”
For 12 of the 30 years Hast has been with the university, she has assisted the 4-H Office with managing the Ohio State Fair, volunteer network, international exchange program and all of the Office’s teen programs. Hast also provides needed help with large-scale events such as the Ohio 4-H Volunteer and Ohio Teen conferences, registration at all major events and facilitation of statewide 4-H Professional Update Meetings.
She also served as assistant to the associate 4-H leader and was selected to answer the main 4-H phone line, effectively making her the “voice” of Ohio 4-H.
“No matter who is calling or how busy she is with other responsibilities, Linda always goes above and beyond to personally assist callers and visitors in finding the information they need,” wrote a colleague.
“Linda Hast is a rare breed, and if she retires from the university next year as planned, we will find ourselves missing one of the best support staff we’ve ever had in the State 4-H Office.”
L. Scott Lissner
Office of Diversity and Inclusion
The Ohio State Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) coordinator manages compliance and policy initiatives and conducts outreach and engagement with the broader disability community. But Scott Lissner, who’s held that job since the position was established 12 years ago, believes there is more to true diversity and inclusion than just policy.
“When Scott arrived at Ohio State, he immediately set about mobilizing the campus not merely to comply with ADA requirements, but to advocate proactively for the full participation of persons with disabilities in all aspects of university life,” wrote a nominator.
Lissner co-founded the Web Accessibility Center, which maintains policy information, resources and directories and instructive guides for accessible teaching, such as Fast Facts for Faculty, a series of briefs designed to improve quality education for students with disabilities. Lissner also developed the Multiple Perspectives conference, which includes unique academic and cultural components in addition to policy and praxis. “Now in its 12th year, the conference is a premier national forum that explores disability across boundaries,” wrote a colleague.
Lissner also takes his expertise into the academic realm, publishing articles in peer-reviewed journals, books and handbooks. He also is a lecturer for the Moritz College of Law, the Knowlton School of Architecture and Disability Studies. “In his teaching, Scott points to his classroom engagement as a stimulus for new thinking around disability-related policy and initiatives,” a nominator wrote.
Finally, Lissner has worked with the Nisonger Center for Special Education, participating in funded projects such as the Ohio State Partnership Grant and Faculty and Administrator Modules in Higher Education.
“Scott Lissner embodies the values that drive The Ohio State University,” wrote a nominator. “He has empowered the university to support the success and productivity of all members of our community.”
Director of Radio Operations
WOSU Public Media
Kevin Petrilla has followed an impressive path to become the outstanding director of operations at WOSU he is today. Working as a student in the 1990s, his interests switched from zoology to radio operations, and he was offered a job upon graduation in 1995. Since then, Petrilla has become “a real asset to WOSU Radio, as well as Ohio State and the community WOSU serves,” wrote a nominator.
Petrilla oversees technical production of all major remote broadcasts and recordings on WOSU’s six stations across the state. He also often serves as recording engineer on special projects and has been key in implementing new digital technologies at the Fawcett Center studios and at the new COSI media center.
Other key projects Petrilla oversees include the Columbus Symphony Orchestra Broadcast Series, for which he is production supervisor. “Kevin has been the engineer of the broadcast series for 11 years,” wrote a nominator. “In that time, I have consistently been impressed by his understanding of the orchestra’s recording needs and by his concern for the quality of our broadcasts.”
Petrilla also has offered his support as Producer and Engineer for the Ohioana Authors Radio Series, Production Supervisor for the Lancaster and Columbus Arts Festivals live broadcasts, Production Supervisor for Arts Unscripted and as a technical support when WOSU launched its Classical 101 station this past year.
As a nominator asserts, “Through Kevin’s knowledge, production expertise, attention to detail, communication skills and commitment to his work, WOSU Radio has furthered its mission to enrich lives through programming and community services that educate, inform, entertain and inspire.”
Assistant Director of Guest Experience
Jerome Schottenstein Center
For the more than 800,000 guests that pass through the doors of the Schottenstein Center annually, the front-line staff they encounter can make or break the visitor experience. Thanks to Carolyn Speicher, the assistant director of Guest Experience, guests are continually provided with a positive Buckeye encounter.
“In her time with the Event Services Department, Carolyn has championed the training and development of our front-line staff,” wrote a colleague. “Her commitment to this process and her employees has resulted in our premier Guest Services staff.”
Since she began at Ohio State seven years ago, Speicher has become an up-and-comer of the event management and services industry, thanks in a large part to her creative and innovative ideas she implements. From creating all the annual security and new hire training to monthly online training modules for the 400 staff members she supervises, Speicher has improved both staff and guest experiences.
Speicher also created and implemented an online scheduling system with immediate notifications for all staff members. “The staff love it, and it has certainly increased efficiency in scheduling for large-scale events,” wrote a nominator.
Speicher also extended her creative thinking beyond staff issues. In 2008, she decided that all unopened, reusable food and drinks that were taken in routine security checks at events would be donated to the Mid-Ohio Food Bank. “Overall, we have donated hundreds of pounds of food in just three years,” noted a colleague.
Finally, Speicher performs her demanding job with humor, trust and a mentoring attitude. “She treats every single person on the staff as if they were her own family,” wrote a nominator. “It is not easy memorizing over 400 names, but she does it!”
Added another: “But for Carolyn Speicher, the Schottenstein Center would not be the exemplary representative of The Ohio State University that it is today.”
Ohio State Mansfield
Of the many people who have encountered Connie Stitzlein at the Ohio State Mansfield campus, all can agree on one thing: They have never seen her without a smile.
“Connie is unfailingly pleasant. Her smile and calm demeanor often brighten my day and help me to regain some equilibrium when I feel overwhelmed,” wrote a nominator.
“How many of us can say our mood does not affect our work? Connie’s disposition and willingness to help others with tasks is refreshing, regardless of how busy she is,” wrote another nominator.
Stitzlein’s colleagues also praise her for the many other qualities that make her an outstanding office associate. For example, she takes on an extreme volume of work, including years of course data, faculty contracts and other information pertaining to the Mansfield campus, but is never flustered. She even schedules all the room assignments and course schedules for the entire campus.
“Regardless of how much work Connie has, it’s always correct, meticulous and timely,” noted a colleague.
Of her other attributes, her colleagues admire her expertise with technology, her wealth of campus knowledge, her ability to take on new tasks without being prompted and above all her outstanding interactions with everyone she meets.
“Many people from other OSU campuses have remarked about what a great human being Connie must be, even if they only speak to her via telephone,” wrote a nominator.
“Connie Stitzlein is a remarkable employee who occupies exactly the right place at Ohio State. Her consistently outstanding performance as an administrative assistant has added incalculably to our effective functioning as a regional campus of Ohio State.”
Department of Food Science and Technology
College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences
The Parker Food Science and Technology Building was originally designed to include an independent creamery. When that plan proved unworkable, it fell to the small group of staff and faculty in the Department of Food Science to run it. That was no solution either, and so the space remained empty during the run-up to the building’s opening in 2002.
But then Julie Townsend joined the staff two months before the opening. She came in with a promise that the creamery would open with the building, and sure enough, everyone enjoyed ice cream at the ribbon cutting, and it’s been a fixture ever since. From the start, Townsend made the creamery part of the academic mission: A work-study experience and an opportunity for students to informally interact with faculty.
Along the way, Townsend has earned the respect of the college leadership and has been the staff representative on the past seven search committees — for four faculty, two chairs and a director.
“Her positive image and excellent first impression makes a significant difference in our search outcomes,” one nominator wrote. “It is gratifying to hear directly from candidates interviewed that interaction with Julie gave them a very positive view of Ohio State.”
Townsend also is program manager for CAAPS, a National Science Foundation Research Center, and she has grown the center to include 11 member companies and three university sites.
“Julie’s skill set is unsurpassed,” another nominator wrote. “She has tremendous ability to juggle all of the day-to-day challenges associated with the Office. She has taken leadership to guide a new strategic planning vision for our department and is critical and core to our success.”