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.
Extension Program Director, University District
Ohio State University Extension
Susan Colbert has an extraordinary gift for creating and encouraging the sense of community throughout the Weinland Park neighborhood. As a director of Ohio State’s University Extension office there, Colbert has built a level of trust and respect from the residents because of her obvious dedication to them.
“One of Susan’s most important qualities is her interest in and empathy for the residents of the University District, particularly Weinland Park,” wrote a nominator. “That comes through in her ability to communicate and work with people of differing incomes, education levels, ethnicities and ages — and that ability is both refreshing and needed.”
This keen interest has resulted in an incredible effort to connect neighborhood residents to the programs and resources offered through OSU Extension. Colbert conducts pre-purchase homebuyer education and financial literacy training, and residents who complete the workshops become eligible for up to $5,000 in down-payment assistance through the city of Columbus.
She also spearheaded a partnership with the Godman Guild Association to help the 110-year-old social service agency provide free basic computer training to more than 1,500 residents, including senior citizens and unemployed and formerly incarcerated persons. She also has organized job fairs and arranged transportation to ensure that residents are able to connect with employers with openings. Colbert’s most recent project, the Moms2B program, began as a nutrition education program in Weinland Park to address the high level of infant mortality.
“Susan’s passion, commitment and compassion drive her good work,” a nominator wrote. “Her commitment to the mission of independence and financial security of others often demands evening and weekend devotion to the neighborhood, and that has allowed her to build an unparalleled level of trust and respect from residents and colleagues alike.”
Senior Research Associate
Department of Astronomy
Mark Derwent, senior mechanical engineer in the Department of Astronomy, exemplifies the characteristics of a distinguished staff member: exceptional accomplishments in his work; leadership within the department’s instrumentation group that has contributed to its growing international reputation; an outstanding mentor of young engineering students; and a volunteer whose service to the university and the larger community has been above and beyond.
“Mark has brought a number of new technologies and engineering approaches that have proven to be not only invaluable but immensely enabling,” a nominator wrote. “The success of our recent, high-profile astronomical instrumentation projects would not have been as strong or innovative without Mark’s contributions.”
For example, he was the supporting mechanical engineer on one of the department’s most ambitious projects — the two Multi-Object Double Spectrometers (MODS) built for the Large Binocular Telescope. “Mark played a crucial role in this high-profile project and brought successful ideas and innovations too numerous to list,” a nominator wrote. “That work, in turn, led to three more projects that have further built his reputation as one of the world’s leading mechanical engineers working in astronomical instrumentation.”
Derwent also is noted for his volunteer service in the department’s public outreach activities — for example, visiting local schools with his personal telescopes — and draws praise for his active participation and mentoring of the undergraduate engineering majors the instrumentation lab often hires. “Mark is skilled at keeping the students challenged and on task,” another nominator wrote, “and all have grown into highly skilled, self-motivated engineers who have been invaluable to our recent project and who have gone on to success after graduating from OSU.”
Director, Learning Technology
Office of Distance Education and E-learning
In this past year alone, Liv Gjestvang’s contributions to the Office of Distance Education and eLearning have resulted in many of its latest projects being implemented around The Ohio State University. Gjestvang works with instructors around the university to find technology innovations that will enhance the student experience.
“Liv’s leadership strengths and close guidance have enabled the Learning Technology team to grow into a team of leaders themselves,” wrote a nominator. “Her team is loyal and dedicated and her leadership style is at the core of that dedication.”
Among some of her accomplishments is the redesign and relaunch of OSU on iTunes U, an open education library available in over 150 countries. Gjestvang also secured Digital First Impact Grants for faculty members to integrate iPad, iTunes U courses and eBooks in their classrooms and push the boundaries of mobile and blended learning strategies. Ohio State’s Digital Publishing initiative, another one of her projects, helps departments produce multi-touch, interactive books for iPad, eBooks and other devices.
“Each of these efforts has engaged the university from concept through implementation and has created exciting new opportunities for the university community to reimagine the possibilities of technology-enhanced education,” the nominator wrote.
The launch of U.OSU, Ohio State’s professional website platform, and the implementation of Mediasite, a new lecture capture solution that has recorded more than 3,000 presentations, are two more examples of key successes under her leadership.
“Liv possesses an uncanny ability to comfort and support those she comes into contact with on a daily basis,” wrote another nominator. “She has created a culture of success with positive reinforcement and respect along the way.”
Director of Marketing and Strategic Communications
Office of Enrollment Services
Beth McGuffey has been designing and creating recruitment communications at Ohio State for decades — from the start recognizing the important role her work played in improving the quality of Ohio State’s incoming freshman classes.
“One only needs to look at the increasing quality of Ohio State’s undergraduate students to understand the impact of Beth’s work in distinguishing the virtues of Ohio State to literally millions of prospective students and their families,” a nominator wrote. “Her knowledge about the university in combination with her appreciation for a team effort, her design skills and a whole lot of common sense have resulted in Admissions and Ohio State producing some of the finest and most effective communication pieces in the entire country.”
McGuffey also played a key role in the recent overall university branding initiative, with a nominator describing her as “a big-thinker who understands long-term goals, but who can also focus on nimble, tactical solutions that have immediate impact.”
When she took over her role leading Enrollment Services’ Marketing and Strategic Communications, she could simply have come in trying to maintain the status quo — after all, it was to be only an interim position, and she had an already-full plate in her previous post that needed to be attended to. Instead, she took on even more responsibility, and did so with a spirit of collaboration and creativity. It was no surprise, then, that the “interim” tag was removed from her title shortly thereafter.
“She stepped up and carried Marketing and Strategic Communications competently and completely during the transition,” wrote a nominator. “She showed a strategic intelligence that is rare, and she quickly gained the respect and admiration of colleagues throughout the office.”
Jacqueline K. Min
Graduate Outreach Manager
College of Nursing
In the past 16 years as the College of Nursing’s graduate outreach manager, Jacqueline Min has developed lifelong networks of diverse friends, associates and students. She isn’t afraid to overlap her personal and professional lives, and that has only improved the quality of her work.
“Through her association with nurse recruiters, she has helped many graduate students find pre-professional employment in health care settings while they are still students,” wrote a nominator. “She has connected nurse recruiters to the college’s alumni coordinator in order to create a valuable link for employment opportunities for our alumni to the benefit of our own medical center.”
Through a contact who develops test-preparation courses, and in collaboration with the College of Education and Human Ecology and the Wexner Medical Center, Min organized a course to help nursing students prepare for the Graduate Record Examination. The first class consisted of 20 nurses.
“After completing the class, over half applied to the college and most of them were admitted,” wrote a nominator. “Since then, Jackie has organized many more GRE preparation courses that have been sponsored by the Wexner Medical Center as a door for nurses to enter graduate education.”
Min is the reason that many of the college’s graduate students chose Ohio State for their education. “Jackie’s caring and professionalism has resulted in an over 400 percent increase in graduate applications since she took over the role 16 years ago,” wrote a nominator.
As another nominator wrote, “Her unabashed love for both Ohio State and the College of Nursing is evident by her commitment to make both the best place to work and be educated in the nursing profession.”
Assistant Director, Student Advocacy Office
Office of Student Life
In times of distress and tragedy, Kimberly Pachell is there to lend a hand and a shoulder. As assistant director of the Student Advocacy Office, Pachell works with students and their families on academic issues, financial aid/payment issues, health concerns, housing placement and more.
“Kim is a unique human being with the strongest and most tenacious desire to alleviate others’ suffering,” wrote one nominator. Pachell has seemingly no limits to her work hours — offering assistance to students who have been a victim of a crime, need help locating housing after being displaced or who have made poor behavioral choices, at all hours of the day or night.
“Kim works effortlessly with groups and agencies within and outside Ohio State,” wrote another nominator. “Her interactions with Columbus Police, Columbus Fire and the Red Cross are always positive.”
Pachell works hard to empower students — one of her primary advocacy philosophies. Dealing with crises ranging from house fires to serious injuries to death, Pachell has built relationships with crisis-oriented units on campus and in the community to best help those afflicted.
“Her empathy, compassion and advocacy toward her OSU family members portray a great example for us all to live by,” another nominator wrote.
Pachell prioritizes the individual needs by making phone calls and arrangements after normal work hours and on weekends. She works tirelessly for her students by providing them referrals to help them get on the right track. Her empathy, compassion and dedication to duty are what stands out the most to her students and colleagues. As one nominator wrote, “The world needs more ‘Kim Pachells’ in it.”
Office of Student Life - OSU Child Care Program
Any working parent is familiar with the need to be assured that their children are in good hands. With Ohio State’s Child Care Program, parents can rest assured that their children are being fed healthful and delicious lunches made by cook Joseph Paine, who has been with Ohio State for 13 years.
Paine’s main responsibility is to make sure the children have good and nutritious meals for lunch as well as morning and afternoon snacks. Even when one of his fellow cooks had to go on an extended absence, Paine stepped up and absorbed new duties — coming in well before his scheduled shift started to ensure the morning snacks were ready — while continuing to keep the kitchen running efficiently in order to serve well over 500 daily meals to the children at the center.
“He is truly dedicated to the Child Care Center staff and children and has shown that he will do whatever it takes to be sure the needs of our program are being met,” a nominator wrote.
“Due to Joe’s commitment to the program, he often will come in on his days off, work when he is not feeling well and often works over his scheduled 40 hours,” noted another nominator. “Without Joe’s dedication to the children, families and staff of The Ohio State University Child Care Program, we would not be able to provide the quality of care to the children we serve on a daily basis.”
Senior Fiscal Officer
College of Social Work
As senior fiscal officer in the College of Social Work, Judy Peterson shoulders a significant workload with competing priorities and a continuous challenge to uphold the goals of both the college and the university as a whole.
“Judy has placed a very high premium on, and set a very high standard for, what she calls a ‘service mentality’ in our college,” wrote one nominator. “She is always challenging the team to assess where there are needs or ‘wants’ that relate to making each and every person in the college as productive as they can be.”
In her role, Peterson oversees the college’s fiscal and human resources operation and its IT operations. “Her skills range from fiscal accountability and management, to dealing with building crises, to streamlining processes that are complex and burdensome,” wrote another nominator.
Peterson organizes numerous staff and student events, advocates for competitive GRA salaries and promotes a healthful work-life balance for faculty and staff. Outside of the college, Peterson assists The Women’s Place with its financial reporting.
“She is very well-informed about each and every one of us, knowing and recognizing us as individuals with our own individualized dreams, goals, passions, advantages and disadvantages,” noted another nominator. “She is respectful and responsive to our individuality in all the appropriate ways, while always working to be scrupulously fair.”
Peterson’s value lies in her compassion, kindness and her uncanny ability to make things happen.
“Everyone is encouraged to be their best by virtue of Judy’s role modeling and high standards,” a nominator wrote, “and everyone knows that they will be well-supported in their efforts.”
Coordinator – Grant Funds
Department of Computer Science and Engineering
Carrie Stein has a knack for superseding her list of job duties, to the joy of all those who work with her daily in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering (CSE). Add in the fact that she already excels as grant funds coordinator, helping faculty write and submit proposals for the department (funding has increased to $9 million from $5 million seven years ago during her tenure), and nominators were not shy in calling her the best colleague with whom they have ever worked.
“My language skills are too limited to compose a suitable set of superlatives to describe how Carrie helps the faculty in the CSE department,” one nominator wrote.
Among the numerous examples, Stein played a critical role in recruiting a faculty member who also was weighing an offer from the prestigious Microsoft Research Laboratory. Stein had a realtor show him and his wife around Columbus, and after overhearing how his wife was interested in an unpaid observer position at The Ohio State University's hospitals, Stein used her contacts to secure it, which helped sway the faculty member to Ohio State.
She has caught mistakes in grant proposals that averted the loss of at least $1 million in funding, she proactively seeks out new funding opportunities, stays on top of policy changes and devotes countless hours on weekends, vacations and after hours responding to deadline emergencies and requests.
Recently Stein took on the responsibility of producing an alumni newsletter to enhance the department’s fundraising efforts and handles all the staff functions related to faculty searches.
“Carrie is a gem,” a nominator wrote. “Our department is just so fortunate to have her helping us in so many ways. She probably does well over twice of what would be considered excellent, and she does it with so much cheer.”
Residency Program Manager, Department of Pharmacy
Wexner Medical Center
There are two sides to Liz Trolli — the “solver” and “doer” side and the “humanistic” side — but they are inextricably linked. Paired together they present a person who ends every sentence with “my pleasure,” cares immensely for everyone she meets and delivers solutions to complex problems.
Trolli took it upon herself to re-envision the Department of Pharmacy’s block rotation program for final-year students. Originally a one-month opportunity for experiential practice, Trolli created a three- to four-month placement in the Wexner Medical Center, coordinated all the changes, implemented the monthly student orientation and created an iTunes U course that integrates the college’s goals and objectives into a student-friendly format.
“The implementation and coordination of this innovative experience can solely be attributed to Liz and her desire to challenge the status quo and push things even beyond our initial goals and desires,” a nominator wrote.
In another instance, Trolli learned of new reimbursement policies for Medicare and Medicaid hospitals that provide postgraduate pharmacy training and had $157,000 returned to the medical center.
Trolli never misses an opportunity to make others feel amazing. One day she sat with a resident in her apartment because she was fearful to be alone after a break-in. When a department colleague was losing a six-year-old son to cancer, Trolli helped coordinate a toy shower and Christmas caroling experience for the family. Another resident’s grandmother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and Trolli set up a second-opinion appointment with an abdominal cancer specialist she previously worked with at Ohio State.
“Liz’s positive attitude, constant smile and strong desire to leave a personal mark on people she works with pushes those around her to provide the same level of service to their colleagues and patients,” another nominator wrote.
College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences
Though her responsibilities pull her in numerous directions and toward multiple constituencies — students, faculty, staff, campus visitors, delivery people and
customers to the Agricultural Technical Institute flower shop — Ladonna Whitt has the skills of a juggler. No matter how many tasks are thrown her way (and there are many), she has nary a drop.
Whitt supervises the floral design lab as well as the flower shop operations, and seasonally she is responsible for planting and maintaining six displays and learning garden areas on campus and the decorative gardens at the Hawk’s Nest Golf Course in Creston, Ohio.
It is a hectic schedule with labs scheduled back-to-back and the flower shop in operation at the same time. But Whitt, who has been at ATI 28 years, anticipates everything, including instituting a special processing procedure and labeling system to ensure flowers are sorted and handled properly.
Whitt never loses her cheerfulness, whether she’s called on to lend a pivotal hand in preparing, designing and installing floral decorations for important university events or working one on one with students on proper corsage and bow techniques. Students, even those outside the floral degree and marketing program that she supports, flock to the available jobs in the flower shop because of Whitt’s demeanor.
“A key to her success is her willingness to work right along with the students, never asking them to do anything she wouldn’t also do herself,” a nominator wrote.
Whitt also contributes to the campus in other ways, including serving on the selection committee for the Ohio State ATI Distinguished Staff Award, which she won in 2011, and co-chairing a reaccreditation committee. She also volunteers to greet new students and their parents, adding a smiling face to the beautiful grounds she helps maintain.
Ohio 4-H Curriculum Manager
College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences
It is an often over-used phrase: think outside the box. But Jane Wright gave it new meaning as she reimagined how the 4-H curriculum could and should be created and distributed to clients in all 88 counties across Ohio and beyond.
Her most recent accomplishment is Project Central, with ideas borrowed from Amazon.com’s wildly successful book search function. Wright created an online view of the table of contents and the first activity from every 4-H project book and added ratings of each project by the members who have completed them.
“Even those Extension educators who are cautious about new changes embraced this website almost immediately because the design is so appealing and easy to use,” a nominator wrote. “Before this website was developed, parents had to drive to their county Extension office to view the new and revised project books.”
In another instance, budget constraints forced an end to the production of 12 Learning Lab Kits that helped students explore plant and animal species. But Wright lamented their loss and worked to transfer the production rights to 4-H so she could continue to offer this resource nationwide. Using skills learned from her MBA degree, Wright set up staffing, warehousing and marketing to create a self-sustaining unit.
In her creative vein, Wright worked with Ohio State’s Technology Commercialization Office to create apps that benefit the 4-H curriculum while keeping the proper balance between printed and digital materials.
“Jane demonstrates excellence through her work and supervision of an indispensable part of 4-H,” another nominator wrote, “and she demonstrates leadership in innovation and change that keep expanding the 4-H youth development boundaries in a practical way.”