By Layla Souers
The Graduate Student Senate (GSS) hosted its 18th annual Outstanding Faculty and Staff (OFAS) Awards on Thursday, April 6. This year’s Outstanding Faculty Award winners are Ramesh Agarwal, Carl Craver, Jeffrey Henderson, Steven Miles, Shanta Pandey, Michelle Purdy, and Akiko Tsuchiya. This year’s Outstanding Staff Award winners are Marissa Franklin, Sarah Hennessey, Rita Kuehler, Meg McClelland, Lynn Mitchell, Maria Rodriguez, and Nancy Rubin.
Dean William Tate opened the ceremony with accolades and appreciation for the faculty and staff at Washington University. “I’m very grateful for the opportunity to be part of the recognition ceremony and really thankful for the people receiving the awards,” says Tate.
“This is an opportunity for faculty and staff from all departments across both the Danforth and Medical Campus to come together in order to celebrate and highlight something we have in common, despite the differences in each of our disciplines: outstanding mentorship and support,” says Roger Wong, who is the GSS OFSA committee chair and PhD student in public health services.
The awards ceremony is not only a time to celebrate those involved in mentoring and service, but it’s also a time for graduate students to learn more about mentors across campus that are outside their disciplines. “We typically don’t get the chance to hear about the contributions of faculty and staff members outside our departments,” Wong adds. “Through the awards ceremony, graduate students are able to formally express their gratitude to faculty and staff members who have significantly impacted their graduate experiences.”
Marina P. Gross, a PhD student in psychological and brain sciences, feels this event is truly special since it’s entirely organized by graduate students. “It’s also a chance for us to acknowledge great mentors who guide us through our graduate studies. I especially enjoy the inclusion of outstanding staff, as these are the people behind the stage who make sure that our programs run smoothly,” she says.
Award recipients were nominated by graduate students and chosen because of the tremendous work they do to foster student success. Finalists were then chosen by the Graduate Student Senators. To make it even more meaningful, recipients received awards from the student who nominated them. “The students nominated staff for their many contributions to the graduate student community and student well-being through their actions, comments, and positive attitudes and anything that they may do to help make our quality of life better here as students,” says GSS OFSA committee member and PhD student in occupational therapy Catherine Hoyt Drazen.
With over 90 submissions, deciding on finalists was a major challenge. “All nominations were extremely compelling, which made it difficult to parse out faculty and staff who were most deserving of the award,” explains Wong. “Several times, as I was reviewing the nominations, I was on the verge of tears, especially after hearing them read out loud by the students during the ceremony.”
Graduate students truly enjoy hearing all of the praise during the ceremony and seeing faculty and staff reactions. Lyndsie Schultz, a PhD student in education, says one of the best parts of the event is hearing the student testimonials. “That's when you get to see these nominees come to life and really get to understand what it is about them that makes them so amazing.”
“I really love seeing the faces of those who receive the awards,” says Debbi Yee, who is a PhD student in psychological and brain sciences. “Often times, great mentors and great support staff perform a lot of thankless tasks, and it a real joy to see their genuinely surprised faces when they hear the kind words spoken about them.”
Outstanding faculty mentor nominees were chosen based on their contributions to student academic development, quality of life and workplace, and professional development. Outstanding staff nominees were chosen based on their unique contribution and service to graduate students as well as their overall attitude. Hoyt Drazen understands the staff are an important part of graduate student success. “Without the staff, we wouldn’t have the incredible atmosphere we have here. As graduate students, we wouldn’t be able to accomplish everything that we do without the faculty and staff members that make it possible.”
Winners for the 2017 Outstanding Faculty Mentor Awards:
Ramesh Agarwal (Engineering)
Carl Craver (Philosophy-Neuroscience-Psychology)
Jeffrey Henderson (Biology)
Steven Miles (History)
Shanta Pandey (Social Work)
Michelle Purdy (Education)
Akiko Tsuchiya (Romance Languages and Literatures)
Winners for the 2017 Outstanding Staff Awards:
Marissa Franklin (Social Work)
Sarah Hennessey (English)
Rita Kuehler (Romance Languages and Literatures)
Meg McClelland (Psychological & Brain Sciences)
Lynn Mitchell (Social Work)
Maria Rodriguez (Psychological & Brain Sciences)
Nancy Rubin (Art History and Archaeology)
This event was made possible by co-sponsors the Graduate Student Senate and the Graduate School, as well as the guidance and support from Ashley Macrander and Kim McCabe from the Liberman Graduate Center.