A Devotion to Service

November 08, 2010

A record number of GW staff and faculty members were nominated for service excellence awards this year.

Dick Golden opened the ninth annual service excellence award ceremony Nov. 4 by calling the attention of the audience of about 200 assembled in the Marvin Center Grand Ballroom to President Steven Knapp and the vice presidents seated behind him.

“The significance of being nominated is evidenced by the people on stage today,” said Mr. Golden, special assistant for broadcast operations and university events.

In his remarks, Dr. Knapp said not only was the number of nominees for awards this year (702) a record, but a video feed had to be set up next door to accommodate the overflow crowd.

Nominees’ devotion to service hearkens back to GW’s namesake’s vision of the university as a center of service, Dr. Knapp said.

Each vice president then discussed at least one of the 10 awards, and a video clip announced the winner.

Robert Chernak, senior vice president for student and academic support services, helped the audience through the math—702 nominees for only 10 awards. “That means there are 692 of you who won’t win,” he joked. “But you shouldn’t feel like losers, because you all exemplify the values of service.”

The awards ceremony marked the end of the annual Service Excellence Celebration, a week-and-a-half of events and activities—including luncheons, lectures and receptions—on GW’s three campuses.

The awardees were:

The Food Justice Alliance, a student group which runs the GroW Community Garden and raises awareness about local food production and environmental justice, won the Sustainability Award. The alliance, which was nominated by two students and two staff members, was particularly recognized for donating produce from the community garden to Miriam’s Kitchen.

Dolores Perillan, adjunct instructor of Spanish, won the Faculty Choice Award. Sergio Waisman, chair of the Department of Romance, Germanic and Slavic Languages and Literatures, nominated Dr. Perillan, who created the university’s first and only Spanish course with a service component of helping Hispanic communities in the District.

The Staff Choice Award went to Shannon Donahue, freshman service coordinator at the Center for Civic Engagement and Public Service, who was nominated by three colleagues. Ms. Donahue has organized Freshman Day of Service for the past two years (the first two years of the program). This year’s event drew more than 2,000 students and faculty and staff members, and Ms. Donahue mobilized more than 100 student leaders and about 75 staff members to help plan and run the event.

Karen Ahlquist, associate professor of music, won the Parent Choice Award. A parent of a prospective student nominated Dr. Ahlquist after she not only gave the parent’s son a tour of campus, but also helped point the student to resources for financial assistance. “Colleges across the country could certainly learn something from Dr. Karen Ahlquist about interacting successfully with a prospective student and his parents,” the parent wrote. “People talk about service, excellence and teamwork all the time. As far as we’re concerned, Professor Ahlquist lives it.”

Melissa Eddison, a senior who was a 2010 Summer Garden Fellow and part of the Food Justice Alliance, won the Student Choice Award. Ms. Eddison created the GroW Community Garden across the street from Amsterdam Hall and donates the fruits and vegetables grown in the garden to Miriam’s Kitchen, and she also helped create the bee colony on the Mount Vernon Campus.

The Student Staff Award went to Michael Kessler, a property management assistant. The staff member who nominated Mr. Kessler cited his superior problem solving and customer service efforts as key factors in his nomination.

Tammy Miller, senior education specialist at Hampton Roads Center, won the Alumni Choice Award. “The diverse community at the Hampton Roads Center requires someone who can relate to differing cross-sections of students,” wrote the person who nominated Ms. Miller. “I’ve seen some difficult students attempt to push her buttons by intentional disruption, but her reactions were unwavering, with respect always on the front line.”

The Service Collaboration Award went to the Faculty and Staff Service Center, which helps faculty and staff with questions about benefits, taxes, payroll, parking and a variety of other issues. The center was moved to the ground floor of Rice Hall as part of a recommendation of the Innovation Task Force.

The Departmental Service Excellence Award went to the Office of Parent Services for its “outreach to each of the communities represented within the university’s family.” According to members of the Parents’ Association Advisory Council, who nominated the office, its efforts have “engendered a level of involvement and responsiveness which is rare for any college or university and unheard of in a university with 10,000 undergraduate students.”

Mr. Sonn, a member of the service excellence leadership team, says the winners and finalists embody “the true spirit of GW’s values of learning, community, diversity, excellence, respect, service, sustainability and teamwork.”

“The winners and finalists are also representative of GW’s major units, divisions and campuses and show how the GW values have permeated our culture and inspire our individual and collective activities,” he said.

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A Devotion to Service