Past Excellence Award Recipients

FY 2012-2013

Victoria Chavez, Central Campus Dining Services

Victoria Chavez started her career in University Dining Services at Sonoma State University in 2001. Victoria was selected because of her demonstrated commitment to the University's mission and core values, her significant improvements in student service and enhanced student satisfaction, and her significant improvements in products and production. She and her supervisor created the concept of Victoria’s Kitchen at the Summer Grill and she is the glue that keeps the Commons’ student production staff humming along. But more than what she produces, it is the way that she inspires the students who work with her. Victoria models the behavior that she expects to see in her students. Victoria is responsible for helping to increase student satisfaction with the food choices available to them, and has improved upon systems of production that have made her and her team successful. She supports the University’s mission in every way, and is a marvelous role model not only for the students, but for us all.


Cynthia Chongm Facilities Administration

Cynthia Chong has served in the Facilities Management Offices since 2002, and has become an indispensable part of the department during her tenure here, supporting Environmental Health and Safety, including SSU’s ergonomics program, safety, and medical monitoring programs. She is often seen traveling through the halls with her ergonomics working case over her shoulder! Cynthia was selected for her success in enhancing student satisfaction and her contributions and commitment to the University’s mission and core values. This was especially demonstrated by the work she did in last year’s recycling program which was geared primarily to bring recycling awareness to our student residents. The project resulted in the reduction of trash tonnage, and increased total waste stream recycling to 31% at the residence halls…11% higher than the anticipated goal.

FY 2011-2012

Susan Bennett, Administrative Information Systems

Sue Bennett has served as an Analyst Programmer in the Administrative Information Systems section of Information Technology since1999, and has become an indispensable part of the department during her tenure here. Sue was selected for her success in enhancing student, faculty, and staff satisfaction; specifically for her part in aiding with the new waitlist functionality that has been hailed on campus as a “Godsend” and “The best registration process I’ve experienced since coming to Sonoma”. She is recognized for her responsiveness to the student system needs and her dedication to enhancing the student, faculty and staff satisfaction with CMS. “She keeps the student experience on the forefront of her mind when thinking through process changes and working with the CMS staff.” Sue has also been a driving force with the graduation initiative by conducting the research and the implementation of the mass update feature allowing for block enrollment of hundreds of students. Sue has made a tremendous impact in delivering improved services to our students while illustrating an exceptional ability to hear what needs exist and creatively collaborate with departments.


Edward Liddell, Operations and Engineering

Ed Liddell joined Sonoma State University in 1999 as a Building Service Engineer in Facilities Services, and has been there ever since. Ed was selected due to the high level of dedication and service he provides to his customers. Ed’s responsibilities include the Recreation Center, Darwin Hall, and the Art Building, and all areas voiced the same praise: he is “an integral part in the success of the smooth operations of our departments.” Ed went above and beyond to find better ways of keeping the equipment and building functioning during the transition and remodel of Darwin, and his “expertise in problem solving in a timely fashion is very much appreciated in the sciences as many experiments rest on his ability to quickly remedy problems.” This dedication and willingness to go above and beyond to resolve unique problems was echoed by the Art Department and the Recreation Center, where the functionality of the building and equipment can have a dramatic impact on the work and projects of students, staff and faculty. Pam Su of the Recreation Center stated that “Ed’s work exemplifies the type of excellence that I greatly appreciate and that I don’t take for granted.”


FY 2010-2011

Paul Cotter, University Library

Paul Cotter is one of the University Library's Technology support staff. He started working on campus in 2003 and quickly became known as a "Go To Guy." In addition to managing the Library's Technology Helpdesk, Paul has been involved campus related events such as the WASC accreditation, the CSU Provost's Committee on Technology, the 2009 CATS Conference, and, more recently, the Building Marshall Program, sponsored by campus Police, that is designed to increase awareness and ensure safety in the event of a campus-wide emergency. Paul's primary concern is for the students, faculty and staff of Sonoma State University. His time and efforts are always directed to support the mission of both the University and the Library.


Laurel Holmstrom Vega, Office of the Provost

Laurel Holmstrom Vega graduated cum laude from Sonoma State University in 1993 with a BA. in Anthropology and a minor in Women's Studies. She began working at SSU as a student in the Career Center doing job location and development and eventually joined the staff of SSU becoming the supervisor for the Career Center student employees. She then moved to Academic Affairs, and in 2001, became the Administrative Analyst for the Academic Senate andremains in this position currently. Laurel is also active on the President's Diversity Council and is the facilitator of the Safe Zone Advisory Committee, which is working to provide a safe environment for our Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and questioning members of the SSU community. She has been an enthusiastic participant in SSU Halloween festivities and has given workshops for Staff Development Day. Occasionally, she teaches Feminist Theology for the Women and Gender Studies department. Laurel has held a variety of jobs in her life and has worked at SSU longer than anywhere else. She finds higher education to be a very stimulatingwork environment amnd is very proud to be a recipient of the Staff Excellence Award and is thrilled by the appreciation shown to her by her colleagues by being nominated and chosen for this honor. Laurel loves to garden, knit, travel, spend time with loved ones, read, learn new things and delights in the beauty of the natural world.

FY 2009-2010

David Dougherty, Police and Parking Services

Officer David Dougherty has exceeded his own standards of excellence and has in-fact met all five criteria for this nomination as well as truly enhancing the safety of the SSU community. He worked tirelessly, including much of his own time, to create and implement the ‘Arrive Alive’ campaign to include working in partnership with Facilities Services to improve roadway markings and signage related to bicycle and pedestrian traffic. The campaign included red ‘look before you cross’ signs, freshly painted crosswalks, arranging the women’s soccer team to walk through campus with the Seawolf mascot handing out bicycle safety information, and collaborating with the Rohnert Park Department of Public Safety to assist with enforcement of bicycle and pedestrian law violations occurring around our campus. All of these are examples of the exemplary work that Officer Dougherty has done to create a program that will sustain itself for years to come, involve the community, and make Sonoma State University one of the safest communities possible to live, work, and learn.

Officer Dougherty volunteered for the additional assignment of Vehicle Maintenance Officer which saved the University $10,000. Through this task he improved the process for maintaining vehicle fleet repair and service and coordinated the purchase of a vehicle that was much more fuel efficient, and at a great price.

“When Dave is not working on special assignments, special projects, or fighting crime, he is usually seen on his lunch break reviewing new legal case laws. He shares new information with his colleagues to ensure SSU Police Officers are always acting in the most professional and legal manner. In addition, Officer Dougherty represents and collaborates with his colleagues as the department CBA/SUPA representative.”

Finally, “Dave was assigned the follow-up investigation to one of the most serious crimes reported to our department during the year. His superb investigation allowed us to advise the community that the initial reported crime was unfounded and the student had fabricated the information. Countless calls from parents, our students, staff, and faculty poured in thanking us for this information and telling us of their relief and reassurance that SSU is a very safe community.”

Christine Hayes, University Library

Christine Hayes is one of the hidden treasures on campus. Most of her work is behind the scenes, but anyone who has utilized any of the campus websites has benefited from Christine’s knowledge, commitment and hard work. Christine was one of the first people on the SSU campus to realize that, if the mission of the university was to be fully realized then the web had to be accessible to everyone. Her accessibility work predates the CSU’s Accessible Technology Initiative, the Chancellor’s Executive Order 926, and even the amendment to California Government Code Section 11135 which required the CSU to pay attention to web site accessibility. She saw it as the right thing to do.

One nominator wrote, “No single department is as indispensable to a college campus as a library, and in our library no single person has done more to make information easier to get than Christine Hayes.” Through Christine’s efforts and ingenuity, many book entries in the library catalog now have an image of the book cover for easy searching, call numbers for books can be sent to your mobile phone, and she created the PIN reset tool for Lexis/Nexis. In addition, she co-teaches technology workshops for the campus on standards-compliant HTML, Dreamweaver, Cascading Style Sheets, Photoshop, Accessible Word and PowerPoint.

Christine volunteers for nearly every odd job or project that comes her way, including the thankless task of taking the graveyard shift during finals week, assisting in organizing several annual conferences, and is the driving force behind the entertainment at Love your Library and other student outreach events.

Christine’s has an unwavering commitment to help people learn the technological skills necessary for them to do their jobs well and can explain complex technologies simply, without lapsing into unintelligible jargon. She understands that we are all working for the same goal and does what she can to support that mission.

FY 2008-2009

John-Scott Forester, Art Department

"With over 20 years service to SSU, John-Scott Forester has been a technician in the department of Art and Art History for 14 years. It is refreshing to work with such a highly skilled and motivated technician who is not afraid to extend himself in any capacity to assist faculty, staff, and students. Our department as a whole tremendously regards John-Scott and his contributions…he has been a critical part of several Art Gallery exhibitions and programs in the last several years. His help with the Masami Teraoka, There’s No Place Like Here, and Projected Image shows was incredible. He has helped numerous students complete and install their artworks in the Art Gallery…without his help; many of these students could not exhibit their work. He listens carefully to our needs, works exceptionally well with both students and staff, and brings everyone together to find a workable solution to our exhibition needs."

Jo-Ann Smith, Environmental Studies and Planning Development

"Jo-Ann is a truly outstanding member of our university community, whose commitment to our educational mission is evident every day…she is one of the rare individuals who can truly function without ego….she enthusiastically celebrates each and every one’s successes, large or small, and in doing so lifts the morale of colleagues and students alike. She is currently coordinating a department-wide effort to place more advising information online, allowing faculty advising time to be used more efficiently….all along the way she also gently reminds the faculty to stay on the ball and keep the project moving…..The administrative coordinator job is of a type which, when executed perfectly, calls no attention to itself; the individual performing it becomes in a sense invisible, and what is experienced by everyone else is simply that the system is working. A classic example of this kind of job is air traffic control…..Jo-Ann is like (an) air traffic controller and this…is an opportunity to recognize her immense and often successfully invisible contribution to our university."

FY 2007-2008

Mary Beth Hull, Mathematics Department

Mary Beth Hull has had extensive experience providing administrative support to various companies and school districts, including five years at the Cotati-Rohnert Park School District, before she joined SSU. She came to SSU in 1998, providing administrative support in the Provost’s Office. In 2000, she was promoted to Administrative Coordinator in the Mathematics Department, where she works now.

Mary Beth is an integral part of the Mathematics Department, and her dedication is evident in her commitment and service to the students and faculty in one of the largest departments on campus. As a self-described "Math Mom", she works closely with the students to get them over their fears and sometimes tears. She has trained many, and sets the standard for the other AC's on campus.


Kamen Nikolov, Center for Performing Arts

Kamen began working for SSU as a Student Assistant beginning in 1998, while an undergraduate student majoring in music. He worked in both the CPA and for the Green Music Festival. Following graduation, he was accepted to SSU’s School of Education Masters Program and joined the CPA staff full time, where he oversees Performing Arts venue scheduling and supervision of all technical support provided to the Music and Theater Arts one hundred and forty plus annual performances.

Kamen provides exemplary service to the CPA through his thorough and consistent support of performance and campus events. His positive can-do attitude is contagious throughout SSU. He goes beyond the call of duty to assure successful performances for our students and outside customers, and he is highly respected by faculty and staff.


FY 2006-2007

Thora Collard, Administrative Analyst/Specialist for the Office of the Dean of Education

Thora was nominated by the Dean, former Dean and Administrative Manager of the School of Education for her outstanding support and service to the faculty, staff and visiting committees during the National Accreditation of the School of Education. She used her technical skills and "outside the box" thinking to streamline processes and find innovative solutions to meet the goals and needs of the accreditation, including the construction of the "accreditation electronic exhibit room" on the Web site. She was praised for her initiative in serving on the University Web Committee and on the School of Education Technology Committee, and for learning new software programs to assist with the accreditation. During the visit, she was on-call 24 hours a day and lived at the hotel in order to troubleshoot and fix any technological problems the team experienced. She has been repeatedly praised for her positive attitude and bringing the focus to the main work at hand. As the Dean of the School said;

Thora's work is marked by excellence and diligence...the School of Education and the University would not have achieved state and national accreditation without her.

Dr. Scott Cutler, Physician at the Student Health Center

Dr. Cutler received nominations from the Student Health Center Medical Director, Nurse Practitioners, Lab Manager, and Radiologic Technologist. He was praised for consistently going above and beyond the call of duty, infusing innovation and creativity into the workplace on a daily basis, and ensuring the high level of service provided by the student pharmacy in the unanticipated lengthy absence of the campus pharmacist. Scott, " readily and willingly pitches in wherever and whenever - without being asked and without losing focus on his primary responsibilities." He is praised for his devotion to the SHC patients, staying after hours and through lunches to make sure his patients get as much time as is required for them to understand how to manage their health situation. He readily steps into roles as needed, including transporting x-rays to Santa Rosa outside of work hours when courier service is lacking. He has repaired and improved functionality of equipment to better serve the clients. He requests and utilizes input from others to come up with a solution that will fit everyone. Scott, "is an accomplished clinician who truly has the interest of the students as his main focus", says one nominator. He is praised also for his involvement as a health educator to the community.

FY 2005-2006

Connie Lewsadder, Assistant to the Dean of the School of Social Sciences

Connie was nominated for the Excellence Award by what appears to be the entire leadership of the School of Social Sciences. She is known for consistently going above and beyond the call of duty and for being a role model for the spirit of continuous improvement. When the school had difficulty managing the paperwork for its contract courses, she designed and implemented a system that solved the problem.

Cindy Stearns, past chair of Women and Gender Studies, wrote:

Connie is a role model for outstanding leadership and teamwork. Connie created and continues to lead the AC Roundtable, which is a forum for Administrative Coordinators to discuss issues pertaining to their jobs, including critically important activities such as implementing policies of the registrar, processing forms and many other student and faculty related activities. Connie has worked to strengthen the lines of communication between Admissions and Records and AC's throughout the University.

Myrna Goodman, Chair of Sociology, adds:

Connie serves as a mentor and role model to new staff in the School of Social Sciences. I have watched her encourage and assist new administrative coordinators. She has strong abilities as a teacher and trainer and performs both tasks with care and concern. Connie is also a kind person and practices her kindness in a multitude of ways.

Dean Elaine Leeder sums it up:

I am so lucky to have her as an assistant. Connie Lewsadder is an amazing woman who deserves to be honored and appreciated by the University.

Stephanie Thibault, Instructional Support Technician for the Biology Department

Stephanie was nominated for the excellence award by the department, and also by what appears to be the entire School of Science and Technology — the dean, the administrative manager, the Council of Department Chairs — for her additional accomplishments in planning and executing the Darwin Hall move.

Ruth Burke, Administrative Manager of the School, wrote:

Stephanie emerged as a leader early in the Darwin move planning process by using her vast technological and organizational skills to direct the focus of the Transition Team to address immediate problems and concerns as well as long-range planning. Her experience was invaluable in identifying issues before they became difficult issues.

Brian Jersky, Director of Academic Planning and Resources for the School, adds:

When Stephanie talks, people listen. Every word she says is worth paying attention to, for behind it lies a great deal of thought, care and foresight. In addition to her numerous talents and skills, she is a personable and positive figure. She was able to convert the inevitable setbacks in the long move process into positives, and even used humor to move people from cynicism and gloom to idealism and hope.

Yes, the consensus from the School of Science and Technology and from the Committee; Stephanie is a star!

FY 2004-2005

Erica Wilcher

Erica is the Operations Analyst in the Social Science’s Dean’s Office. Erica received nominations from both staff and faculty members of the School of Social Sciences, where she is known for her initiative, intellect, and problem-solving ability. These qualities have made her an asset to the School, as well as to the University as a whole. Among her many contributions is her outstanding participation on the Provost’s Academic Affairs Strategic Planning Committee, her revamping of the School’s course scheduling process, and service to the SSU Web Team.

Thomas Cooper

Thomas is a Student Services Professional and Advisor in the Hutchins School. Thomas was nominated by the Hutchins Faculty for his creativity and commitment in his interactions with faculty, staff and students. His creativity is evidenced in all his work, from development of PeopleSoft procedures to design of a highly successful brochure for Hutchins’ Blended Program. His warm and compassionate personality have made him an asset to the University through his outreach work to community colleges.

FY 2003-2004

Mary Rogers

Mary was nominated by the staff and faculty of the Center for Performing Arts, the Music Department, and the Theatre Department. Mary came to the campus in 1981.

In the many letters of support that came with her nomination form, it is apparent that, as one letter states, "Mary is nothing less than the heart and soul of the Music Department."

"I've never seen Mary not greet everyone who comes to her office with a smile, a kind word, and her absolute full attention. She is a cherished friend and mentor to staff, students, and faculty."

Many also speak of Mary's above and beyond involvement in the department. Professor Gardner Rust speaks of Mary's participation specifically in the gamelan. "She joined as a way to relax after a hard day's work. She had no previous experience with playing music of any kind. The gamelan instruments aren't exactly easy to learn and she did a terrific job. Not only did she learn to play several of the instruments, she did so with a sense of purpose and lightness of spirit from which we all benefited."

"When a student comes back after fifteen years and they are happy to see her, you can tell that even back in the early days she was that same caring and genuine person."

"She remembers our birthdays with cakes and celebrations. She asks about our spouses, our kids, and our friends. She comes to visit us when we're sick. She gently reminds us when we're working too hard, or losing our perspectives on the big picture."

Nels Worden

Nels was nominated by the faculty of the Chemistry Department. Nels' outstanding and consistent contributions have brought him nominations for this award three times.

Nels came to SSU in 2000 in his current position as the Chemistry Department technician. He has consistently exemplified wonderful creativity in his position. He has participated in the creation of two new on-line experiments in the Analytical Chemistry class, an area which he has an extensive professional background. He has time and again breathed new life into outdated equipment, including turning an extra display freezer from a dorm into a glass-doored refrigerator, which allows classes to watch experiments through its doors.

For the Founder's Day celebration, Nels took the initiative to locate argon gas and replaced the oxygen inside the time capsule with the argon gas. The argon gas will better preserve the contents of the time capsule.Nels also set up the chemical reactions for the Chemistry Magic show. He has also participated in two "Best Overall" Halloween costume groups!

FY 2002-2003

Vanessa Franklin

Vanessa Franklin was nominated by the School of Arts and Humanities for her creativity, leadership, and teamwork ability.

Vanessa is able to solve extremely difficult scheduling conflicts, as is also able to develop creative solutions to logistical puzzles that arise during scheduling periods. She also designed a system of modules and deadlines in order to accommodate the entire University, and to help make things work for all departments. She is always ready to help with whatever needs or questions might arise.

Vanessa is "one of the sweetest, kindest, friendliest, and patient people we have the pleasure of working with on campus." She is an invaluable employee who has touched the lives of every academic department on campus.

Henry Amaral

Henry Amaral received six nominations from various areas of the campus for his "can do" attitude, leadership, and dedication.

Henry is a person that regularly goes above and beyond the call of duty, coming in during off hours to complete event set-ups and tear-downs, and making sure that everyone he serves is happy with the finished product.He handles difficult moves and last minute changes with a cool demeanor and helpful suggestions. He works well with all members of the campus community, as well as outside groups.

Henry "has a wonderful way with everyone he interacts with. He is always positive, friendly and energetic. He is a role model for others."

FY 2001-2002

John Champie

John Champie was nominated by one of his colleagues for his outstanding work and creativity in maintaining and upgrading our facilities. Dan Parker wrote:

Facilities Services has an excellent staff. The University is growing, and maintenance personnel's responsibilities are growing too. These capable men and women are rising to meet this challenge. Every once in a while a person stands out. This summer and fall that person was John Champie.

John took personal initiative to repair the gymnasium roof. The gymnasium had leaked for almost twenty years. John repaired it for less than $500, which allowed a new floor to be put in the gymnasium.

His co-workers especially applaud John for his fun "can-do" attitude. It is infectious and boosts everyone's morale.

Sue Foley

Sue Foley was nominated by the staff and faculty of the Hutchins School. They commended Sue for her creativity and innovative solutions to problems, for her leadership and teamwork. Sue is described as a "master of interpersonal relationships with faculty, staff and students." Her colleagues applaud her for the initiative she displays and the way she improves the working environment.

Sometimes it takes a crisis to illuminate the truly outstanding qualities of a person. This became apparent when we experienced the unexpected death of Jeannine Thompson, the Hutchins Provost. Sue pulled togetherthe Hutchins community, making arrangements for the memorial service and caring for grieving students and colleagues. Always one to pay attention to subtle details, Sue even arranged for everyone at the service to take home iris bulbs to plant in Jeannine's memory.