2015 President’s Excellence Award Recipients Announced

Kent State University President Beverly Warren recently presented eight Kent State employees with the President’s Excellence Award. Warren made surprise visits to each recipient’s office with a hearty congratulations and a check for $1,000.

The President’s Excellence Award began in 2009 to recognize full-time, classified and unclassified employees who demonstrate exceptional performance in advancing one of the strategic goals of the university during the previous fiscal year. There were 128 nominations received from supervisors, peers and colleagues across Kent State’s eight campuses.

Nominees had to demonstrate exceptional performance in advancing one of the following criteria aligned with the university’s strategic goals. This includes actions, initiatives or projects related to the following:

  1. Ensure a “Students First” focus.
  2. Enhance the distinction of Kent State University as “One University.”
  3. Increase the university’s global competitiveness.
  4. Demonstrate the spirit of collaboration to leverage Kent State’s global reach for local impact.
  5. Build commitment and loyalty to Kent State among constituents.
  6. Support a commitment to diversity as an institutional asset.
  7. Display a commitment to operational efficiency to enhance and expand it for the next generation of academically motivated students.

The President’s Excellence Award recipients are listed below. 

Carrie Berta, Psy.D.
University Health Services
Nominated for:
Ensuring a "Students First" focus

Carrie Berta has been a primary contributor in the development and implementation of the Division of Student Affairs' Step Up and Speak Out initiative, a collaborative suicide and violence prevention program. This commitment to prevention and education regarding student mental health serves as a foundation for advising students, faculty and staff on mental health programs and resources available on and off campus.

Berta's professional expertise and passion for student mental health changed the Step Up and Speak Out initiative several years ago, and more specifically, the inclusive revision of services to include all Kent State Regional Campuses, as well as the College of Podiatric Medicine. The program continues to benefit the Kent State community and has grown in scope with the addition of training sessions, the annual distribution of resource materials and the design of a website and phone application.

Cherie Bronkar
Regional Library Director
Academic Learning Commons, Kent State University at Tuscarawas

Nominated for: Demonstrating the spirit of collaboration to leverage Kent State’s global reach for local impact

With the creation of Kent State University at Tuscarawas’ Makerspace, Cherie Bronkar not only brought international attention to Kent State's contributions to the "maker movement," but also garnered local interest and support for the campus through her commitment to fostering an environment that inspires entrepreneurial initiatives through education and services.

Bronkar recognized the unique position Kent State Tuscarawas is in and partnered with the Office of Business and Community Services, the Ohio Small Business Development Center and Blackstone Launchpad (now LaunchNET Kent State) to develop a plan that offers the community the means to collaborate and nurture, test and implement these ideas through production. Awarded a Library Services and Technology Act grant by the State Library of Ohio in January 2015 for her proposal to increase digital and entrepreneurial literacy in Tuscarawas County, Bronkar has created a space on campus where state-of-the-art equipment and support services meet.

Lori Burchard
Director, Sponsored Programs
Nominated for:
Demonstrating the spirit of collaboration to leverage Kent State’s global reach for local impact

As the hub of the wheel at Sponsored Programs, Lori Burchard's calm and cheerful demeanor belies a deep knowledge of a broad range of university operations and grant regulations, along with an ongoing commitment to provide assistance whenever it is needed. Students lost in the building, attorneys from external agencies in negotiation with Kent State, secretaries with questions about how to appoint personnel on a grant and faculty members who want to submit a proposal all receive equal attention.

With infinite patience, professionalism and courtesy, Burchard always makes time to thoroughly answer questions and suggest avenues for resolution whenever appropriate. Personnel at all levels of operation call upon her regularly for advice and guidance, each receiving the same level of astute, courteous and genuinely caring service. External constituents, including representatives from existing and potential funders, rely on her as well. Although negotiations can sometimes become contentious, Burchard always finds a fair resolution for all parties.

Rebecca Cash
Academic Advisor
Department of Sociology
Nominated for:
Ensuring a "Students First" focus

As a full-time academic advisor in the Department of Sociology, Rebecca Cash helps oversee the degree progress of nearly 700 majors in sociology and criminology/justice studies, not to mention hundreds of academic minors. In nearly four years on the job, Cash has built a thriving and inviting advising office on the third floor of Merrill Hall, where, on any given day, you will see countless students awaiting appointments.

What makes Cash really special is the way she goes above and beyond the call of duty to make students a priority. She understands that advising is not just about checking road maps or recommending classes to take, but is essentially about building meaningful relationships so students feel empowered to make smart choices about their education and lives. If that was not enough, she also took it upon herself to organize the department's new workshop series, "What Can I Do With a Degree in Sociology or Criminology?" The two-week course gives current majors the chance to network with working alumni and begin planning for life after Kent State.

Ray Griffin
Carpentry and Masonry Supervisor
University Facilities Management
Nominated for:
Ensuring a "Students First" focus

Ray Griffin puts exceptional effort and care into his duties on a daily basis. His commitment to Kent State shows in the value and character he adds to University Facilities Management.

Never one to take credit for his accomplishments, Griffin always attributes the department’s success to the group of carpenters, painters, welders, etc., despite the fact that he coordinates the logistics, completes the research, finalizes the design and makes things come together.

Griffin worked with Lauren Ledzianowski, a graduate student working with elementary school-aged children. He assisted Ledzianowski with mobility challenges that prevented her from physically being on the same level as the young students. He worked with the carpentry shop at University Facilities Management to research various options for adjustable furniture, ultimately settling on his own design. Griffin built and delivered two fine pieces of custom furniture that put Ledzianowski at eye level with her students, improved her teaching methods and provided a better learning experience for everyone.

Jeremiah Schilens
Lead Applications Support Analyst
Information Services
Nominated for:
Ensuring a "Students First" focus; Building commitment and loyalty to Kent State among constituents; Displaying a commitment to operational efficiency; Increasing the university’s global competiveness

Efficient, friendly and helpful are just a few words to describe Jeremiah Schilens, who plays a critical role at Kent State. Every student, faculty and staff member depends on resources from the Division of Information Services that Schilens is responsible for. Blackboard Learn, ERP (Banner SSB and INB) and Big IP are just some of his responsibilities. While he is certainly not the only person to take on these daunting tasks, he is without a doubt the most central person to support them.

Schilens is essentially on call 24/7, 365 days a year. The department can count on him to quickly and routinely respond to requests for technical assistance on evenings and weekends, even when he was several time zones away while vacationing in Hawaii. Schilens is fully committed to the success of students by making himself available and improving the performance of the university’s systems.

Virginia Wright
Administrative Assistant
Department of Mathematical Sciences
Nominated for:
Commitment to enhancing and expanding operational efficiency for the next generation of academically motivated students; Ensuring a "Students First" focus

Virginia Wright welcomes everyone to her office and goes above and beyond to assist. She makes people feel special by taking time to understand and help with situations, even if it means working extra hours to complete other work. Wright is dedicated and efficient, and cares about students, faculty and staff.

She has made exceptional contributions to the Department of Mathematical Sciences over the last decade, and has exhibited extraordinary dedication to the smooth and efficient operation of this complex department. Often working long hours during peak activity, Wright shows uncanny attention to detail and accuracy, and understands the intricate workings of the administration. She always anticipates and embraces necessary changes and follows details to the letter.