2023 P&S Council CYtation Awards

2023 Woodin CYtation Award Recipient

Deb Vance, Assistant Director, International Students and Scholars Office

Deb, an exceptional advocate for international students and scholars, plays a pivotal role within our institution. Her comprehensive understanding of immigration regulations, cultural nuances, and academic and employment requirements has been instrumental in ensuring a seamless transition and adjustment for students and scholars from around the globe. Deb’s knowledge extends beyond mere bureaucratic processes; she invests time and effort to truly understand each individual’s unique perspectives, challenges, and aspirations. Her empathetic approach and personalized assistance leave a lasting mark on the lives of countless students and scholars. Deb’s exceptional commitment extends to the well-being of her staff. As a leader and mentor, she exhibits deep care and commitment to their growth. By fostering a workplace culture that values collaboration and mutual respect, she ensures her staff is equipped and motivated to provide the best possible support to the international community. Deb embodies the spirit of service and inclusivity, significantly enhancing the experience of students and scholars from diverse cultural backgrounds and enriching our institution’s global community.

2023 CYtation Award Recipients

Abbie Suntken, Registrar Specialist II/Interim Assistant Registrar, Office of the Registrar

Abbie began as an undergraduate student employee, advancing to a student team leader, then a graduate assistant, and was hired full-time by the Office of the Registrar in 2021. From day one, Abbie has requested duties above and beyond her job description and in addition to her duties, she streamlines antiquated processes, builds relationships, and creates robust documentation, enhancing reports and downloads by working with ITS. Abbie became the Interim Assistant Registrar of the Certifications and Eligibility team within six months of becoming full-time. She went from entry-level to managing five peers overnight. A central component of Abbie’s interim role is NCAA Athletic Certification, a new area for her, which she has also managed to streamline.Just when we thought Abbie’s capability was at maximum, she became a subject matter expert for the Workday implementation, taking on substantial work for data conversion mapping and record validation. Abbie consistently exceeds expectations. ‘Extraordinary’ doesn’t adequately describe what she’s been able to do in such a short time. 

Amanda Brockman, Research Scientist III, Office of Biotechnology

For nearly 21 years within the Office of Biotechnology, Amanda has ensured that instrumentation was running properly while loading and pulling biological samples for protein and DNA analyses. A year ago, she was asked to step in and assist with sample preparation for electron microscopy in the High-Resolution Microscopy Facility. While this was not her realm of expertise, she tackled the challenge and has quickly become an indispensable resource in this new area. Amanda is intelligent, innovative, and doesn’t shy away from a challenge. Her communication process and attention to detail provided the team with an exceptionally dependable assistant, well beyond expectations. Her willingness and enthusiasm to learn new techniques and protocols outside her defined job requirements make her a fantastic boon to ISU and the Office of Biotechnology. 

Amro Hashish, Research Scientist II, Veterinary Diagnostic and Production Animal Medicine

Amro has left an indelible mark on the poultry medicine research program. His skills have allowed him not only to tackle diagnostic issues through traditional research tools but also to find innovative ways to solve these problems on his way to becoming a world-class expert in new technology and its applications. Dr. Hashish is passionate about providing professional service to the scientific community. He has served as a reviewer in multiple reputable journals and is always willing to collaborate with different research teams nationally and internationally, fostering interdisciplinary collaboration. He significantly contributes to Iowa State University's position as a poultry diagnostics leader through his commitment to enhancing the services provided by the ISU Vet Diagnostic Lab, and his work has made that lab one of the "go-to" places in the country for poultry diagnostics. 

Carla Harris, Graduate Student Services Specialist, Agriculture & Life Sciences Administration

Carla Harris goes well beyond the extra mile for the four graduate programs she manages (and the programs would collapse without her). For example:Carla prepared data for four different program reviews, organized meetings with faculty, and coordinated between programs. She organized the first Interdisciplinary Biological Sciences Symposium, merging previously distinct, narrow, low-attendance symposia. The result allowed students to see a breadth of science research and was a massive success with over 200 participants. When Carla discovered graduate students faced many common issues, she recently initiated “Lunch and Learns.” Carla’s projects make a difference to students and faculty at the University. She identifies limitations within the program and takes the initiative to make improvements, ultimately adding to the success of the University.

Chris Myers, Teaching Laboratory Coordinator, Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology

Chris successfully manages one of the most extensive laboratory courses on campus for undergraduate students and supervises over 30 graduate TAs each year. Chris is leading the development of a new BIO 211L lab guide. His hybrid design includes new print material for in-class use and corresponding digital material on Canvas. These improvements promote student success in the classroom and reduce textbook costs, impacting over 1,000 students each year. Aside from his work in the lab, Chris is relatable and present for his students and staff. The TAs seek his advice and assistance for conflicts in their graduate programs and personal lives. Chris celebrates student workers' birthdays and graduations, uses personal time to attend student events on campus to support them, and even played guitar with one of his TAs at his international graduate student club celebration.

Dawn Miller, Program Specialist II in Civil, Department of Construction & Environmental Engineering

Beyond her many day-to-day responsibilities, Dawn has been part of several initiatives to improve graduate student recruitment, resulting in an increase of graduate student numbers in the last two years. She was a driving force behind CCEE’s Graduate Program Excellence Fund recruiting tool, organized a week-long virtual recruitment event, and developed an in-depth FAQ document for prospective students. In addition to recruitment, Dawn also provides support services to current graduate students - clarifying program requirements, addressing administrative questions, and helping them remain on track toward graduation. She envisioned and implemented an orientation and seminar series to assist students with transitioning to graduate school, covering topics like understanding Ubills, Ph.D. qualifying exams, and mental health support options. Dawn creates a positive rapport with prospective graduate students throughout the recruitment and application process. Then she continues to develop this positive relationship by helping students transition, answering their questions, and celebrating with them at graduation.

Elizabeth Richards, Program Coordinator, Iowa Statewide Urban Design and Specifications Program and Iowa Public Works Service Bureau at the Institute for Transportation

This past year, every member of Beth's small team resigned or retired, leaving Beth on her own. Beth not only kept up with her regular duties, she also kept the programs moving forward.  First, Beth had to fill the Director and other positions, working with HR to ensure postings fit the needed skills. Meanwhile, she worked to secure funding for the Iowa Public Works Services Bureau for the upcoming years, gathering data to ensure the service was relevant to users. Between championing this funding and filling vacant positions, Beth continued to provide the customer service that users have come to expect – many did not even realize she was doing everything herself. Now that Beth is no longer working alone, she is a morale leader for the team, organizing and promoting employee team building activities. She is active statewide in her role here, but also as a leader at the national level of the American Public Works Association.

Heidi Pontinen, Senior Psychologist, Student Counselling Services

Heidi provides excellent clinical care to ISU students by being attentive and responsive to her clients’ needs and providing a space for support and growth. Heidi steps up in many ways to support students, colleagues, and the ISU community. For example, the group therapy program had been without a Coordinator for almost a year when Heidi stepped into that role. She developed a plan for the group and worked closely with staff to determine offerings and how to support facilitators. Heidi has provided professional development training to the team and is helping create a strong group therapy program at SCS. Heidi is also working with a group at SCS to determine campus needs for neuropsychological assessment, and how that service would be provided to students. Heidi truly shines in her support SCS and the campus community.

Jeremy Kellen, Audiovisual Support Specialist, College of Veterinary Medicine 

When Jeremy started at the College of Veterinary Medicine, he supported one building. Over the last few years, his role has expanded to over 70 rooms across five buildings. Due to his reputation and skills, he is often asked to take on extra projects on top of his regular duties and is helping design teaching areas and conference rooms for the new Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory. He has shown creativity and innovation to find solutions to special requests, such as using waterproof audio-visual equipment so a whole room can be cleaned with a hose. Or a 136-inch display made from multiple small screens, allowing individual screens to be replaceable instead of the entire large screen, creating a budget-friendly and sustainable option. If you ask anyone, Jeremy’s true strength is being extraordinarily detail oriented. He adds what the college calls “the Jeremy magic” to everything he does, going the extra mile to make every project unique and successful. 

Mary Jane McCunn, Business Administrator II, Human Development and Family Studies

Human Development and Family Studies used to have multiple people handling administrative tasks but are now down to just one: Mary Jane. She has proactively absorbed many responsibilities as others have retired and not been replaced. Mary Jane maintains a positive and helpful outlook in a role where a million things need to be done, seemingly always on short notice. She is highly skilled in time management, task analysis, and productive collaboration. She has established strategies that allow her to manage multiple large projects at once and still ensure that small tasks don’t slip through the cracks. She is proactive in communicating with others, and strikes a nice balance between being persistent and patient. Her ability to analyze tasks into their components sets Mary Jane apart, allowing her to meet and exceed the needs and expectations of so many.

Ron Sykora, Registrar Specialist II/Veterans Certification Official, Office of the Registrar

Ron is the lead veteran’s certification official at Iowa State University, while also serving as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Army Reserve. He provides excellent service and patiently educates veterans and their dependents about their incredibly complex benefits, clarifying what they are eligible for, and which options are better than others. Parents and students often come to Ron when they are confused and frustrated after having received conflicting information or feeling passed from one agency to another. Ron knows the system so well that he can troubleshoot and help clear up problems due to errors in state and federal offices. Even other institutions have come to Ron with questions about veteran’s certification, which helps raise ISU’s reputation. When other institutions are asking ISU for assistance, we know he is bringing his best to the plate for ISU and its veteran students.

Sonya Nichols, Instructional Technologist II, CELT

Sonya went above and beyond while leading the implementation of Gradescope to transition the campus from using bubble sheet paper-based exams to a more versatile cloud-based solution. The transition impacted over 12,000 students and over 100 instructors in various disciplines. In the Fall of 2023, Sonya provided more than 30 training events to instructors and users, plus providing phone and ticket support. Sonya builds excellent relationships with faculty, who trust her expertise and count on Sonya to find effective and efficient answers to their questions. Sonya listens to their feedback and passionately advocates for Gradescope improvements. Sonya’s support has enabled ISU instructors to add innovative assignments, such as scanned and coding projects, while gaining grading efficiency.

Whitney Baker, Academic Advisor, College Of Liberal Arts and Sciences

In 2022, Whitney was tasked with creating a formal onboarding procedure for new advisors in the college, and providing ongoing training resources and events to retain current advisors. Whitney already had a large advising load and many responsibilities (also covering tasks because of vacant positions), and this leadership role was well beyond her "normal" duties at the time. Whitney dove right in. She is incredibly collaborative - she listens, and incorporates feedback from teammates, and strives to fully understand the context of a situation. Before this year, there was no formal or consistent training for new advisors, and many new advisors' early experiences were not good. Now, thanks to Whitney's leadership and dedication, LAS offers solid advisor training and a welcoming community. Whitney's nominator said, "I have met few individuals in my time advising that have the drive to make positive and impactful change and actually get the job done. Whitney gets it done."

Yamille Pérez, Assistant Director for Engineering Outreach and Talent Development, Engineering Student Services 

Yamille has shown consistent dedication to promoting STEM higher education among youth, particularly toward historically underrepresented groups. While part of this falls within her scope of duties, she also spends much of her personal time volunteering in this capacity. In particular, she mentors students attending the National Conference on Race and Ethnicity in Higher Education each year, is an active Society of Hispanic Professional Engineering member and helps plan their annual women's conference, and mentors Iowa State students in the Women of Color Network. All three roles are unpaid and provide excellent service to our Iowa State community. Her many and varied efforts have resulted in several synergistic projects designed to increase enrollment, create a welcoming environment on campus, and foster connections between several different departments on campus.

2023 CYtation Team Award Recipients

Communication Excellence Team

This team has phenomenal and complementary strengths. It performs extraordinarily well in taking leadership and ensuring that new initiatives are executed successfully, efficiently, and in alignment with the constantly changing needs of ISU’s graduate students and postdocs. Their collective performance consistently produces remarkable results, especially in the development of novel educational opportunities and resources, an area beyond their day-to-day job responsibilities. They efficiently prioritize tasks, manage time effectively, and utilize various software to streamline processes. This team has been pushing the boundaries to increase campus-wide awareness and availability of professional development resources for graduate students and postdocs. This past year, they executed 2,861 individual communication skill development consultations; 110 seminars, workshops, and boot camps; 11 graduate-level course sections; and facilitated 49 peer speaking and writing groups. One of their nominators said: "The CCE team’s transformative efforts have had and, I am positive, will continue to have a meaningful and potentially lasting impact on ISU as an institution. It would not be an understatement to say that they have altered the landscape of advancing ISU’s excellence in educational experience by equipping graduate students and postdocs with academic and professional communication skills and by providing a strong foundation for their professional success in diverse careers”

Team Members (left to right): Sarah Huffman, Kristin Terrill, and Lily Compton

Library Instruction Services Team

Emily and Kate were pivotal in the success of two large projects: first, revamping the final project for Honors LIB 160; and second, improving the New Student Orientation programming at Parks Library. The Honors project included creating and testing unique research questions for students to use and providing in-person and synchronous online instruction sessions. At the end of the class, Emily and Kate worked together to hand-grade and provide meaningful feedback to over 400 students! By increasing the rigor of the final project, providing research questions related to different fields of study, and offering synchronous instruction, they were able to highlight the practical application of the skills students learned in the class. In their evaluations, students said they felt more supported thanks to the increased instructor contact time, and multiple students also commented positively about how the skills they acquired while completing the final project will assist them in their future studies. The improved New Student Orientation programming involved creating a new promotional video, and recruiting, organizing, and training tour volunteers. Emily worked to align the video with University standards, and the final product has greatly enhanced incoming student and visitor experience. Emily and Kate’s work and organization has helped streamline and improve volunteer worker experience, especially for first-time volunteers. They have greatly enhanced these two areas and positively impacted incoming and current students’ experiences in ways that far exceed their standard job duties.

Team Members (left to right): Kate Garretson and Emily Simmons

Master of Professional Practice in Dietetics (MPPD) Team

The Master of Professional Practice in Dietetics program is competency-based, requiring ISU to track each student’s progress on required competencies and performance indicators- and tracking software comes with a hefty price tag. Anne and Leanne developed their own competency tracking system - streamlining faculty workload in an extraordinary way. It has saved hours of work, thousands of dollars, and removed quite a bit of stress. Not only did they build the system, but they monitor student progress in Canvas and advise course instructors when students are failing to meet requirements, allowing time for remediation in the current semester. This improves the on-time-graduation metric, which helps with program accreditation. Instead of merely addressing issues as they arise, Anne and Leanne consistently identify potential challenges, develop preemptive solutions and mentor team members on how to interpret the database reports when assessing competency progress for each MPPD student. To quote one department member, “It is not uncommon for Anne or Leanne to send an email with information that I will need, before I even knew I needed it. … [They] also include screenshots as needed, suggestions, or ideas to speed along the problem-solving process. … It is reassuring to know that both Anne and Leanne remain steadfast in their commitment to supporting our endeavors throughout this journey, and their invaluable contributions are integral to our program success.”

Team Members (left to right): Leanne Lauber and Anne Packard

The Seed Lab of the Seed Science Center Team

For over 120 years, the Seed Lab has worked to prevent the distribution of sick or substandard seeds within the US and internationally. But the Lab truly shined during and after the pandemic. Due to the limited capacity of other seed laboratories nationwide, the Lab went from testing 19,400 samples in 2021 to more than 30,200 samples in 2022 (a 55% increase) while expanding the varieties of seeds tested. During this boom, the Seed Lab team really rose to the occasion. They streamlined processes to complete analyses promptly and improved their online service system. In addition to serving and partnering with industry, farmers, and faculty and researchers, the Seed Lab team works with students, providing a practical and hands-on dimension to the theoretical knowledge gained in classrooms, fostering a generation of skilled professionals. The Seed Lab has become a valuable resource for disseminating knowledge and best practices to local communities, farmers, and organizations in the seed industry. Their contributions to their field have brought international attention to ISU attracting collaborations, partnerships, and students worldwide. By ensuring the availability of high-quality seeds, the Seed Lab is making a meaningful contribution to ensuring a sustainable and secure food supply around the world and for years to come.

Team Members (left to right): Back row: Drew Miller, Natalie Jacobson, Will Zastrow, Jessica Blake, Brooklynn Aamodt, Kaitlin Metzger, Susan Souhrada, Charles Block. Front row: Day Carrera, Daniela Avalos-Ochoa, Tess Howard. 
Not pictured: Michael Stahr, Kim North, Derrick Mayfield, and Gabriela Morel-Gadea

Workday Learning Implementation Team

The Workday Learning Implementation team demonstrated exceptional dedication to a project that meant many additional responsibilities, and a significant learning curve to many. This project has required ongoing engagement; each team member had to be actively involved and receptive to acquiring new skills. Throughout the development and implementation phases, team members actively encouraged each other to understand how individual roles intersected and recognized the limitations of both team members and the Workday Learning system. Rather than adhering solely to the implementation plan, the team engaged in continuous dialogue, questioning to ascertain the potential impacts of proposed changes on system functionality. These collaborative efforts extended across multiple Workday Student projects. Through an ongoing plan crafted by the implementation team, the system continuously evolves to match the university's needs. This team has provided learners a uniform experience when utilizing Workday Learning, which encourages them to return for essential compliance training and explore additional learning opportunities.

Team Members (left to right): Steven Couchman, Mindi Balmer, Raji Sivasubramanian, Autumn Schwartze, John Twitchell.
Not pictured: Kelly Walker, Melody Rudolph, Nathan Hannover, Ruth Schlotfeldt, and Tom Connolly

Click here to learn more about the Professional & Scientific Council CYtation Awards.