KALAMAZOO—During its Friday, Sept. 21, Academic Convocation, Western Michigan University will present its 2011-12 Annual Make a Difference Award to four staff members being honored for their exceptional service contributions.
This prestigious honor is reserved for WMU's most outstanding non-faculty employees—those who reach far beyond their assigned responsibilities to give generously and creatively of their time and talents, making the University an even finer place to work and study.
2011-12 Annual Make a Difference Awardees
- Myra L. Currie, parking clerk in the Department of Public Safety
- Christin Fawley-Zehner, first cook in the Valley I Dining Service
- Rainer B. Liebert, physical therapist in the Sindecuse Health Center
- Jessica Parker, academic advisor in Extended University Programs
Each of the four will receive a $1,200 before-tax prize and be honored during WMU's annual Academic Convocation, set for 2 p.m. in the Dalton Center Recital Hall.
During the convocation, WMU President John M. Dunn will also present his State of the University address and recognize the eight recipients of WMU's other annual campuswide awards: the 2012 Distinguished Teaching, Distinguished Service and Emerging Scholar awards.
The WMU Make a Difference awards program is a campuswide peer-to-peer recognition program. It began in 1994 as the Staff Service Excellence award program and was revised, expanded and renamed Make a Difference in 2004. The program features semiannual awards that go to a maximum of 15 people. The annual awards are given to each academic year's top-four semiannual award recipients—the best of the best. The 2011-12 annual award recipients were chosen from among last year's 23 semiannual award winners.
Myra L. Currie
Currie joined the staff in 2008 as a parking enforcement officer and was promoted to parking clerk six months later. Nominators commended her for her efficiency, bringing a valuable skill set to parking services and continually assisting both co-workers and supervisors.
"Since the beginning of her employment in public safety, Myra has always taken the initiative to do more and taken on additional tasks without being asked," one nominator wrote. "Myra is efficient and offers suggestions to improve our business processes."
Currie was repeatedly praised for how quickly she learned her unit's new parking management system as well as her assistance in teaching colleagues how to use it and her suggestions for ways to tailor it to WMU's specific needs. She also was praised for her accounting prowess and willingness to help other public safety offices reconcile their money and credit card charges.
"[Myra] consistently goes above and beyond her normal job descriptions and duties. She often takes a leadership position in the office and helps to resolve issues when the manager and director are absent," another nominator wrote. "She never overlooks a job or duty. A job is never left undone, even when it is not her responsibility."
Fawley-Zehner joined the staff in 1976 as a utility food worker and by 1981, had risen to first cook. A well-rounded employee, she has had multiple assignments in WMU's custodial and landscape units during summers, when fewer students are on campus and most dining halls close.
As first cook, Fawley-Zehner leads the cooking team in the Valley 1 Dining Hall. She is well known for ensuring food freshness and reducing waste as well as advocating for students and sharing her cooking knowledge.
"Her contributions are significant to our students' experience at WMU. [Christin] takes pride in her work in that she methodically follows all best practices to assure quality food preparation and presentation," one nominee wrote. "[She] is a positive leader in her dining unit and goes above and beyond her job to assure that students have a positive and memorable experience at WMU."
Her nominators cited Fawley-Zehner for taking a special interest in students, often spending her own time and money to decorate Valley I for special events and to show her appreciation for all 80 of the dining hall's student workers. In addition, she surpasses the expectations of students who have dietary challenges and is a caring and effective teacher and mother figure to the high school students participating in her hall's hospitality vocational experience.
One student wrote that she goes beyond her job to give students who dine in Valley 1 a "home away from home" and "it all comes from the heart." Meanwhile, a supervisor noted that she continually gives herself: "She never fails to amaze me with her generosity," the supervisor commented. "She willingly shares her ideas, creativity, decorating skills and personal time and resources to make our unit a special place for every employee and all customers."
Rainer B. Liebert
Liebert joined the staff in in 2000 in his current capacity as a physical therapist in the Sindecuse Health Center's Sports Medicine Clinic. He was nominated as much for his everyday thoughtfulness as for his knowledge, passion and skills as a physical therapist. In describing Liebert's commitment to service, his nominators used the story of an international student arriving a week early to campus as an example of how the WMU staffer goes the extra mile, leaving a big impression in the process.
The student, thinking he would move into his residence hall and start his campus job right away, arrived with no money and no place to stay. He went to Sindecuse's Sports Medicine Clinic and looked up Liebert, someone who had previously treated him but whom he not seen for nearly a year. Liebert contacted the appropriate WMU offices so housing and other resources could be arranged, then hosted the student for the weekend and collected food items for him the following week.
"In a time in our society when recognizing and then doing the right thing seems to be out of step with many people, it reminded me that those values are not out of step with some," one nominator wrote. "The WMU community is fortunate to have employees with heart, like Rainer, who quietly step up to do the right thing."
Parker joined the staff in 2006 as a student services representative in Bronco Express Services and was promoted to academic advisor in Extended University Programs two years later. A variety of nominators praised her outstanding professional expertise and her unfailing dedication to students.
"More than any other employees on our staff, this nominee is recognized by students for making a significant difference in their lives," one of Parker's colleagues wrote. "Many of the students are working adults, and this nominee helps them to balance their schedules, life demands and courses in a way that will lead to success."
Several former advisees submitted nominations, one writing: "Due to Jessica's patience and diligence, I am proud and pleased to say that I am a WMU graduate." "Jessica has been my rock at Western," another commented. "I am indebted to her kindness and the respect she has shown me."
Nominations from Parker's colleagues expressed similar to themes. "She has proven that she is a fantastic co-worker and an exemplary supervisor," one wrote. "Her upbeat, positive attitude is only rivaled by her fierce determination to assist her students first and foremost, and make sure every student who walks through those doors gets the assistance they need."