Western staff honored for their commitment to student, University success

Contact: Deanne Puca

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Western Michigan University's Tanya Bakija, Anetra Grice, Thomas Howe and Dawn Maynard will be recognized during Fall Convocation on Friday, Sept. 16, for making a difference in the campus community.

The four staff members are recipients of the annual Make a Difference Award, one of the highest accolades bestowed upon nonfaculty employees by Western, and chosen from the Make a Difference Award semiannual recipients selected in the fall and spring.

The annual award recipients will be recognized during the event beginning at 11:30 a.m. in the North Ballroom on the second floor of the Bernhard Center. Also receiving awards at convocation are recipients of four other prestigious campuswide honors: Distinguished Faculty Scholar, Distinguished Service, Distinguished Teaching and Emerging Scholar awards.

Annual recipients

Tanya Bakija

Tanya Bakija

Bakija wears many hats in her role as coordinator of exhibitions for the Frostic School of Art. She is a registrar, preparator and designer, and she is able to keep pace with the expectations that arise from each of these roles, according to those who nominated her.

She is committed to transforming how students, faculty, staff and off-campus patrons view the galleries and the experiences they have there. 

“One of the most incredible aspects of working with Tanya is that she is definitely able to find the bright side in nearly every situation. Despite all the challenges of the pandemic and its aftermath, Tanya remains a powerful force in our exhibitions office and is most deserving of this recognition,” her nomination states.

She is praised for her commitment to the galleries and working to “actually make a difference in how our students, faculty, staff and off-campus patrons view us and the kinds of experiences we can provide.”

Anetra Grice

Anetra Grice

As STEM Talent Expansion Program (STEP) manager with the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Grice has been a "tireless champion for students," whether as an academic advisor, instructor or registered student organization faculty advisor, the nomination states.

“She is always willing to step in where help is needed to ensure students have access to the tools they need to succeed," her colleagues say. This includes helping students improve their math skills and laying the foundation for future success in their major; developing skills and behaviors for academic, personal and professional success; and nurturing the personal and professional development of members of the Society of Women Engineers.

She also cares for others as she stepped in to care for the young daughter of a close friend after their untimely death, providing a safe, welcoming home during a turbulent time.

Thomas Howe

Thomas Howe

Howe, senior specialist and co-director of the Hydrogeology Field Course in the Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences, directly advises one of the longest-standing registered student organizations on campus, the Geology Club, and acts as an advocate for the organization.

He is a local volunteer and mentor; participates in a wide range of outreach activities in the region; assists graduate students and faculty with research ideas, labs and activities; leads tours; and develops interactive displays and research opportunities for undergraduate students.

“He has often stated that the most rewarding part of their position is in helping students be successful in their studies and seeing them achieve success after they graduate,” the nomination reads.

Howe also shows his own dedication to lifelong learning by continuing to take classes every semester while being employed at Western.

Dawn Maynard

Dawn Maynard

Maynard, a utility person with Valley Dining Services, was nominated for her outstanding performance at the University as well as her relationships with its students.

She is a liaison between the Valley Dining Center and the various repair workers, including plumbers, electricians and handypersons, and is responsible for setting up and maintaining the dishwashing area to ensure workers are following proper sanitation protocols.

Maynard "works so diligently and takes to heart all the little things that might otherwise get missed in a facility this big. She provides wonderful direction to our student employees who are assigned to help her," the nomination states.

Her relationship with students is personal and genuine—besides knowing a great number of them by name, she took several international students shopping at Christmastime.

Want to recognize excellence this FALL SEMESTER?

The University is now seeking nominations for the 2022-23 fall semiannual cycle. Nominate a colleague now through Oct. 31.

If you know of a co-worker or staff member who is a Staff Compensation System, AFSCME, MSEA or POA employee and deserves to be honored for outstanding service to Western, use one of the options below to nominate them for a Make a Difference award. There are semiannual and annual awards available to those who provide exceptional services to the University.

A committee of peers will select award recipients based on your comments rather than the individual's reputation, title or position. Provide specific information and use descriptive examples in support of your nominee to assure this person gets the full consideration deserved. For selection criteria and detailed program information, view the program guidelines.

For more WMU news, arts and events, visit WMU News online.