Western staff honored for making a difference for students, University success

Contact: Deanne Puca

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Western Michigan University's Denise Champion, Lisah Crall, Andrew Francisco and Scott Hennessy will be recognized during the Fall Awards Celebration on Friday, Sept. 29, 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. They are chosen from the Make a Difference Award semiannual recipients selected in the fall and spring.

President Edward Montgomery and Dr. Julian Vasquez Heilig, provost and vice president for academic affairs, will lead the celebration, which also recognizes faculty and staff for excellence in teaching, research, service and diversity efforts. The celebration in Kirsch Auditorium of the Fetzer Center begins at 11 a.m. with a luncheon to follow and concludes at 1:30 p.m. The annual event also recognizes recipients of Distinguished Faculty Scholar, Distinguished Service, Distinguished Teaching, Excellence in Diversity and Emerging Scholar awards.


Denise Champion

Denise Champion

Champion, custodian with Building and Custodial Support Services, has mastered the art of outstanding internal and external customer service as she responds to the University’s shareholders with equal amounts of interest, concern and action.

Those who nominated Champion for the award said she provides a clean and safe environment for students, faculty, staff and visitors of Ellsworth Hall, “always doing it with a friendly smile and greeting for other staff in the building.”

“Denise is a true Bronco and team player, even when her team consists of 150 people whose names she knows simply from greeting them in the morning,” her nomination states. “Denise has a Ph.D. in positive attitude and wrote her dissertation on ‘How to Promote a Positive Image of WMU’ while wearing a vacuum pack.”

Lisah Crall

Lisah Crall

Crall, training specialist in the Budget Office of the College of Arts and Sciences, has been actively involved in the college with diversity and inclusive training, says her colleagues. She goes above and beyond to support people as they train for a new position and is an outstanding problem solver who has great compassion for her job, the nomination states.

“She helped me find services on campus that I didn’t even know were available to me. Lisah made my transition to become a faculty member at WMU extremely smooth and enjoyable,” writes one nominator.

Another noted her personal attention to students and a faculty member, writing, “The morning following a recent earthquake in Turkey, she personally contacted each of our Turkish students and a Turkish faculty member to see if they needed help or support. She is the type of colleague that makes you want to do better—a difference maker in every sense of the phrase.”

Andrew Francisco

Andrew Francisco

Francisco, associate director of culinary operations for Dining Services, is vastly knowledgeable in food selection, preparation and display, which has allowed him to pivot at the Valley Dining Center when faced with challenges such as fewer staff or unavailable ingredients.

“When we were short staffed, he eliminated some of the more time-consuming foods and substituted some healthy, tasty alternatives. When we have been unable to receive certain products, he has either changed a recipe or substituted a menu so we can continue providing great meals,” a nomination states, adding that includes thousands of meals a day.

He is working with Kalamazoo Valley Community College to establish an internship with Western’s Dining Services, including creating manuals and set-up guides.

“He is always so upbeat and friendly, and our chefs feel extremely comfortable in approaching him with questions or suggestions,” writes his colleagues.

Scott Hennessy

Scott Hennessy

Hennessy, senior associate director of admissions for the Office of Admissions, is a supervisor that one employee states, “I believe everyone could learn from his leadership.”

During the past 15 years, Hennessy served as a supervisor and mentor to a student who ultimately became a full-time employee and writes, “He routinely supports my work to make sure employees receive the recognition they deserve,” adding “As a supervisor, he annually checks in to see what his employees enjoy most about the job and make time to do more of what we enjoy in the workplace.”

Hie leadership style has “ingrained in us a culture of understanding, trustworthiness and transparency in this office that will last even when he decides to move to another role,” the nominator adds.

“He has been a source of support, humor and guidance for hundreds of WMU employees throughout the years. He embodies everything that bleeding brown and gold is all about,” the nomination states.

Recognizing excellence

The University is now seeking nominations for the 2023-24 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.