Six SRU employees recognized for their outstanding service
Six Slippery Rock University employees are being presented the 2021 President's Awards for Outstanding Service for their work during the past year in everything from pandemic response and technology to work on University accreditation committees.
March 31, 2021
SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. — All Slippery Rock University employees had to raise their level of service to meet demands presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, but a few SRU employees particularly rose to the occasion and have been recognized by their peers as outstanding. Given the circumstances of the past year, the 2021 President's Awards for Outstanding Service are being presented to six co-recipients.
Established in 1981 and funded by SRU supporters, the late Donna and Robert McMullen, '51, the award recognizes extraordinary commitment to University service and citizenship beyond the scope of an employee's job function as demonstrated through active participation in on- and off-campus activities that benefit the University. Doug McMullen, an SRU Foundation, Inc. board member, and his wife, Linda, continue to sponsor the award.
Nominations for the award are solicited from and reviewed by nominees' supervisors before they are forwarded to members of the president's cabinet who select the winner or winners.
Five co-recipients of the award were recognized for their service related to the University's response to the COVID-19 pandemic by protecting the health and safety of the campus community and providing support to transition operations to remote settings. They include Kris Benkeser, director of student health services; Scott Albert, assistant vice president for facilities, planning and environmental safety; Windy Stafford, director of emergency management and University investigator; Erik Anderson, technology services manager; and Henry Magusiak, director of enterprise technologies.
A sixth co-recipient, Rebecca Morrice, associate professor of theatre and department chair, was recognized primarily for her role as self-study co-chair of SRU's steering committee that is leading the University through the process of its reaffirmation of accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Benkeser has led SRU's COVID-19 response and mitigation efforts on several fronts as director of Student Health Services, a division of 31 employees, including 19 full-time nurses and staff. They provide 24/7 care for students through the Student Health Center, as well as non-clinical services such as health promotions and programming and the University's public health response. During the pandemic, Benkeser has led planning and care for students who become sick or become close contacts and need to be isolated or quarantined. She's worked closely with government health agencies, hospitals, pharmacies and testing labs, while also leading the implementation of the University's COVID-19 testing center.
"I'm most proud of how we adapted," Benkeser said. "I'm very blessed to work with a wonderful set of colleagues and outstanding employees in health and wellness, from Disability Services and Campus Recreation to our Student Health Services and mass testing staff. They truly are the outstanding performers every day."
As evidence of the effectiveness of SRU's COVID-19 response, the total number of positive student cases at the midpoint of the spring 2021 semester was 44% lower than the cumulative cases through the first half of the fall 2020 semester.
"It's a great honor to be nominated by colleagues who you respect deeply and value your work and contributions," Benkeser said. "We're all in it together, and we're all going to get through it together, but everyone's been bringing their best, and that's hard to do when you're in this pandemic that seems like a marathon."
Albert also has been a leader and safety advocate in SRU's COVID-19 planning and mitigation efforts, working across multiple internal departments as well as externally with Slippery Rock Borough and Township officials. Albert made critical decisions regarding appropriate staffing levels and managing facilities, ensuring that campus buildings are safe and clean throughout the pandemic.
"I was truly surprised and I am humbled by this honor," Albert said. "This honor is not only a reflection of my contributions to SRU, but also of the entire Facilities, Planning and Environmental Safety team. They have rose to the challenge over this past year while dealing with reduced staffing and resources. I am proud to serve them and to work with them in making campus safer for our students, staff and faculty."
Stafford works within the Office of Emergency Management and works closely with Facilities and Planning. As part of her role directing emergency management, Stafford addressed a variety of safety concerns around campus, developing response protocols, investigating cases, monitoring exposures among employees and ensuring that buildings and working spaces were adapted or adjusted to keep faculty, staff and students safe during the pandemic.
"I am honored to be recognized by my peers and for the work that I've done on behalf of our students, faculty and staff, especially during such a uniquely stressful time in our world," Stafford said.
On the technology front, Anderson has helped facilitate equipment and support for faculty, staff and students who are working and taking classes in remote settings. As part of SRU's Information and Administrative Technology Services division, Anderson has assisted with hardware support, remote help desk support, security management and special event support. This has included everything from the installation of more than 160 new classroom webcams to the loaning of laptop computers and establishing internet connections for remote students and employees.
"I am extremely honored to receive this recognition," Anderson said. "There are so many individuals at SRU who have and continue to work tirelessly to make it all function, and they are also deserving of this award. I am proud to be a part of these efforts. This past year has made us all realize just how important technology is to our success. While I appreciate the recognition, I could not have provided this service without the dedication and exceptional efforts of my team and others we rely on for support and assistance."
Magusiak, who also works in SRU's IATS division, was closely involved with the transition to a remote setting, including the deployment of hardware, but he also provided support and expertise related to the University's new virtual private network technology that allowed nearly 400 employees to access the campus network and critical files. Magusiak also oversaw new phone applications and cybersecurity measures, as well as consulted on behalf of the University on the implementation of applications related to student COVID-19 testing.
"I am honored to be selected for this important service award," Magusiak said. "IATS is committed to providing the best services possible for the campus. I did not expect such an award but I am thankful to be recognized. It has been a huge effort by my team over the last year and would have not been successful without them."
Morrice has been instrumental in the time-intensive task of leading SRU through its Middle States reaccreditation process, which began in 2017 and is expected to be completed this spring. She has organized an evidence inventory, led steering committee meetings and compiled and edited SRU's 119-page self-study report. In addition to her role on the Middle States steering committee, she has been active on the University Curriculum Committee, has helped reinvent the way the Theatre Department has delivered its productions in virtual settings, and has assisted her department's transition into a new facility in the renovated Performing Arts Complex that was completed in 2021.
"I am genuinely grateful for the acknowledgement that comes with this recognition and would like to offer that everything I have accomplished at SRU has been while working as a part of a team," Morrice said. "Whether that be with the Theatre Department productions, my work with UCC, or on the Middle States Self-Study, I have been blessed with having an excellent team of dedicated colleagues and students who have supported my efforts. I share this recognition with all of them."
Each of the recipients of the President's Awards for Outstanding Service will receive a $1,000 cash award. More information about the award, including past winners and the nomination process, are available on the SRU website.
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