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October 25, 2001

Oct. 31 deadline for staff award nominations

There's still time to nominate staff mem- bers for this year's Chancellor's Distinguished Service Award for Staff, the highest award that Pitt grants to staff members. The award is offered in recognition of staff contributions to the University through job performance and community service. The deadline for nominations is Oct. 31.

According to Robert G. Houston of Student Affairs, who chairs the awards committee, "This award shows that the chancellor recognizes staff as vital both with regard to the quality of this institution and the high-quality contributions staff make to the surrounding community, with community service, charity work and so forth. It's also a great opportunity for staff to recognize their peers by nominating them."

First awarded in 1997, the staff award parallels the three annual awards given to faculty for distinguished teaching, research and public service. Up to five $2,500 staff awards are granted annually. Winners are recognized at the University's annual honors convocation and with a listing of their names on a permanent plaque in the William Pitt Union. The awards are expected to be announced in December at the annual long-term staff recognition ceremony.

Houston has chaired the awards committee for four years. "Typically, the vast majority of nominations pour in in the last few days. I think the first year we had the award there were in the neighborhood of 70 nominations. We've leveled off some."

Rich Colwell, vice president for steering of the Staff Association Council (SAC) who has served as an awards committee member in the past, said, "There are some myths about the award that should be corrected. First, you can be nominated more than once, even if you've won the award in the past. Second, being nominated and not winning is still an honor. I know there are many outstanding staff around who should be nominated even if they don't win. They deserve that recognition." He said SAC is looking for ways to honor staff who were nominated but do not win, perhaps with recognition in the SAC publication, "SAC Tracks."

Colwell said there had been confusion in past years about whether the committee considered job performance in its evaluation of candidates. "The awards committee considers outside-the-University activities and extra effort on the job, be it saving the department money or being supportive of other staff or volunteering through the Volunteer Pool or Day of Caring," he said.

He added that nominated staff have a fair amount to do "because you are asked to provide verification from organizations you've volunteered for."

Houston said nominations must include at minimum a letter that identifies the way a nominee meets the award criteria and, where possible, should include supporting materials about the nominee's exceptional job performance.

"Once I get the nomination, I send a letter thanking the nominator, and I contact the nominee to provide any supporting materials from agencies or volunteer organizations," he said.

There are two main criteria for the award, according to the guidelines issued by the chancellor's office. First, the candidate must have demonstrated "a consistent pattern of extraordinary dedication to the University above and beyond the candidate's job responsibilities." Second, the candidate must have demonstrated voluntary service activity at the University or in the local community or with professional organizations.

Barbara Mowery, president of SAC, said that some consideration had been given to requesting that the chancellor offer two awards, one for exceptional job performance and one for community service. "But job performance is measured in so many ways and we couldn't come up with a common pattern for evaluation," Mowery said. "We will talk about this at SAC and look at how other universities do it."

Houston said the Carnegie Mellon has an annual "Andrew Award" for staff based solely on job performance. "But we have a very viable process in place that gives us latitude to recognize a variety of contributions a staff member makes, both at the University and outside it." He added that the key word in the award's title is "service."

This year's awards committee members include Houston; Mowery; Renee Frazier of the University Challenge for Excellence Program; prior award-winner Steve Zupcic of Community and Governmental Relations; regional campus representative Brenda Pardini of the Johnstown campus, and one staff member from Human Resources who is as yet unidentified.

Ron Frisch, associate vice chancellor for Human Resources, serves as a non-voting member of the committee. According to Frisch, "The Chancellor's Distinguished Service Award for Staff provides an excellent opportunity for the University community to recognize the outstanding accomplishments of classified staff members who dedicate their time, talents and enthusiasm to many University and community undertakings on a regular basis. Often times the deeds of these talented individuals go unnoticed. These awards allow us to say thank you to our colleagues for their outstanding contributions to society."

All classified staff members, including part-timers, who have worked at Pitt for three years or more are eligible. Staff members who have been nominated in prior years, including past award winners, may be re-nominated, but nomination letters and supporting material must be re-submitted for consideration.

Anyone in the University community, including faculty, students and alumni, may nominate a staff member for an award.

Nomination materials should be sent to Robert G. Houston, 130 William Pitt Union, by Oct. 31. Nomination forms were sent to all staff last month. Forms also are available, as is more information about the awards, by calling 412/648-1006.

–Peter Hart

Filed under: Feature,Volume 34 Issue 5

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