Every year, our Department celebrates our excellent staff with three awards.
This year, the awardees are:
Jhon Cimmino – Donna Braxton Staff Excellence Award (top comments)
Shane Brogan – Team Player Award (top comments)
Cassandra Houston – Personal Achievement Award (top comments)
Below are some of the top comments the committee received in the nominations.
I have been working with Jhon very closely in the past 5 months as the new DUS. Jhon has been instrumental to my transition into this role. From the beginning, Jhon helped me navigate several of the University websites, which I needed to access to fulfill my duties as DUS. He also helped with the submission of the several curriculum changes that were proposed by the US&A committee, as well as with the submission of the new Astro courses. These went over multiple iterations and keeping track of all changes proposed was quite a challenge. In addition to that, he closely worked with me to change part of our website. A duty that he could have delegated to someone else, but that he decided to take on. During the past months, Jhon has been very responsive, responsible, and very good at his job. Jhon is the kind of person you can rely on. If you have a question, he either gives you the answer or addresses you to the right person. We were truly fortunate to have someone like him so invested in this Department and seeing him go is a true disappointment.
I have nominated several staff members for awards over the years, all deserving, but I have never worked with a staff member as committed to departmental service as Jhon Cimmino. It’s impossible not to notice that Jhon is unusually proactive and communicative when handling requests related to scheduling, course submissions, student enrollment, and other core duties of his position. He very obviously cares about the success of our students and our department. In his service to the Undergraduate Studies Committee, he suggests (and produces) data to inform committee deliberations, and he offers helpful ideas informed by his close interactions with students and broad knowledge of campus advising and allyship efforts. In his service to the Website committee, he makes the department look good by taking the initiative to post news items, create new web pages with career preparation resources, and tweet P&A highlights to the world. When Joaquin Drut was on leave, Jhon served as the de facto leader of the Website committee, proposing and implementing changes, always in consultation with faculty and students yet promoting his own vision of a more diverse and supportive community. This brings me to his superstar role on the Diversity Committee. As Staff Diversity Liaison, Jhon has been so much more than just a voice for staff. He worked closely with students to produce a widely acclaimed LGBTQ+ Allyship in the Classroom workshop, thus far attended by 22 faculty and 21 TAs. He proposed and single-handedly produced the new Ally Spotlight interview series, thus far featuring Maggie Jensen and Joaquin Drut, so as to inspire others to follow in their footsteps. He has been an enthusiastic organizer of several all-department events held by the Diversity Committee, helping to moderate interactions between staff, students, and faculty, and making all feel welcome and heard. At the same time, he is the fastest on the committee to turn talk into action, whether it is completing bystander intervention training to inform the development of a custom training for the department, writing a nomination letter for an undergraduate diversity liaison to win an award, or creating a new web page compiling mental health resources (requested and delivered today!). Honestly, Jhon has done so much for the Physics & Astronomy Department, he will take some of our heart and soul with him when he leaves. His service to the department rises to the level of the Donna Braxton Staff Excellence Award.
Jhon is one of the most competent staff employees this dept has ever seen. Jhon not only has the answers to anything in their wheelhouse, but often has extra answers as well as insights, and can also supply a student perspective. On the rare occasion that there isn’t an immediate answer, Jhon knows how to get it. Jhon hits all the criteria for the award: creativity, innovation, leadership. I’ve seen Jhon figure out thorny registration issues, and in particular, they act more like a team member than a staffer when it comes to classroom assignments, room reservations, and enrollment caps. Finally, Jhon is often proactive for special responsibilities that I have in the department and is a genuinely nice person.
The intro segment of 5 or so courses thoroughly dominates this department from the standpoint of a number of students as well as issues requiring interface with the administration, the chair, and the DUS. Jhon seamlessly handles every task and issue with promptness and integrity.
As far as I’m concerned, Jhon should get this award every year. Too bad raises or bonuses are out of the question – when Jhon’s gone, I will be surprised if we can find someone as good!
Shane has been on campus during the pandemic and worked hard with all groups, making sure labs were set up, virtual and otherwise while gaining more video processing skills. He always has a positive attitude and willingness to help anyone in need during an already crazy year!
This past year we are going by a complete redesign of our 481L laboratory class, Shane has worked with me to move tools, install machines, and prepare the space for the class. There was a lot of cleaning house too – not fun work that needed to be done. Shane really has worked very diligently with me to do all these changes. He is really involved in it and I think he is going beyond his nominal responsibilities to help out.
Shane is always juggling a lot (like everyone), but this semester has managed every last-minute request to find (or fix) a demonstration that hasn’t been used in multiple semesters because of the pandemic (or was moved in the demo room shuffle). He has also gained many additional video processing skills and is happy to help with additional tasks in an already insane semester. He is reachable over the weekend and is always positive and helpful when last-minute changes are made – has “saved the day” a couple of times this semester!
Cassandra Houston – Personal Achievement Award
This year Cassandra has done an excellent job responding fast and solving problems for my group.
She is always on top of organization and logistics (both financial and workflow minutiae) for the nano-science group. there are very few people that I trust more to get a job done thoroughly and on time. frequently she sees the task and completes it before anyone else even notices it needs to be done.
Cassandra has done an excellent job this year. She has made sure new employees with work to which she supervises is done to the best ability possible to benefit the faculty and the department. She has trained several new employees this year and has maintained her workload, taken on a portion of the workload from another faculty member, AND done this while navigating through personal issues. Cassandra is truly a great nominee for Staff Excellence.
Cassandra has been very helpful and a HUGE part of my proposal training. She always makes time to help me if needed and is patient and easy to talk to. She has a lot on her plate with both work and her knee surgeries, she is always there when needed.