Faculty and Staff Honored Through New Presidential Employee Excellence Recognition Program
The first recipients of the Presidential Employee Excellence Recognition Awards were celebrated Monday during a ceremony at the Rutgers Club.
The awards recognize individuals and teams for their service to students and employees, for their role in cultivating a beloved community, for making a lasting difference beyond the university’s borders and for excellence in their work.
About 100 members of the Rutgers community were honored during the ceremony.
President Jonathan Holloway announced the new awards program, a recommendation of the Future of Work Task Force, in July and invited faculty and staff from across the university to nominate their colleagues.
“I am deeply gratified to say that in this program’s very first year, and at a very busy time for everyone, we received a wide array of nominations putting forward literally hundreds of Rutgers employees for recognition,’’ Holloway said during the ceremony. “That in itself is a testament to the commitment to excellence that individuals and teams are making every day throughout Rutgers.
“Today we celebrate those who do so much for our students, for our employees, for the university itself and for the broader society,’’ Holloway said.
Here are this year’s recipients.
Rutgers Gateway Award (Service to Students)
Recognizes staff, faculty or a team of employees who go to exceptional lengths to remove barriers and provide access to those pursuing a Rutgers education. The selected individual or team recognizes the value of a diverse student body and the challenges that students often face and seeks to make education more accessible and attainable.
Individual Honoree: Sasha Taner, Program Director and Research Coordinator
Rutgers University-New Brunswick
Institute for Women’s Leadership
In her 17 years with the Institute for Women’s Leadership (IWL), Sasha Taner has made innumerable and valuable contributions to undergraduates. She has sought to educate students about women’s leadership and to address institutional barriers and personal challenges faced by students, especially immigrant students and students of color. She exemplifies the dedication, empathy and generosity that distinguish those faculty and staff members who go out of their way to support Rutgers students and their success. As one new alumna put it: “Sasha lives and breathes the idea of women supporting women.”
Team honoree: Douglass College Advancing Women in Computer Science
Rutgers University-New Brunswick
Lydia Prendergast | Uli Kremer | Ana Paula Centeno | Margaret Cozzens | David Pennock | Hayet Bensetti-Benbader | Sangya Varma
In 2016, Advancing Women in Computer Science (AWiCS) was born with the mission of increasing representation of undergraduate women majoring, minoring and graduating in computer science and related disciplines. A partnership between the Department of Computer Science, Douglass Residential College and DIMACS (the Center for Discrete Mathematics and Theoretical Computer Science), AWiCS developed and implemented a series of interventions to increase women’s presence in the computer science major and minor and related disciplines at Rutgers.
Rutgers Gateway Award (Service to Employees)
Recognizes staff, faculty or a team of employees who go to exceptional lengths to remove barriers to build a more positive work environment, improve employee engagement and morale and create operational efficiencies through forward-thinking process improvements. The recipient or recipients recognize the value of a diverse workforce and encourage cross-departmental teamwork to address shared challenges and improve workplace culture.
Individual Honoree: Keith P. Lewis,
Professor and Chair
Robert Wood Johnson Medical School Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine
Keith P. Lewis actively promotes a healthy workplace culture, fosters professional relationships and works to enhance operational efficiency while maintaining a strong focus on patient safety and stewardship of university resources. Through the creation of patient-centered initiatives, he works to reduce pain, suffering and life-threatening complications and is committed to improving efficiency. He also advocated for a zero-tolerance policy for unprofessional behavior and promoted a kindness campaign tailored to individual patient needs.
Team Honoree: OIT Enterprise Service Delivery – Service Management Office and Platform team
Vladimir Gabrielescu | Leonard Ambos | Victor Brusca | Rae Clarke | Patrick Cotter | Bryan Loniewski | Gabriel Szabo| Peter Wright | Deborah McDaniel | Bharat Desai | Christopher Hart-Ruiz | Naj Junaid | Jiancy Moreno-Lassalle | Mrunal Nawathe | Brett Smilen | Michele Williams
The Rutgers IT Service Management Office and Platform team have been pivotal in delivering efficient and effective IT services throughout the university. They are committed to unifying service delivery, simplifying processes, transforming the data experience and promoting excellence through ServiceNow and industry best practices. The introduction of the Rutgers IT Help portal provides a central hub for accessing IT services, requesting assistance, and finding resources. This team's focus on streamlining departmental activities is crucial in refining IT service delivery in the higher education space. These efforts allow academic units and departments across Rutgers to focus on their core competencies, support the overall mission of the university and aid faculty and staff in their delivery of service to the students of Rutgers University.
Rutgers University Spirit Award
Celebrates differences and recognizes significant contributions to cultivating a beloved community – one in which all members work together and are heard at the university. This individual or team exemplifies this commitment by promoting and advancing dialogue, mutual respect and a spirit of belonging to create a healthy Rutgers ecosystem.
Individual Honoree: Rena Gitlitz, Sr. Director of Community Based Services
Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care
Rena Gitlitz is lauded for her commitment to the safety and well-being of her staff, particularly those who work in the community in potentially unsafe conditions, by implementing safety training and conducting reviews after incidents. She has fostered a supportive and collaborative work environment within the department, enhancing communication, respect and a sense of community among staff. Gitlitz’s leadership has led to significant improvements in departmental processes, increasing efficiency and productivity. Gitlitz has also prioritized safety, particularly for outreach workers, creating a safer workplace for those providing community-based services. She has actively advanced diversity, equity and inclusion at the university, leading initiatives that foster a more inclusive and diverse organizational culture.
Team Honoree: Rutgers University-Camden Driving Change Community
Camden College of Arts and Sciences
Aditya Birla | Naima Hall | Amy Savage | Bailey Blessing | Carla Villacis | Carly Hart | Emily Wood | Sunil Shende | Haydee Herrera-Guzman | Jeannie Garmon | Jennifer Oberle | Jesse Sandberg | Julianne Griepenburg | Julie Roncinske | Kate Blair | Kimberlee Moran | Nathan Fried | Kwangwon Lee | Kylie Jenkins | Suneeta Ramaswami
The Rutgers University-Camden Driving Change Community (RUC-DC) is focused on promoting diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in STEM education through institutional culture transformation. Their efforts began with a year-long self-study to evaluate DEI in STEM on campus, using surveys, focus groups and interviews, leading to public reports and workshops aimed at addressing the challenges identified. RUC-DC’s actions have led to the development of Self-Paced Pre-courses (SPPs) for foundational science courses to help level the educational playing field, particularly benefiting students from non-Advanced Placement backgrounds. RUC-DC’s continuous dedication to DEI is exemplified by their inclusive events and storytelling platforms that highlight the personal DEI experiences of community members, underlining the institution's commitment to fostering an empathetic and inclusive culture and advancing the integration of DEI principles in STEM education at Rutgers-Camden.
Rutgers Outstanding Service Award
Recognizes faculty, staff or a team that demonstrate a relentless determination to make a lasting difference beyond the university’s borders. The recipient displays a demonstrated commitment to moving society toward a greater common good and encourage constructive collaboration in service to our local and global communities.
Individual Honoree: JoAnn Arnholt, Director Fraternity and Sorority Affairs
Rutgers University-New Brunswick
Fraternity and Sorority Affairs
JoAnn Arnholt has served as the adviser to the Rutgers University Dance Marathon for more than 25 years. The first annual Dance Marathon took place in March of 1999 after she was able to gain the support of the Interfraternity and Panhellenic Council presidents. The event raised $113,000. From this humble beginning, Dance Marathon has quickly become one of the most anticipated events at Rutgers as well as the largest student run philanthropic event in the state of New Jersey. To date, the Rutgers University Dance Marathon has donated over $10 million to the Embrace Kids Foundation in New Brunswick.
Team Honoree: Rutgers Legal Clinics Faculty and Staff
Rutgers Law School
Rutgers University-Newark and Rutgers University-Camden
Meredith Schalick | Sandra Simkins | Victoria Chase | Denise Higgins | Ashley Maddison | Karma Williams | Caryn Schreiber | Taylor De La Peña | Elizabeth Yaeger | Joanne Gottesman | Nyssa Taylor | Jason Hernandez | Mary Hewey | Traci Overton | Ruth Anne Robbins | Arthur Laby | Tara Pellicori | Angelica Latorre Aguirre | Lidia Catoe | Anju Gupta | Randi Mandelbaum | Ashley Cruz | Cosette Douglas | Jared Flannery | Ariela Herzog | Cristi Privado |
Tomica Saul | Charles I. Auffant | Ronald K. Chen | Laura Cohen | Elana Wilf | Jon Dubin | Esther Canty-Barnes | Jennifer Rosen Valverde | Douglas S. Eakeley | Theodore Weitz | Sandy Freund | Greg Baltz | Kathryn Sabbeth | Leena Khandwala | Pina Cirillo | Irma Calderon | Shayna Scott | Sylvia Santos | John R. Kettle III | Penny Venetis | Jenise Ly |
For over 50 years, the legal clinics of Rutgers Law School have made a lasting difference in the lives of people. The current 19 clinics are dedicated to advancing racial, social and economic justice in Camden and Newark, throughout New Jersey, across the country and around the world. While representing clients and engaging in law reform efforts, the clinics collaborate with movement leaders, community-based organizations, national and international agency partners and government officials.
Pride of Rutgers Award
Recognizes employees who exceed the expectations of their day-to-day tasks and provide exceptional customer service to the university community. The recipient takes the time to understand the needs of our students, staff, patients and/or visitors to meet their needs consistently and effectively. The award celebrates problem solvers who find innovative ways to save time, money, or other resources in getting the job done right and on time.
Individual Honoree: Mohini Mukherjee, Executive Director of International Student Services
Rutgers University-New Brunswick
Rutgers Global - International Student and Scholar Services
Mohini Mukherjee has spent almost 25 years at Rutgers, first arriving as a graduate student in 1999 before being hired as an area director for graduate student life in 2004. She has served in many roles in her nearly 20 years on staff and was recently elevated to executive director of international student services, where she provides compassion, insight, understanding of federal regulations and professionalism to her daily interactions with students, staff and campus partners. Mukherjee's resourceful approach to problem solving results in outstanding customer service.
Team Honoree: Rutgers Law School Newark Center for Career Development, Rutgers University-Newark
Elizabeth Acevedo | Wendi Taylor | Stephanie Gomez | LaTasha Onugha
The mission of the Center for Career Development is to help students and alumni identify, develop, and achieve their career goals. From the students’ first year of law school through graduation and beyond, the center provides counseling, online and print resources and recruiting and professional development programs designed to assist students and alumni in cultivating professional skills and obtaining summer, school year and postgraduation employment.