The fifth annual Western Award of Excellence generated a surge in nominations for the highest recognition for staff members. Awards will be presented Feb. 16 at a gala Great Hall event. The following winners profiles were developed from nomination submissions.
John Brunet, the senior technical co-ordinator in the Department of Earth Sciences, has provided technical and personal support to students and staff for more than three decades.
“His loyalty to the department, coupled with his unparalleled extensive knowledge of both our individual and collective needs, has been an invaluable resource,” says Earth Sciences associate professor Kristy Tiampo.
“Should any of us need or want something in support of our research or teaching, we go to John first.”
While Brunet’s work might appear to involve inanimate objects such as computers – his main roles include maintaining the computer and electronic equipment, designing and maintaining audio/visual facilities in teaching labs, and renovations and repairs to departmental rooms and hallway displays – his interaction with people sets him apart.
Brunet, who joined the former Geophysics Department in 1975, tends to lead by example. Sitting on several departmental committees and continually upgrading his skills through courses and seminars, he has even published and presented technical talks with researchers, which is rare for a staff member.
“One of the reasons for his success is that he would take a genuine interest in other peoples’ work and made every effort to help that person overcome their difficulties,” says Earth Sciences professor emeritus Robert Mereu. “That was John’s nature.”
Brunet has made his mark off-campus as a volunteer with the London Skating Club, London Cycling Club, Canadian Cancer Society, Heart and Stroke Foundation, the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada and the Science Student Council at Fanshawe College.
Postdoctoral fellow Yuzo Toya says Brunet has a way with making anyone – whether student, staff or faculty – feel as if they are important.
“John pulls everyone together and makes the university a better place to work and a better place for students, colleagues and scholars, to have a truly collegial and international experience at Western,” he says.
Student Services Support Group
It’s safe to say Krys Chelchowski is the guiding force behind a great deal of the service Western provides to students. As Director of Administration and Information Services with Student Services Support Group for the eight years, Chelchowski has demonstrated enormous dedication and a high standard of excellence for the entire Western community.
“Krys is a born leader,” says Campus Community Police Service Director Elgin Austen. “I’ve found there is no task or problem that is too big or too small for Krys to willingly accept. Her self-initiative is motivating to others.”
Chelchowski is everything Western strives for in its core values – excellence in leadership and supporting others to reach their potential; deep respect and value to others and their work; and a remarkable commitment to the thousands of students on campus.
While a supervisor to 26 employees and managing the budget of the entire Student Services portfolio, Chelchowski still found time to take charge of the recent move to the new Western Student Services Building.
“Krys is, without a doubt, one of the most talented members of the university’s administrative staff,” says Faculty of Information and Media Studies professor Roma Harris. “I have found her to be a wonderful and consistently supportive colleague. Although quiet and under-stated in manner, Krys is a powerful force behind the scenes.”
With her role on campus having such a tremendous impact – from the front line of day-to-day student service delivery to direction-setting for the entire university – Chelchowski does so with a desire to help others.
“My admiration and respect has grown with each passing year and with each challenge that has arisen,” says Leslie Lumsden, Director of The Student Success Centre.
“I am now in a leadership role at Western and it is a true mark of Krys’ mentorship and quiet, yet powerful, leadership. She will always infuse respect for individual thought, due diligence for open communication and information gathering, creative visioning and she will always bring insight and positive energy to the situation.”
Faculty of Information and Media Studies
To her nominators, Wendie Crouch is the calm in the eye of the storm, the heart of the student production area, and the embodiment of the word ‘excellence. She’s also the one with the messy office.
But one thing all can agree with in describing the Faculty of Information and Media Studies staff member is she plays a huge part in the life of each graduate student in the master’s in journalism program.
Crouch’s job title is Media Specialist, a vague title at best and especially so when it comes to describing what she does. For close to 35 years, she has worked primarily in the broadcast section of the Master’s Journalism Program, with a focus on radio.
She is an expert in audio recording and editing and has kept pace – and even kept ahead – of in a field that has experienced a revolution in technology.
“If I close my eyes, I can picture Wendie standing a little off to the side smiling encouragingly. And that’s what she did all year,” recalls former student Kellie Hudson. “Patient, kind and smart. Wendie had faith in us; she believed in us and most importantly, valued the work we did. More often than not, she was the one we turned to.”
Crouch’s role in the faculty is not limited to technology or assisting instructors. She is one of the drivers of the overall journalism curriculum, often serving on the Journalism Program Committee and providing an important voice on several committees tasked with revamping the journalism program.
And to say the students have made Crouch a member of their extended family is no embellishment.
“I am no longer surprised that at every graduation the room erupts into spontaneous applause when she is introduced,” says Paul Benedetti, program co-ordinator for the Graduate Journalism Program.
“Students routinely rush up to hug her and thank her for all her support during the year. I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say that the students come to love her.”
Faculty of Engineering
The most common word used to describe Lesley Mounteer is passionate. Her dedication to the Western Engineering program and promotion of the engineering profession is unmatched.
As Associate Director (External Services) in the Faculty of Engineering, Mounteer oversees a variety of areas including student recruitment (undergraduate and graduate), career services, communications, alumni relations and development, and research.
“Lesley has proven to be nothing short of an essential staff resource; but more than simply doing her job, her leadership has made a critical impact on my own career and the careers of many others, including faculty, staff and students,” says Joel Adams, Executive Director of the Research Park.
“From her passionate and always understanding support of internal student groups and initiatives to her very successful efforts in reaching out to industry and potential students, Lesley’s contributions uniquely cover the full spectrum of the Western Engineering experience.”
Mounteer has dedicated many weekends to outreach initiatives, such as Go Eng Girl, along with helping a group of students bring the National Conference of Women in Engineering to Western in 2008.
A remarkable staff member, it isn’t surprising her commitment is focused on furthering the goals of others. If they succeed, she succeeds.
“Lesley is Western Engineering’s ambassador to the external community,” says Diana Lee, Graduate Services Co-ordinator (External Services). “Her network of both personal and professional contacts is staggering. Her dedication, enthusiasm and professionalism are evident as she promotes Western Engineering to the world.”
Mounteer has been known to practice a very rare leadership skill referred to as ‘supportive influence,’ carefully navigating the fine line between taking charge and being so supportive that the right actions occur.
“Lesley achieves this in a way that fosters teamwork, sets (everyone) up for success, while positioning herself just outside the limelight,” says James Serack, Chair of Advisory Council for Western Engineering. “It’s time to move the spotlight … and illuminate the outstanding achievement of Lesley Mounteer.”
Student Health Services
Whether she knows it or not, Barbara Haggarty-Hebert is a role model. When it comes to her position as a registered nurse with Student Health Services, her happy and fun-loving persona, mixed with compassion and dedication to her job, inevitably gets passed on to whomever she is dealing with.
The easygoing nature, infectious smile, and compassion for the students at Western comes natural. Seen as a “truly wonderful person,” for Haggarty-Hebert it is all about the students.
“Barb is a fierce advocate for the best care possible for students,” says Shelagh Bantock, Clinical Director of Student Health Services, noting Haggarty-Hebert’s assurance that students’ needs for privacy, trust and discretion are first and foremost.
“Barb is a person that everyone wants to be near as she shares her humour and life. Health Services, and all who travel through our doors, are blessed to be near the light that is Barb Haggarty-Hebert.”
Often found quietly encouraging young patients to make good choices and embrace their individuality, Haggarty-Hebert counsels those who may be fearful, confused or undecided in their life path.
By fostering integrity and respect by never being judgmental, she is able to share of herself and care for those who ask for her help.
“Barb has chosen to work at Student Health because she feels it is a place where her work can make a difference,” says Dr. Jennifer Andrade of Student Health Services. “From my perspective and from comments made to me by students, I know her presence does mean a lot to many of the students who pass through our doors.”
“Barb represents every quality that a good nurse could have and more,” adds registered nurse Julie Bogart. “Her true care of the students at Western is sincere and heartfelt. Her warm approach allows students a secure feeling that they can share their personal crisis with her, without being judged. As only Barb can, she continues to give her heartfelt care to our students with a commitment to service above and beyond.”
Stanislaw Szapiel may have the outward appearance of a caretaker, but look a bit deeper and you’ll find a language instructor, lab assistant, doorman, theatre usher, arbitrator, colleague and more.
“He is our caretaker, our janitor, our friend,” says Don Wright Faculty of Music professor Henry Meredith, adding Szapiel opens his ‘broom closet’ – with its faucets and hose – to aid a professor and enrich the education of numerous music students.
Whether rescuing an overburdened teacher by opening a door or carrying a tuba, it’s not surprising to see Szapiel go a step beyond his job description – without hesitation.
“For Stan, there is no such thing as ‘it’s a dirty job and somebody has to do it’,'” adds Meredith. “He enthusiastically embraces the work he does, and knows how important his job is to the experiences of the people, instruments and sounds of the Don Wright Faculty of Music.”
Szapiel has become so popular and vital to the faculty’s success, he was recently chosen to be part of a music fundraising calendar, one of only two staff members. His cheerful, generous and unaffected personality engenders an environment of respect.
Through his support of the activities of both students and faculty, Szapiel helps to keep the work produced in the faculty at its already internationally acclaimed level. His initiative and creativity in contributing to the best student experience demonstrate his interest in the betterment of Western.
“Stan is the person to whom many teachers and colleagues go to when they need a job done quickly and correctly,” says Meredith. “His own leadership skills are seen in his quietly effective way with the other custodial staff with whom he works.
“Stan models respect and calm by how he treats everyone – students faculty, visitors and, of course, his fellow custodians. Stan deserves the utmost recognition of his invaluable, yet too often behind-the-scenes, contributions to the Faculty of Music as a whole.”
Faculty of Science
Within the Faculty of Science, and in particular the Office of the Dean, Mitch Zimmer is known as the person to ask if you want to make a bold, professional and lasting impression on students or, in many cases, potential students.
Zimmer’s official job designation is ‘science writer,’ a scant two words to describe someone who has become one of the faculty’s most respected and valuable colleagues. His job actually entails writing, web design, graphic design, photography, event planning, public relations, media relations, outreach and much more.
“Mitch has an overarching secret that makes him an ideal member of the Faculty of Science family,” says Professor Emeritus Patrick Whippey. “He is willing to help out anyone at any time for whatever job needs to be done.”
Even new faculty members are seeing the importance of Zimmer. Earth Sciences professor Gail Atkinson says the quality of his work is excellent, while appreciating his availability, co-operation and responsiveness.
“From speaking to others, I understand that his outstanding, cheerful and ready attitude, and his tireless work in helping others – which I consider to be quite remarkable – is just ‘business as usual’ with Mitch.”
Zimmer’s leadership takes on a number of forms, as seen through his dedication, commitment and skill, and a role best described as ‘unobtrusive mentorship.’
“He puts Western first,” says Martha Fediw, Academic Counsellor in the Faculty of Engineering, who worked with Zimmer on an outreach event.
“You could tell by the way he spoke to people that he was passionate about working at Western and what Western had to offer. Mitch is friendly, personable and a joy to work with. He is the type of staff member everyone would want in their office.”
Patrick Therrien, Business Development Manager for WORLDiscoveries, says it’s Zimmer’s “quiet confidence” he admires.
“He exhibits the kind of work ethic and professionalism that one wishes were characteristic of all Western employees, says Therrien. “To find such constant striving to deliver and improve in an employee is truly admirable.”