Demonstrating dedication from residence halls to administrative offices, from alumni engagement to student counseling, presented here are winners of the 2018 Western Awards of Excellence, the highest honour for staff member achievement.
Faculty of Social Science
As Director of Administration in the Faculty of Social Science, Linda Brock is described by colleagues as the “heart and soul of the dean’s office.” In everything she does, she is committed to providing an outstanding Western experience and “the best research and teaching environment possible” for students, faculty and staff – all while serving as a leader among the Directors of Administration and other administrative leaders on campus.
Brock fosters Western’s core values of integrity, respect and commitment to service. Most of her work entails managing financial and human resources and while “it often seems like there is not enough of either, and the problems that reach her desk are the trickiest,” both faculty and staff are impressed by her ability to say ‘no’ constructively. Colleagues note Brock is always willing to roll up her sleeves and pitch in wherever help is needed, from the most menial tasks to the most sensitive.
Almost everyone on campus meets Cara Bourdeau at some point in their career at Western and profits from her great knowledge, wisdom, and patience.
Colleagues say her expertise, professionalism and leadership are apparent in all interactions and her diplomacy and respectful approach ensure an outstanding Western experience. Whether presenting to the Western community for pension planning or meeting privately, Bourdeau’s patience helps build confidence and understanding in faculty and staff. She helps unravel the complexities of financial planning, explaining terms and impact of decisions and exceeds expectations.
Despite her busy schedule it is clear that she takes a special interest in each individual. Bourdeau takes the time to listen and work with Western’s diverse group of people with diverse needs on a daily basis, providing information in a clear and concise manner. She tailors communication in a way that works for each individual and their level of knowledge on benefit plans.
Alumni Relations & Development
When Sarah Dawson joined the Alumni Relations team, the unit was on the brink of major change, tackling a massive goal of doubling alumni engagement as part of Western’s Be Extraordinary capital campaign. Dawson’s learning curve was steep and yet she carefully designed a strategy and rose to each new challenge with ease. She built a course of action for herself and through her intuitive nature and immense curiosity, was able to reach new heights.
As a direct result of Dawson’s leadership of the Career Management portfolio, Alumni Relations has been successful in doubling alumni engagement. She created and delivered on a model that offered 1:1 career counselling mixed with larger group interactions – all with a desire to be there for alumni at a time when they needed Western the most.
Dawson’s sage advice, wise counsel and commitment to professionalism have had lasting impact on countless alumni.
Civil and Environmental Engineering
As the Graduate Coordinator for the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department in the Faculty of Engineering, Kristen Edwards is responsible for managing the logistics of graduate students interested in the program from their first inquiry email until their graduation. She handles this large workload with outstanding proficiency, providing outstanding support in all respects.
Her work exhibits integrity, a dedicated work ethic and leadership skills. Edwards demonstrates compassion and provides personal attention to every student.
Her superiors credit her success to superlative dedication, tremendous organization and valuable leadership. Professors in the department see their research success depending on her; graduate students universally agree they depend on her and she never lets them down.
Edwards is renowned for her can-do attitude, warm and supportive personality and concern for every student. She handles many difficult situations and expertly combines a caring attitude with the highest standards for the department and university academic and conduct codes.
Faculty of Science
Not only is Jane Sexsmith passionate about Western and her team, she is completely dedicated to providing the best student experience for undergraduate students in Science – every day and in every way.
Colleagues say she is “academic advising excellence.” From helping students during their first steps on campus during Summer Academic Orientation to ensuring they are eligible to graduate, Sexsmith is always there for every student.
She has “literally saved the lives of our undergraduate students by getting them immediate mental-health supports while they are in our office.” As mental health and wellness has transformed the academic counselling offices over the last few years, Sexsmith has made it a priority to keep student wellness in line with student academics. She launched Science/Basic Medical Sciences Wellness Wednesday initiatives in 2014, a program allows her to connect with students each Wednesday, making herself available to students without an academic need.
Susan Simpson doesn’t only maintain the highest standard of excellence in her administrative work, she also never hesitates to commit time and effort to promote a positive spirit in the Neuroscience Graduate Program.
She is highly professional and efficient, always positive, friendly, and helpful. Colleagues say Simpson is reliable, always cooperative, and trustworthy. She is “respected, appreciated, and loved by everyone who has the privilege to working with her.”
For graduate and undergraduate neuroscience students, Simpson is the go-to person for any kind of study related question, for concerns, or if problems arise. Students trust and like her, they appreciate that she personally takes care of every single one of them. Students often remark about ‘Their Susan’ and even students that meet her at recruitment fairs comment later on the pleasant exchanges they had with her.
Slobodanka Sotinac oversees the maintenance of three residences and each day inspires those she works with, looks for the best in every situation and guides her staff so they can bring out their best. Every task is done to meet her standard of prioritizing and commitment to the students.
With her pleasant smile, Sotinac is a mentor, team leader and well-liked by all. She is committed, proud of her work and offers exceptional service to residence students. She wants students to engage, experience their time in residence and have a positive, memorable time in their life. Students are like “her children” and she wishes them the best and provides outstanding service to make them comfortable. Rarely does she take time off and even though her job ends at 3:30 p.m., she will stay behind if needed by a student. Her commitment to the students is admired by her colleagues.