In another year of tremendous change and challenges that saw a return to learning and working on campus, many Western staff members went beyond their regular responsibilities to provide exceptional service.
These exemplary employees are being honoured with the 2021 Western Award of Excellence.
Nominated by faculty, staff, students and alumni, recipients are chosen for their outstanding service, creativity and innovation, the ability to share their knowledge and expertise, and their capacity to foster their values of integrity and respect across campus.
Meet the 2021 Western Award of Excellence recipients.
Sara Mai Chitty
Curriculum and Pedagogy Advisor, Office of Indigenous Initiatives
With warmth, grace and humour, Sara Mai Chitty educates the Western community on historical and contemporary issues facing Indigenous Peoples. Her light-mannered approach to teaching, even when the topics are heavy, inspires others to learn more about effective allyship. Chitty is known for welcoming people as they are, without judgement. One of her nominees observed that with respect and integrity, she “challenges systems that need challenging, cares deeply about students and models the way for staff and faculty.” With the onset of the pandemic, Chitty adapted the powerful KAIROS blanket exercise for virtual delivery. By curating Indigenous art, maps, images and videos, she created a “stunning presentation” that is now being incorporated into in-person learning as well.
Melanie Katsivo Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Specialist, Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry
Associate Director, Programs and Partnerships, The Africa Institute
Melanie Katsivo is recognized as a master facilitator, and a champion of students, faculty and staff. She recently played an integral role in encouraging Western scholars across disciplines to apply for a highly competitive Queen Elizabeth II Advanced Scholars West Africa Grant. She shepherded the group through a rigorous application process, with Western becoming one of only 11 Canadian universities to receive the funding. The grant will support a robust research exchange program for 11 Canadian students at Western and 11 students from the West African countries of Senegal, Benin, Liberia, Nigeria and Ghana. “Without doubt, this funding would not have been possible without Melanie’s leadership, positive attitude and tremendous effort,” wrote one of her nominators. “She went above and beyond.”
Research Officer, Faculty of Information and Media Studies, Faculty of Law and the Don Wright Faculty of Music
Karen Kueneman provides outstanding service as the research officer for not one, but three faculties. Supporting nearly 100 faculty members with a vast range of academic and intellectual interests, Kueneman is highly proactive in learning about faculty members’ research interests by tracking their publications and attending their on-campus talks. This makes her “indispensable,” in providing insightful support and expert advice about funding sources, and invaluable input on decisions around allocating internal research funds. Kueneman also warmly welcomes new faculty members, providing them with a thorough overview of available research support and finances. Recruits immediately feel they have someone “in their corner,” supporting their success. “She is, in short, a gem,” her nominators wrote. “Karen’s contributions to the research culture in each of our faculties are exceptional and we simply cannot imagine doing our jobs without her advice and support.”
Dr. Sonya Malone
Medical Director, Health Services
As staff physician and medical director at student health services, Dr. Sonya Malone has made “transformative” changes during her time at Western. Among them, a move to improve services for the LGBT and trans communities at Western. Malone developed the Western University Trans Care Team to provide gender-affirming medical care to trans and non-binary students. This was one of the first university-based trans care teams in the country. With good nature and care, Malone transformed her team from in-person to semi-virtual during the COVID-19 pandemic and developed the first on-campus COVID testing site in Ontario. She also reviewed thousands of COVID test results and made hundreds, if not thousands, of personal phone calls to students to deliver their results. Known for her “contagious laugh,” one nominator said Malone “lights up a room, both professionally and personally…and has taught many of us the value of inclusion and respect for one another.”
Since being nominated for this award, Dr. Malone has started a new position as a clinical physician in Student Health Services and is also an occupational health physician in Workplace Health.
Director, Academic Support and Engagement, Student Experience
Heralded as a “champion for change,” Kim Miller creates conditions for students, staff and faculty to do their best work. A “willingness to jump in” saw Miller co-create critical initiatives across campus, including the university’s (and Canada’s first) hire-a-PhD initiative, the student accessibility advisory committee and Western’s Own Your Future program. During the pandemic, thanks to Miller’s commitment and vision, “Western didn’t just pivot to offering our regular programs online, we created new programs for students,” one nominator wrote. Those offerings, widely appreciated by parents and students, included SmartStart Learning, SmartStart Academics, Community Connections and the academic success program for first-year students. Miller recently became the executive director of career management and corporate recruiting at Ivey Business School and is the co-chair of Western’s 2021 United Way campaign.
Director of Client Services, Western Technology Services (WTS)
If you have used Zoom, OWL, or Office 365; called or emailed the WTS help desk; or used a projector or clicker in a general-use classroom in the past several years, you have been impacted by the work of Sergio Rodriguez. Well-known for his ability to anticipate the future direction of technology, Rodriguez co-sponsored the project that enabled Western to implement Zoom a full nine months before the COVID-19 pandemic. He understands the needs of people as well, employing a teams-oriented leadership style and has genuine concern for the health and wellness of his staff. Described by his nominators as a “deeply committed, extraordinary leader,” Rodriguez is “ever-attentive to the needs of campus partners, and responsive above all, to the experience of learners.”
Faculty Recruitment Consultant, Office of Faculty Relations
With “extraordinary calm,” this past year saw Connie Zrini respond to the complexities of the pandemic and an ongoing state of renewal in the office of faculty relations in an “unruffled and methodical” manner. Recognized for her depth, versatility and commitment to Western, Zrini is an effective communicator, whether working across the table on collective agreements or helping a new staff member “jump the bureaucratic hoops” to successfully immigrate to Canada. “It’s a rare combination in a person, the ability to understand, analyze and implement complicated schēmae, and at the same time see the human sitting next to her,” one colleague wrote. “We at Western are lucky to have her.”
Teacher Education Office Team
Faculty of Education
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the Faculty of Education’s Teacher Education Office team “went well above their normal role expectations.” Cindy Barnes, Rebecca Cole, Cathy Cornett, Courtney Klein, Joanne Lombardi, Katie Mentone and Anna Zuber worked together to adapt to the changing needs of instructors, teacher candidates, and community and associate teachers in 44 Ontario school boards. This “exemplary group” supported their Western community as well, both with the shift to online learning and by developing a tutoring program for school-aged children of faculty and staff. This initiative created paid, work-integrated learning for Western education students. The team also promoted the inclusion of marginalized and designated people in Canada by introducing an equity admission process, piloting a new admissions’ tool, and engaging in systematic curricular innovation where students work with instructors to revise the course syllabi for the upcoming year. Read more.
Undergraduate (Ontario) Admissions Team
Office of the Registrar
Kathryn Thomas, Theresa Serwatuk, Samia Lahib and Sarah Visscher work as the “dream team” responsible for planning and executing all undergraduate (Ontario) admissions. This past year, they demonstrated “extreme creativity, personal and collective initiative” in hitting enrolment targets in a way that was equitable to all students. The COVID-19 pandemic forced Ontario high schools to move to a quadmester system, meaning some courses were scheduled to be finished long after admission rounds were completed. The team responded with an entrepreneurial spirit, radically changing how students would be evaluated to keep them from being disadvantaged. Each team member took on “mountains of additional work” in the process, while peer institutions “simply proceeded as usual.” Accomplishing what “has never been done before at Western,” their efforts resulted in the largest first-year class in the university’s history.
The 2021 recipients will be formally celebrated at a ceremony on Wednesday, Feb. 9 at 11:30 a.m. in the Great Hall, Somerville House. Those wishing to attend are asked to RSVP by logging in to My Human Resources and following the steps outlined here.