College Honors 2023 Support Staff Award Winners

The College of Arts & Letters celebrated its 2023 Support Staff Award winners at the Faculty and Staff Welcome Reception on Sept. 18 at the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center.

The six support staff members who received awards were individually recognized for their exceptional dedication, service, and leadership.

The 2023 Support Staff Award winners are:

Melissa Staub
Jo-Ann Vanden Bergh Award

The 2023 Jo-Ann Vanden Bergh Award recipient is Melissa Staub, Director of Human Resources, who was nominated for this award by the Human Resources Team, consisting of Amanda Brohman, Marilyn Duke, Ashley Housler, Angela Hunt, Jennifer Nelson, Katlyn Wright, and Sarah Jackson, who each wrote statements as to how Staub embodies all the traits associated with this award.

Woman in black dress holding a plaque.
Melissa Staub

Brohman wrote: “Melissa’s kindness is a remarkable trait that distinguishes her as a leader. She consistently goes above and beyond to ensure the well-being and happiness of her team members. Moreover, Melissa has consistently supported the team by serving as a reliable backup for all of us. Her willingness to step in and help when needed showcases her dedication to teamwork and her commitment to ensuring the smooth operation of our HR functions.”

Duke stated: “Melissa goes out of her way to make sure the team is running smoothly with regard to our assignments, but also to check in on us as individuals. She genuinely cares about our progress and lifting us up with her patience, thoughtfulness, and helpfulness. I feel heard when I talk about my concerns with her; she takes those concerns seriously and addresses them. On top of all that, she is the hardest-working person I’ve ever known. Her dedication to her job is deep and she enhances our effectiveness and efficiency in the workplace.”

Housler wrote: “Melissa is the first person to offer help or to take something off our plates when she is the last one who has extra time. Her work performance is more than superior, and I’m not convinced that she isn’t half machine. She is an excellent teacher, team member, and person, who has the utmost respect and integrity.”

Staub’s nomination also was supported by several faculty and staff members. The Jo-Ann Vanden Bergh Award is the gold standard of staff awards within the College. It is named in honor of Jo-Ann Vanden Bergh, who served the College of Arts & Letters for more than 25 years in various staff positions. Established in 2011, the award’s first recipient was its namesake, Jo-Ann Vanden Bergh.

Penny Shanks
Outstanding Leadership Award

The 2023 Outstanding Leadership Award recipient is Penny Shanks, Office Operations Team Lead, who was nominated for this award by the Office Operations Team.

The nomination states: “Penny has consistently demonstrated extraordinary leadership skills that have positively influenced our college. She creates a culture of safety and trust by being transparent about her own challenges and missteps. Her dedication to building community, nurturing a culture of care and support, exhibiting strong stewardship of institutional resources, and developing a shared vision of excellence has had a transformative impact on our organization.”

Woman wearing a jean jacket holding a plaque.
Penny Shanks

Supporting the nomination was Amy DeRogatis, Chair of the Department of Religious Studies, who wrote that “Penny is always quick to share resources and expertise across the departments, fostering goodwill and contributing to the overall success of the College. She has taken seriously the concerns and anxiety expressed by faculty, staff, and students and has committed to working on a college-wide solution.”

Danielle Devoss, Chair of the Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and Cultures, also supported the nomination and wrote that she has “watched staff members thrive under her leadership and care. She creates an environment where people step up and lean in, knowing they are supported and recognizing they will be seen as whole people. Creating this sort of trust and vulnerability is a supervisory superpower.”

Established in 2018, the Outstanding Leadership Award recognizes support staff members who build and maintain a sense of community with colleagues, seek to continuously improve operations within the College as well as student and faculty experiences, understand and manage work assignments from a holistic point of view, and help others recognize how their contributions are part of a larger whole.

Ben Lampe
Exceptional Service Award

The 2023 Exceptional Service Award recipient is Ben Lampe, Academic Program Coordinator, who was nominated by Jennifer Nelson, Human Resources staff member.

Nelson wrote: “Ben has always been a diligent worker, responding to all requests for assistance with a positive attitude. Faculty and staff have often reached out to him for guidance…Each time, he has been completely reliable, consistent, and courteous.”

Man wearing a light blue short-sleeved shirt holding a plaque.
Ben Lampe

Leann Dalimonte, Academic Operations Team Lead, supported Lampe’s nomination, stating: “He is a proactive, diplomatic, and institutional knowledge powerhouse. The term service doesn’t quite cover the dedication he has for his work and the various community groups he supports.”

Associate Dean Sonja Fritzsche also supported the nomination, stating: “His work is values-enacted in that he consistently acts in a manner consistent with the College values of equity, openness, and community. His day-to-day contribution is full of integrity and intentionality, and he works to resolve conflict rather than create it.”

Established in 2016, the Exceptional Service Award recognizes support staff members who have worked for the College at least three years and have consistently demonstrated outstanding performance and a commitment to delivering exceptional service. Award recipients anticipate the needs of the College and are proactive and forward-thinking in addressing those needs. They also promote productive relationships across the College and University while demonstrating diplomacy and responsiveness.

Jennifer Nelson
Diversity, Equity, Justice, and Inclusion Award

The 2023 Diversity, Equity, Justice, and Inclusion Award recipient is Jennifer Nelson, Human Resources staff member, who was nominated for the award by her Human Resources co-worker, Ashley Housler.

Housler wrote: “Jennifer has been with the College of Arts & Letters for 20+ years and continues to show unwavering dedication not only to the College but to touching the lives of staff, faculty, and students. She strives to make CAL and the University an inclusive space, where all feel safe to be their authentic selves. Her meticulous attention to the needs of visiting scholars speaks volumes, as she often asks things like: ‘Who is going to help these visiting scholars get winter coats? Who is meeting with them to show them where to get their IDs?’”

Woman with black hair holding a plaque.
Jennifer Nelson

Housler emphasized Nelson’s inherent ability to foster understanding and acceptance by stating that “she showed the importance of leaning into questions about identity and celebrating differences, fostering a genuine and nurturing environment.”

Supporting the nomination was Ben Lampe, Academic Program Coordinator. He wrote: “Jennifer truly embodies a culture of care in every responsibility she shoulders. Her unparalleled grace, patience, respect, and integrity set her apart.” He added that “her consistent behind-the-scenes efforts, often unseen and unsung, are instrumental to the nurturing and inclusive environment at our college.”

Established in 2018, the Diversity, Equity, Justice, and Inclusion Award recognizes support staff who demonstrate adept skills in engaging across differences among the communities in which they work. It honors efforts to actively work to make Michigan State University a more accessible and welcoming place by understanding the complex, intersectional nature of identity, and employing such knowledge to improve the student, faculty, academic staff, and support staff experience. 

Delaney Atkinson
Rising Star Award

The 2023 Rising Star Award recipient is Delaney Atkinson, Office Operations staff member, who was nominated by Karen Moroski-Rigney, Director of Strategic Planning, Assessment, and Accessibility.

Moroski-Rigney wrote: “Having worked with Delaney for over a year…I can attest to her hard work, her enthusiasm, and her willingness not only to ‘get it done,’ but also to ‘get it done right.’ She’s a terrific collaborator who’s willing to step outside familiar roles to better support a process, making her an innovative and productive addition to our CAL team.” Also, “In the tightest of turnarounds…she is a steady hand and a reliable colleague.” 

Woman wearing black and long curly hair holding a plaque.
Delaney Atkinson

Deanna Thomas, Executive Staff Assistant to the Dean, echoed these sentiments, praising Atkinson’s leadership, stating: “She is a natural leader and an invaluable collaborator. She possesses excellent communication skills, which enables her to effortlessly collaborate with colleagues, students, and stakeholders

Laura Borchgrevink, Academic Operations staff member, supported the nomination and emphasized Atkinson’s unwavering dedication to her role, noting: “She is detailed, reliable, consistent, and regularly goes above and beyond to support students and her fellow colleagues.”

Established in 2016, the Rising Star Award recognizes support staff members who have worked in their position at the College of Arts & Letters for less than three years and have shown promise early in their College of Arts & Letters careers with a potential for growth and advancement. It honors staff members who have exhibited exemplary dedication to the mission of the College and Michigan State University while consistently demonstrating outstanding performance in fulfillment of their job responsibilities.  

Tom Hakes
Golden Staff Award

Established in 2015, the College of Arts & Letters Golden Staff Award recognizes a department, program, or group within the College for demonstrating exemplary service, hanging in there when the going gets tough, or just being a good model. However, this year’s Golden Staff Award went to an individual, Tom Hakes, Academic Technology Coordinator, to highlight his remarkable efforts as the “Tech Team.”

Man wearing glasses and a black short-sleeved shirt.
Tom Hakes

Hakes has collaborated seamlessly with the Human Resources Team, ensuring the tech equipment was ready for the newest College of Arts & Letters faculty and staff members with more than 50 new employees. He doesn’t just meet expectations; he consistently surpasses them. He doesn’t just go above and beyond; he lives there. He uplifts everyone, tackles challenges, and views problems as opportunities waiting to be unraveled.