Communication, engagement and accountability were among commitments for the new academic year shared by University of Guelph president Dr. Charlotte Yates at this week’s community breakfast on campus.

In welcoming faculty and staff to the 19th annual event held Sept. 6 in the W.F. Mitchell Athletic Centre, Yates discussed her vision for the 2022-23 academic year and encouraged community members to reflect on ways to help build “U of G’s genius.”

“As we begin the new academic year, I encourage you to think about your own goals and ways you wish to grow and leave your mark on U of G,” said Yates. “We’re interconnected with a shared purpose.”

Stressing the University’s mission to improve life, she discussed development of the institution’s strategic plan.

Consultations about the plan with students, staff, faculty, community partners and alumni have been ongoing for more than a year. Yates encouraged staff and faculty to comment early this fall on the document, which features the University’s commitment to excellence in teaching and learning and research.

She also encouraged community members to engage in wellness at work initiatives this fall, including activities planned for Employee Orientation Month through September and Healthy Workplace Month in October.

Yates acknowledged the University’s senior executives as well as chancellor Mary Anne Chambers, who attended the event.

She also paid tribute to faculty and staff who received 25-year service awards earlier this year. U of G’s quarter-century club now numbers more than 500 people.

At this week’s gathering, Yates presented six individuals and two U of G teams with the annual President’s Awards for Exemplary Staff Service. Established in 2003, the awards recognize U of G staff and faculty committed to excellence who have exceeded expectations.

Exemplary Staff Awards

Ten Exemplary Staff Awards recipients stand on a stage with U of G president Charlotte Yates
U of G 2022 Exemplary Staff Awards recipients. Front row (left to right): Robert Reed, Kate Stuttaford, Sarah Gibbons, Dara Schaefer, Jennifer Proulx and Premila Sathasivam. Back row (left to right): president Charlotte Yates, Jennifer Cosentino, Natasha Young, Holly Byker and Laurie Halfpenny-Mitchell.

Exemplary Team Recognition Award

The Chemistry Lab Coordinator Team of Robert Reed, Kathryn Stuttaford, Jennifer Proulx and Dara Schaefer creates and delivers lab courses that serve more than 3,000 students each year. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the team retooled 12 courses to offer a combination of face-to-face and remote labs safely and effectively. They created online modules serving about 8,000 first-year students over two years, rebuilt courses to run in spaces not designed for chemistry labs, and revamped second- and third-year labs to ensure safe in-person training throughout the pandemic.

Wellness, Health and Safety Award

Ensuring top-notch wellness and maintenance of Ridgetown Campus’s animals and facilities used by students in the renowned experiential learning agriculture diploma is the job of the Ridgetown Campus Livestock Team of Mark Monden, George Woudenberg, Norm Tosh, Rob Reid, Dave Hogg and Christina Lockerbie-Thom. The group ensures that the livestock team has reliable and accessible use of the facilities and strives to share pertinent data, knowledge and other information. The team members have ensured prompt attention to occasional wellness, health and safety issues and even stepped in to help with livestock experiential teaching while an instructor recuperated from surgery.

Hidden Hero Award

Premila Sathasivam, manager of U of G’s human anatomy program, developed and oversees every aspect of the body donation program that ensures critical experiential learning opportunities for numerous students each year. She has secured more than 150 donors for the program and orchestrates an annual celebration of life event that enables students to honour donors and family members. She serves on departmental health and wellness and EDI committees and volunteers for causes including the U of G United Way campaign and science outreach events.

Holly Byker, manager of the eastern and northern Ontario crops research centres, inspires staff and students with her work ethic and excellent service and has fostered an environment of collaboration and inclusiveness. She has overseen major transitions including new facility construction and structural staffing changes. As a research technician in Winchester, she coordinates faculty members’ research trials in most field crops grown in eastern Ontario, providing quality data used by numerous farmers in their operations.

Jennifer Cosentino, administrative assistant with U of G’s Maplewoods Centre for Family Therapy and Child Psychology, ensured that the centre continued its clinical training of future psychologists despite remote work provisions necessitated by the pandemic. Working closely with clinicians, clients, supervisors and Financial Services, she instituted systems to ensure accurate and timely maintenance of record-keeping and billing services. She was instrumental in facilitating a complicated move of the clinic to newly renovated quarters, notably ensuring privacy-compliant management of sensitive client records and assessment tools.

Innovative Leadership Recognition Award

As director of the OMAFRA-U of G agreement and research programs, Laurie Halfpenny-Mitchell manages the University’s compliance with the Ontario Agri-Food Innovation Alliance’s conditions as well as its budget, which accounts for about 11 per cent of U of G’s total operations. Her personal integrity, her strategic leadership and mentoring skills, her commitment to building relationships and her rigorous oversight of cost-benefit data all help to ensure continuous improvement of the Alliance’s contributions to Ontario’s agri-food sector. By supporting numerous researchers and Office of Research staff, Laurie ultimately helps to underwrite U of G’s reputation as Canada’s Food University and improves life for all Ontarians.

As an advocate for Indigenous students, Natasha Young, manager of the Indigenous Student Centre, is frequently called upon as a collaborator, adviser and educator for various projects and committees including the Indigenous Initiatives Strategic Task Force and the Chancellor Selection Committee. She has engaged in community-based research that has enhanced programming and services for Indigenous learners and has been recognized for its promising practices across the sector. Her consistency as a leader and her dedication to change have helped improve life at U of G and for countless Indigenous students, alumni and their families and communities.

Service Excellence Recognition Award

As a writing specialist in the McLaughlin Library, Sarah Gibbons coaches the Writing Services team of 10 graduate student writing consultants and up to 15 undergraduate writing peers who serve the entire campus community. Working on program development and staff training with library staff and other campus units including the Office of Teaching and Learning, she models effective client service to support students and faculty. Sarah has served as co-chair of the library’s Undergraduate Orientation Committee, volunteered for the U of G House Calls program and received federal funding to create online teaching modules for science communication in collaboration with the Campbell Centre for the Study of Animal Welfare.

Also awarded at the community breakfast was the 2022 Excellence in Undergraduate Academic Advising Medallion to Dr. Martin Holland, faculty adviser and undergraduate coordinator for the bachelor of landscape architecture degree program. Nominated for exceptional support of BLA students, Holland maintains an open-door policy and is known for finding creative ways to connect with students. He has also been a staunch advocate for the landscape architecture student society.