2021 A&S Outstanding Staff Awards

June 15, 2021 by Cynthia Macdonald - A&S News

Eleven staff members from the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Arts & Science are the recipients of Outstanding Staff Awards for 2021.

Established in 1999, the Outstanding Staff Awards recognize staff-appointed administrative and technical employees who have achieved excellence in support of the faculty’s mission of teaching and research. These staff have earned the respect of their colleagues for their professionalism and teamwork, and for making an impact that extends beyond their unit or department.

Dean's Student Life Award

These staff members have all greatly improved the quality of the student experience in the Faculty of Arts & Science. This award recognizes their innovations, and the ways in which they have enhanced student services. This year, three staff members were honoured.

Antonela Arhin

A longtime mentor, administrator and trusted advisor, Antonela Arhin is the associate director of the Centre for Diaspora & Transnational Studies (DTS). She has played a key role in advancing the success of DTS since its inception 15 years ago. A devoted counsellor known for her ability to immediately connect with students, she has consistently been able to provide members of the DTS community with invaluable personal advice informed by her exceptional career as a scholar and expert in human rights, trafficking and transnational labour exploitation. Some of her significant accomplishments at DTS include: establishing a partnership with the Mosaic Institute to allow students to work on independent research projects; in 2019, co-organizing DTS’ first alumni reunion; and organizing events such as open houses, a career panel discussion and the first DTS Mentorship Meal.

Kerri Huffman

Kerri Huffman has been New College registrar since 2014. In that time, the college — U of T’s most populous, with the largest percentage of international students — has experienced a growth rate of 27 per cent. She has responded to that growth through a series of measures designed to meet the very particular needs of New College students. In 2017–18, for example, she designed a survey with Dean of Students Leah McCormack-Smith to evaluate student requirements, with an eye to redesigning services as needed. She has paid particular attention to the need for high-quality advisory services at the college and hired advisors in four key portfolios. A superior advisor herself, she has been described as wise, resourceful, and genuinely caring: one student remarked that she has “completely changed my family’s future for generations to come.”

Eric Correia

As undergraduate administrator, Eric Correia is the “go-to person” for any problem that arises within the Department of Philosophy. His knowledge of rules and procedures is impeccable, and his dedication to solving any issue is legendary. These include everything from managing enrolments, to academic dishonesty, to finding resources for professors and students. While with the department, his many activities have included starting the PHL1 Philosophy Mentorship program that allows first-year students to connect with each other. Two years ago, he also started a weekly bulletin for undergraduates in which he compiles notices, opportunities and events of interest for students His steady presence and unflappable calm are celebrated by all within the department. Says one observer, “He really is the most humble, knowledgeable, decent, expert, hard-working and kind undergraduate administrator I’ve encountered.”

Dean's Outstanding Technical Service Award

These staff members have made outstanding contributions to technical services and, as a result, have had a direct impact on improving teaching and research. This year, three staff members were honoured.

Darcy Burns

Darcy Burns manages the CSICOMP Nuclear Magnetic Resonance facility within the Department of Chemistry, serving over 200 academic and private sector clients. He capably juggles the needs of a diverse array of research groups, whose work requires significant instrument optimization and experimental planning. He is the acknowledged expert in these areas, and spends a good deal of his time advising graduate students and other researchers. The facility he runs is unique due to the versatility of the instruments he oversees and its impact on the clients who use them. In the face of challenges posed by the pandemic, he established a safe operational facility — no small feat in an environment that normally sees hundreds of daily visits by research personnel. In his time with the department, he has also saved hundreds of thousands of dollars through his conscientious work in developing relationships with vendors and colleagues. He is currently spearheading an initiative toward instrument rejuvenation and more eco-friendly operations in the facility.

Misha Schwartz

Over the past year, Teaching Applications Programmer/Analyst Misha Schwartz has made a profound impact within the Department of Computer Science thanks to his work on MarkUs — a web-based software system used for a variety of purposes in the area of undergraduate teaching. Thanks to his innovations, the department’s application review process has been streamlined, the student testing process has been made secure, and student-submitted programming code can be assessed for correctness. His ideas  are now being adopted outside the department, where his creativity and hard work  have also been celebrated: when the pandemic necessitated a reconfiguration of the lab-based work system, he responded by building a custom web-based, computer-booking software package that could be integrated with lab computers.

Christine McCaul

Christine McCaul’s signature contribution as director of U of T’s Biological Sciences Facility will endure for many years. Just over seven years ago, she embarked on a complete overhaul of the facility itself — resulting in a world-class animal research facility that supports the teaching missions of the Departments of Psychology, Cell & Systems Biology, and Ecology & Evolutionary Biology. By revamping infrastructure, facilitating the application of advanced animal research technologies, and greatly enhancing animal husbandry operations and veterinary care, she has transformed how animal research is conducted at U of T. Colleagues in the Department of Cell & Systems Biology write that “her vision, creativity and initiative have markedly advanced and improved the undergraduate and graduate experience in biology and psychology research.”

Dean's Outstanding Administrative Service Award

Administrative staff are the backbone of the University and play a vital role in the Faculty. The Administrative Service Awards recognize those who have made a positive impact on teaching, research or general administration. This year, three staff members were honoured.

Alice Chow

Described as a “true pillar” of the Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics, Business and Financial Manager Alice Chow has been a model of efficiency, knowledge and forward thinking at the Institute since 2011. In her time there, she has developed new funding programs to support visitors and student travel, as well as programs to attract the most competitive recruits, narrow gender pay gaps and assist with childcare. She foresaw the need for smooth procedures well in advance of the University’s shutdown due to COVID-19 and regularly produces complex financial forecasts.  Her research colleagues have deemed her ability to anticipate departmental needs, recall information and memorize complex process requirements to be without peer. Says one: “She is the epitome of the highly effective administrator.”

Carrie Greenop

In her position as executive assistant to the Faculty of Arts & Science’s chief administrative officer, Carrie Greenop has been consistently open to new responsibilities. Notably, she has made significant contributions to new capital projects at the St. George campus; these have included her assumption of full responsibility for the Master Key Plan at Sidney Smith Hall, and working with the directors of Infrastructure Planning and IIT to carry out a set of complex space renovations over a two-year period. Always demonstrating independence, initiative, skill and diplomacy, she oversees the thirteen portfolios associated with the CAO’s office, and is saluted for creating a shared administrative service model to streamline operations there.

Tanya Pitel

Until February of this year, Tanya Pitel served as undergraduate program assistant for no less than three academic units — the Centre for Industrial Relations & Human Resources (CIRHR); the Centre for Criminology & Sociolegal Studies; and Woodsworth College. She has since moved full-time to CIRHR, where she continues to exhibit what one colleague calls a “textbook knowledge” of the myriad rules governing teaching assistants and sessional course instructors, as well as collective agreements. Thanks in no small part to her outstanding organizational skills, unfailing kindness and competence, the three units in which she has served have all seen impressive growth, eliciting regular commendations in the form of emails and messages from students and instructors. “I cannot imagine,” says another of her co-workers, “more thoughtful, creative, knowledgeable, diligent and efficient administrative work.”

Dean's Distinguished Long Service Award

It takes much more than years of service to earn this award. Honourees must demonstrate a sustained track record of exceeding the expectations of their administrative peers, academic colleagues and students. This year, two staff members were honoured.

Alan Lough

Alan Lough is one of the world’s most distinguished crystallographers. His work is essential to that of scientists in several different fields at U of T as crystallography allows them to secure the basic structure of materials so they can be properly viewed and analyzed. He has been single-handedly managing the University’s X-ray crystallography facility and operating its X-ray diffractometers since 1990. Since that time, when data collection was much more laborious than it is today, he has overseen the acquisition of five generations of diffractometers. He is a co-editor of Acta Crystallographica, the premier journal in his field, and has been included as an author on well over 900 publications that have over 40,000 citations — making him one of the most highly published chemists in Canada.

Maria Leonor Vivona

Maria Leonor Vivona has been employed at U of T since July 1, 1980 — an astounding record of more than 40 years’ service. She worked in a variety of departments before her appointment as business officer in what is now the Department of Near & Middle Eastern Civilizations. She has provided exceptional management of departmental finances, taking care of payroll and ensuring that research accounts are impeccably maintained. In addition, she enjoys a sterling reputation as someone who can find the answer to any question an employee might have; “ask Maria Leonor” is a suggestion often heard among colleagues, staff and students. Says one co-worker: “Maria has special qualities that are clearly apparent: her dedication, thoroughness, unquestionable professionalism, resourcefulness and friendly disposition. However to me one of Maria’s greatest attributes, outside of her day-to-day role as a critical staff member, is her sincerity.”