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Staff Recognition and Milestone Service Awards | 2023

Honoring WashU staff for exceptional performance, superior service, and dedication.

Photo Galleries from 2023 Events

This year marked a return to in-person celebrations, along with the inaugural Recognition Gala for staff honorees and those celebrating 30, 35, 40, and 45 years of service. Pictures from those events are now available for viewing:

School of Medicine events | May 22, 2023
Danforth / Central Fiscal Unit (CFU) event | May 23, 2023
Recognition Gala | June 1, 2023

Distinguished Honorees

We are excited to honor our 2023 service award recipients and distinguished honor awardees! In an effort to encourage appreciation within schools through peer-to-peer and leadership-to-peer recognition, this year we are pleased to announce three new university-wide awards, one new CFU-specific award, and the return of our school-specific awards. All honorees were nominated by colleagues and selected among many nominations by a university-wide selection committee. Please join us in congratulating our colleagues on their well-deserved achievements.

Universitywide Distinguished Service Awards

Gloria White Award

The Gloria W. White Distinguished Service Award is the highest honor for the university and honors a staff member who goes beyond the daily work to make an impact on Washington University in St. Louis. The award is meant to recognize staff who work from the heart to move the university forward by helping employees thrive through achieving our missions of education, research and patient care.

Emily Page, Office of Human Resources, Central Fiscal Unit

Emily Page, recipient of Gloria W. White Award
Emily Page, senior manager wellness and benefits projects

Emily Page joined WashU in 2014 after 11 years at Rice University as director of their student wellness center. She has served higher education populations as a health educator, wellness coach, team manager and program developer. Emily is proud to lead the HR wellness team in developing and implementing evidence-based programs that support employee well-being. She also recently expanded her role to include managing child and family care programs at WashU. Emily completed her graduate work in health promotion and wellness management in 2021 and is currently enrolled in the TIAA Emerging Leaders Network.

She has always enjoyed dancing, reading, watching movies, and eating interesting foods. Recently Emily developed new interests in gardening and trying to beat her 11-year-old son at chess.  She ran her first 5k at the age of 40 and is learning how to live mindfully.

Community Impact Award

The Community Impact Award recognizes an employee who establishes and sustains mutually enhancing relationships that elevate both WashU and the greater St. Louis community. This employee creates a more equitable and sustainable environment within their sphere of influence.

Jeanetta Nixon, events administrative assistant, Law School, Danforth Campus

In her role as Washington University Law Events Administrative Assistant. Jeanetta has learned that a successful event is a collaboration of everyone’s efforts. She credits this position as a springboard towards improving her professional and personal skills in the planning and execution of the client’s ideas for their event. These are the concepts she brings to her work, enabling many people to come together as one group, one family, working for one cause to have an excellent affair.

In her downtime, Jeanetta supports a nonprofit group called Zulu Saint Louis, a Mardi Gras 501(c)(3) charity group helping children of the greater Saint Louis area by fighting illiteracy within the public school system. The past 10+ years have supported literacy through poetry slams. Students learn how to compete, how to excel, and how to push each other as a group to that same level of excellence. Jeanetta and her peers set positive examples in the poetry slam, teaching students how to take constructive criticism while also teaching mentoring and peer mentoring skills.

Emerging Leader Award

The Emerging Leader Award recognizes an employee who positively influences and leads others at the university, in their community and in their profession. This award acknowledges someone who listens to the feedback and concerns of employees, displays a growth mindset and empowers their colleagues to develop and utilize their leadership skills and capabilities to better the university and St. Louis region.

Lauren Ashman, Institute for School Partnerships, Danforth Campus

Lauren Ashman, program manager / instructional specialist
Lauren Ashman, program manager / instructional specialist

Lauren Ashman currently serves as a Program Manager for the mySci Program at The Institute for School Partnership, which is a K-8 instructional program that includes curriculum, professional learning and leased kits of materials, designed to support science learning in the St. Louis region. In this role, Lauren leads the curriculum project team: curriculum writers, K-12 educators, informal educators, scientists and university faculty, and provides strategic direction and project oversight focused on the development of high-quality engaging instructional materials for K-12 teachers. Additionally, she supports operations, ensuring coordination between the science curriculum, program management, and operations teams. 

What motivates Lauren in this work is helping remove barriers for science teachers, and in doing so, supporting teachers to provide opportunities for rigorous and equitable science sensemaking to all students in their classrooms. She is also passionate about leadership and developing systems that support her team’s growth, development, and well-being. 

She holds a degree in Environmental Science from Saint Louis University. Outside of her professional life, Lauren can be found spending time with her family at the various parks around the St. Louis region, visiting National Parks, and training for Ironman 70.3 races.

Central Fiscal Unit (CFU) Awards

University Operations Award

The University Operations Award recognizes a Central Fiscal Unit (CFU) employee who provides exceptional customer service to our employees, students and community members and who demonstrates extraordinary contributions to WashU missions of education, research and patient care. This employee may impact both WashU and the larger St. Louis community by creating a more equitable business ecosystem through collaboration with regional partners, fostering community collaborations to improve the qualify of life for the larger St. Louis community, and supporting and building internal infrastructure to promote community outreach and expansion opportunities.

Gina Smutz, Office of Technology Management

Gina Smutz, compliance manager

In her role as Compliance Manager, Gina Duncan Smutz is responsible for all federal and foundation compliance activities related to inventions disclosed to Washington University. She has a B.A. degree in Political Science and Paralegal Certificate from Webster University and has worked in technology transfer at Washington University since 2014, and Purdue Research Foundation from 2010-2014. 

Gina has expanded the exposure and outreach of OTM nationally with her multi-year involvement with the Association of University Technology Managers (AUTM). She has held leadership roles with AUTM, including serving on the compliance committee since 2018, and currently serves as the 2023 compliance co-chair on the operations and compliance planning committee. From 2021-2022, she served on the AUTM Job Task Analysis team and help to develop a detailed overview of the tasks and competencies associated with various positions in the field of technology transfer. Gina went on to modify the deliverables of this team into a comprehensive onboarding plan for new WashU OTM employees, introducing them to the fundamentals of university tech transfer.

Danforth Schools Awards

University College

Dean’s Award for Excellence

The Dean’s Award for Excellence is bestowed annually upon a staff member whose contributions to University College students, faculty, or staff have led to improvements in one or more of the following: morale, efficiency, student experience, faculty rapport, and student success. This staff member is known as a collaborative colleague that embodies the values of University College while having an innovative impact to drive the school’s mission forward.

Amanda Mueller, coordinator for academic programs, University College

Arts & Sciences

At a ceremony and reception held Sept. 21 in Holmes Lounge, members of the Arts & Sciences community gathered to recognize recipients of the annual faculty and staff awards. Each award-winner has demonstrated exceptional service to the university through service, leadership, or teaching

Staff Leadership Award

Sara Ryu accepts the Staff Leadership Award from Dean Feng Sheng Hu
Sara Ryu, director of academic initiatives & special advisor to the vice dean

Sara Ryu, College of Arts & Sciences

This award honors a staff member who demonstrates exceptional initiative and outstanding execution in efforts that help advance the mission of Arts & Sciences. Awardees are particularly adept at understanding the needs of the school and their unit; working with faculty, staff, and leadership to advance efforts that meet these needs; supporting diversity efforts; and fostering a culture of teamwork and inspiring excellence in others.

Staff Service Award for Excellence

This award recognizes a staff member who has been a key player in operations that are critical to their unit and to Arts & Sciences. Awardees’ performance has consistently exceeded expectations, improved operational effectiveness, and established them as a reliable and trusted colleague. Congratulations to the honorees:

  • Simone Becque, marketing and communications manager
  • Debbie Fjerstad, psychological & brain sciences accounting assistant
  • Jason Ray, arts & sciences computing client support team lead
  • Rick Schneider, general chemistry and organic chemistry administrative assistant
Left to right: Rick Schneider, Dean Feng Sheng Hu, Jason Ray, Simone Becque, Debbie Fjerstad
School of Medicine Awards

Dean’s Distinguished Service Award

The Dean’s Distinguished Service Award remains the highest form of staff recognition at the School of Medicine. The award recognizes an employee for displaying ongoing commitment to exceeding job responsibilities, helping to create a positive working environment, and improving the community in which he or she lives. 

Patti Hunt, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics

Patti Hunt, purchasing supervisor

Patti Hunt aspired to work at WashU because of their reputation and robust benefits. She began her WashU career as a glass washer for the labs and was excited to hear of the stockroom position when it became available. This position matched all of her previous work experiences in sales and customer service. Patti currently works as purchasing supervisor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics. 

When I say I love my job, I truly do. I enjoy working with all my customers and getting the best deals that I can for them. Working in the Biochemistry department has been delightful and educational.

Patti Hunt, recipient of the 2023 Dean’s Distinguished Service Award

Research Support Award

The Research Support Award is categorized as Basic Science and Clinical. Nominees must be employed at .50 FTE or greater.  These awards recognize employees for exceptional performance, outstanding leadership, and superior quality of service. 

Magdalena Nelson, Department of OBGYN

Magdalena Nelson, director of research/business administration

Magdalena Nelson, MBA, obtained a master’s degree in international business from the University of Economics in Bratislava, Slovakia, and then completed her MBA in business strategy at Drury University in Springfield, Missouri. She started her professional career in the telecommunications and logistics industries. In 2008, she accepted a research administration position at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in the Department of International Health, Divisions of Global Disease Epidemiology Control and Social and Behavioral Interventions. She supported a large portfolio of research projects located predominantly in low- and middle-income countries and focused on a variety of global health issues including tuberculosis, cholera, tropical and rare diseases, and maternal and child health and malnutrition. In 2016, Magdalena accepted a position as Division Administrator in the Center for Reproductive Health Sciences in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Washington University School of Medicine and is currently the Director of Research/Business Administration in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. In this role, she supports researchers in all ten divisions as they advance knowledge in obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive biology to improve healthcare and health outcomes for patients in St. Louis and around the world.

Operations Staff Award

The Operations Staff Award is categorized as an Administrative, Facilities, or Teaching award on the School of Medicine campus. Nominees must be employed at .50 FTE or greater.  These awards recognize employees for exceptional performance, outstanding leadership, and superior quality of service.

Kelly Thies, Department of Orthopedics

Kelly Thies, administrative professional

Kelly Thies is an Administrative Professional in the Department of Orthopedic Surgery and has been with Washington University for 3.5 years. She supports Drs. Matava, Brophy, Smith, Knapik, Halstead, McCormick and Backus, supervises two employees and serves as the fellowship coordinator for Sports Medicine Foot & Ankle. A St. Louis native, Kelly graduated from Lafayette High School, followed by one year at the University of Central Missouri. She believes in helping others even when you know they cannot help you back. She enjoys spending her free time outdoors and with her son, going for a run, and trying new things.

Kelley Mullen Clinical Service Award

Joanie Harbaugh-Steibel, clinical service representative

The Kelley Mullen Clinical Service Award recognizes a clinical support staff member who consistently demonstrates ongoing acts of caring that go beyond the normal expected levels of courtesy, responsiveness, and customer service and creates a positive work environment.  This award honors Kelley Mullen, a gifted nurse-clinician and administrator, who exemplified service quality and personified our clinical mission.

Joanie Harbaugh-Steibel, Program in Physical Therapy

Joanie Harbaugh-Steibel joined WashU 18 months ago as a Clinical Service Rep II within the Program in Physical Therapy. Growing up on a farm in southern Illinois taught her an appreciation for the little things in life. Showing kindness, going above and beyond, and encouraging others are characteristics Joanie regularly employs. She strives to be there for her family, including her four children Jolene, Jana (Austin), Jodie (Derek) & John “JD”, two granddaughters Diana and Freyja, her significant other, Scott Rippelmeyer, three stepchildren Jamie (Brian), Nolan (Ally), Matt (Victoria) and six step-granddaughters Samantha, Alex, Christina, Addie, Rosie and Reid.

Joanie tries her best to consistently treat others as she would want to be treated, and works to brighten everyone’s day, leaving a positive impact on people’s lives and trying to make the “crankiest of the cranky smile”.

I enjoy interacting with patients and helping them with any need they may have. I feel incredibly privileged to work with such an amazing group of people (family). I think our whole department deserves this award.

Joanie Harbaugh-Steibel, recipient of Kelley Mullen Clinical Service Award
Excellence in Nursing Awards

Two WashU nurses were recognized by St. Louis Magazine this spring as part of the annual Excellence in Nursing award. The winning nurses are chosen from hundreds of nominations submitted by peers, supervisors and patients. Congratulations to our WashU nurses noted below:

  • Amber Malcolm, nurse practitioner, Department of Neurology
  • Elizabeth Schappe, nurse anesthetist, Department of Anesthesiology

Milestone Recipients

This year marks a return to in-person recognition events, and we are proud to celebrate WashU 2023 milestone recipients with 10, 15, 20, 30, 35, 40 and 45 years of service in ways that embrace a spirit of recognition and appreciation. Please visit the Staff Milestone Awards hub for a comprehensive list of university milestone recipients, a description of recognition efforts and events, and tips for how to recognize your teammates.

Please note: milestones are calculated per fiscal year, so FY23 recipients are honored from July 1, 2022 – June 30, 2023. 5-year recipients receive a certificate from Chancellor Martin and 25-year recipients are honored by Chancellor Martin at a separate special event.

Washington University in St. Louis recognizes and honors staff for their dedication to our missions of research, teaching and patient care. Thank you to all of our staff for your continued commitment and dedication to our missions; you help us achieve so much as an institution. Visit the WashU Staff Recognition Hub for additional details and ideas to celebrate your colleagues. Managers, find a special leader recognition toolkit online (PDF).