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Recognizing staff excellence
When Joseph Mui first saw the envelope in his pigeonhole in the department of electrical and computer engineering, the long-time electronics technician didn't know what to expect.
"I thought it was a notice recognizing my quarter century of service," he said.
Not so--Mui is one of the first four winners of the inaugeral Principal's Staff Awards. Although 25 years is enough time for anyone to get pretty good at their job, Mui doesn't believe that he does anything extraordinary.
"I'm still kind of stunned to have that kind of recognition. I do no more, and no less, than anyone else," said Mui modestly.
Mui, who was the winner in the technical category, is responsible for one of the undergraduate computer labs in the engineering faculty. He believes that he was recognized for his concientious approach to his work.
"I manage to meet all the students in the department. The professors I work with always give me advice, and I take the initiative to help," he said
"I put in very little effort to make people a little more comfortable."
Mui is a little more comfortable himself--the Principal's Award comes with a $5,000 thank-you. It's a generous amount, but Principal Bernard Shapiro said that he wanted to ensure that the awards recognized the integral role non-teaching staff play in the University.
"Five thousand dollars is a lot, but we wished the prize to be special, and we did not wish to offer less than has been given for the Principal's Prizes for Teaching," explained Shapiro in an email.
The awards recognized staff in four categories--one award for management, two for clerical, technical and library staff (excluding librarians), and one for trades and services. Because of a dearth of nominations from the last category, two awards were given in management.
"We did not receive the maximum number of nominations possible, but [in other categories] there were more than sufficient excellent nominations to choose from," said Shapiro.
As one might expect, the award committee was looking for individuals who consistently exceeded expectations, did something distinctive for the University, or developed new or improved existing processes.
In addition, several "softer" criteria were considered by the committee, which consisted of the Vice-Principal (Administration and Finance), one member from each of the staff categories, members from both the SSMU and PGSS, a representative from human resources and a faculty member. They looked for dedication, caring, morale enhancement and initiative.
Nominees had to have been full-time staff members for at least five years. Nominees required a nominating letter and two supporting letters of reference.
All four nominees will be joining Principal Shapiro for a private lunch next month.
For Biochemistry student affairs officer Maureen Caron the award is bittersweet. Her husband recently passed away and she would have liked to have shared the wonderful news with him.
"I don't know what I'm going to do with it now--I might use it to go away somewhere nice," said Caron. "It was nice getting the recognition, more than the money."
Caron, one of two managerial winners, says that she thinks she was nominated for her rapport with students and faculty, with whom she has been working since 1981.
"I try to keep them up-to-date. The students and staff of Biochemistry are basically why I'm still here."
The second managerial winner, Judy Pharo, a student advisor in the Faculty of Engineering, said she sees the award as recognition of her position.
"I think this is an incredible testament to advising, which is still fairly new," she said.
Pharo said winning the award was "the biggest surprise of my life," but she doesn't take full credit for the win--which will be reflected in how she will be using her prize money.
"For now I'm taking out my office for dinner--they're part owners," she said.
For going the extra mile to help students and faculty, Mary Gauthier was the Principal's Award winner in the clerical category. The Psychology departmental secretary isn't certain why she won, although she also could hardly thank her colleagues enough for the honour. She said this award--especially in light of having won the Faculty of Science staff award a few years ago--really confirmed for her that her efforts are noticed.
"It shows how much people appreciate the work I've done--I'd really like to thank the Psychology department for this."
So what is she going to do with the award money?
"I'm going to Disney World!"
caption: Left to Right: Mary Gauthier, Joseph Mui, Maureen Caron and Judy Pharo