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The award goes to...

Division of Student Affairs lauds staff for initiatives, innovations during conference

Story by VIRGINIA COMMONWEALTH UNIVERSITY May 26th, 2017

Whether driving 30 miles to handle frazzled vendors on a Sunday or facilitating challenging programs for the Virginia Commonwealth University community, staff in the Division of Student Affairs rarely put themselves first. On Thursday, May 25, more than a dozen people were honored during the Division of Student Affairs Awards Conference and Awards Ceremony.

Keynote speaker Garret Westlake, Ph.D., executive director of VCU’s da Vinci Center, shared lessons he learned from his career in student affairs roles at several institutions.

“It’s OK to have some pride and swagger about what we do in student affairs,” he told the audience in the University Student Commons Commonwealth Ballroom.

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Keynote speaker Garret Westlake, Ph.D.

Westlake recalled a moment when the importance of his connection to students took on new meaning. Recently hired at a community college, he was assigned to the college safety team and issued the gear to look the part.

“I got a walkie talkie, I got an orange vest and I got a hard hat,” he said. One day, a major tornado hit, causing massive destruction to the campus.

“What really struck me this day was the unity that came on campus that day. We only had each other,” he said. The surrounding area was struck by more than a dozen tornados. Staff, students and faculty worked together to transport people for medical care, then committed themselves to reopening the campus.


When we hear industry partners talk about a STEM pipeline that is more diverse … VCU should be at the top of every single one of those lists.

In his role at VCU, Westlake feels the university is well-positioned for the innovation economy. The da Vinci center’s student body is majority-minority – and 52 percent female – in a field often lacking in diversity.

“The time has come for young, urban, highly diverse research universities to fill this void around the innovation economy,” Westlake said. “When we hear industry partners talk about a STEM pipeline that is more diverse … VCU should be at the top of every single one of those lists. We are producing top talent.”

Honored during the event were:

o 2017 Campus Partner Award – Office of Sustainability

o 2017 Outstanding Program Award – Tunnel of Oppression (Yolanda Avent, Ashley Gaddy, Justin Shreve)

o 2017 Innovation Award – Residential Life & Housing Academic Initiatives Committee (Kevin Baker, Jamese Carrell, Erin Edwards, Megan Thurston)

o 2017 RAM Spirit Award – Lauren Henry, University Student Commons & Activities

o 2017 Commitment to Developing Others Award – Fletcher Ferguson, Residential Life & Housing

o 2017 Commitment to Developing Others Award – Reginald Stroble, Office of Multicultural Student Affairs

Campus Partner Award – Office of Sustainability
Outstanding Program Award – Tunnel of Oppression (Yolanda Avent, Ashley Gaddy, Justin Shreve)
Innovation Award – Residential Life & Housing Academic Initiatives Committee (Kevin Baker, Jamese Carrell, Erin Edwards, Megan Thurston)
RAM Spirit Award – Lauren Henry, University Student Commons & Activities
Commitment to Developing Others Award – Fletcher Ferguson, Residential Life & Housing
Commitment to Developing Others Award – Reginald Stroble, Office of Multicultural Student Affairs

o 2017 Service to Diversity Award – Justin Shreve, Residential Life & Housing

o 2017 Outstanding New Employee Award – Latisha Taylor, VCU Career Services

o 2017 Outstanding New Employee Award – Ashley Gaddy, Residential Life & Housing/Multicultural Student Affairs

o 2017 Outstanding New Employee Award – Thomas Bannard, The Wellness Resource Center

o 2017 Dedicated Service Award – Mark Jeffries, Student Media Center

o 2017 Dedicated Service Award – Jenae Harrington, Office of Multicultural Student Affairs

o 2017 Distinguished Service to the Division of Student Affairs – Margaret Roberson, M.D., University Student Health Services

Service to Diversity Award – Justin Shreve, Residential Life & Housing
Dedicated Service Award – Mark Jeffries, Student Media Center
Outstanding New Employee Award – Ashley Gaddy, Residential Life & Housing/Multicultural Student Affairs
Outstanding New Employee Award – Thomas Bannard, The Wellness Resource Center
Dedicated Service Award – Jenae Harrington, Office of Multicultural Student Affairs
Distinguished Service to the Division of Student Affairs – Margaret Roberson, M.D., University Student Health Services
Outstanding New Employee Award – Latisha Taylor, VCU Career Services

The awards ceremony capped the second annual conference. This year’s theme was “Unity: Strengthening Our Community.”

The conference featured a welcome by Charles Klink, Ph.D., vice provost for student affairs, followed by a round of speed networking and breakout sessions. Conference presentations were submitted by members of the Division of Student Affairs, as well as other departments and units from VCU, and the conference committee selected eight presentations.

Attendees were encouraged to make a donation to the “Suit Yourself Clothing Drive,” an initiative by VCU Career Services that provides gently used professional clothing to students preparing for an interview or career fair.

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Footnote: Story by Pat Kane and Matthew Lovisa. Photos by Pat Kane.
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