Wilkes University faculty and staff recognized with President’s Awards

Five Wilkes University faculty and staff members were presented with new cross-university awards called the President’s Awards for Excellence during Wilkes University’s fall convocation earlier this year.

The awards, granted by President Patrick Leahy, promote and celebrate the University’s five core values: scholarship, diversity, innovation, mentoring and community.

The President’s Award for Excellence in Scholarship was presented to biology professor Michael Steele. Steele has been active in research during his years at Wilkes, and recently received the Opportunities for Promoting Understanding through Synthesis (OPUS) Award from the National Science Foundation. This award provides a grant to the recipient, which is to be used to produce a synthesis of their life’s work.

”I’m truly humbled to have received this award,” Steele said of the President’s Award. “Especially given all the active and competent researchers (here on campus).”

Associate professor of English Helen Davis received the President’s Award for Diversity. Davis has been involved in a variety of diversity-producing initiatives since she came to Wilkes in 2008.

Currently, she is the faculty adviser for the Gender and Sexuality Alliance. She also helped to co-found and co-facilitate the Safe Space program with Elizabeth Swantek and Erica Acosta, which promotes LGBT awareness and provides training. Davis also worked on a summer task force that analyzed how accommodating the campus was for transgender and non-transforming students, at which time the new all-gender bathroom initiative was decided. She is also helping work on the application for the Howard Hughes Grant, which focuses on diversity, and continuously tries to bring supportive programming on campus.

“Obviously diversity is something I care very much about,” Davis said. “I do it because I care and want us to have as strong and supportive of a campus as possible.”

“This award is a sign that our campus cares about diversity,” Davis continued.

The President’s Award for Innovation went to John Carlin, director of network and technology infrastructure, for his efforts in promoting programs, ideas and sustainable practices on campus.

Specifically, since he came to Wilkes in 2014, Carlin aided the campus in going from 243 to 646 Wireless Access Points, thereby increasing wireless connectivity across campus. Currently, he and others are working on trying to bring wireless to some outside areas, as well as working to have the last piece of the Firewall upgraded by next year to further increase internet connection.

“Even though my name is on the award, I would not have won the award if it were not for my team: Joe Wilk, Neal, Huhn, and Mark Kazokas,” Carlin said. “These guys and myself have put a lot of time in behind-the-scenes… so it is nice to be recognized for our hard work that is put in.”

Lt. Col. Mark Kaster was granted the President’s Award for Mentoring for his efforts in nurturing individuals to understand and act on their abilities while challenging them to achieve great things.

Kaster is a lecturer in environmental engineering and earth science as well as a veterans counselor and the faculty advisor for the veterans club on campus. In this way, he has helped veterans get accommodated to their life after service and achieve their goals.

“I see it as a way for me to continue to serve,” Kaster said of this position, which is part of what gained him the mentoring award. “It’s humbling to receive this award, but I accepted it on behalf of a lot of people. I couldn’t do what I do without the help of various other people; it’s a team effort.”

Kaster referenced his family, administration, the EES department, admissions and the registrar’s office, as well as others,  as those that he views as pivotal in the work he does, extending thanks to  “all the people that support me so that I can support the students.”

Director of athletics Addy Malatesta was to recipient of the President’s Award for Community for her efforts in appreciating and collaborating with mutual respect to foster a sense of belonging on campus.

This is the first year the President’s Awards have been granted, and university faculty or staff members had the opportunity to nominate anyone in the Wilkes community who embodied the spirit of each value. The nominations were then shared with administration for feedback, with the final decision determined by Leahy.