Presidential Award of Excellence
Discovery Program Office
“I always try to have positive relation-
ships with people. I think most people do, too.”
Michele Holt-Shannon, the assistant director of Discovery at UNH, describes herself as “a connector and a boundary crosser.” She has probably done as much as anybody in recent memory to foster the value of community on campus.
In her current position, Holt-Shannon helps students find their footing and make the correlation between learning both in and outside the classroom. She was instrumental in transforming the idea of a University Dialogue into a successful yearlong program–one that includes lectures, discussions, films, theater–anything that underscores the Discovery Program's goal of showing students how “curriculum” can be everywhere.
“I kind of see myself as a community organizer for the campus. Sometimes people don't always see that there are so many opportunities for collaboration here,” she says. “I know I cross boundaries but I try to do it in a way that keeps everyone thinking about the work and the outcome.”
Holt-Shannon's colleagues take this self-assessment a step further. Their praises, which ring from the tower of Thompson Hall to the corridors of Hamilton Smith, herald her as a “major contributor,” a “strong advocate” for students, and a “deft facilitator” whose calm and confident leadership style guides her as she helps people and programs make connections nobody thought could exist–until Holt-Shannon pointed the way.
Holt-Shannon loves to bring people together. If she's having a conversation with someone about a particular project, she is quick to link him or her to someone else who is doing something similar.
“That's the thing I enjoy the most,” Holt-Shannon says, “having good, honest, transparent, healthy, and fun relationships with my colleagues. I always try to have positive relationships with people. I think most people do, too.”
Holt-Shannon came to UNH in 1999 when her husband Mark became a hall director. Their first daughter was born eleven years ago while they were living in Williamson, and spent her first year of life learning to walk in Smith Hall.
Holt-Shannon's first job at UNH was assistant to the director of residential life. From there she went on to become interim program director of the MUB and program director and then assistant director of Student Life.
Now she spends most of her time working with faculty and staff, but the focus, she says, remains on the students. Her primary role is to create and support associations between academics and out-of-classroom curriculum.
She still maintains direct connection with students by being involved in such organizations as WildACTS, a social-change theater group on campus that tackles the complexities of social and health risks among first-year students. She also lends her voice to other social-justice initiatives and has developed social-justice training workshops.
Holt-Shannon is comfortable with and thrives on change. She says the University Dialogues satisfies that part of her personality because it is brand new every year.
“I see the commitment, passion, and effort that faculty and staff devote to student success and I think, 'man, this is a committed bunch of people.' I'm lucky to be a part of it all.”
- Jody Record