University-wide Staff Awards
The 2009 Kidder Award
For their outstanding efforts to foster greater understanding of sexual orientation and a more inclusive University campus, two senior staff members have been recognized with the 2009 Kidder award.
As UNH’s Provost—a role he held from 2003 until June 30 of this year—Bruce Mallory identified “moving from talk to action” regarding issues of diversity as one of his three main goals. Numerous programs to support gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transsexual students have been established or expanded during Mallory’s tenure, and he feels great strides have been made to create a more inclusive student population. “The main challenge is to continue recruiting and retaining more faculty from a diverse background,” he says—a challenge he hopes his successor will take up.
Through his work with myriad student service offices and, more recently, within advancement, Mark Rubinstein has long been an advocate for an inclusive, safe, and welcoming campus for all students, not “regardless of their differences” but because a diverse student body contributes to the educational experiences of all students and to the vitality of the campus community. The University’s Vice President for Student and Academic Services since 2003, Rubinstein considers diversity both a personal and collective responsibility.
Says Rubinstein, “It is essential that we treat every member of the University community with respect and with the understanding that differences between and among us should add richness to our lives."
-- Kristin Duisberg
The 2009 Social Justice Award
Ellen Semran’s colleagues at UNH describe her as “tireless in her efforts to promote social justice”—not just professionally, but in all facets of her life. As OMSA’s LGBTQA+ and Safe Zones Coordinator, Semran plays an integral role in the University’s efforts to provide support, advocacy, and services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning students and allies. In addition to her role at OMSA, Semran is a member of the President’s Commission on the Status of GBLT issues, and serves as one of the University’s Social Justice Educators.
Among Semran’s accomplishments has been the redevelopment and implementation of the UNH Safe Zones program, which has become one of the most in-demand and valuable ally building/anti-oppression training and education initiatives on campus. One element of Safe Zones’ success has been Semran’s focus on the allies of LGBTQA+ individuals. “It’s important to create spaces where students can explore their social identities, experiences, privileges, and their connection to social justice issues, and to build skills around bystander responsibility and creating change,” she explains. Thanks to Ellen’s dedication, hard work, and enthusiasm, the Safe Zones program serves more than 500 UNH students, faculty, and staff each year.
OMSA director Sean McGhee says Semran’s efforts with Safe Zones have made a profound difference to the University. “Her work has made possible one more very huge and important step in institutionalizing the University’s overall efforts toward inclusion and equity,” he says.
-- Kristin Duisberg
The 2009 UNH Women's Commission Stephanie Thomas Staff Award
For more than a decade, Michele Holt-Shannon has been engaged in almost every major community-building program at UNH. An outspoken advocate for students and diversity, Holt-Shannon has served as staff adviser to WildActs, the Social Justice Theatre Troupe; facilitator for the MLK Summit; and instructor for courses on community and social change.
In 2006, Holt-Shannon played an important role in developing the topic of violence against women for the Sidore Lectures series. Her Intergroup Dialogue initiative helped to train staff and faculty as social justice educators and advocates for gender equity, affordable and inclusive family policies, and childcare on campus.
She has supported the Women’s Studies Program as well as the UNH Sexual Harassment and Rape Prevention Program (SHARPP).
Says Holt-Shannon, “I’ve been lucky to have a big part of my work focus on taking down barriers to opportunity and questioning the status quo of what is possible for women and other identity groups to accomplish.”
-- David Moore
The 2009 Joyce Gibbs Award
After earning her nursing degree in 1975, Sue Bigonia began work at University Health Services. Soon after, Bigonia talked with members of the Student Senate to encourage their efforts to advocate for the hiring of a gynecologist at Health Services to better serve women students. Their efforts were successful and remain so to this day. Bigonia returned to UNH in the 1980s to work in the women’s health department. She provided high-quality clinical care, as well as education and support for women students. She challenged students to take responsibility for themselves, to understand their bodies, and to advocate for themselves within the health care system.
Bigonia served on SHARPP’s Sexual Assault Response Team and the President’s Commission on the Status of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Issues. And she did educational outreach in classrooms.
“Evident in all of Sue’s work with students is her commitment to quality, respect, and education,” says Kathleen Grace Bishop, director of education and promotion.
For the last decade or so, Bigonia was a triage nurse. For the last two years, she’s been the supervisor of triage, which means she’s in charge of helping each person as he or she comes through the door. She loves her work right down to the dappled light filtering through the trees in front of the building. Always, she has that warm, yet approachable authority, when she asks, “How can I help you?”
-- Carrie Sherman
The 2009 UNH Professional Advising Award
When Colleen Bolton ‘84, ‘87, an academic counselor at UNH Manchester, returned from vacation this past summer, she was treated to a slew of e-mails from students and alumni just wanting to stay in touch. “We really get to know our students,” says Bolton. “We meet them at orientation and stay in contact with them until they graduate.”
Bolton earned an associate’s degree from the Thompson School of Applied Sciences and then went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in English. “When I graduated from the UNH, I became the Admission’s rep for the Thompson School, and my enthusiasm just shone through,” says Bolton.
Subsequently, she worked as a high school guidance counselor and in admissions at UNH Manchester. She also earned a M.Ed. in Counseling. In 2004, she joined the academic counseling staff at UNH Manchester and truly found her niche.
Her work includes academic counseling, teaching, and career workshops. She collaborates extensively with advising colleagues and faculty at UNH Manchester and also with career counselors at UNH.
She always brings something extra to her responsibilities as with the daily career tip e-mails that also promote job and internship fairs. Known as the consummate colleague, Bolton is always on hand to volunteer.
“I believe whole-heartedly in the value of a UNH education and in the mission of UNH Manchester,” says Bolton. “I can’t imagine working anyplace else but here.”
-- Carrie Sherman
The 2009 President's Excellence Through Diversity Award
For nearly 20 years, Margaret Pobywajlo has earned a unique reputation as an advocate for students who are on the margin— academically, culturally, linguistically.
Under her direction, the Center for Academic Enrichment (CAE) at UNH Manchester dedicates itself to “helping underprepared students prepare, prepared students advance, and advanced students excel” through dozens of programs and services.
In collaboration with former UNH Manchester dean Karol LaCroix, she developed a course called English for Speakers of Other Languages, or ESOL, to make college educations more accessible to the region’s growing immigrant populations. “Today, there are 70 different languages spoken in Manchester’s public schools,” Pobywajlo says. “The ESOL program recognizes that this wonderful diversity of people has much to contribute to, and much to gain from, access to a dynamic learning community such as UNH Manchester.”
Pobywajlo’s programs reach deep into the local community through open houses, tutor development courses, and summer institutes such as the College Transition Program for ESOL students. She has also created social events for parents and workshops for faculty and staff on fostering inclusive classrooms. “Quite simply, Margaret is our institutional conscience,” avers Regina McCarthy, director of student academic services at UNH Manchester.
In addition to her tireless work at the CAE, in 2004 Pobywajlo earned a doctoral degree in education at UNH. She has authored numerous publications and presentations on literacy, peer tutoring, and academic enrichment.
-- David Moore