ASU Graduate College announces first-ever Staff Awards for Excellence winners

The Graduate College has announced the recipients of its inaugural Graduate College Staff Awards for Excellence. Established to recognize the prodigious role Arizona State University staff members play in the success of graduate students at ASU, the awards are one way the Graduate College can shine a spotlight on the tireless work of ASU staff members who play a critical role in the college's mission.  

“ASU staff members who support ASU graduate students often go the extra mile to make sure they complete their graduate degrees successfully and move on to bright futures. We couldn’t be more thankful for their hard work and dedication, which makes our job that much easier,” said Elizabeth Wentz, vice provost and Graduate College dean.

ASU has more than 300 hardworking staff members who support graduate students during their academic journeys, many of whom are deserving of recognition for their dedication to graduate students. The number of deserving staff members is much higher than the number of awards that can be given, as evidenced by the overwhelming number of nominations the Graduate College received from ASU faculty, staff and students. In the case of the Going the Extra Mile award, there was a three-way tie almost doubling the number of total awards given. 

“Reading the nominations from students, faculty and staff across ASU was inspiring,” said Brian Mattson, Graduate College executive director. “It’s a testament to how many lives ASU staff members touch in consequential ways in their role as part of the graduate student support system at ASU.” 

The Graduate College Staff Awards for Excellence are awarded in four categories: Going the Extra Mile, Outstanding New Staff Member, Supporting Student Success and Outstanding Collaboration. All winners will receive a personalized award for their office and a letter of congratulations from Wentz. 

Going the Extra Mile

The Going the Extra Mile award is an opportunity for ASU staff and faculty to recognize a staff member in a graduate support role that has contributed in a significant way to the academic success or overall experience of graduate students at ASU.

Andra Williams, senior coordinator in the School for the Future of Innovation in Society 

For Williams, students are her top priority and she cares about their success deeply. Among her accomplishments this year, Williams:

  • Created a PhD milestone chart based on feedback from students for tracking their graduate degree programs to supplement the iPOS in the HSD program. 

  • Used her experience and ideas in a proposal through which more than 20 students from the University of Guyana were brought to the immersive IGD PhD program. She was also instrumental in helping to redesign the $1.8 million grant to enroll 22 PhD and master's students from the University of Guyana. 

  • Helped design the IGD Pathway program of online course work, which helps graduate students complete several credits before they arrive in Tempe and ensures a smooth enrollment process. This can be used as a model for how to recruit professionals from around the world in the future.

According to her nominator, “The students love her and the faculty cannot do without her.” She brings kindness, words of encouragement and addresses issues promptly.

“She is a gem and we are very appreciative of her contributions to SFIS and to ASU.” 

Kylie Burkholder, graduate support coordinator in the School of Life Sciences 

Burkholder is a believer in long-term planning, a quality that benefits the students she works with and her colleagues in the School of Life Sciences. Burkholder went above and beyond her regular duties in the following ways:

  • In response to the pandemic, Bukrholder developed a new virtual guide for incoming students on Canvas, organizing the information they would need for starting classes in an “effort that will pay off for years to come.” 

  • Overhauled the admissions process for the School of Life Sciences 4+1 programs, creating new informational materials, building new forms and hosting webinars. She worked closely with undergraduate advisers and program directors to streamline the process and train other staff to guarantee smooth operation. 

  • Began an EdD program to learn more about the creation of online programs so that she could help the School of Life Sciences create a new online degree program. 

According to her nominator, Burkholder “finds creative solutions to intractable problems and helps students focus on their long-term goals.”

Katie Ulmer, student support coordinator in the Department of Psychology 

Ulmer likes to build systems to make things easier for everyone else, especially ASU graduate students. Among her accomplishments this year, Ulmer:

  • Conducted personalized orientation sessions for all new graduate students to help them plan to meet their academic milestones and complete their degrees, eliminating a great deal of students’ stress and anxiety. 

  • Provided iPOS training to first-year graduate students as part of the Professional Issues seminar. 

  • Stepped up to help with the American Psychological Association accreditation self-study, making sure that her unit had the information and data needed for the ongoing accreditation process. 

According to her nominator, “Her commitment to our students is without equal, and I know (and our students know) that no ball will ever be dropped with Katie on the job.” 

Outstanding New Staff Member

The Outstanding New Staff Member award is an opportunity for ASU staff and faculty to recognize a newer staff member in a graduate support role that has contributed in a significant way to the academic success or overall experience of graduate students at ASU.

Kathleen Malles, program coordinator in the Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation

Malles has been a part of ASU for a long time, earning both her undergraduate and now her graduate degree from ASU. As a result, she brings insight into what students need and want to her work. Among her accomplishments this year, Malles:

  • Created a number of resources for new students, including a welcome packet, a student orientation program and a new student mentor program. The mentor program pairs new students with second-year students and/or alumni and professionals depending on student needs and goals. The program started with eight students and currently has more than 150 actively involved. 

  • Launched a monthly webinar series that includes faculty and experts in the field from around the world, which students can attend and earn continuing education units.   

  • Developed a student tracking system to identify students who are struggling or might be falling behind that provides an opportunity for early intervention. 

According to her nominator, Malles has never just done her job. “She has always looked for ways to improve and increase the efficiency of our program."

Supporting Student Success

The Supporting Student Success award is an opportunity for graduate students to recognize a staff member in a graduate support role that has contributed in a significant way to their academic success or overall graduate student experience during their graduate program.

Natalie Hebert, administrative associate in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice

Hebert coached her graduate student nominator through debilitating social isolation during the pandemic and to make a decision that improved their mental health and their career trajectory. In the nominator's own words, “Thanks to Natalie’s support in making this decision, I was able to take a position this spring where I wake up excited to go to work ... I’ve seen such a positive change in my mental health as a result.”

But that’s not all. Herbert also helped this student find extra funding to attend professional workshops. 

According to her nominator, “Natalie Herbert is a key example of ASU’s commitment to the success of each unique student.”

Outstanding Collaboration

The Outstanding Collaboration award is an opportunity for Graduate College employees to nominate a staff member in a graduate support role outside of the Graduate College that has volunteered to collaborate on projects, tasks and/or who have served as a trusted source to champion new Graduate College initiatives.

Lynn Pratte, senior academic success advising coordinator in the School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering

Pratte is always focused on making things better for students and colleagues. So it makes sense that she is the “go-to person” for the Graduate College’s graduate program support and data/IT teams for beta testing new tools that will help her graduate support colleagues. Among her contributions, Pratte:

  • Helped create filters for gaduate student progress analytics reports and helped to test and improve the faculty approval process in iPOS and the manage staff adviser tool.  

  • Served as a model for how to work with International Accelerated Degree Programs (IADP) students by creating orientations and registration and advising practices. 

  • Volunteered to serve in focus groups for improving the 4+1 process to increase enrollment and for improving the grad adviser portal. 

  • Assisted in graduate support staff meetings and periodically leads them as a subject matter expert to share her knowledge. 

According to her nominator, Pratte is committed to collaborating on projects that will increase student success, especially if they make systems and processes work more smoothly. Through her advice and feedback, she has enhanced the operational effectiveness of the Graduate College. 

Tracy Viselli