Thirteen exceptional staff employees received Ohio State’s highest staff recognition, the Distinguished Staff Award. Congratulations to the recipients recognized for their outstanding achievements, service, leadership and dedication to Ohio State, as well as exemplifying the university’s shared values.
Annually, recipients are nominated and selected based on their exceptional leadership and dedication. To be considered for a Distinguished Staff Award, nominations are submitted and carefully reviewed by the selection committee. Each nomination is assessed on criteria consistent with the university’s values, the individual’s unique contributions to enhance the quality of work life for faculty, staff, students or patients, outstanding and ongoing service to university stakeholders, and/or creative solution developed that positively impacted department or university operations.
One exceptional recipient was awarded the Presidential Staff Award, a special distinction for a nominee who demonstrates university values, as well as an exceptional commitment to diversity, community engagement, affordable education and access for all students.
The 2023 Presidential Staff Award recipient is:
Director, Morrill Scholars Program
Office of Diversity and Inclusion
Robert Decatur is a strong advocate for students and known for the innovative approaches he takes to create a more inclusive and exceptional place to learn and work. He is a collaborative leader and instructor who has developed impactful award-winning programs and services that help students reach their full potential. Robert founded Ohio State’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion Campus Change Program, managed tutoring and mentoring initiatives, and directed the Young Scholars Program. With integrity and skill, he currently serves as director of the Morrill Scholarship Program, a premier university scholarship program that recognizes high-achieving students committed to diversity-based leadership, scholarship, service, and social justice activities. Robert continues to identify and eradicate disparities in access to higher education and demonstrates commitment to student and staff success.
The 2023 Distinguished Staff Award recipients are:
Manager, Student Services
College of Engineering, Knowlton School
Jessica Baer-Graves champions student success, from their admission to graduation and beyond. Her innovative approach, empathy and strategic thinking has developed a culture of care for students. Jessica established the Knowlton food pantry; established a BIPOC peer mentoring group; and organized a series of sensitivity trainings for faculty and staff. Jessica’s compassion in her personal outreach to students who exhibit signs of struggling in the classroom is unparalleled as she partners with them to find solutions and keep them enrolled in school.
Graduate Program & Grants Coordinator
College of Engineering
Department of Engineering Education
Dr. Ana Casado makes a tremendous impact on the Department of Engineering Education through her approachable, empathetic nature with students and immense initiative to develop creative, innovative solutions to advance the program. Ana was a key contributor in the creation of the Department of Engineering Education PhD program, in which she assisted designing co-curricular elements, established recruitment practices, and developed policies and procedures to help students transition seamlessly into the new program. Her work has grown the program, and her personal connection with students has been invaluable to increasing retention and helping them determine career trajectories.
Communications Manager and Industry Liaison
College of Food, Agriculture, and Environmental Sciences
Department of Food Science and Technology
Kelly Elisar’s problem-solving, compassion, leadership and positive change management has enhanced the quality of work life in the Department of Food Science and Technology and built trust with students, faculty and stakeholders. Kelly is the driving force behind the department’s booth at the Annual Conference of Institute of Food Technologists, and she established the department’s Hall of Distinction to recognize notable alumni and friends. She also created opportunities to engage students, including planning a graduation party each semester, establishing a student/industry mentorship program and creating a multi-disciplinary student-led group that focuses on effective and accurate science communication.
Small Ruminant Research and Teaching Center Manager
College of Food, Agriculture, and Environmental Sciences
Animal Sciences Department
Gregg Fogle’s inclusive, patient and thoughtful approach enhances the work environment around him and contributes to making a positive difference for colleagues, students and stakeholders. Gregg’s greatest priority, which is service to students, is apparent in how he serves as a role model in caring for animals and working with people from a wide diversity of backgrounds. He is instrumental in providing hands-on learning opportunities, mentoring students and also serves as an advisor for student clubs. By promoting a positive and inclusive atmosphere, Gregg shows tremendous support for students with diverse backgrounds.
Director, Education and Learning
Gina Jaquet’s dedication to sustainability combined with her work ethic helped propel Ohio State forward as a leader in sustainability education. Gina led a variety of university-wide efforts, including developing student learning programs; supporting interdisciplinary curriculum; surveying all undergraduate programs and courses with a sustainability component; and building a faculty network that led to a multidimensional framework for sustainability at Ohio State. With breadth and depth of skills in organization, collaboration, and critical thinking, combined with her empathetic personality, Gina is recognized as a transformative leader who has built a legacy of enhanced sustainability programs.
Senior Officer Outreach and Engagement
College of Social Work
Katie Justice is recognized for her passion to create exceptional customer service and build strong relationships. Katie conceptualized, launched, and continues to grow the College of Social Work’s Career Services Office, which provides robust programs to help ensure success beyond graduation. She created a Clothes Closet for students to access free interview clothes, hosts career fairs and launched services including resume reviews, mock interviews, employer-information sessions and Student-Alumni networking events. Katie’s strong relationships with alumni connects students directly with professionals and contributes to the college’s fundraising goals.
Assistant Director for Education Research and Development
College of Arts and Sciences
Center for Life Sciences Education (CLSE)
Dr. Amy Kulesza is respected for her leadership, diligence, intelligence, and enthusiasm, as well as for being a genuinely humble and thoughtful individual. Through her efforts, biology courses have undergone a significant overhaul with active learning, student-centered and inquiry techniques. Her creative and varied solutions have significantly impacted student learning and retention rates in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) majors, especially for underrepresented and minoritized students. Amy’s own research in the field of biology education has earned respect in wide circles, and her growth mindset makes a better environment for students, faculty and staff.
Associate Dean of Students
Office of Student Life
Ryan Lovell’s focus on supporting students and their families through his various roles in the Office of Student Life have impacts far reaching across the university, Ohio and the country. Ryan is consistently recognized and appreciated for his empathy, thoughtful leadership and ability to navigate difficult situations. He provided outstanding leadership in implementing the anti-hazing law, university policies and trainings, which positioned Ohio State as a strong model for campuses across the state. Ryan’s compassionate approach is evident i in his work with the university’s fraternity and sorority community, parent and family members, and students during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Writing across the Curriculum (WAC) Coordinator
Center for the Study and Teaching of Writing
Chris Manion is a consummate collaborator, enthusiastic mentor and relationship-driven leader invested in the success of the initiatives he spearheads, as well as the people who make them possible. Chris contributed to the development of the new general education curriculum; organized nearly 50 workshops each year on essential topics in teaching; presented at numerous conferences; and has developed curricular support activities to introduce and help participants better understand writing instruction. Chris’s approach to leadership and mentorship contributes immensely to the program’s continued success and is appreciated by the undergraduate and graduate students who work with him.
Clinical Nurse Specialist
James Professional Practice
Amy Rettig’s deep compassion for staff and their mental well-being is demonstrated through the many tools, techniques and programs she developed for staff to reduce stress and build resiliency. She is a creative, knowledgeable, energetic, driven individual who has established caring and healing environments for staff. She has enhanced work-life for staff members by developing a 10-minute virtual meditation, a therapeutic experience to remember and honor patients, a relaxation room, a resiliency program and team building sessions. The care Amy provides to staff empowers and enables them to care for patients at the highest level.
Director, Academic and Diversity Strategies
David Roy is guided by an unwavering commitment to his values, the university principles and to diversity and inclusion in higher education. He has overseen the holistic review of first-year student applications, which has grown 40 percent in 8 years, contributed to building exceptional classes and delivered an academically talented, diverse first-year class. David’s innovative leadership also supported the enrollment of historically underrepresented students. Throughout his career, David has hired, mentored, and advocated for hundreds of staff members and served on numerous search committees, task forces and working groups to promote new initiatives supporting students.
Coordinator, Building Services
College of Arts and Sciences
Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
Walter Williams ensures faculty, staff and students have access to the best possible work, research and learning environments. Walter’s care, diligence, and dedication to finding immediate solutions keeps buildings and specialized equipment running smoothly to support world-leading research and enable others to be successful. Walter’s commitment and skills were evident in his response during a winter heating and power outage over the holidays. He played a crucial role in managing six buildings across the Columbus campus when the outages threatened the infrastructure and equipment. Walter’s leadership, collaboration and responsiveness during crises is valued by his colleagues.