June 11, 2018


award-winning MSUB staff


MSU Billings’ Student Affairs Division holds end of year celebration

Awards event was held May 29 to recognize those who encourage student success



University Communications and Marketing, 657-2266


MSU BILLINGS NEWS SERVICES —Montana State University Billings’ Student Affairs Division hosted an end of year celebration on May 29 to celebrate those who help students be successful on the university and City College campuses.


A variety of individuals, departments, and agencies both inside and outside the Division of Students Affairs were recognized for their contributions to student success, whether that was through innovative responses or helping other staff members grow professionally.

Shelby Bohnenkamp, Jacket Student Central; Danielle Burdett, Advising & Career Services; Sydney Donaldson, Jacket Student Central; Anna Gonzalez, Advising & Career Services; Matthew Hudgins, Jacket Student Central; Lindsey Jones, Jacket Student Central; Mariah Schilt, Financial Aid & Scholarships; and Cassie Solberg, New Student Services were nominated for the Rising Star Award. This award recognizes a staff member who has worked at MSU Billings for three years or less and who has positively impacted, engaged, and supported the MSUB community.


Sydney Donaldson received the Rising Star award after being nominated by Matthew Hudgins. Donaldson has been at MSU Billings since September 2017 and is currently the only new student specialist at Jacket Student Central. Hudgins noted that “she maintains an upbeat, positive attitude that motivates her fellow coworkers to do the same” and praised the work that she did when planning and executing the City College Career Exploration Day.


The Spirit of MSUB: Commitment to Access & Excellence Award recognizes a staff member who demonstrates a commitment to the university’s guiding principles of access and excellence through exemplary performance and leadership. Nominees for the award were Trevor Belnap, New Student Services; Kealy Dowd, New Student Services, Bryan Grove, Advising & Career Services; Lindsey Jones, Jacket Student Central; Kristin Peterman and Brandee Soens, Student Union & Events; Marilyn Warren, Admissions & Records; and Traci Wolff, Financial Aid & Scholarships.


Marilyn Warren, nominated by Janice Ouldhouse and Mehmet Casey, was presented with the award. In Admissions & Records, Warren serves as a VA representative and graduation clerk. Ouldhouse noted that Warren is a key leader in planning, set up, and carrying out MSU Billings’ graduation ceremony. “Marilyn’s commitment to both of these positions displays exemplary performance and leadership in her responsibilities as well as service not only to the Student Affair divisions, but to the whole university campus” Ouldhouse said. Casey added “[Marilyn] is detail-oriented, patient, professional, and organized in her approach. She is an expert in her specialty and is a team player within our campus.”


The Collaborative Excellence Award recognizes a Student Affair’s staff member, department or group that has partnered with colleagues to design and implement programs, activities, or services that enrich the MSUB experience, further student learning, or optimize resources. Nominees were Jessica Baker, Advising & Career Services; Trevor Belnap and Blair Ford, New Student Services; Janice Ouldhouse, Admissions & Records; Alex Petrino, Advising & Career Services; Kalie Porter, Financial Aid & Scholarships; Kirtlye Schuman, Jacket Student Central; and Rhianna Tretin, Advising & Career Services.


Trevor Belnap and Blair Ford were the winners of the award. Their nominator, Tammi Watson, praised the duo’s work on the Atomic Circus, which brought 1300 Billings fifth graders to campus for a science show and campus tour. Belnap and Ford collaborated with Kevin Nemeth, Matt Queen, and a planning group on campus, according to Watson, and this collaboration helped make the event a success. “Blair and Trevor planned the logistics down to every detail,” according to Watson. When minor mishaps occurred, “Trevor and Blair handled each of those things with grace and managed to keep things running smoothly.”


The Innovation Award is given to a staff member, department or group that has generated at least one creative and novel initiative to enhance the work of Student Affairs, promote student learning and success, and deliver an innovative response to student needs. 2018 nominees for the award were Advising & Career Services department; Jessica Baker with Advising & Career Services; Alora Blue with Jacket Student Central; and Thomas Martin with New Student Services.


Emily Williamson nominated and presented Alora Blue with the award. Blue stepped into a new role that was created nine months ago after the loss of the Financial Literacy Grant and a need for a financial aid presence at City College. Williamson noted that even though there were unknowns to the role, “Alora embraced the opportunity.” Williamson highlighted that since August, Blue has worked to find new and creative ways to continue the Financial Literacy Programming and has also worked to develop a Loan Default Resolution program.


The Division of Student Affairs Partnership Award is presented to four individuals, departments or agencies in four distinct categories: faculty/individuals or departments; administration individuals or departments; support staff/service providers; and off-campus individuals/departments/agencies. Nominees in this category will have worked to create a successful experience for a MSUB student or group of students by partnering with or by utilizing the resources and personnel within the Division of Student Affairs.


In the faculty/individuals or departments category, Eric Gilbertsen and Dr. Heather Thompson-Bahm were honored. Gilbertsen, a math instructor at City College, was nominated by Sydney Donaldson for his involvement with “every single person on the City College campus.” Gilbertsen helps to plan involvement activities, such as a cook-off challenge, on the City College campus, and Donaldson noted how welcoming Gilbertsen was when she began working on the City College campus. Thompson-Bahm, instructor of business at City College, was nominated by Stephanie Cowen who noted that “Heather is a tireless advocate for her programs, students, colleagues and the university. She is extremely collaborative when she is working on any project. She is an outstanding team member who works across all divisions to help us all perform better.”


Roberta Stewart was presented with the award for the administration/individuals or departments category. Her nominator, Jacqueline Penninger, notes how Stewart “takes exceptional care of the College of Business students, and, in doing so, helps Admissions & Records assist them more effectively.” Penninger also noted that even after having surgery, Stewart was helping students before she returned to work. “And, she does all these things with a smile on her face and in her voice!!”


The Information Technology/Institutional Research (IT/IR) Staff was presented with the award for the Support Staff/Service Providers category of the Partnership Award. Tammi Watson nominated the group for their collaboration with New Student Services for the Client Relationship Management System (CRM), Radius, and their work with Advising & Career Services for the Annual Grad Survey and Virtual Hive. The group was also responsible for the launching of the MSUB General Scholarship Application on Academic Works in November. “Whether it’s helping to provide access by enhancing the recruitment and admissions processes through the CRM system, supporting our excellent programs, academic and otherwise, through the Grad Survey and Orientation, or by helping to make higher education more affordable for our students by improving the scholarship application process, the IT/IR staff truly support MSUB’s mission.”


The off-campus award for the Partnership Award was presented to Kelly Sather of Sodexo. Sather works in Stingers in the Student Union Building and was nominated for the award by Megan Blanco and Heather Eggum. Blanco noted that “Kelly does everything in her power to make sure Stingers is a welcoming place for students.” Eggum added that “Kelly has become a much-loved fixture in Stingers over the course of her career at MSUB. She brings her warm smile and kindness to every interaction.”


The Mentor Award was created in 2018 to recognize a Student Affairs’ staff member who has helped support and inspire other staff members at MSU Billings and who has helped others grow professionally. Patrick Cassidy of Financial Aid & Scholarships; Cheri Johannes of Admissions & Records; and Emily Williamson of Financial Aid & Scholarships were nominated for the award.


Patrick Cassidy was presented with the inaugural award. Cassidy was nominated by Emily Williamson, who notes that in the last year, he “has grown into a true leader and mentor in the financial aid office” since his transition into the member with the most longevity. Williamson notes that Cassidy is often found discussing a complex financial aid scenario in someone else’s cubicle or soliciting advice from those around him. “These interactions,” Williamson explains, “demonstrate to his coworkers that he sees them as an equal and vital member of the team… Pat’s laid back and easy-going approach has created a fun, safe, and healthy work environment which has allowed for all of his coworkers to grow and lead to several improvements in our processes.”


The final award presented was the Vice Chancellor’s Award for Distinguished Service to Students Affairs. This award recipient is selected by the Vice Chancellor, and the award recognizes an individual in the Division of Student Affairs for exceptional service to the University. Dr. Joseph Oravecz, Vice Chancellor of Students Affairs, presented the Award to Stephanie Cowen, Director of Student Services at City College and at New Student Services.


Oravecz noted that Cowen takes a holistic approach to student success through a balance of student affairs and academic affairs. Cowen’s influence is far-reaching, as she helps students, deans, faculty, staff, and community partners.


Oravecz announced that he would be leaving the university earlier this year. The Student Affairs Division presented him with a surprise award, the Rock Legend Award, to thank him for his time at MSU Billings and his many contributions to the university.

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