When a need arises and the call for help is issued, a leader answers “I will.” Laura Emch has been stepping up to fill campus needs throughout her 33 years at BGSU. The Administrative Staff Council (ASC) recognized her dedication Sept. 30 at its annual fall reception by presenting her the Michael R. Ferrari Award—the highest honor for administrative staff.
With the award came a $1,000 check, an engraved plaque and a reserved parking place for a year.
Criteria for the Ferrari Award include innovation and initiative, performance, and relationship with the University community. Emch, associate director of Student Financial Aid for systems, has more than exemplified all those attributes, her nominators wrote. In addition, she has used them for the benefit of students and her fellow administrative staff members.
On many occasions, Emch has stepped in to fill a position. According to Mary Beth Zachary, head of access services in Jerome Library and former ASC chair, “When her staff needed a leader for an interim period, even though it meant doing her old job plus the new job, Laura answered in the affirmative. When her community needed her skills as a PTO treasurer, Laura answered yes. When the chair of a national conference to which Laura has made exceptional contributions had to step down at an inopportune time, Laura stepped up and ‘took on a major role in conference planning,’ according to the then-president. When our organization needed leadership due to an unexpected resignation, she found the time and energy. She once again said, ‘Yes, I will.’”
Describing Emch as “one of the most positive and enthusiastic professionals that I have ever worked with,” Admissions Director Gary Swegan said “she has been a steadying influence and mentor to many financial aid professionals. ... Her leadership has provided stability across a number of Student Financial Aid administrations, and has allowed BGSU to do some very exciting things.”
Always aware of the student perspective, she has helped students moving into the residence halls and tried to ensure that all students’ financial aid needs are addressed, even during times of scholarship modifications, wrote financial aid Director Gregory Guzmán.
Never one to shy away from difficult tasks, Emch took the initiative to plan for the conversion of the old financial aid system to the new PeopleSoft system, even as the former SFA director was leaving. At the same time, a review of freshman scholarships was under way, and, again, Emch “was a key contributor in completing this project,” wrote Dr. Alberto González, former vice provost for academic services.
Having worked with her over the years on a number of difficult and demanding financial aid projects, Jerry Ameling, a systems analyst in the BG@100 office, said he has observed Emch’s “ability to work hard and creatively, her willingness to go above and beyond to get the job done, and her positive interaction with staff across campus,” always with the goal of eliminating barriers to student service.
Since the days when she was in the student loan collections office, “Laura has created new ideas, improved the work environment and contributed to bettering efficiency and effectiveness,” wrote Kimberly Fleshman, program coordinator in the Student Technology Center. Emch’s innovations include creating the collections “call center,” which won BGSU a national award, and a collection system that garnered state recognition.
Her service to ASC (she has been chair, chair-elect and co-chair as well as a member of numerous committees) is a reflection of her commitment to the growth and development of the University and her own professionalism, Fleshman said.
Olympian efforts needed
Preceding the award presentation, Interim President Carol Cartwright said that passion, commitment and endurance—three characteristics necessary for success in Olympic athletes—are also traits exemplified by BGSU administrative staff.
Cartwright saluted administrative staff, noting that BGSU has a reputation as a caring community and that its administrative staff are well known for their commitment, energy and professionalism. “I acknowledge their contributions through the good times as well as the hard times,” she said. “It is the achievements and efforts of administrative staff that move a university forward.”
She added that Olympian efforts will be needed to deal with the challenges facing BGSU today. These include an enrollment drop and “coming to terms with the new landscape in higher education today,” she said. She encouraged administrative staff to be “innovative, creative and entrepreneurial, and act on Olympian ideals.”
Because retention is such a crucial issue for BGSU now, she said, giving any extra time or guidance possible will be invaluable to helping students—many of whom are first-generation college students and some, struggling to hold jobs while going to school.
The ASC also presented seven scholarships totaling $5,000. “We’re always so impressed with the amazing determination of these young adults to get an education,” said Scholarship Committee member Nora Cassidy.
• Jennifer Chaffin, a senior from Cincinnati majoring in biology with a specialization in ecology and conservation. She has a 4.0 GPA and is a Dance Marathon volunteer and a member of the University Choral Society, the Honors Learning Community, Honors Student Association and Circle K International. In addition, she has been employed 20-24 hours per week throughout her college career.
• Melissa Cook,a senior 2-D Fine Arts major from Wadsworth with a 3.89 GPA. She is a member of the Arts Village, the 2-Dimensional Art Association and the Print Society, and has worked as a peer facilitator in Art 101 courses. She also tutors for the America Reads Program and teaches art at the Sofia Quintero Art and Cultural Center in Toledo.
• Damynus Gekonde, an international student from Kenya pursuing a nursing degree. A senior with a 4.0 GPA, he is studying at the Medical University of Toledo; his interest in medicine resulted from the lack of health care in Kenya. He has participated in 5K runs to benefit displaced people in Kenya.
• Amanda Hall, a junior dance major from Moon Township, Pa., with a 3.86 GPA. She is active with the Key Yearbook, Dance Marathon, University Dance Alliance and the Arts Village.
• Kevin Hartman, a senior from Toledo with a double major in history and political science, with a 3.85 GPA. He is treasurer of the International Relations Organization; president of Reach Out, a campus social justice organization; and has been a peer facilitator, residence hall desk clerk and lifeguard for Recreational Sports and the YMCA of Greater Toledo.
• Stephanie Martof, a senior in pre-physical therapy from Cuyahoga Falls with a 3.93 GPA. A student supervisor at Perry Field House, she has been active in the Pre-physical Therapy Club, American Medical Student Association and with various intramural sports teams on campus.
• Amanda Wilhelm, a senior from Monroeville majoring in pre-physical therapy, with a 3.93 GPA. She is a member of the Natural and Health Sciences Residential Learning Community and Alpha Epsilon Delta and Phi Eta Sigma honorary organizations. A volunteer at the Fisher-Titus Medical Center, she has participated in Bikes for Tikes, a division of the Children’s Miracle Network, and is employed at Subway and in the VCTE department.