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Stepping Up Awards recognize important staff contributions

STEPPING UP: The Student Affairs team (from left) of Drew Dudley, Stacey Platt, Allan Grant, Joanna Ying and Tasleem Hudani, was one of the teams to win an award. (Photos by Babak.)

by Mary Ann Gratton

One individual and four groups from U of T Scarborough are the recipients of Stepping Up Awards from the University of Toronto, which recognize outstanding contributions to the university by administrative staff.

Stepping Up Award recipients from the Scarborough campus this year are: Raafat Helmy, Manager of Engineering Operations, and staff from four teams in various departments: IITS, Library Circulation, the Registrar’s Office, and Student Affairs. To view photos from the event, click here.

U of T President David Naylor described U of T staff as “the backbone to the university -- the glue that keeps it together," and congratulated this year’s recipients at a special ceremony held in September. The event brought together 23 individuals and 143 group members from across U of T’s three campuses who were honoured for playing a large role in meeting the strategic goals of the university. The ceremony and reception were held at 93 Highland Avenue, the official residence of the President of the University of Toronto.

The annual Stepping Up Awards were established in 2005-06 to recognize university staff who contributed to one of the academic plan's five major goals: enhancing the student experience; interdisciplinary activity; linking academic programs to research experiences; outreach; and equity and diversity.

Descriptions of the recipients from U of T Scarborough follow here.

Raafat Helmy, Manager of Engineering Operations, won an individual award for his ongoing commitment and dedication to capital and infrastructure projects, particularly around the addition and renovation of buildings. In the nomination, he is described as doing “so much more than his job description … he is solely responsible for the daily operations of all heating, ventilation and air conditioning equipment on campus, but in fact things have expanded so that he does much more than that. Since 2002, the University has doubled in size, but also in area, via the construction of six new buildings.

“Over that time, Raafat has seen his workload and level of responsibility grow accordingly, with only minimal increases in engineering staff,” according to the nomination. It notes that Helmy’s job has changed most significantly in the area of new construction, and he has taken the lead on infrastructure projects (less than $2 million) and their design and construction, as well as capital projects (greater than of $2 million).

“Raafat is continually sought out by outside contracts and consultants for his expertise at resolving problems that arise. In addition, he has taken the initiative to personally oversee the countless shutdowns both electrical and mechanical, which are required to cut new equipment into service. This means he has been present several nights and on weekends to ensure that things go smoothly. He has done this because of his own personal work ethic …. And it is because of his dedication that things have run relatively smoothly in a time of relative chaos with all of the activity on campus, thus allowing teaching and research to proceed with minimal or no disruption.” He has been very involved with projects including the R-Wing HVAC project, new generator, S-Wing electrical upgrade and PCB transformer replacements, as well as supporting the re-use of equipment from demolition projects in new ways to reduce capital expenditures.

The group winners are as follows.

(1) The team from Information and Instructional Technology Services (IITS) was recognized for developing, managing and maintaining core IT services on campus, including the implementation of new and improved services in various areas without disruption. Recipients were: Glenn Attwood, Carl Chan, John Harper, Wesley Huang, and Michael Watchorn. The nomination describes them as follows. “The systems group led by John Harper is directly responsible for developing, managing and maintaining core IT services on campus. This group of five works behind to scenes to ensure that research, teaching and learning all continue on the campus uninterrupted.” Although the department has gone through a transition and leadership change over the past few months, the nomination notes that the team “not only ensured that the current infrastructure remained intact, but introduced new and improved services, allowing U of T Scarborough to continue on its quest to become a premium research and teaching environment.”

(2) The team from Library Circulation was honoured, including: Madhu Arora, Mary Grace Capobianco, Johson Li, Permjit Mann, Mayooran Mylvaganan, Bev Nicholson, Elizabeth Seres, Adriana Sgro, Maria Somora, Dana Sullivan and Mary Ann Vernon, for work on all aspects of planning and implementation for the 24-hour Library Study Space Project, and for helping with “the enormous undertaking” of making a success of the pilot project, which ran from October 2007 to May 2008 and enabled the library to remain open for 24 hours, four days a week. This opportunity developed out of a stated need from students through surveys, comments and focus groups. In the nomination, the circulation team was lauded for putting together a plan detailing hours, duties, security measures, and categories for data collection. The plan was implemented and the library was open continuously from Monday morning until Friday at midnight, and students were studying in the library all night. Students responded that they greatly appreciated the 24-hour library study space and that they wanted to see it continue on a permanent basis. Plans are in underway to extend the service as suggested. The nomination notes that “the team contributed their ideas and time by helping with the interviews, promotional material, data gathering and ongoing problem solving. Substantial planning work was done behind the scenes and tremendous cooperation and coordination by the team occurred. All members of the team wrote detailed observations based on their experiences and the impact on their positions, and reported on their conversations with students regarding the 24-hour service. This helpful feedback allowed the library to make improvements to the service with each successive term.”

(3) The team from the Registrar’s Office, including Don MacMillan, Rita Pearsall, and Michael Trumbell, was honoured for work on the Paperless Registrar’s Office, which “improved the work environment for staff and enhanced the student experience through improved efficiency in student record keeping,” according to the nomination. The project involved document scanning of more than 40 years’ worth of archival student records, eliminating paper files which freed up space and increased speed of access to files while reducing paper use. The project applied scanning technology with an interface developed by Michael Trumbell to totally eliminate paper files. The new interface has no ongoing licensing costs for the unit, and information is now accessible online to all authorized users. The paper records had filled a large room in the Registrar’s Office which archival records housed in 14 large filing cabinets. This project enabled the file room to be renovated and converted into two new offices, enabling the office to take responsibility for the newly-created position of Assistant Registrar: Petitions. According to the nomination, “This project supports the goal of providing excellent stewardship of public resources by reducing paper and supplies and saving space, as well as providing an environmentally-sensible solution to records management.”

(4) The Student Affairs team of Drew Dudley, Allan Grant, Tasleem Hudani, Stacey Platt and Joanna Ying, was recognized for achieving a series of Student Life initiatives and an ongoing commitment to enhancing the student experience. The nomination reads as follows: “The Student Life team has shown a high quality of teamwork, incredible productivity and professionalism, especially in the absence of a director for close to six months. This team of dynamic professionals has maintained focusing on achieving Student Life goals…all this through initiative, tenacity, and professional perseverance.” The team demonstrated this through variety of projects, including: a new database for the International Student Centre (ISC) and Student Life Group; new Risk Management guidelines; a new web site for Student Life; Completing on time the review and delivery of the INTUIT student handbook; the planning and coordination of fall orientation; the launching of a new ITS web site; and the record number of students achieving certificates in the newly revised Leadership Certificate Program. The citation notes that “The team never once faltered in their momentum for achieving progress in the Student Life portfolio.”




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