Today@Sam Article

Outstanding Staff Recognized For Job Excellence

May 25, 2016
SHSU Media Contact: Jennifer Gauntt

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The 2016 Staff Excellence Award winners include (from left) Kay Angrove, Deanna Briones, with SHSU President Dana Hoyt, Staci Baker and Stephanie Bluth. —Photo by Brian Blalock

Every day, Sam Houston State University staff members work in tandem with faculty, students and other staff members to innovate, motivate and contribute to the success of the university.

Four of those who have stood out among their peers for their outstanding abilities, efficiency, attitude, and overall excellence have been recognized with the 2016 SHSU Staff Excellence Awards.

This year’s recipients include Kay Angrove, director of the First Year Experience Office; Staci Baker, assistant to the chair of the educational leadership department; Stephanie Bluth, director of academic communications for the Office of Graduate Studies; and Deanna Briones, community relations coordinator for the College of Humanities and Social Sciences.

Kay Angrove

The reach of Kay Angrove and the programs she oversees as director of the First Year Experience Office extends to thousands of students and departments across campus.

“Her programs and events aid and bolster the many other programs here on campus; her programs are the glue that binds many of us together,” one nominator said.

Many of the FYE programs are designed to increase or improve performance outcomes such as grade point averages and retention, including the “robust and continually expanding” Common Reader program, New Student Convocation, University 1301 courses, freshmen learning communities, and FORWARD.

Because of her work, the effects have been tremendous.

“The implementation of the common reader, from selection to awards, has evolved throughout the years. I believe she has made it a very successful and worthwhile program, not necessarily seen on other campuses,” the nominator said. “The smaller learning communities have blossomed. The camaraderie they share is encouraging as well.

“Her programs have reached thousands of students in positive ways that encourage self-advocacy, personal and academic achievement, and intellectual curiosity,” he continued.

In addition, when times have been tough, Angrove has displayed resourcefulness to assist students in need.

“There are very limited internal funds to help FORWARD students; yet, she has worked with Barnes and Noble and the Registrar’s Office to make sure these students have caps and gowns and receive a free portrait from graduation,” a second nominator said. “This is such a wonderful gift to these students, who, otherwise, might not have participated in graduation because of monetary restraints.”

“Kay advocates for students, but in doing so she is able to bring people together in a way that makes the university a better place for the people who work here and for our students,” a third nominator said. “I have not met many people who have the ability to enhance the lives and work experiences of so many people in the way that Kay does.”

Through it all, Angrove serves as an inspiring and supportive leader for her small staff, in whom she pinpoints individual strengths in an effort to focus on the efficiency and effectiveness of their work.

“Kay’s innovation is what has pushed the programs in our department forward,” a coworker said. “She is known for middle of the night epiphanies that solve the challenges that we face and for thinking outside of traditional ways of operating to serve students.”

Staci Baker

Consummate professional. Exceptionally efficient. Inquisitive. Motivated.

These are the words that colleagues use to describe Staci Baker and her work within the College of Education.

Baker serves as assistant to the chair of the educational leadership department, where she is recognized for her ability to put together effective programs and turn over assignments quickly, all while maintaining a high quality in her work.

“She has brought a sense of professionalism and a calming presence to the department. The quality of her work and the responsiveness to her requests have never let me down,” a nominator said. “Staci is never afraid to bring up new ideas, even to faculty who are set in their ways. She does so respectfully and with tact. Her ideas are often inspiring and she makes others want to bring their innovative ideas to the table, as well.”

“Ms. Baker performs her job duties with the highest degree of integrity, professionalism and competence. Among her many other duties, Ms. Baker manages the budget, handles faculty contracts and frequently interacts with the dean’s office,” another colleague said. “She handles those duties with great efficiency and ease.”

But these attributes are just pieces of what Baker has meant to the department.

In one nomination, a colleague relayed a story of how Baker’s compassion helped him through a prolonged and difficult situation, which had required him to frequently travel out of the country.

“During this time, Staci was extremely supportive and continually asked me what she could do to ease my load,” the nominator said. “It really helped to ease my mind knowing that I had her support and could enlist her help at any time. Her care and support made a difference in helping me negotiate this extremely difficult time.”

It is this kind of rapport with faculty, staff and students—be they student workers or educational leadership students—that really makes her an asset.

“I have reached the conclusion that one of her strengths lies in her ability to motivate these students to advance intellectually and professionally,” the nominator continued. “It is not unusual for her to address students’ needs even before the students have notified her of them. Students respond to her with respect, warmth and excitement.

“Indeed, she has demonstrated that she is able to get matters accomplished in a manner that brings out the best in our students.”

Stephanie Bluth

In her seven years at SHSU, Stephanie Bluth has been critical to the recruitment and retention processes of the Graduate Studies Office, facilitated by her demeanor, her ability to communicate student success and her service to students as a tireless advocate role model.

As director of academic communications, Bluth has excelled in providing graduate student engagement programming through communication and social media, strategic planning, and enhancement workshops and practices.

“Her role in highlighting and promoting graduate student research and success is incomparable,” one nominator said.

This can be seen in programs such as Graduate Student Orientation, Dissertation Boot Camp, Graduate Student Bridge Program, and the Graduate Student Organization leadership training program, as well as in Bluth’s advisory roles in the undergraduate Fade to Black organization and for the SH Elite program.

“When she was responsible for growing graduate enrollment, she consistently had a growth of more than 5 percent, larger than any other program in the state,” a second nominator said. “(As the developer of new student programming) Stephanie built numerous successful programs from the ground up. Much of her programming was adapted by other universities in Texas.”

Bluth also has been responsible for developing programming that highlights student achievement and celebrates their success, including Graduate Student Appreciation Week and the Graduate Student Awards Banquet.

“She has the unique ability to detect ‘the diamonds in the rough.’ As a result, students flourish who might have never been given a chance,” another nominator said. “I think that the ability to contribute to students is more of an attitude than anything else. There is no task that is too small or no idea that is too big to bring to fruition.”

As importantly, as an alumna who earned her doctorate at SHSU, Bluth understands the needs of graduate students, which lends to her willingness to go “the extra nine yards” for any student.

“She meets with them outside of work hours, on the weekends and late at night to help them be successful. She has gone above and beyond what is expected, helping students with housing and conflicts,” a nominator said. “She brings a personal touch to all of her interactions with students, and she gets solutions for students.

“She can put people at ease, and she can inspire students to succeed. As an African-American female, she is a role model for our diverse students, faculty and staff.”

Deanna Briones

Deanna Briones approaches her work in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences with a competency and love that makes her invaluable to her colleagues.

“She works with decorum, diligence and beautiful kindness,” one nominator said. “She also radiates a certain kind of celebratory love of our university that is intoxicating.”

As an SHSU alumna who performed several roles at the university before becoming community relations coordinator, Briones posseses an organizational and institutional knowledge that allows her to easily “work between departments, maximizing productivity wherever she is,” according to another nominator.

“Deanna is an expert organizer and facilitator of people and meetings,” he said, noting, along with several others, her reorganization of the history department’s office suite and the many tasks she performed while working there.

“I would simply highlight her supreme ability to bring order and organization to all things so that they run smoothly and efficiently, to the point where people don’t even notice because there are no glitches. Her capacity to be patient and to field so many queries and requests with grace and ease is remarkable,” another colleague said. “SHSU is very fortunate to have an employee of her caliber.”

With CHSS, Briones’s work includes representing the college at recruitment events, hosting fundraisers, promoting departmental activities, and working with departmental administrative associates to provide assistance wherever needed.

“She is organized as a taskmaster, not as someone who barks out orders, but as someone who teaches others through example,” a nominator said. “With painstaking diligence and keen concentration, she has done wonders as the chair of the college’s donation drive annually. Because of Deanna’s excellence, the college has successfully had a high donation rate among faculty and staffers.

“A few weeks ago, she met with members of the scholarship committee, selected student candidates and taught faculty the best way to maneuver the newly formed Scholarships4Kats database.”

But multitasking doesn’t even cover all that she does, according to another nominator.

“If she’s ever had a bad day, I have never seen it. Deanna inspires me to keep my head up when I am ready to throw in the towel,” the colleague said. “I love what she has done to help make CHSS more of a family. From her weekly work outs for the administrative staff, to her coffee with the dean on Friday, she has made it easier to connect with the rest of CHSS.”


To see the complete list of previous winners visit https://www.shsu.edu/dept/hr/past.html.

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