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HACE Presents Staff Member of the Year Awards, Installs Officers

C.J. Oakley, instructional support manager for the Old Dominion University physics department, won the Hourly and Classified Employees Association Staff Member of the Year award at the organization's annual luncheon on May 12.

The HACE Rookie Staff Member of the Year award went to Kimberly Cholewinski, health education coordinator for Student Health Services.

The program, held in Webb Center, featured Provost Carol Simpson as guest speaker and included the installation of the following officers for 2010-11: Kathy Pim, president; Chariety Brown, first vice president; Jarin Cornish, secretary; and Shawnda Green, treasurer.

This year's honor marked the second HACE award for Oakley, who received the Rookie title two years ago. He was nominated for the 2010 awards program by his supervisor, Walt Hooks, who noted that Oakley's "attitude, dedication and motivation have been ever higher" since he received the first award.

"He has continued to be totally selfless and his work has not been to achieve recognition but because he truly cares about his job, his environment and most of all, the people around him," Hooks wrote on the nomination form.

Hooks credited Oakley's "supervision and enthusiastic can-do attitude" for the successful completion of three major projects last summer that were completed in time for the fall semester: space/room modifications for the department's SCALE-UP classroom, the renovation of Pretlow Planetarium and the relocation of the physics learning center.

"Each of these diverse projects required numerous hours of extra effort and attention to detail," Hooks said. "Mr. Oakley's effort and involvement in these projects was the primary reason everything was accomplished both in an outstanding fashion and on time."

Hooks also praised Oakley for his diligence and initiative. "As a response to lack of technical support and repair services in the College of Sciences, Mr. Oakley instituted a program to repair equipment himself using his prior training and skills in the U.S. Navy as a technician. This has required personal initiative and dedication as well as willingness to work overtime that goes well beyond his normal job description and has provided a cost saving and valuable service to the college, which is expected to continue into the future."

Gail Dodge, chair of the physics department, said Oakley gives new meaning to the phrase customer service. "It is hard to acknowledge all of the ways in which C.J. goes above and beyond expectations in the fulfillment of his duties," she said. "He does not just discharge his duties effectively - he tries to improve instruction wherever possible. For example, he works with the graduate students to help them improve their presentation skills, if that is necessary. He helps the faculty with a variety of projects, not because it is his job, but because he strives to be of assistance whenever possible and make the department run more smoothly."

Charles Sukenik, associate professor of physics, echoed Dodge's remarks, noting that Oakley "always performs at the highest level of professionalism. To put it simply, if it needs to get done, C.J. will make sure it gets done and done right."

Sukenik added that Oakley deserved special recognition for his role in refurbishing the planetarium, putting in "countless hours and extraordinary attention to creating a state-of-the-art facility. "The changes have been dramatic. While the students may only see the end result of the work, the faculty know the incredible effort that was required to bring the facility to its current level."

Hooks also commended Oakley for his community involvement on and off campus. He has assisted, for example, with the Tidewater Regional Science Fair, which the university hosts, and conducted planetarium shows for groups visiting ODU. Oakley is the founder of Hampton Roads Old School, an organization dedicated to introducing positive and strong role models into schools and the social lives of children.

Along with a framed certificate, Oakley received $200, a free parking space for one year and two tickets to the event of his choice at the Ted Constant Convocation Center, among other gifts. Both Oakley and Cholewinski also will have their names added to a plaque of HACE award winners that is on permanent display in Webb Center.

Other employees nominated for the award were: Vicky Curtis, Thomas Friesz, Christina Gonzalez, Philip Hazell, Chrisie Henn, Jennifer Hudson, Marsha Jones, Todd Marville, Angela Musto, Elizabeth Vipperman, Anita Wiggins-Bailey and Susan Wilson.

Cholewinski, the HACE Rookie award winner, has worked at ODU less than two years, but has accomplished much during that time, according to Jenny Foss, director of Student Health Services, who nominated her for the award.

Foss said that, despite having to work with minimal staff resources, Cholewinski "has implemented numerous programs and services for students in a very short time. She initiated a student peer education program in the spring of 2009, using a BACCHUS certified program. This is not a requirement of her position description, and retaining students as non-paid volunteers to present programs for other students is a major challenge."

Foss also credited Cholewinski with conducting a CORE Drug and Alcohol Survey last spring that received 600 student responses.

"In her first year here, there was an overall increase in both programs presented, and attendance increased by 49 percent at health education programs, which is more than the increase expected due to enrollment (increases)," Foss noted.

Cholewinski also developed a new weight management program last spring, called "Drop It Like It's Hott, the Healthy Weigh," which she modified this year to include competing teams of students.

Judy St. George, clinical supervisor/nurse practitioner with Student Health Services, has also been impressed by Cholewinski's efforts.

"She immediately plunged in with enthusiasm, energy and a great deal of knowledge," St. George said. "She is the only health educator in the Division of Student Affairs. Most institutions the size of ODU have multiple health educators. But Kim is the embodiment of positive energy and set out to have an immediate impact on the health of the ODU student body. She is dynamic and passionate regarding health education."

Cholewinski also works collaboratively with other areas on campus. Foss said she formed subcommittees for the university-wide Alcohol and Drug Task Force this year in order to increase the involvement of other campus departments, and this spring she worked with the recreational sports department on a Health and Fitness Expo that attracted 35 vendors to campus. "On very short notice, she presented our last Preview presentation for parents and students when the director had to attend another meeting," Foss added.

On her own time, she set up a staff competition for healthy weight loss and exercise (Operation Skinny Pants), and supported the Student Health Advisory Committee's volunteer activities (a fundraiser for Children's Hospital of The King's Daughters) and Relay for Life.

As winner of the Rookie award, Cholewinski received a framed certificate, $100 and two tickets to the event of her choice at the Constant Center, among other gifts.

Also nominated for the award was Anthony Stubbs.

This article was posted on: May 13, 2010

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