College of Charleston Celebrates Staff, Presents Annual Awards

Faculty Staff News

Congratulations to all of the 2024 Staff Employees of the Year Awards recipients!

Above: Winners and finalists of the 2023–24 Staff Awards (l–r) Katie Gabbert, Sarah Harvey, Melissa Ochal, Martin Diaz-Rios, Carin Jorgensen, Ford Fraipont, Sydney Conrad, Jesse Kunze and Amelia LeCompte. (Photos by Catie Cleveland)

On Wednesday, June 5, 2024, the Staff Advisory Committee to the President (SAC) hosted the College of Charleston’s annual Staff Celebration Lunch and Awards Presentation in the F. Mitchell Johnson Physical Education Center gym.

With more than 320 staff members in attendance, the annual celebration saw the largest turnout in recent memory – and that doesn’t even count those who attended remotely! And, with plenty of raffle prizes and appreciation for one another – not to mention tacos and churros – a good time was had by all.

“This entire event is all about recognizing and celebrating the hard work and dedication of our staff members,” said SAC chair Lindsey Copeland, senior director of analytics and database management in the Division of Institutional Advancement, welcoming the crowd, thanking the SAC members for their hard work, introducing the newest SAC representatives and reporting on the committee’s achievements over the past year. “We view today’s celebration as just one piece of the puzzle that is staff appreciation.”

Another piece to staff appreciation at the College of Charleston is The Cistern Standard peer-recognition program, and – in addition to the main raffle drawings at the celebration – SAC held a special raffle just for employees who were recognized by their colleagues this academic year.

Related: Read more about The Cistern Standard.

Copeland also introduced another way that staff can show their appreciation for their colleagues: “Denny Mail.” After thanking the Denny’s FUNd “Putting FUN to Work” committee for sponsoring the build-your-own churro bar at the event, Copeland pointed to the postcards on the tables, encouraging staff to write notes of thanks, kind words or something fun to a colleague and drop them into the campus mail: “We hope you continue to send positive words through Denny Mail.”

Related: Find out more about Denny’s FUNd, and how it promotes happiness, well-being and fun on campus.

Before announcing the Staff Employees of the Year Awards winners, Copeland acknowledged yet another group of employees: those who recently graduated from the College.

“As staff members of the College of Charleston, we understand the transformative power of education,” said Copeland, recognizing seven recent graduates: Molly Callahan, Joy Heinzman, Erika LeGendre, Ron Menchaca, Eileen Raney, Rebecca Starkey and Sitara Walker. “By choosing to further their own education, these staff members enrich our community and show a strong commitment to lifelong learning.”

Although he was out of the country, President Andrew T. Hsu also made sure to show his appreciation for CofC staff, addressing the employees in a video recording.

“I want to congratulate not only this year’s award nominees and award recipients, but also our entire staff for pulling off another very successful year,” he said. “Whether you just spend your first year on campus or have been working here for decades, you played an important part in our university delivering on its academic mission. I want to express my gratitude for all of your hard work.”

The Staff Awards illustrate just how much those contributions mean to the College, with 45 staff members nominated for this year’s staff awards. The nominees also received special prizes, sponsored by Denny’s FUNd.

“All of this year’s nominees were selected based on their specific achievements at the College,” said Kait Lamontagne, SAC secretary and associate director of the Center for Student Learning. “These nominees continue to contribute to the success of their office and the greater College community. They are proven collaborators and strong partners across campus. Each nominee exhibits excellent customer service and has embedded the College’s core values in their day-to-day work.”

And with no further ado, the 2023–24 Staff Employees of the Year Awards winners were announced.

Carin Jorgenson received the 2024 Outstanding Staff Member Presidential Service Award.

Carin Jorgensen – executive director of university events, advancement communication and donor relations in the Division of Institutional Advancement – received the most prestigious staff award: The $1,500 Outstanding Staff Member Presidential Service Award, which recognizes staff who support and engage other offices and organizations on campus, have furthered the College’s core values, have been instrumental contributors to the College community and consistently collaborate and partner with other offices and organizations in order to benefit the campus community.

“Thank you for your passion and dedication to students, staff and to the College. Your impact here will be felt for a long time and we appreciate everything you do,” Copeland said before quoting the nomination for Jorgensen: “To work for Carin is to be heard, to be trusted and to be appreciated. … Carin taught me the meaning of strength. She stood strong, stood tall and always worked to ensure the success of our initiatives. Carin is a leader I hope I can be in the future.” 

Sydney Conrad received the 2024 Temporary Staff Employee of the Year Award.

Sydney Conrad, assistant director of student engagement in the Honors College, also won $1,500 when she was named the 2024 Temporary Staff Employee of the Year. Two other temporary staff members were recognized and awarded $500 each: Ford Fraipont, A/V technician in the Division of Information Technology, and Amelia LeCompte, case manager in the Center for Academic Performance and Persistence.

Sarah Harvey received the 2024 Permanent Staff Employee of the Year Award.

“In all her interactions, Sydney personifies the best qualities of respecting individualism, supporting curiosity and fostering growth,” the nominator said. “Her actions and interactions recognize intersectional identities, create spaces for experiential learning and promote the development of scholar-citizens hailing from expansive backgrounds. All of this elevates the ‘brand’ of CofC, reflecting our institutional goals of being a nationally recognized university, a thoughtful local collaborator and an extraordinary educational provider for students from all walks of life.”  

The $1,500 Permanent Staff Employee of the Year Award for 2024 went to Sarah Harvey, administrative assistant in the Early Childhood Development Center. The following permanent staff members were also recognized with a $500 prize: Martin Diaz-Rios, director of admissions operations in the Office of Enrollment Planning; Katie Gabbert, coordinator for student services in the School of Education; Jesse Kunze, A/V event support engineer in IT; and Melissa Ochal, director of the Center for International Education.

“Sarah always looks for creative ways to recognize her own student staff members,” said her nominator. “ECDC is grateful for her commitments, her gentle nature, positive outlook and integrity. She exhibits professionalism and exceptional customer service in all of her interactions with families, students, faculty and staff. She exemplifies what it means to inspire at the College of Charleston and care for its community.”

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