Campus Life

College of Agricultural Sciences announces 2020 Staff Laureate Award winners

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences announced recipients of its 2020 Staff Laureate Awards during a recent virtual collegewide staff meeting.

The awards program, which recognizes and honors five staff members for their contributions to the college, is coordinated by the staff advisory committee to the dean and administered by the college’s human resources office.

Jesse Darlington, college facilities coordinator and manager of Ag Progress Days in the dean's office, received the Ambassador Award. This award honors a staff member who serves as a proactive liaison to external audiences by building relationships, sharing knowledge and promoting the unit and the college.

Jesse Darlington. Credit: Penn State / Penn StateCreative Commons

Nominators lauded Darlington’s dedication to Ag Progress Days, saying, “Jesse is in a unique position to showcase what we do in the College of Agricultural Sciences to Pennsylvania and the world. Ag Progress Days brings in more than 500 vendors each year from all over the globe. On average, 50,000 people attend Ag Progress Days.”

Another noted that Darlington treats each guest as a friend, and many know him by name: “He does his very best to make them all feel at home. His outgoing personality and dedication to the college and Penn State is easily seen through the success of Ag Progress Days.”

Ty Butler, administrative support coordinator in the Office of International Programs, received the Customer Service Award. This award honors a staff member who demonstrates exemplary service to others, internal or external to the unit and to the college.

Ty Butler. Credit: Penn State / Penn StateCreative Commons

Butler’s job is far-reaching and diverse. On an annual basis, he manages approximately 14 international projects supported by six funding agencies and involving 15 countries and seven college departments.

Nominators wrote that Butler is a self-starter, possesses an excellent work ethic and is innovative in his approach to handling complex and disparate tasks simultaneously. One wrote, “His job requires him to work with faculty, staff and students from across Penn State and around the world to identify potential projects, develop funding and budget strategies, negotiate agreements, and implement awarded programs and related finances.”

Rachel Unger, administrative support coordinator in the Office of Research and Graduate Education, received the Leadership Award. This award honors a staff member who demonstrates leadership and high standards of performance and serves as a positive role model for others.

Rachel Unger. Credit: Penn State / Penn StateCreative Commons

Nominators described Unger as a natural leader, noting that she has the respect of supervisors, colleagues and employees alike. They noted that as a mentor, Unger encourages and plans for staff to train across responsibilities and that she pays close attention to natural strengths, purposefully building on them by tailoring assigned tasks.

Staff nominating Unger wrote, “Throughout the challenges of the current crisis, Rachel has gone above and beyond her responsibilities as a manager to think of ways to help bolster the mental health of her staff, checking in more regularly with them, remembering specific things about each person that makes them feel unique and seen, and arranging for voluntary after-hours talking sessions and virtual get-togethers to socialize.”

Catherine “Kitty” Mackenzie, administrative support assistant in the Department of Agricultural Economics, Sociology, and Education, received the Spirit Award, which honors a staff member who demonstrates enthusiasm and an optimistic approach to work, creating an inclusive and supportive environment.

Catherine “Kitty” Mackenzie. Credit: Penn State / Penn StateCreative Commons

Nominators described Mackenzie as approachable and kind and as someone who cares for people: “Individuals from all backgrounds and cultures can sense this in her.”

Mackenzie always has a smile and a positive outlook, which is infectious, they wrote. “And her sun shines not only within our program, but throughout our entire department," wrote one nominator. "She is the go-to person for so many because she is always supportive and happy to help. Kitty never flinches at a project, regardless of what is going on around her, she finds a way to prioritize so that she can be a steadfast teammate for everyone.”

Amy Corbett, administrative support assistant in the Department of Plant Pathology and Environmental Microbiology, received the Trailblazer Award, which honors a staff member who demonstrates creativity and innovation in the improvement of programs, services, products and approaches to the workplace.

Amy Corbett. Credit: Penn State / Penn StateCreative Commons

According to nominators, the department is more effective and efficient because of the initiatives Corbett leads, changes she proactively makes to processes, and her dedication to improving the work environment. Corbett also is described as the “administrative backbone” of many of the department’s events.

“Amy has a demonstrated vision for her position,” one nominator wrote. “She is dedicated to reducing faculty administrative burden. Likewise, she has a similar vision for her work in relationship to the department head. Amy is enthusiastic about training in tactical job skills as well as soft skills. There have been many changes over the past year that have required that all administrative staff show their problem-solving skills and creativity.”

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Last Updated December 04, 2020