UW News

January 5, 2011

Clauss, Nkeze, Whitehead: Recipients of new ProStaff Award named

UW News

From left, Lisa Whitehead, Louise Clauss and Namura Nkeze are being honored by the Professional Staff Organization. | Photo by Mary Levin

From left, Lisa Whitehead, Louise Clauss and Namura Nkeze are being honored by the Professional Staff Organization. | Photo by Mary Levin

Louise Clauss, Namura Nkeze and Lisa Whitehead have been named the first recipients of the new ProStaff Award given by the Professional Staff Association.

Clauss is a grants manager in the College of Education, Nkeze is the transfer and commuter student programs coordinator in First Year Programs and Whitehead is a counselor in Student Financial Aid. The award was created to recognize and promote work done by UW professional staff.

A 16-year veteran with the University, Clauss helps faculty in her college complete grant applications. Her nominator, who wished to remain anonymous, wrote, “I watch her routinely manage a continual series of issues but also regularly confront a problem that is wholly new. She will then doggedly pursue a resolution, which sometimes can take several days, many e-mails and long phone conversations, but the problem is always resolved.”

Two years ago, during Seattles memorable snowstorms, Clauss went out of her way to help faculty member Elham Kazemi meet a major grant deadline. “Anticipating the difficulty of getting to and from campus, Louise told me that she had taken home all the files she needed to submit the application…on time,” Kazemi wrote. “I would have completely understood if she had said ‘tough luck. Instead, she went well beyond the call of duty to help me meet a critical deadline.”

Clauss said of her job, “Its very gratifying to be able to be part of the process of obtaining awards for our faculty. Im directly involved in that process, so I get to see it right from the beginning. Its gratifying when we receive them and even when we dont its gratifying because it usually leads to something more in the future.”

She called the award a surprise, saying, “Its always nice to be recognized by your peers. I felt very honored because I know there are many professional staff working on campus, many of whom are at least equally deserving.”

Nkeze, an 11-year veteran of the University, was hired by the First Year Programs two and a half years ago to work with learning communities and facilitate the Transfer Interest Group Program. But once there, she picked up on a student initiative pushing for more recognition of commuter needs. “She secured space (for free) to create the ‘Commuter Commons, hired transfer students to work in the commons and created a programming model with targeted activities,” wrote First Year Programs Manager LeAnne Wiles in her nomination for Nkeze.

Then, Wiles continued, the space was lost because of the HUB remodel, so Nkeze went in search of other spaces. She was turned down by several administrators but refused to give up, finally locating space in a residence hall. “Her tenacity and persistence is the reason that students now have a place to come to!” Wiles wrote.

“Since the majority of students here are commuter students, its good for them to have a place where they can kind of rest their feet and create community,” Nkeze said. “Theres kind of an assumption that most students live on campus and thats not really true.”

Nkeze said she was shocked to receive the award. “I was touched. When your colleagues recognize the work you do, it really means a lot.”

Whiteheads job is to help students with financial aid, and predictably, her nominator was one of her student clients.

“I remember walking into the financial aid office for the first time,” wrote Mauricio Vincente Manriquez. “I didnt even know what I needed to ask, I only knew I didnt have enough money to pay tuition and living fees. I explained to [Whitehead] that I had no understanding of financial aid, taxes, income etc.  … She was able to speak in a way I could understand everything, bringing positive vibes and making me feel comfortable about my situation.”

Later, Manriquezs father had a stroke, leaving the family in a much worse financial situation, and he was back in the financial aid office.  “When I met with Lisa the second time, she walked me through every step of the way, let me know about a financial aid revision that would help me out with drastic changes in my familys resources,” Manriquez wrote. “I understand that its her job to help out students in need of financial aid, but Miss Lisa has significant unique manner of reaching out to whoever shes helping.”

Whitehead, who has worked at the University for eight years — four of them in the Financial Aid Office — said she “loves working with students and helping those that really need the help.” Her work with the student who nominated her, she said, took place a year ago. “The fact that he remembered me enough to do this for me shows me that what I do makes a difference. Its great to know you make a difference by doing a job you love.”

The PSO plans to give out awards twice a year. Winners receive recognition and treats at a department staff meeting, a letter to their supervisor and a personalized gift. The next awards will be given in spring.