Undergraduate Academic Affairs

June 3, 2019

2019 UAA staff awardees announced

Undergraduate Academic Affairs

Congratulations to the 2018-19 Undergraduate Academic Affairs staff recognition and distinguished partner awardees. Selected for their dedication to supporting UAA’s mission of creating innovative academic experiences for undergraduates, these 14 staff members made an indelible impact on the UW’s students, faculty, staff and community.

And the awardees are…

Award for Excellence
• Debbie McGhee, research scientist, Office of Educational Assessment

Outstanding Achievement Award
• Carissa Mayer, counseling services coordinator, University Honors Program
• Emily Smith, assistant director, Office of Merit Scholarships, Fellowships and Awards

Outstanding Student Employee Award
• Salem Abraha, front desk staff and student program staff, Center for Experiential Learning & Diversity and Mary Gates Endowment for Students
• Danya Clevenger, graduate staff assistant, Carlson Leadership & Public Service Center
• Makayla Dorn, front desk staff and peer adviser, Student Academic Services and Undergraduate Advising

Distinguished Partner Award
• Mary Gates Hall Custodial Team


Award for Excellence

Awarded to employees who have worked in UAA for at least five years, this award celebrates the employee’s leadership in creating formative student experiences and building the necessary infrastructure to support their vision. Debbie McGhee’s 20-plus year commitment to advancing undergraduate teaching and learning through rigorous evaluation and assessment will be carried forward by all who worked with her.

Debbie McGhee, the passionate researcher

Awarded posthumously.

“Anyone who interacts with Debbie is likely quick to notice her keen wit, warm sense of humor, strong attention to detail and commitment to professionalism. Those of us who have had the opportunity to collaborate with her are thankful for these qualities, as they help us to produce high quality research and service while enjoying the work we do. The impact of Debbie’s work over the years truly reaches beyond the boundaries of our office, and OEA, UAA and UW are better because of Debbie’s service to them.”

— Angela Davis-Unger, research scientist and Sean Gehrke, director of the Office of Educational Assessment


Achievements of note: Served as interim associate director of OEA from 2017-2018, leading OEA through a time of transition and uncertainty. Recipient of the Washington Educational Research Association Research Award (2003). Led research on psychometric properties of IASystem course evaluation items and instruments, with 6 first-authored reports between 2005 and 2016. Co-authored 11 articles and chapters in the fields of psychology and education, including: “Psychometric properties of student ratings of instruction in online and on-campus courses” in New Directions for Teaching and Learning (2003), written with former director Nana Lowell utilizing course evaluation data from OEA; “Measuring individual differences in implicit cognition: The Implicit Association Test” in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (1998), an article that has been cited by other researchers more than 11,000 times in the past 20 years!


Outstanding Achievement Award

Recognizing the innovation, collaboration and tenacity it takes to initiate change, this award acknowledges the teams behind some of UAA’s innovative programming. Through her leadership and devotion, Carissa Mayer helps students make strong decisions and set exciting goals about their education and their futures. Emily Smith created the Global Fellowships Prep program to help students learn about and apply for opportunities for graduate school, fellowships, research or leadership opportunities abroad.

Carissa Mayer, the trusted adviser

Photo of Carissa Mayer“We trust Carissa as both a colleague and an adviser immensely. There is no question that a student working with her will get the best possible help and care. She has tremendous instincts for what is right, and we know that anything she works on, be it individual advising appointments or long term community building projects, are going to be handled with grace and professionalism that will represent our program — and UAA — well and will improve the student experience.”

— Aley Mills Willis, director of academic services, University Honors Program


Achievements of note: Created the Honors Community Ambassadors Program. Leads the Honors Peer Educator Program. Instructs HONORS 100 to introduce the entire freshman class to the essential features of the Honors Program. Serves as our Honors Lead Adviser. Improved our Honors curriculum management organization. Mentors our entire advising staff. Serves on UW-wide advising boards and committees to advocate for the profession. Directs partnership with Honors Living Learning Community. Was awarded as Adviser of the Month by the UW Association of Professional Advisers and Counselors (APAC).

Emily Smith, the collaborative creator

Emily Smith standing in front of a hedge.“Global Fellowships Prep (GFP) is Emily’s creation; one method of revamping how we engage students to ensure our office and scholarships are accessible, viable and meaningful options for all UW undergrads, especially those underrepresented within the university and within nationally competitive scholarships. Emily designed GFP as an open entry point for students to develop goals, better understand how scholarships could support those goals and break down intimidating processes, making it more feasible to apply. Through building efficiencies, GFP also makes it possible for our tiny team to work with more students more intensively.”

— Janice DeCosmo, associate dean, Center for Experiential Learning and Diversity and Robin Chang, director, Office of Merit Scholarships, Fellowships and Awards


Achievements of note: Created Global Fellowships Prep last year as a way to better support and serve underrepresented students and those from diverse backgrounds and experiences. Developed Writers Block sessions in collaboration with Mary Gates Endowment and Global Opportunities to support students in their application drafting and revision. Created Scholarship Fridays to streamline and bring consistency to our first and second year student-focused programming. Connects students she meets to other programs, and vice versa. Developed and launched a new assessment effort for OMSFA to better understand the impact of our advising appointments.


Outstanding Student Employee Award

Student employees are an integral part of the UAA staff. This award recognizes the outstanding achievements of three student employees. Salem Abraha stepped up and helped keep the May Gates Endowment Program running in a time of transition. Through her organization, planning and collaboration, Danya Clevenger’s influence will have a lasting impact on the Carlson Center. Makayla Dorn assists her peers in succeeding through her work as a peer adviser.

Photo of Salem AbrahaSalem Abraha, the program influencer

“As a student you never imagine yourself having to carry the integrity of any program, and Salem did that. Her efforts and commitment carried our programs through a tough and busy school year. Aside from excelling in rigorous academics, Salem truly helped our programs excel this year.”

— Annabel Cholico, assistant director, Mary Gates Endowment


Achievements of note: President of the Black Student Union, 2019 Husky 100 Awardee, Global Opportunities Scholarship Recipient, member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., University of Washington dean’s list for four consecutive quarters from fall of 2017 to fall of 2018.

Danya Clevenger, the impactful advocate

Photo of Danya Clevenger.“When you first meet Danya, her easy laugh and genuine interest in people quickly win you over. Next, her thoughtfulness—about systems, process and details—comes shining through. Then if you’re lucky, you get to witness these things buoyed by her exceptional research facilitation, analysis and synthesis skill. Danya Clevenger is a women with vision—and she has the gifts, talents, and follow-through to make that vision come into being.”

— Kathryn Pursch Cornforth, associate director, Carlson Leadership & Public Service Center


Achievements of note: Shepherded the Carlson Center’s Theory of Change process, including facilitating robust involvement from on and off campus partners. Helped to create an internal process of strategic planning that asked the Carlson Center to consider how to activate their Theory of Change in meaningful ways that call upon them to use their time in alignment with their values. Concurrently completed two masters’ degrees while serving on the board of directors for Launch, completing a capstone degree project with Seattle Public Schools and raising her inquisitive 3-year-old-daughter, Philippa.

Makayla Dorn, the dedicated leader

Photo of Makayla Dorn.

“She approaches situations with curiosity, often asking questions when something doesn’t seem right, which inspires those around her to try harder and do better. She also leads by example, by consistently going above and beyond her job title. When students have questions she doesn’t know the answers to, she will take initiative to call multiple offices to find the answer for the student.”

— Joslin Boroughs, associate director and Lauren Marriott, lead academic adviser, Undergraduate Advising


Achievements of note: As a newly-hired peer adviser, processed hundreds of course prerequisite overrides and registration transactions for incoming students at Advising and Orientation. Leads by example for both the student associate and peer adviser teams in the Center for Undergraduate Advising, Diversity, and Student Success — helping to bridge communication gaps and suggest solutions and efficiencies for both staffs.


Distinguished Partner Award

The Undergraduate Academic Affairs Distinguished Partner Award recognizes a colleague, program or department whose collaborations with Undergraduate Academic Affairs have made significant advances in the University of Washington’s undergraduate academic experience. These collaborations enhance, enrich and deepen the undergraduate experience. The reciprocity of these relationships benefits undergraduates and the broader campus community.

Mary Gates Hall Custodial Team, the stewards of Mary Gates Hall

Group picture of Mary Gates Hall Custodial Team

Desiderio De Castro, Maria Devaney, Joe Lo, Zenaida Pagdilao, Emebet Sefara, Cassk Thomas, Robert Thompson and Seare Zerom

“Our custodial team is indispensable to our work with our students, faculty and staff. They are keepers of the places we work, learn and convene. We are grateful for the work they do to preserve the spirit of Mary Gates Hall.”

— Ed Taylor, Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Academic Affairs