CLAS staff honored during 2023 recognition celebration and awards ceremony

CLAS staff members were recognized with Staff Leadership, Professional Development, Staff Excellence Awards, and DEI awards.
Tuesday, June 20, 2023

More than 100 staff in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences gathered at the IMU to celebrate the work and accomplishments of their colleagues. 

This event combined the previous staff recognition reception and awards ceremony and took place on June 15, 2023, at the IMU. Staff munched on tasty appetizers while listening to live piano and cello performances. During the celebration more than 30 staff members were recognized with awards. 

"You, our staff, make this place tick–and your contributions are vital to the academic, creative, and research missions of our college. We simply can’t do any of this without you," Roland Racevskis, associate dean of the arts and humanities, said during the event. 

CLAS staff members were recognized with Staff Leadership, Professional Development, Staff Excellence Awards, and DEI awards. View the event program. Awards are supported by the Mary Louise Kelley Fund, established by a gift from Mrs. Kelley, a former assistant to the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

CLAS staff awards 2023

2023 Staff Award Recipients 

DEI Awards 

This is an award that recognizes staff whose work in the college or community has advanced the mission of diversity, equity, and inclusion. It carries a $500 stipend.

Jen Knights serves as a communications manager, focusing on the performing arts units in our college. She takes DEI work seriously and has been a leader in this area by serving on the college’s DEI committee through her role on staff council. In a nomination letter, Gabbie McDermott, Dean’s Office operations manager, and Ben Hill, CLAS senior director of marketing and communications, highlight Jen’s key role in putting together the 2021 college DEI report, her phenomenal work on the CLAS DEI committee, and her thoughtful approach to hiring and team building. The pair write, "Jen advocates vocally for the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion and has consistently put in the time to get educated on these topics which puts her in a position to positively influence progress in these dimensions.” 

Amanda Marr is the administrative services coordinator in the Department of Mathematics and has grown to play an essential role in the department’s DEI mission. Her work directly supports mentoring and retention, holistic recruiting and admissions, and work to support a STEM community event during Martin Luther King Jr. Day each January. Mathematics DEO Ryan Kinser writes in a nomination letter, “This highly impactful work would not get done without Amanda. She exceeds expectations at every opportunity and deserves far more recognition than she’s received up to this point.”  

Leadership Awards 

The CLAS Leadership Award is presented to staff who exhibited exceptional leadership qualities and positively impact their colleagues, their department, or the overall college. It carries a $500 stipend.  

Stratis Giannakouros is the director of our Office of Sustainability and the Environment. He has worked hard to make the college and university a nationwide leader for campus sustainability. Associate Dean for Research Josh Weiner writes in his nomination letter, “Stratis has fostered strong relationships to help the university build real, impactful sustainability goals and programs. A testament to his transformational work is that the university president insisted that the UI integrate sustainability goals, that he helped set, into its most recent strategic plan.” He goes on to say, “Stratis is simply one of the college’s most important assets and is most deserving of recognition through this award for his outstanding leadership.” 

Gabbie McDermott is the operations manager for the Office of the Dean. Gabbie was nominated by Associate Dean for Graduate Education and Engagement Christine Getz for her outstanding leadership in improving graduate and postdoctoral service. In addition to Dean Getz’s nomination, three more letters were submitted in support, highlighting her leadership in graduate education, as well as college operations. Senior Director of Administrations Rebecca Tritten, who supervises Gabbie, wrote in her nomination, “Gabbie is a valued employee and pivotal to the work we do in the Office of the Dean. She is dedicated, collaborative, and has really committed to working with our systems and structures to have them operate more efficiently and effectively.”

Mary Louise Kelley Professional Development Award

The Mary Louise Kelley Professional Development Award supports job-related continuing education, training, and professional activity – reducing the costs of coursework, workshops, training opportunities, or attendance at meetings through a stipend of up to $500.  

  • Corey Campbell, English 
  • Jack Doden, DWLLC 
  • Jennifer Eimers, CLAS Undergraduate Programs 
  • Claire Frances, DWLLC 
  • Andy Lewis, DWLLC 
  • Tammy Smith, CLAS Grant Support Office  
  • Dale Stille, Physics and Astronomy 

Mary Louise Kelley Staff Excellence Award

The Mary Louise Kelley Staff Excellence Award is granted to staff who perform exceptional service or contribute ideas that improve the department or college’s work.  

Merry Aamodt is a senior HR specialist who leads the transactional HUB team. She has been instrumental in leading the HUB team as they navigate new policies and forms, while also training and managing new staff. In a nomination letter, HR colleague Alexander Alfaro writes in a nomination letter, “Merry is always willing to help answer any questions you ask her, even when she has a full plate and not very much time to handle her own requests. Merry is also the first person to step in to help cover work when others are out sick. She sets a great example on our team and brings a positive attitude to the office every day.”  

Michele Ketchum is the administrative services coordinator for the School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Michele is a taskmaster, handling a flood of emails from faculty, staff, and students, but she really shines in how she supports the school’s scholarship committee. Faculty member Heather Spangler writes in a nomination letter, “This year we had 108 applicants for more than 60 awards. It is a massive task to manage the behind-the-scenes administrative work with the scholarship portal and then to sort out which students are eligible for which award for the scholarship committee faculty to identify each award’s winner. Her work saves us hours of labor and is critical in the process.” 

Ryan Kirkey is the manager of accounting and financial analysis in the CLAS finance office and Tiffany Schier is the faculty affairs director in the office of the dean. The pair were nominated together for the work they’ve done to help these two offices work together and operate more efficiently and effectively. In their nomination letter, Tom Koeppel, senior director of finance and business administration, and Rebecca Tritten, senior director of administration write, “Both Tiffany and Ryan are kind, thoughtful, and focused and their partnership has set the model for collaboration and, frankly, has contributed to an improved workplace culture throughout all of the Office of the Dean and the 1900 department as a whole. Tiffany and Ryan are remarkable employees and stewards of the university. They are both very committed employees of CLAS and dedicated to continuing their work in higher education administration.”  

Tracy Meginnis is the administrative service coordinator in the Division of Interdisciplinary Programs. This has been a year of great change in the division, with units moving and with staff and faculty coming and going – Tracy's work helped the division get through it. In a nomination letter, Daniel Khalastchi, director of the Magid Center, writes, “Tracy is constantly thinking about what can be improved, and she is selfless. She works towards solutions and actions that are good for the collective team, and the Magid Center is lucky to work with her. In truth, I wouldn't be able to do my job without Tracy. I can't stress this enough: her performance this year has been nothing short of incredible.” 

Kyle Schaefer is a research support manager in the CLAS Grant Support Office. He was nominated by faculty member Susan Lutgendorf, with support from four other colleagues. In her nomination letter, Lutgendorf says, “Kyle goes above and beyond the call of duty and works diligently to support both faculty and students prepare their grants and meet deadlines.” This results in extremely high workloads for him – which included a highly, complex 400-page NIH grant he helped Lutgendorf prepare. She goes on to say, “Kyle amazed me by often answering questions very late at night after he had put his young children to bed. At one point his entire family was sick and he nevertheless went back to working on the grant as soon as he was able.”  

Andrea Shaevitz is the senior financial analyst in the Department of Physics and Astronomy and has been there for more than 24 years. She has been integral to the highly successful research efforts in the department. In her nomination letter, research scientist and engineer William Kurth says, “While accounting may seem like just something that has to be done, in the case of a research portfolio it is an absolutely essential aspect. Andrea helps make sure that all expenditures are properly accounted for and allocable to federal grants and contracts. She is an unsung hero in the Department of Physics and Astronomy.”  

Jill Tobin is the college’s creative media manager. Jill’s stunning photography and videography appear on our websites, in collegiate storytelling, and in digital and printed marketing material. An example of her work, attention to detail, and willingness to go above and beyond is the holiday video message she has created for three years in a row on behalf of Dean Sanders. In her nomination letter, Katie Linder, associate director of collegiate communications writes, “The work that goes into creating a video like this is significant. Jill hand-molds the characters that appear in the video, shoots frame by frame in the darkness of her basement for hours, and then edits and polishes it for distribution. This is just one example of Jill’s attention to detail and dedication to the work she does to create superb visual art for CLAS.”  

Longevity Awards 

Congratulations to our colleagues on the following work-anniversary milestones:

10 years: 

  • Amy Charles, Chemistry 
  • Angela Cordle, Biology 
  • James Edel, Music 
  • Rebecca Glover, Biology 
  • Andrea Krekel, CLAS Undergraduate Programs 
  • Ruthina Malone, Psychological and Brain Sciences 
  • Barbara Pooley, English 
  • Heather Roth, Statistics and Actuarial Science 

20 Years: 

  • Merry Aamodt, Human Resources 
  • Mark Fullenkamp, CLAS IT 
  • Shari Knight, Anthropology 
  • JJ Urich, CLAS IT 

30 Years: 

  • Wendy Fick, Communication Sciences and Disorders 
  • Lisa Gray, CLAS Dean’s Office 
  • Laura Jorgensen, Art and Art History 
  • Doug Menietti, Physics and Astronomy 


The University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts and Sciences offers about 70 majors across the humanities; fine, performing and literary arts; natural and mathematical sciences; social and behavioral sciences; and communication disciplines. About 15,000 undergraduate and nearly 2,000 graduate students study each year in the college’s 37 departments, led by faculty at the forefront of teaching and research in their disciplines. The college teaches all Iowa undergraduates through the college's general education program, CLAS CORE. About 80 percent of all Iowa undergraduates begin their academic journey in CLAS. The college confers about 60 percent of the university's bachelor's degrees each academic year.