Staff Awards for Excellence

ASU Graduate College announces 2023 Staff Awards for Excellence recipients

Four staff members were honored with 2023 Graduate College Staff Awards for Excellence by the Graduate College at Arizona State University on Thursday, May 18.

This annual event celebrates the work and contributions of staff members who support graduate students, uphold the mission of the Graduate College and fulfill the ASU Charter. 

Nominees were selected across different categories that highlight their dedication, adaptability and penchant for innovation. There were many powerful examples of the impact graduate support staff have on graduate students’ lives and careers. 

The awards are distributed across four categories: Going the Extra Mile, Outstanding New Staff Member, Supporting Student Success and Outstanding Collaboration.

Outstanding New Staff Member: Christopher Clanahan

After many years at the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning the former Manager of Graduate Programs, who the school was highly dependent on for daily operations, departed her station. Her exit from the department and that of a few other staff members during the COVID-19 pandemic presented a formidable challenge. 

After an extensive search, the school found Christopher Clanahan. In no time, he familiarized himself with fundamental responsibilities and began to regulate the operations of multiple graduate programs. 

From consulting students who need help navigating financial aid, to those who wish to switch advisors and even discussing personal issues —– the university recognizes his responsiveness and commitment to solving complex problems. Christopher is always on top of things. He sends personal reminders and calls for action to all ourSGSUP graduate students about upcoming deadlines and iPOS errors. This strategy has been helpful to connect with students that are less engaged with advising,” states Daoqin Tong, a professor in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, who nominated him for this honor. 

Clanahan upholds a commitment to graduate success by implementing and carrying out annual reviews for doctoral students and ensuring they are finalized in a timely manner. He is crucial in assessing students' academic progress and communicating with anyone who reaches out for assistance with a challenging situation. 

Clanahan manages all duties related to graduate programs like graduate advising, admissions, funding and awards, alum relations, academic program logistics, curriculum, coordination, assessment and accreditation.

He has been an invaluable staff member because he actively seeks opportunities for change in the school’s graduate policies and regularly shapes the policy agenda. These endeavors ensure graduate students have current, relevant, equitable and transparent information. ASU is proud to honor him with a Staff Award for Excellence to highlight his notable impact on the university.

Going the Extra Mile: Tina Lopez-Hughes

Tina Lopez-Hughes is often called a “life saver for graduate students.” She has been a significant part of many academic success stories. As the academic success coordinator and manager of student services at the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences at West campus, Lopez-Hughes provides academic advising to students enrolled in various graduate programs. 

During her career, she has always been a proactive mentor for graduate directors, “Tina is the wise, calm and experienced employee that we desperately need during considerable change and program expansion. Her wisdom is grounded in her extensive experience and she is proactive in anticipating and moving swiftly to head off challenges. Tina is a patient guide and a competent and compassionate communicator with a deep-seated commitment to innovation and creative problem solving,” said Vince Waldron, a professor of communication studies and Lincoln Professor of Applied Ethics at ASU, who nominated Lopez-Hughes for this honor.

She has been integral in promotion efforts and implementation of the accelerated master's degree programs offered by the New College. Lopez-Hughes is responsible for meeting with every student to craft a unique pathway to a graduate degree. She is hands-on during the faculty review process, explaining the nuance of each students' particular qualifications and career goals. Due to these conscientious and time-consuming efforts, the diversity and quality of the New Colleges' graduate student population have increased. Lopez-Hughes is central to the success of this innovative path to graduate study and her dedication does not end there. 

She goes above and beyond to create a welcoming environment by regularly attending academic and social events to build relationships with new students and graduate faculty and often serves as a mentor for new graduate directors, uplifting the voices of people who might otherwise remain unheard. She corresponds with students facing enrollment barriers due to family circumstances, paperwork delays and transfer complications.

Outstanding Collaboration: Michele Clark

Known for establishing networks for underrepresented graduate students, Michele Clark has been instrumental in advocating for representation in STEM. Clark is the program manager for Earth System Science for the Anthropocene Graduate Scholars Network, where she brings a robust scientific background working across disciplines and within governmental agencies. 

Clark has helped facilitate the creation and implementation of funding applications for the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program and other entities that support student-facing efforts. She was instrumental in the continuity of the CIRCLES Mentor Training Program in 2022 and has served on hiring committees for the Graduate College and has participated as a speaker at student-facing events like a Preparing Future Faculty and Scholars Lunch and Learn seminar.

As a former Enrichment Fellow of the Graduate College and an advocate for accessible funding and peer collaboration through the Interdisciplinary Research Colloquium course, Clark attests to the value of interdisciplinary research and the significance of peer networks. 

With this perspective, Clark has been an invaluable collaborator in the student-facing components of Mentoring Matters, helping to implement Mentor Mapping training, peer mentoring training and multiple mentor models. Through her work, she has engaged with the nationally-recognized Center for the Improvement of Mentored Experiences in Research, train-the-trainer resources and the Culturally Aware Mentoring pilot study with participants from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. She encouraged the Professional Development and Engagement team to uncover new processes and use training experience to develop new models of support. 

Michele is recognized as being thoughtful and generous with her time and expertise; she embodies the ASU spirit as an alumna and is committed to the mission of the Graduate College. Her positive impact has helped to transform graduate education into a more inclusive and holistic experience. “She is a great connector within the university, she pulls engagement with staff, faculty and students to form essential networks of support,” said nominator Amanda Athey, Director, Professional Development and Engagement at the Graduate College.

Supporting Student Success: Mark Bernal

Since Mark Bernal started working at the College of Health Solutions, faculty and staff have enjoyed positive changes in daily operations. For the past few months, Bernal has excelled as academic facilities specialist at the downtown campus. From addressing maintenance issues small and large to prioritizing health and safety concerns, Bernal is known for excellent communication skills, diligence and dependability on the job.

Bernal is highly attuned to the needs of faculty and staff and strives to break barriers to accessibility and overall comfort. He is recognized for responding to high-volume service tickets and resolving them quickly. His commitment to advancing graduate education is shown through a history of compassion toward the problems of others.

No matter how unusual or inconvenient a request or task may be, Mark respects situational urgency and always sends a note to double-check completion. “Mark followed up with me the next day to verify whether my issues were resolved. I have not experienced such personalized follow-ups with service tickets in the past. This has been of tremendous help,” said nominator Thomas Kaufmann, a graduate teaching associate at the College of Health Solutions.

From off-hours calls to resolving escalating issues, faculty have noticed that he delivers in a timely manner, alleviating anxiety and ensuring his colleagues feel heard. Bernal’s work ethic and respectfulness shine through with every action he takes to better the experience of the ASU community.  


Read the ASU News article


Marjani Hawkins