The Candace Johnson Award recognizes University of Michigan staff members who exemplify professionalism, teamwork, and a commitment to excellence.
Three recipients are honored this year, a nod to their extraordinary service amid the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. They are:
- Angela M. Haley, senior administrative director at Michigan Medicine’s UM Medical Group.
- Cathy Seay-Ostrowski, director of administration of the administrative core of the Institute for Social Research and administrator of three centers within the ISR.
- Carissa Van Heest, Coordinator of Undergraduate Student Services for LSA’s Department of Romance Languages and Literatures.
Each recipient will be honored at a reception and will receive a $500 prize.
The award, which was not awarded in 2020 or 2021 due to the pandemic, was established in 2004 in memory of Candy Johnson, a dedicated and compassionate staff member of the Provost’s Office who died in 2003.
The Provost’s Office presents the award annually with the support of Johnson’s family members and friends.
“We are pleased to recognize this year’s Johnson Award recipients,” said Vice President Susan M. Collins. “They continue the commitment to helping others excel that was the hallmark of Candy’s work.”
Here is an overview of the winners:
Angela M. Haley began her career at Michigan Medicine in 1999. As Senior Administrative Director of UM Medical Group, she works with the Department of Surgical Clinics.
Haley’s colleagues said in application materials that she encourages collaboration, empowers others, and performs high-quality work, “both as an expression of her personal values and as an actualization of values.” and guiding principles of the institution”.
“When the Candace Johnson Award process was announced this year, there was a flurry of emails and calls with a common theme: that no one could deserve this award more than Angela Haley,” wrote Paul G. Gauger, Professor of Surgery and Health Learning. sciences, William J. Fry Professor of Surgery, Chief of the Division of Endocrine Surgery and Clinical Chief of Ambulatory Care.
Taylor Winn, associate executive director, said if Haley says she’s going to do something, she’ll do it — and in record time.
Winn and other nominators praised Haley for her reliability and willingness to help wherever needed.
“Angela has spent much of her time working with our colleagues at the Cancer Center, using her knowledge to help improve her workflows. Nobody asked him to do that. Nobody gave him extra pay,” Winn wrote. “She did it because she cared about our patients and wanted to help others.”
Gauger said the COVID-19 pandemic has brought a variety of challenges, with administrative staff at Michigan Medicine facing a drastic system overhaul and reduced strength.
“In some ways, the survival and success of the organization depends more than ever on these people. Angela Haley is one of those people,” he wrote.
“His work is not at the highest levels of the organization, but his influence extends there. She is widely respected, admired and appreciated. She’s a calm, kind heroine who exemplifies everything – professional and personal – that we should all aspire to.
Cathy Seay Ostrowski is the director of administration of the Institute for Social Research in the administrative core and the administrator of three centers of the ISR: the Center for Political Studies, the Center for Demographic Studies and the Center for Research on the Dynamics of group.
Seay-Ostrowski joined UM as Research Secretary III in 1990. She has held leadership positions in several departments over the years, including in biomechanical engineering and at the UM Transportation Research Institute.
During the first few months of the pandemic in the summer of 2020, Seay-Ostrowski accepted the position of corporate administrator for a new “administrative core” at ISR, said Miriam Rahl, administrator of the training program and the one of the people who nominated her to award it.
“We knew she was very complimentary and had extensive experience in leading and optimizing teams during reorganizations in other departments, and we quickly realized that ‘we hit the jackpot!’ “, Rahl wrote.
“How do you build trusting and authentic relationships with your team only through Zoom?” Is it really possible to create a successful, highly productive and happy team this way? Will your team really feel like they can count on you to guide them through unprecedented challenges, like working 100% remotely?
“It clearly takes an extraordinary amount of initiative and commitment to be successful, and Cathy has it. We have grown into a real team under the reliable, unwavering, solid and genuinely caring leadership of Cathy.
Rahl called Seay-Ostrowski’s enthusiasm for excellence and collaboration infectious.
Another nominator, Robert Kaikati, a senior desktop support specialist, said he appreciated Seay-Ostrowski’s strong work ethic. She inspires people to strive for higher levels, he said.
“It might be nice for Cathy to do her job extremely well and call it a day, but that’s not the end of our story,” he wrote. “She is constantly looking to improve the professional lives of everyone around her.”
Carissa Van Heest is the Coordinator of Undergraduate Student Services for LSA’s Department of Romance Languages and Literatures, a position she has held since 2006.
Van Heest manages all of the department’s programs — no small feat considering it’s LSA’s largest humanities department, said Chris Gale, the department’s chief administrator. The department teaches Catalan, French, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish language, culture, history and literature. His job includes overseeing the organization of class schedules, enforcing enrollment policies, overseeing the enrollment process, and many other responsibilities.
Gale said Van Heest has taken on several projects outside of his regular duties to make the department, and the university as a whole, a better place. For many years, she hosted a donation event for the Food Gatherers. She was instrumental in the department being an early adopter of a composting program and in being certified gold in the Sustainable Office Certification Program.
Several of Van Heest’s colleagues gave him credit for streamlining processes to help make service smoother. She is known for her innovation, such as when she designed and implemented a new system to streamline long waiting lists.
“Carissa’s resilience, drive and energy are truly exceptional and deserve much praise and recognition,” wrote Alejandro Herrero-Olaizola, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor and Spanish teacher, in his nomination.
Herrero-Olaizola said Van Heest was indispensable in helping the Spanish curriculum committee develop and implement the sweeping reforms that were mandated after internal and external review. Committee members relied on his extensive knowledge of college administration and procedure.
He said Van Heest is a creative and effective problem solver. He also noted that she is always kind, fair, and professional in her interactions with undergraduate students.
“She has truly gone above and beyond the call of duty and demonstrated her knowledge, dedication and high level of care in all that she does,” he wrote.