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Faculty of Arts & Science

Arts & Science News

2017 Outstanding Staff Award Winners

Four staff members from the Faculty of Arts & Science are this year’s recipients of Outstanding Staff Awards. Established in 1999, the awards recognize employees who have achieved excellence in support of the Faculty’s mission of teaching and research. David Cameron, dean of the Faculty of Arts & Science, presented the awards on April 20th.

Anna Liza Villavelez, Chemistry, Student Life Award

Anna Liza Villavelez is the sole graduate counsellor for about 250 graduate students; she knows each and every one by name, and is instrumental from the very first stages of their recruitment all the way to graduation. She’s a relationship builder who develops close connections with them all and is always looking for ways to improve the student experience. Just one recent example is the implementation of a new graduate student/alumni mentorship program. As the dedicated and caring graduate counsellor that she is, Villavelez recognized that many graduate students wanted more professional development activities and the opportunity to learn how they might apply their skills once they emerge on the other side of their PhD.

Thom Lee, Munk School of Global Affairs, Technical Service Award

Not all superheroes wear capes — some, like Thom Lee, the Munk School of Global Affairs’ IT Manager — are calmly saving the day when hackers are threatening to attack, when servers are at risk of crashing during a research initiative or when files containing years of work get corrupted or lost. When not in crisis mode, he quietly and efficiently keeps everything running smoothly. Lee is extremely dedicated to improving IT support for the full suite of the school’s teaching, research and public engagement mission. He doesn’t simply manage expectations, but continually strives to meet and exceed them. In the words of a colleague, “he’s an essential component in the realization of Munk School projects that are having the greatest impact.”

Peggy Salmon, Cell & Systems Biology, Administrative Service Award

Peggy Salmon — cell & systems biology’s course administrator — was celebrated for providing superior service to literally thousands of students for 35 years. Her extraordinary work ethic, organizational and communication skills were evident from the time she was a research associate in the late Nicholas Mrosovsky’s lab, in what was then the Department of Zoology. Students are immediately drawn to her for her genuine concern for their well-being and her natural inclination to solve their problems, or to simply help them navigate the sometimes “congested traffic” of academic policies and regulations. Colleagues speak of her deep commitment to improving undergraduate education and her skill in facilitating improvements. Salmon is highly regarded by faculty, staff and students alike for her intellect, fair-mindedness and for her great sense of humour — evident even in the toughest of times.

James (Jim) Dix, Cell & Systems Biology, Distinguished Service Award

Jim Dix’s official title is “craftsperson” — but that does not even begin to encompass the key role he’s played for almost 32 years, and why it’s so important to the mission of cell & systems biology. Thanks to his technical prowess and creative problem-solving skills, Jim has been a cornerstone for the many successful research projects and teaching enhancements — especially in lab courses — that CSB has achieved over the years. Dix designs custom-made, innovative equipment that allows faculty members to push the boundaries of their research. He devises everything from tiny contraptions that hold even tinier animal embryos, to mini waterfall tanks to test dispersal abilities of tropical fish, to multiple gizmos for housing and herding bumble bees, and is renowned for his ability to bring ancient experimental devices back into service. Dix also stepped in to manage the renovations of the Ramsay Wright building for almost a year and a half. In a nutshell, if you have a problem, you call Jim and everything is quickly in hand thanks to his unwavering professionalism, calm demeanor and friendly personality.