University Staff Advisory Council recognizes six outstanding contributors

USAC recognition awards ceremony

Penn State President Eric Barron, left, congratulates the 2016 USAC Staff Recognition Awards winners. From left to right are Mary Runco, Ann Lalik, Stephanie Chastain, Deborah Sam, and Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer Susan Basso. Absent from the photo were award winners Allison Shauger and Karen Brewster.

Credit: Penn State

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Every day, thousands of Penn State staff from a broad range of specialized fields and across a dispersed geographic area faithfully perform their duties with uncommon creativity, purpose and passion, and often with little fanfare.

Recognizing Penn State staff for the truly exceptional contributors that they are is the goal of the University Staff Advisory Council’s (USAC) Staff Recognition Awards, held this year on May 3 at the Nittany Lion Inn at University Park. 

Presented annually, the USAC Staff Recognition Awards acknowledge Penn State staff members who go above and beyond their normal routines to resolve difficult dilemmas, exhibit exceptional creativity, or show responsiveness to the needs of others. The award also recognizes staff members for personality traits, such as dependability, resourcefulness, adaptability, initiative, friendliness and professionalism, as well as the individual’s commitment to the University values: integrity, respect, responsibility, discovery, excellence and community.

Jenny Blew, the USAC co-chair who served as master of ceremonies for the event, pointed out that, with more than 30,000 staff members at Penn State, the six award recipients — doubled from three in previous years due to an exceptional number of qualified nominees — had risen to the top of a large pool of employees.

The 2016 USAC Staff Recognition Awards winners, with excerpts from their nominations, are:

Karen L. Brewster, executive assistant to the dean of the College of Information Sciences and Technology

“Karen did not hesitate to assume responsibility for providing administrative support and coordinating the activities for the dean’s additional role as the University’s interim chief information security officer. Karen is consistently professional, remarkably adaptable, always delivers quality results on time every time, and is committed to excellence. She maintains a positive attitude, regardless of the situation. She takes on whatever comes, and delivers exceptional results while always remaining up-beat about the future of the college.”

Stephanie M. Chastain, academic adviser and international programs coordinator at the Smeal College of Business

“Stephanie is a wonderful example of demonstrating Penn State’s values in her daily activities and interactions with others. We are particularly struck with her positive and caring attitude — whether things are going smoothly or not, she always remains cooperative, helpful, and professional, and will go out of her way to help resolve problems and move things forward. Stephanie is always prepared to spend as much time as is required to get ‘the right student to the right program.’” 

Ann A. Lalik, director and arts coordinator at Penn State Lehigh Valley

“Ann sees the value in all of her colleagues, both faculty and staff, and shows her appreciation for them in many ways. She is goal oriented and focused in her work, whether it is procuring art, promoting community events, grant writing, or collaborating with faculty and staff. She lends her creative energy and expertise to enhance the campus visibility all year long. Regardless of the challenge, Ann is always ready to sit down with a cup of coffee (in a handmade mug, of course) in order to work toward a creative solution. She helps make higher education more interesting, creative and fun.” 

Mary T. Runco, administrative support assistant in the College of Nursing at Penn State Worthington Scranton

“Mary is an employee who gives 110 percent and more, and she works tirelessly for the nursing department. She is the first one in, and often the last to leave, creates a positive work environment by her supportive and friendly nature, and takes it upon herself to assist new faculty with organizing offices as well as assimilating to the campus life and work place. Mary’s positive and honest outlook on any situation is what places her far and above the skills needed to do her job. She is a joy to work with, and she always shows her Penn State pride.”

Deborah S. Sam, administrative support assistant, Architectural Engineering

“With her excellent job performance, positive attitude and compassionate nature, Deb exemplifies in so many ways the qualities that this award recognizes. She is highly professional and yet maintains an upbeat and positive attitude with everyone she comes in contact with including faculty, staff, students, alumni, and industry representatives. The service that Deb provides in the execution of her job duties is without doubt extremely positive, and she is always willing to do whatever is asked of her with a cheerful smile. Her outgoing, warm and approachable nature translates to excellent customer service to faculty, students, alumni, visitors and industry representatives. She leads by example and sets a very high standard that is worthy of emulation.”

Allison P. Shauger, client service manager for the World Campus

“Allison’s greatest contribution to our team comes as a result of her ability to identify new approaches to making all of us better. Whether it be researching and passing along information on the direction of higher education and online learning, discussing ways to enhance the experience for our World Campus students, or providing guidance on how to navigate all the internal resources, Allison has a wealth of knowledge and she eagerly includes the rest of our team in her discoveries. This impact is impossible to overemphasize as her collaborative nature is making Penn State, the World Campus and all the people with whom she interacts better.”

Participating in this year’s event were University President Eric Barron and Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer Susan Basso, who presented each award winner with their honors.

During opening remarks, Barron shared a story about hearing a Penn State staff member wondering how they could do better, saying the comment made his day and served as proof that staff want to make a difference. He assured those in attendance that he enjoys celebrating achievements such at the USAC Staff Recognition Awards because it reminds him of what a special place Penn State is.

Basso added that she is continually impressed by the dedication, commitment and talent that exists at Penn State.

“These honorees are setting the standard for excellence and it’s inspiring,” said Basso. “The individuals nominated and selected for this award are extremely hard working, enthusiastic and creative, and they are consistently willing to give a little bit extra.”

Madlyn Hanes, vice president for Commonwealth Campuses, punctuated the sentiment of the ceremony by highlighting the importance of the award-winners’ contributions, saying "We could not do our jobs without you."

The ceremony concluded with Devon Purington, USAC co-chair, sharing an appropriate and inspiring quote from French novelist Amantine-Lucile-Aurore Dupin, best known by her pseudonym George Sand: "Work is not man's punishment. It is his reward, and his strength, and his pleasure."

The USAC, "the voice of Penn State staff," was created in 1995 and exists to explore issues, policies and practices that impact or are impacted by staff employees, serves as an advocate for staff welfare and development, and acts in an advisory capacity to the central administration through human resources.

Special thanks was extended to the 2016 USAC Staff Recognition Awards committee: Chair Leslie Hutchins, JeanMarie Jacobs, Toni Baylets-Holsinger, Roger Martell and Deborah Wise.

For more information on the USAC, visit the council’s webpage at