Dan Vandersteen, who has served in Calvin's Broene Counseling Center for 13 years, accepts the Spoelhof Mission Award.
The highest teaching honor at Calvin College—the Presidential Award for Exemplary Teaching—was first awarded in 1993. A little less than a decade later, in 2002, the college created a similar award for staff members: the William Spoelhof Lifetime Achievement Award, named for the man who served Calvin as president from 1951-1976.
In recent years a number of new teaching awards have been added to the exemplary teaching honor, but nothing new had been added to the list of staff awards, until this year.
At the 2015 Staff Recognition Luncheon, held in early June in Van Noord Arena on campus, the college handed out four awards for staff members, including a slightly reconfigured Spoelhof Award (now named the Spoelhof Mission Award and given to the staff member who exemplifies Spoelhof’s example of dedication, service and performance to the mission of the college).
As Todd Hubers, associate vice president of human resources, explained to the assembled staff members, the college had heard both anecdotally and in workplace surveys that it needed to spend more time recognizing the efforts of exceptional staff members at Calvin.
So he and the president’s cabinet decided to rectify things and add awards that they believed would exemplify the qualities the college is looking for in its approximately 450 full and part time staff members.
Thus in 2015 a quartet of Calvin employees was honored with:
*the first-ever Unsung Hero Award, given to communication and marketing’s Matt Kucinski
*the first-ever Creativity and Innovation Award, given to physical plant’s Romery Diaz
*the first-ever Diversity Award, given to the provost office’s Caroline Chadderdon
*the newly constituted Spoelhof Mission Award, given to the Broene Counseling Center’s Dan Vandersteen
All four award honorees were chosen by the President’s Cabinet, and all four honorees were nominated either by their peers or supervisors or, in one case, by a student. And although each award recognized different staff member qualities and attributes, there were some common characteristics in the nomination language for all four honorees.
Said Hubers: “As our committee read the nomination forms it was striking to see how often people used similar words and terms to describe fellow Calvin employees. Words like dedicated, faith, curious, inclusive, seeking and stewarding were common to many of the nominations. It was gratifying to our committee and speaks well not just about the four people who received awards this year, but also about the entire Calvin staff.”
The award recipients
Unsung Hero Award
Matt Kucinski has worked for almost seven years for Calvin and has been the college’s media relations manager that entire time. In nominating him, a fellow communications and marketing colleague wrote: “Matt has the heart of a servant … He makes himself available as an advocate for other's stories and initiatives, using his experience and knowledge to share the best of Calvin with our community.” The Unsung Hero award recognizes a staff member who has demonstrated extra effort in their work for the college and serves the college in ways that go beyond what is expected.
Creativity and Innovation Award
Romery Diaz has given 13 years of service to Calvin’s physical plant department and was nominated by a student at the college. She wrote: “Romery is my supervisor in the dorms and has on countless occasions come up with creative solutions to problems we have come across. Cleaning the dorms is a huge job, and Romery has found ways to do her job more efficiently with her innovative, problem-solving techniques.” The Creativity and Innovation award recognizes a Calvin staff member who has demonstrated both creativity and innovation in their work at the college and a commitment to developing innovative strategies to complete their work and/or to help coworkers complete their work.
Diversity and Inclusion Award
Caroline Chadderdon also has worked for Calvin for 13 years as a member of the staff in the provost’s office where she has developed a reputation for diversity and inclusion. She was nominated by a few of her colleagues who describe her as “an ally for staff and students of color,” “proactive about … building her own cultural competency,” “a confidant to many students, staff and faculty of color trying to figure Calvin College out,” “a problem solver” and more. The Diversity Award recognizes a staff member who has demonstrated a personal commitment and exemplary efforts toward helping the college achieve its diversity and inclusion goals as identified in the strategic plan, the “From Every Nation” document and the Diversity Action Plan.
Spoelhof Mission Award
Another 13-year employee, Dan Vandersteen is a counselor of Calvin students who was nominated by a pair of Calvin colleagues, one who wrote: “Dan Vandersteen believes deeply that every student at Calvin College is loved by God and has meaningful work to do in God's Kingdom. He communicates this to students through his encouraging words and consistent presence. He has helped students … engage the world wholeheartedly.” The Spoelhof Mission Award recognizes a staff member who lives out the mission of the college (“Calvin College equips students to think deeply, to act justly, and to live wholeheartedly as Christ’s agents of renewal in the world.”) and integrates all aspects of that mission into the work they do.