Dr. Joseph Oravecz
Dean for Student Affairs, 308.865.8528 or oraveczja@unk.edu

Recipients of the Division of Student Affairs awards the University of Nebraska at Kearney have been announced by Dr. Joseph Oravecz, UNK dean for Student Affairs.

Awards were given to individuals across campus as well as within the Division of Student Affairs. Four individuals received the Student Affairs Partnership Award. The recipients include: Dr. Gary Davis, Honors Program; Ray Schutte, facilities; Dr. Linda Van Ingen, history; and Dr. Grace Mims, counseling and school psychology.

“These awards are presented to individuals who work outside of the Student Affairs Division, but go above and beyond to collaborate with Student Affairs staff to create a positive experience for our UNK students,” Dr. Oravecz said.

“Dr. Davis has shown true dedication to his Honors students, and often comes to the honors hall in order to discuss issues, concerns, and ideas for expansion and growth,” Dr. Oravecz said. “He has also been instrumental in the development of the Roosevelt Academy, thus providing opportunities for UNK students to study abroad in the Netherlands. His main concern is to ensure that his students are having a positive experience and have ample opportunities for growth.

“Ray (Schutte) has dedicated a number of years to UNK, and has spent his time working to ensure that our students and staff have clean and well-maintained facilities,” Dr. Oravecz said. “Through his dedication, he has earned the respect of his colleagues, who are quick to recognize his knowledge and solid work ethic, and are quick to comment on his dedication and ability.

“Dr. Van Ingen has been a key advocate for the UNK Women’s Center,” Dr. Oravecz said. “She has been a member of the advisory board since the Women’s Center opened in 2006. She frequently comes to the board meetings armed with new ideas and ways in which our departments can work together for the betterment of the students.

“Moreover, she has implemented service learning projects for her students to work their service hours in the Women’s Center. Additionally, she has been crucial in advocating that the ‘Vagina Monologues’ proceeds be given to the Women’s Center to fund an additional work-study position, which would not otherwise be possible.”

“Dr. Mims has been a key advocate for all counseling and health care activities, and was an active participant in the department’s Program Review Team,” Dr. Oravecz said. “This past year, she was the driving force behind the Women’s Center successful application for the Department of Justice Office of Violence Against Women Grant, and she sits on the newly formed Counseling and Health Care Advisory Board.”

In addition to the campus-wide partnership awards, five awards were established to recognize the achievements of individuals within the Division of Student Affairs. The awards include Outstanding Graduate Assistant, Outstanding New Professional, Outstanding Support Staff, Outstanding Student Affairs Professional and the Dean’s Award for Distinguished Service to the Division of Student Affairs.

The award for Outstanding Graduate Assistant was given to Monica Mueller of Holdrege. Mueller works in the UNK Office of Multicultural Affairs. The award is presented to a candidate currently working to finish a master’s degree and who is employed as a graduate assistant within Student Affairs.

“Nominees should have displayed a commitment to the provision of outstanding service to students and other key constituents, have taken steps to provide innovative and efficient programs/services, and have consistently gone ‘above and beyond’ position requirements to maximize both their education and the contribution to their supporting department,” Dr. Oravecz said.

“Monica (Mueller) has worked to perform the duties and responsibilities of the assistant director,” Dr. Oravecz said. “She has assisted in the planning, organizing and implementation of events that educate UNK and the Kearney community on issues of diversity. She currently advises three student organizations, and has been an essential part of the planning of the annual Nebraska Cultural Unity Conference, and Multicultural Scholars and Leaders Day, two main recruitment initiatives to bring multicultural diverse students to our institution.” Mueller is also involved in the selection of scholarship recipients, the OMA retention program, Student Support Services and the Thompson Scholars Learning Community.

Scott Benson, Office of Residential and Greek Life, received the Outstanding New Professional award, which is presented to an employee who has no more than three years of post-graduate experience. Nominees must have displayed creativity in problem solving, a commitment to their professional development, and have sought to improve the skills and knowledge of their colleagues in creating successful partnerships with students.

“Scott (Benson) is someone who enjoys thinking ‘outside of the box’ and likes trouble shooting so that our current ways of serving the students run smoother,” Dr. Oravecz said. “He has great knowledge to share with his colleagues, has created an endless number of partnerships with UNK students and has worked tirelessly to create a strong community in the Antelope and Nester Complex.”

Joni Weed, Academic and Career Services, received of the Outstanding Support Staff Award. This award is presented to a candidate who makes significant contributions to their department by providing outstanding customer service, showing attention to detail in all facets of their performance, exceeding expectations, striving for efficiency of services, programs and budgets, and supporting all endeavors of the campus-wide community.

“”Whether she is organizing one of three career fairs, helping education majors with their credential files or assisting students with program changes, Joni (Weed) is forever friendly and helpful,” Dr. Oravecz said. “Beyond the office, she participates in Staff Senate activities, organizes regular ‘Ladies Night Out’ get-togethers for Student Affairs staffers and reaches out to people across campus. She excels in her ability to mentor the student work-study staff. She not only trains them to succeed on the job, she listens compassionately and offers helpful ‘life advice.’”

Dusty Newton, Undergraduate Recruitment and Admissions director, received the Outstanding Student Affairs Professional award. This award is presented to a candidate with a minimum of five years experience who demonstrates outstanding commitment to the profession and has contributed to programs that address the needs of students and are experienced in creating campus environments that promote student learning and personal development, while initiating and maintaining mentoring relationships with new professionals throughout the division.

“On a daily basis, Dusty (Newton) challenges students to think critically and to better themselves and each other,” Dr. Oravecz said. “Whenever students can be included in the decision-making processes, he is the first person to suggest that with a student’s perspective, their feedback will influence our actions for years to come.”

Dr. Gail Zeller, former interim dean of Student Affairs, received the Dean’s Award for Distinguished Service to the Division of Student Affairs. Dr. Zeller directed the Office of Academic Success for a number of years before serving as interim dean.

“This award is an opportunity for the dean to recognize an individual for his or her distinguished service to the division,” Dr. Oravecz said. “Facts that are taken into consideration in selecting the individual for this award include years of dedication, service and commitment to the advancement of the profession of Student Affairs, constantly seeking out ways to partner and collaborate with faculty, advancing the mission of the university, and most importantly, putting our students first.”