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Employee Appreciation event virtual, but pride fully present

President Eduardo M. Ochoa at last year's Employee Appreciation breakfast
President Eduardo M. Ochoa at last year's Employee Appreciation breakfast

Published Feb. 5, 2021

In the past, the annual Employee Appreciation breakfast has taken place in the University Ballroom, with a buffet breakfast spread ready for the early morning influx of faculty and staff members. It’s been the venue where President Ochoa presents the President’s Medal to one faculty, one staff and one MPP for exemplary service.

This time the venue for the couple hundred attendees was wholly online. But the sentiment of appreciation shined through anyway, delivered first by Natalie King, Katherine Kantardjieff, Kevin Saunders and Barbara Zappas. They each recognized employees who had attained milestones in retention, before President Ochoa took to the virtual podium.

“Over the course of this past year, your efforts have enabled us to continue our mission in the face of incredible challenges, which makes this appreciation event doubly important,” Ochoa told all the attendees. “I look forward to having breakfast with you next year and holding up the tradition, but for now I simply wish to thank all of you for extraordinary efforts in the face of a global pandemic.”

Then Ochoa recognized the three medal recipients.

This year’s Staff President’s award went to Janine De Leon, the Enrollment Reporting Analyst who has more than 17 years of service, and is called up for her expertise by her peers as well as the Chancellor’s Office.

She’s a member of the California Association of Institutional Research (CAIR) community, has served as CSU Employees Union steward and chapter treasurer for over a decade, and worked closely with the Office of Inclusive Excellence to found and lead the new Asian Pacific Islander affinity group.

“Janine is welcoming and supportive, patiently explaining complex and technical processes to colleagues helpfully and respectfully,” Ochoa said.

The Faculty President’s award went to Dr. Henrik Kibak, who was one of the university’s first faculty from 1996, helped grow biology from a major to a department, and helped develop Earth System Science and Policy into a major.

He has taught many science-focused courses, created a service learning course to address health care disparities, and served on many key committees and mentored countless students.

“During commencement, in typical years, he mingling and taking selfies with students and offering a congratulatory embrace after they come off the stage with their diploma,” Ochoa said.

The recipient of the MPP President’s award went to Henry Simpson, director for Technology Support Services, for his collaborative work ethic, especially in the time of the pandemic when reliance on IT services rose to record levels.

He was also instrumental, Ochoa said, in starting up Okta service and its associated data integration, and managing more than 1,000 laptop and peripherals distribution for the virtual fall semester.

“Henry has always been at the center of significant system developments within Information Technology,” Ochoa said. “Because he works well with so many different areas on campus, he is both well known and liked in these areas.”

The affair ended with more optimism, with Ochoa nodding to COVID-19 vaccinations making their rounds, a new administration in Washington DC, and friends and colleagues at CSUMB “who have made the unimaginable tenable and have pulled us all through the most tumultuous year in my memory.

“Thanks to all of you and best wishes for a successful semester,” he concluded.

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