April 18, 2014

Smith named Student Employee of the Year

by Andrea Hahn

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Southern Illinois University Carbondale honored outstanding student employees at a breakfast recognition ceremony April 17 as part of its observance of the annual National Student Employee Recognition Week. 

Benjamin W. Smith, a junior from Riverdale majoring in communication studies with a specialization in intercultural communication, is this year’s Student Employee of the Year. Haley Nelson, a senior human nutrition and dietetics major from Lake in the Hills, is the runner-up. 

Smith works in the Center for Inclusive Excellence, where, according to Derrick Williams, assistant director, he has the nickname “Superman.”  During the award presentation, Williams explained the nickname: it’s partly because of Smith’s strong work ethic, and partly because Superman stands for hope -- and so does Smith. 

“He’s always mentoring and counseling students, and it seems like everyone knows him,” Williams said.  “I have a four-year-old son, and if someone were to ask me who do I want my son to model himself after, it’d be Benjamin.” 

Smith credited his upbringing in a church and family community with inspiring him to help others. He explained his work ethic by quoting his father: “My father always said ‘a dream without work isn’t a dream, it’s a fantasy.’” 

As a student employee, Smith has had a hand in organizing campus and community events including Black History, Hispanic/Latino, LGBTQ, and Women’s History months, and the Martin Luther King, Jr. observation on campus.  He is active with the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute Men’s Leadership Weekend, and he leads the Progressive Masculinities Mentors group that works with The Women’s Center in Carbondale. Smith was also instrumental in bringing guest speaker Angela Davis to campus -- a feat even Williams said he doubted was possible to accomplish. 

Lisa Peden, director of the Center for Learning Support Services, nominated Nelson, describing her a “ a young pre-professional with a ‘can do’ attitude who is willing to grow, develop and take on new duties.” 

Nelson’s duties include supervision of academic coaches, training, developing multi-media presentations, creating material for the university’s UCOL 103 courses for first year students, and promoting the department generally. Peden praised Nelson’s problem-solving abilities, initiative and inter-personal skills. 

Terri Harfst, director of the Office of Financial Aid, said National Student Employment Week is an important opportunity to thank student employees.  

“I enjoy reading the nomination letters when they come in,” she said. “It’s uplifting, and it’s exciting to learn about all the things our students are doing here on this campus.” 

Other nominees for the 2014 Student Employee of the Year were:

  • Kori J. Balk, Buckley, nominated by Paula Smith Feigenbaum, Touch of Nature Environmental Center.
  • Mariah Cason, Belleville, nominated by Amelia Ketzle, Alumni Services.
  • Marcus Clarry, Du Quoin, nominated by Kathy Thomas, Office of the Bursar.
  • John Edgar, Ava, nominated by Susan Graham, College of Agricultural Sciences.
  • Adrienne Hardwig, Vergennes, nominated by Chet Savage, Intercollegiate Athletics.
  • Laura Hendrickson, Paducah, Ky., nominated by Monica Russell, Department of Economics.
  • Michael Henley, Chicago, nominated by Troy Vaughn, Recreational Sports and Services.
  • Devin Holder, Cairo, nominated by Melissa Viernow, Curriculum and Instruction -- Child Development Lab.
  • Artemus Holguin-Mills, Makanda, nominated by Stefani Hall, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.
  • Jenna Horrell, Red Bud, nominated by Karen Stallman, Continuing Education and Outreach.
  • Faith Kennon, Joliet, nominated by Mary Nemetsky, College of Applied Sciences and Arts.
  • DanYale D. Locke, Evanston, nominated by Susan Doolin, School of Art and Design.
  • Scott Polczynski, Du Bois, nominated by Matthew Purdy, College of Business.
  • Scott Schackman, Odin, nominated by Deborah Barnett, Non-Traditional Student Services.
  • Lindsey Shamloo, Auburn, nominated by Michelle Mansfield, Graduate School.
  • Kay Squibb, Makanda, nominated by Elizabeth Cheek, Plant and Service Operations.
  • Madison Tyner, Elkville, nominated by Barbara Tuthill, School of Medicine -- Carbondale Administration.
  • Spencer Vincent, Moweaqua, nominated by Randy Greer, Information Technology.
  • Cody Dees, St. Joseph, nominated by Julie Rudloff, University Housing.
Benjamin W. Smith (left) with Derrick Williams

2014 SIU Student Employee of the Year Benjamin W. Smith (left) with Derrick Williams, assistant director of the Center for Inclusive Excellence.  Williams nominated Smith for the award, citing his work ethic and overall attitude as outstanding attributes. (Photo by Andrea Hahn)

Haley Nelson

Haley Nelson, a senior human nutrition and dietetics major from Lake in the Hills, is runner-up for the 2014 SIU Student Employee of the Year.  She works with the Center for Learning Support Services on campus. (Photo by Tim Crosby)