Steve Ondersma: Outstanding Supervisor Award Winner 2023

Positive Leadership with a Personal Touch

Dr. Steve Ondersma is the C.S. Mott Endowed Professor of Public Health in the C.S. Mott Department of Public Health. The manager of seven researchers, Steve takes change in stride and values every moment that he has with his team. Through emergencies, illnesses, family responsibilities and opportunities for advancement, Steve is known for supporting his team and supporting their success.

“To say that Steve responds well to stressful circumstances and extreme work-life situations is an understatement. Through pandemic, campus violence, transition periods as he moved from his prior institution to MSU, and restructuring research and community engagement projects as a result of such situations, Steve has consistently remained an exceptionally outstanding supervisor. He has led by example in each situation, remaining thoughtful, empathetic, and sensitive to the need to adjust his approach as indicated by the circumstances. On a smaller, but still important scale, when an ill family member needs attention, he recognizes the need to prioritize their well-being. When a team member working on professional development needs to arrange time to attend classes, attend a conference, or participate in a recreational activity, for example, Steve honors the importance of their pursuits as part of their professional growth and/or general well-being,” shares Lisa Todd, Research Assistant III for the Charles Stewart Mott Department of Public Health.

Steve Ondersma

Ondersma creates a safe place to work and grow.

“One of the standout qualities that sets Dr. Ondersma apart is his remarkable ability to motivate and mentor others. He possesses an innate ability to inspire and empower his team and colleagues, fostering a collaborative and productive work environment. His exceptional communication skills and listening abilities enable him to effectively convey ideas, build consensus, and successfully lead diverse teams towards achieving remarkable results. Furthermore, Dr. Ondersma consistently displays a genuine concern for the well-being and professional growth of his team and colleagues. He readily offers support, guidance, and mentorship to help others reach their full potential. His dedication to fostering a positive and inclusive work culture has resulted in increased team morale, productivity, and overall job satisfaction,” explains Jonné McCoy-White, Academic Specialist-Research for the Charles Stewart Mott Department of Public Health.

“His leadership style and genuine trust in our team has cultivated an environment that I feel immensely proud to be a part of. You won’t find a member on our team who wouldn’t drop everything in a second to help our boss not for sheer love of the science, not because we feel obligated, but out of loyalty to someone who truly has given us a safe space to work and grow,” says Mary Katherine Crawford, from the C.S. Mott Department of Public Health.

“Steve is also cognizant of the importance of empowering others. He wants people to succeed and, toward that end, actively sets others up for success, whether facilitating opportunities, ensuring that they have the resources needed, or providing the support needed. He cultivates safe space and distributes praise generously. Positive leadership is a rare quality and Steve has it in abundance. One can quite literally see people’s faces light up when he praises them,” recalls Lisa Todd.

Steve Ondersma and his team at C.S. Mott Department of Public Health

Including staff and stakeholders.

Nominators shared examples of how Steve sought input from the team and community stakeholders to be inclusive, culturally sensitive and to design research questions that respected the research participants.

“Dr. Ondersma… strives to be culturally sensitive. He always wants to make sure that no participant ever feels offended or disrespected when going through his project’s interventions. … He has the participants’ best interest at heart,” explains Marlee Sherrod, Technical Aide for the C.S. Mott Department of Public Health.

The personal touch means a lot to Ondersma’s team.

“Steve is exceptionally attuned to his team members as individuals and does not miss an opportunity to connect with them on a personal as well as a professional level. He champions their goals and aspirations, asks after loved ones, and knows their values and interests. He can do these things genuinely because he values them as people. I’ve had the privilege on many occasions to witness his interactions with team members, noticing how he asks not just a general ‘how are you doing today,’ but starts there and follows it up with something relevant to that person, demonstrating genuine interest, and acting on opportunities to help facilitate their achievements,” concludes Lisa Todd.

View the other Outstanding Supervisor Award Winners for 2023.