Outstanding Supervisor Award

Nominations are accepted from February 1 to July 31 each year.  Please complete the following form to begin your nomination starting in February: https://bit.ly/supaward. Nominations are accepted for six months and pulled August 1 in order to select winners.

About the Award

outstanding supervisor winner with banner and their teamThe Outstanding Supervisor Award honors Michigan State University supervisors who have consistently demonstrated worklife sensitivity and support of the professional/personal needs of the employees in their unit. The award is significant for the following reasons:

  • The managerial style of a supervisor has a direct impact on the quality of the employees’ work and their loyalty to MSU. Any supervisor, at any employment level, from all staff and academic units may be nominated.
  • There is a strong “business case” for offering support and flexibility to enhance employees’ worklife balance. When sincere consideration is given to an individual’s personal responsibilities outside the job, absenteeism may be reduced and morale and productivity are improved.
  • By recognizing outstanding supervisors, we are setting an example of “what makes a good supervisor.” This will serve as a model for others to illustrate what it means to be sensitive to worklife and family circumstances. These outstanding supervisor role models make a positive impact on managerial practices across campus!

How to Nominate Your Supervisor

Outstanding Supervisor Award Nominations DueMembers of the MSU community are invited to nominate a supervisor/administrator who consistently supports the worklife (professional/personal) needs of their employees/staff through positive leadership and managerial practices. If the following characteristics fit YOUR supervisor, please complete the nomination package. All staff, faculty and students may nominate their supervisors who have been in the position for more than two years. The nomination package must include the nomination form, nomination letter, plus two to four letters of support.

Nominations should include specific examples of how and why the supervisor is outstanding.  Past winners' nomination letters have been genuine with various authentic descriptions of how the supervisor is exceptional.  Make sure you clearly explain how your supervisor's actions specifically impact employees in your work group.

What makes an Outstanding Supervisor?

Click here to listen to the WorkLife Podcast.  Find episodes where we talked with past winners of the Outstanding Supervisor Award.  Hear the answer to this question straight from the experts!

  • Establishes, cultivates, and sustains an inclusive, diverse, equitable workplace
  • Understand worklife fit
  • Allow flexible schedules
  • Treat everyone with dignity, respect, and integrity
  • Promote teamwork, while supporting individuals’ well-being
  • Humanize the work environment and treat employees as people first
  • Have a positive leadership style which empowers others
  • Familiar with MSU worklife policies and procedures
  • Sensitive to individual needs
  • Familiar with the MSU WorkLife Office’s services and other campus support programs
  • Responds well to stressful circumstances and extreme worklife situations (e.g. COVID-19)

Outstanding Supervisors establish, cultivate, and sustain a workplace free from discrimination and harassment based on age, color, gender, gender identity, disability status, height, marital status, national origin, political persuasion, race, religion, sexual orientation, veteran status, and weight under the University's Anti-Discrimination Policy (ADP)

Outstanding Supervisors promote a workplace environment that is free from relationship violence and sexual misconduct in accordance with the Policy on Relationship Violence and Sexual Misconduct (RVSM)

Outstanding Supervisors represent the values and norms that contribute to a supportive workplace culture at MSU. These individuals go above and beyond their typical supervisory role to enhance the Spartan workplace.

Award Ceremonies

Nominators will be notified by late September if their supervisor has been selected. Celebrations will occur around National Bosses Day, October 16. Remember, the process is more fun for everyone if you KEEP IT A SECRET! 

Questions? Contact the MSU WorkLife Office via phone at (517) 353-1635 or via email at worklife@msu.edu.

Quotes from Past Recipients:

We asked past recipients why they thought their departments nominated them and why they were selected for the award. Here's what they had to say...

 “I care about the well-being of the people I supervise and they know it.”

“I listen and am approachable.”

“I make every effort to create a positive work environment that supports morale.”

“I understand people have lives outside work.”

 “I treat personnel in my unit as I had been, or in one case, wished I had been treated.”

“Flexibility; I recognize that life happens. I include the staff in as much of the decision and planning process that I can so that they have a natural buy in to what we are trying to do.”

“I have hired educated capable personnel…I do not need to manage their time or their jobs…as long as they are getting the work completed in a timely manner, I am happy.”

Past Recipients

2021 Recipients

Chris Hogan, Department Chairperson, Eli Broad College of Business 

“Chris’ work ethic inspires all of us to do our very best. She sets a positive example for all levels of faculty and staff in the department. She is always present and available to us even at the busiest of times.” -Lynne Zelenski, Director of Academic Services, Department of Accounting and Information Systems

Joyce Meier, Associate Director, Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures

“In her administrative and supervisory role, Joyce has been an exemplary citizen not only of the department, but also of the larger university community. She has created innovative learning opportunities for new and returning teachers to address various pedagogical needs and problems, has created ways to make the work we do in FYW ‘travel’ outward into other public beyond the department and university, and has initiated projects to inquire into what has emerged as the needs of our various constituents of learners (in particular, multilingual and international students).” -Julie Lindquist, Professor of Rhetoric and Writing, Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures

Michael Kroth, Associate Dean, College of Music 

“Michael’s responsibilities in the college of music are vast. He is not only Professor of Bassoon with a full teaching studio, but his duties as Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies and Operations have him involved in a myriad of different administrative tasks necessary in keeping the college of music running smoothly. With all of his diverse responsibilities, Michael is able to be equitable in all things and to everyone he serves and supervises. He is sensitive to individual needs specific to a person and for specific situations.” -Mary Lapprand, Head Piano Technician, College of Music

Gabe Ording, Director/Associate Professor, Center for Integrative Studies 

“Gabe is a leader and supervisor who knows his task is to promote not his success but the success of his employees. He actively mentors’ employees to develop their own leadership skills, empowering them to be the best they can be. I have seen him many times believe in an employee’s potential even more than the employee believes in their potential.” -Jane Rice, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences 

Jeannie Patrick, Director, Office of Research Administration 

“Dr. Patrick organizes the ORA office to be highly collaborative, so that the staff are encouraged to offer assistance to each other when needed. A collaborative team spirit is a pervasive characteristic of the office. Jeannie models what it means to be a supportive and interested colleague; if a staff member has a challenge in their personal lives, I have observed that they feel welcome to share the situation with Jeannie and she offers her support in practical ways.” -Ann Austin, University Distinguished Professor and Interim Dean, College of Education

2020 Recipients

Happy Boss's Day! (Oct 16, 2020)

Monte Pride

Monte Pride

Monte is a Project Delivery Supervisor with Infrastructure, Planning, and Design (IPF) Design and Construction (PDC).  As a supervisor, Monte leads PDC's Planning Team, a diverse group of subject matter experts.  Monte leads with character, candor, foresight, and a willingness to listen.  He is responsive to the needs of his staff and continually looks out for their interests while simultaneously meeting the needs of Michigan State University.  It's not one or the other.  Monte does it all.

Monte does a great job listening to his staff, trusting his staff to do their job, providing the right balance of employee oversight and gets involved when necessary.  During times of extreme stress, Monte has maintained a positive attitude, listening, showing respect and compassion to staff as well as being open and up front with information and discussions.Monte Pride

"Monte has been a rock to lean on."

Monte has supported his team members even when they were pursuing promotions outside the department even though that would create more work for him.  He was on the forefront of instituting a "4 tens" work schedule for his staff members so they could spend more time with family.  The extra day off provided one staff member the opportunity to pursue and receive a master's degree.

Read more on Monte

Kelly Millenbah

Kelly Millenbah

Kelly is the Senior Associate Dean in the Office of Academic and Student Affairs, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.  Her nomination package included individual narratives describing why Kelly is so outstanding.  Her award ceremony was attended by about a dozen of her family members including her parents and in-laws.  Kelly clearly drives her team's performance, but she gets things accomplished while maintaining great relationships with her staff and colleagues.

"Her respect for the individuals with whom she works is clear, and forms the basis of her leadership."

Kelly Millenbah

"Kelly has facilitated opportunities for the team to gather together in a safe space to discuss their thoughts, perceptions, feelings and questions around difficult topics that have faced the MSU community in recent years."  She has a "family-first" philosophy.  Kelly "provides the information and other resources necessary for each staff member to do their job and then empowers them to act and succeed."  She leads by example.  There are other personal comments that fill the letters of support submitted for Dr. Millenbah that we won't put here, but you can be certain that she is a truly Outstanding Spartan Supervisor.

Read more about Kelly

Sarah Handspike

Sarah Handspike

Sarah is the Coordinator of Advising and Undergraduate Services in the Psychology Department.  She has worked at MSU for more than a decade.  She creates a work environment where her team members feel "right at home."

"Whether you just had a baby, you need to help your elderly mother, you need time to get through a difficult death in the family, or you are having health issues, she recognizes that life sometimes gets in the way and [she] works with you to balance it all."

Two of her support letters mentioned the employees' job interviews and how they were so eager to work with Sarah right from day one.  Sarah has "made it a point to inquire about me personally beyond work which was something I appreciated."  There were several personal circumstances that Sarah's staff described in their letters that show Sarah cares about her employees on a human level.  Some of the letters mention certain family events like bereavement and birth of a child, and show that Sarah is a leader who makes the best out of these situations.  She sets a good example for the rest of MSU supervisors on how to be outstanding.

Read more about Sarah

Julie Libarkin

Julie Libarkin

Julie Libarkin is a professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences.  She has worked at MSU for two decades and oversees a staff of mostly students and researchers.  She clearly gets to know and support her staff on a personal level.  Many staff members wrote about how she saw them through the journey from undergrad to a graduate degree.  She exudes inclusion and makes it clear that all individuals have a place on her team and can play a significant role in the success of the lab.

Staff members told several personal stories during Julie's award ceremony ranging from holiday dinners to mentorship to ensuring a safe environment for her staff.  She was described as "selfless" and it was clear that she has developed strong personal bonds with her team members.  It was great to see Julie's wife surprise her with the celebratory banner and surprise gifts of Cheetos!  This was a wonderful and poignant award ceremony to recognize a truly outstanding supervisor.

Read more about Julie

Deb Martinez

Deb Martinez

Deb Martinez is Deputy Director of the Office of Institutional Equity and supervises a team of about six individuals.  Her nomination letters were both creative and heartwarming.  All of her staff talked about how she creates a positive work environment in an office that handles difficult work.  In fact, she is relentlessly positive and creates a safe space for all of her staff to fit in and contribute.  Deb has empathy for working mothers and reduces any feelings of stigma attached to the dual role of mother and employee.  Her staff feels safe to come to Deb even when circumstances at home are challenging.  Deb has established a space where team members don't fear repercussions.  They come to Deb when facing uncertainty and she reciprocates their trust.  And, if that hasn't convinced you that Deb Martinez is outstanding, she can throw a memorable baby shower even during a global pandemic.  She works with her staff to ensure they have the time off for maternity leave and to raise families.  Deb Martinez supports all facets of her team's work and lives.  She's outstanding!

Read more about Deb

2019 Recipients

Happy Boss's Day! (Oct 16, 2019)

Erin Gorman

Erin Gorman

Erin is a Research Administration Manager/S in the Health Colleges Research Services at the MSU College of Human Medicine.  She reports to Walt Esselman, Senior Associate Dean for Research, who attended her celebration along with dozens of her colleagues.  Erin was nominated by Teresa Thomas with additional letters of support written by Theresa Couch, Lu Liu, and Melinda Kochenderfer.  One of the most sentimental components of Erin's award party was the presence of her family including her husband, two children, and parents.  Erin made special mention of the work ethic she learned from her father who worked many years as a a 3rd shift skilled tradesman at GM.

Erin GormanErin's staff said that she is a great role model and that "you would want to work with Erin, too!"  Lu read her letter during the ceremony, right before we all ate delicious MSU Bakers cake, stating how "Erin understands and supports work/life balance and treats all employees with dignity, support, respect, and integrity."  Erin's boss, Walt Esselman, supports her approach to supervision and said that "the nature of the work (performed by Erin's team) allows individuals to work from home one day a week, which Erin encourages. In addition, Erin understands her staff’s needs to take care of children and other life responsibilities and does her best to accommodate them."  Two of the nominators mentioned specific ways that Erin supported their family lives and children.

One of the best parts of Erin's award ceremony, besides that delicious cake, was seeing her family take part in the celebration.  It was really touching and we hope you see that in the photo!

Bryce Henderson

Bryce Henderson

Bryce's celebration was special!  His family came to the 3rd Floor of 1855 Place at 8a to watch the entire Residential and Hospitality Services (RHS) Team welcome Bryce with cake and flowers.  Several members of his team shared their perspective on why Bryce is so outstanding.  One particular employee was appreciative of Bryce's willingness to craft a flexible schedule that allowed the team member to pursue and complete his bachelor's degree.  The staffer was recently accepted into an internship in Texas and the process was much less stressful due to Bryce's supervisory approach.  Bryce's supervisor (Phyllis Sherwood) and supervisor's supervisor (Bob Patterson) also attended the celebration.  The entire experience left Bryce relatively stunned and at a loss for words, but his team was able to fill the silence by reading their letters of support for his nomination.  The staff was thankful that Bryce was accommodating during the recent "Polar Vortex" and that he has been very supportive when staff members experience family circumstances outside of work.  Bryce is a fantastic example of supporting his team and the worklife fit!

William Wetzel

William Wetzel

William won the award as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Entomology, Center for Integrated Plant Systems.  He was nominated by Luke Zehr who wrote a wonderful letter about how Will gets to know the team on an individual level.  During the celebration, Luke conveyed a slide show titled "The Joys of Fieldwork" that included photos at the Kellogg Biological Station.  Another member of Will's staff explained how he is an "advocate for healthy, productive, and collaborative work."  Dr. Moria Robinson was able to join in the celebration via Skype while the lab dog drooled as cake was served.  Several members of the awards committee packed the small room to hear anecdotes about Will and how much he "sets the tone" for a pleasant and productive work environment at Michigan State.  It was clear that Will Wetzel is truly outstanding!

Erica Lange

Erica Lange

Erica won the award as an Office Supervisor with the Pharmacology & Toxicology Department.  She reported to Richard Neubig, Department Chair, and was nominated by Stephen Stofflet, Academic Program Coordinator.  Her award celebration was unique because it occurred on her last day with MSU!  Dozens of her colleagues joined together for a going away party and we surprised her with a pillow made from a Spartan Marching Band uniform, purchased at the MSU Surplus Store.  It was a great gift because Erica loves the marching band.  Many of her colleagues spoke about how much of an impact Erica made while she was a supervisor at MSU.  She transformed the work environment, shifting it from toxic to a place where "people enjoy coming into our office now."  She spoke about her use of "Strengths Finder" to help her team members identify their strengths.  She mentioned that a team member might have a strength - for example, technology skills - that she lacks.  Identifying who is good at what is essential for a well functioning team because that allows any team member to collaborate and leverage a colleague's skill set when needed.  Erica supported work life balance when several members of the team had family members become ill.  She supported her team, both personally and professionally, through it all.

2018 Recipients

Genevieve Cottrell

Genevieve Cottrell & Team

Genevieve Cottrell is a Chemical Safety Officer in Environmental Health & Safety. In this capacity, she supervises five employees. The nomination packet evidenced the personal care and support Cottrell provides through her leadership. One letter of support stated, "She is observant, is aware of our strengths and weaknesses, which allow her to help us build our skill sets." Another letter referenced the pride she brings to her employees, which stated, "I often attend meetings with her and every time she speaks as my supervisor, she both impresses me and makes us proud to call her leader. With Gen at the helm, it is easy to stay the course." The nomination and letters of support made it clear that Cottrell honors the work-life fit of those she supervises. 

Nicholas Drew

Nicholas Drew & Team

Nicholas Drew is the Administrative Assistant III/S (Division Supervisor) in the College of Human Medicine, Flint. In this capacity, he supervises six employees. According to the testimonies expressed in the nomination packet, Drew builds a work environment of encouragement and growth. One letter stated, "Mr. Drew is dedicated to providing a collaborative, empowering work environment not only for his team, but for the Division as a whole." Nominators for Drew's award highlighted his "kind personality" and "generous spirit." One nominator summarized Drew's leadership style in this way: "Nick treats everyone with dignity and respects the need for work-life balance." 

Niesa Kettler

Niesa Kettler & Team

Niesa Kettler is the Bacteriology/Mycology Laboratory Supervisor in the MSU Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory - Bacteriology. In this capacity, she supervises 10 employees. "[Niesa] is always welcoming, caring, accommodating, and she fully understands the needs of her employees, both on the job and outside of work," wrote a nominator. The environment that Kettler has created for her team is one based on trust and positive reinforcement. "Niesa encourages an atmosphere that allows for the flourishing of each of the technicians in the laboratory. This is accomplished through her careful balance between trusting her employees' competence and also being present or inserting herself kindly at all the appropriate times." 

Nicklas McLaren

Nicklas McLaren & Team

Nicklas McLaren is the Senior Director of Development and Alumni Relations within the office of the Associate Vice President for University Development. In this capacity, he supervises six employees. From the nomination letters, it was evident that McLaren creates a work environment based on growth, camaraderie and collaboration. One letter stated, "He allows flexible schedules and demonstrates respect and dignity to all of his employees. His leadership style is extremely positive and he continues to empower me in my role." Employees within his unit also recognize that this positive environment also contributes to their satisfaction at work and in their personal lives. "Nick has an outstanding work ethic, a collaborative nature, strategic mind, and most importantly, he has used all of these qualities to build a highly productive and loyal team at Michigan State University." 

Carol Parker

Carol Parker & Team

Dr. Carol Parker is the Executive Director in the Office of Academic Affairs, College of Medicine. In this capacity, she supervises 22 employees. According to the nomination packet, Parker serves as a role model and positive leader. One nominator wrote, "I cannot overstate how empathetic and compassionate Carol is. She has been so very understanding and accommodating to me (and to others in the group) when a rough patch in life comes along." Another letter stated, "Carol is sensitive to the full spectrum of her employees' needs, acknowledging the multiple roles we each navigate, whether we are dealing with elder, partner or childcare issues or pursuing our own work-life goals. She respects the differences between us, and expects us to do the same." 

2017 Recipients

Diane Cox, Manager of the Office of Sponsored Programs; Terry Curry, Associate Provost and Associate Vice President for Academic Human Resources; Kirk Domer, Associate Professor in Scene Design and is the Chairperson of the Department of Theatre; Richard Lenski, Hannah Distinguished Professor in Plant, Soil, and Microbial Sciences; Elizabeth Simmons, Dean of Lyman Briggs College and former Coordinator of the Academic Advancement Network; Andrew Widner, Assistant Director of Finance and Operations for the Kellogg Biological Station

2016 Recipients

Karen Crosby, College of Human Medicine Dean’s Office; Amy Driver, Department of Enterprise Information Stewardship; Sherman Garnett, James Madison College; Jessica Nakfour, MSU Extension Director’s Office; Jeremy Wilson, Center for Anti-Counterfeiting and Product Protection & School of Criminal Justice

2015 Recipients

John Gerlach, Biomed Lab Diagnostics; Gladys Raymond, Sponsored Programs; Nancy Schmitt, Nursing

2014 Recipients

Michael Gardner, Culinary Services; Shawn Kelly, Infrastructure, Planning & Facilities; Judith McMillan, Regulatory Affairs; Gary Roloff, Fisheries & Wildlife; Holly Rosen, MSU Safe Place

2013 Recipients

Eunice Hoeve, Plant Research Lab; Dana Infante, Fisheries & Wildlife; Jason Vallance, IPF Commissioning Services; Pauline VanDyke, Electrical & Computer Engineering

2011 Recipients

Amy Blair, Libraries; Steve Bolin, Pathobiology; Kent Cassella, Communications; John L. Thelen, Controller

2010 Recipients

Burton Bargerstock, University Outreach and Engagement; David Gift, IT Services CIO; Dwight Handspike, Broad College of Business; Eileen Haraminac, Extension Health & Nutrition; Michael Hudson; Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities; Renee Rivard, Human Resources; Mary Thiel, Radiology

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2009 Recipients

David B. Brower, Controller; Chris Hanna, Human Resources; Ann Hoffman, Communication Arts & Sciences; Dennis Martell, Student Health Center; Jane Randolph, Broad College of Business

2008 Recipients

Dan Bollman, IPF; Lynnette Forman, Police & Public Safety; Marie Monroe, College of Human Medicine; Jessica Moy, Remote Sensing & Geographic Information Science

MSU SupervisorMSU SupervisorMSU SupervisorMSU Supervisor

2007 Recipients

Chris JensonGeoff HumphreysKaren PlautJamie Sue Willard SmithPhyllis BukovcikKaren Pearl

MSU SupervisorMSU SupervisorMSU Supervisor

2006 Recipients

Estelle McGroartySharon AndersonCurtis Olson

2005 Recipients

Mary Elaine WebsterPatricia LowrieKelley Bishop

2004 Recipients

Don DonagrandiCheryl SiskBrenda ParoliniMona EllardHelen DashneyDouglas Estry

2003 Recipients

Pam BellamyJoan PredkoTim ZekoMarti HeilCharles WebbJim Cotter

2002 Recipients

Ken CrowellKaren McKnight CaseyLarry HembroffMaynard Hogberg

2001 Recipients

John LewisLarry SierraLinda SighMark SimmonsCheryl WhitmanKeith WilliamsEileen Wilson

Note: Titles and units listed are reflective of the time at which the supervisor received the award; this list is not updated to reflect up-to-date positions/units of these individuals. 

MSU PodcastOutstanding Supervisor Podcast

Listen to special episodes of our Outstanding Supervisor podcast series.  Click on any name below to listen to a podcast episode (audio interview) and learn more about how each individual is outstanding!

Very special thanks to Outstanding Supervisor Award Winner and Committee Member Mike Gardner for serving as guest host on many episodes!

About the Committee


The committee membership will meet the following criteria. 

  • Chair: Member of the WorkLife Office; perpetual 
  • Secretary: Any member; annual nomination 
  • Membership 
    • Member from CTU 
    • Member from APA 
    • Member from APSA 
    • Member from at least one of the following 
      • Police Officers Association of Michigan (Non-Supervisory) (POAM) 
      • Spartan Skilled Trades Union (SSTU)  
      • Local 1585 
      • 324 
      • Local 274 
    • Member from at least one of the following 
      • Academic Specialist 
      • Faculty (any rank, includes Union of Nontenure-Track Faculty) 
      • Post-Doc 
      • Graduate Employees Union (GEU) 
    • Emeritus members (past winners) are welcome and encouraged on the committee but not required 
    • MSU Health Team and Nurses are welcome and encouraged on the committee but not required 

Membership can range from a minimum of 5 individuals to a maximum of 10 individuals.  Chair and/or Secretary can fulfill a representative membership category.  These categories are intended to solicit a diverse group of MSU staff and faculty members on the committee. 

Membership Terms

Each committee member agrees to fulfill a 1-year commitment.  Members can withdraw from the committee at any time and have the option re-commit to service each year during the annual debrief meeting that occurs directly after the awards are distributed.  Should membership fall under 5 members, the Chair and committee will recruit members. 

Membership Expectations

  • Attend at least 3 of 4 scheduled meetings annually 
    • Meetings occur on or around Aug (selection), Oct (awards), Nov (debrief), Apr (check-in/launch) 
    • Attending the selection meeting, or providing a complete review of the application packages with comprehensive feedback, is a requirement of membership 
  • Attend at least 1 of the award ceremonies in Oct and provide logistical support 
    • Examples of logistical support: “emcee” overview of the history of the award, bring banners, certificates, cake, read letters of support, audio/visual including taking photos and playing the MSU fight song 
  • Promote the award to their unit and others at the university when possible 
  • Serve as a representative of the award, e.g. name listed on WorkLife website and other material

Current Committee Members





Jaimie Hutchison




Sue Brandt 




Melissa Congleton

  2019 POAM

Angela Matlock 




Chris Slater

  2020 1585

Diann Wilson 




Marcell King

  2017 Academic Specialist (non-union, non-tenure)

Janae Lawler

  2021 Academic Specialist (non-union, continuing)

Deb Bittner

  2021 CTU

Mike Gardner 



Retired (past winner) 

Member Roles

Past Committee Members

We are so thankful for the selfless service given to the Spartan community by our former committee members!