University News

BEAR Day honors staff member achievements with awards

Staff members honored for excellence in diversity, citizenship, innovation in annual ceremony

Senior Staff Writer
Thursday, February 25, 2016

More than 500 people filled Salomon 101 to celebrate the achievements of staff members at the annual Brown Employee Appreciation and Recognition Day Monday. President Christina Paxson P’19 gave awards to 12 individuals and three teams from 14 different departments for excellence in the categories of citizenship, diversity, efficiency, innovation, leadership, rising star and service.

BEAR Day began in 2005 under the presidency of Ruth Simmons to replace the annual service award luncheon and other sporadic staff recognition ceremonies “with the goals of creating a culture of appreciation and fostering a sense of community,” wrote Angela Hilliard, communication and program manager of human resources, in an email to The Herald.

The Excellence Award Selection Committee reviewed 126 nominations representing 59 departments to select award winners “who bring a diverse array of skills and experiences to their positions,” Hilliard wrote.

Paxson had the “chance to publicly and openly express (her) appreciation to staff” on behalf of the University in her fourth BEAR Day opening remarks. “Every day should have a little bit of BEAR day spirit,” she said as she spotlighted some of the work accomplished by the honorees.

Barbara Chernow, executive vice president for finance and administration, took the stage to present the Excellence Award winners. Among those honored were recent graduate Darcy Pinkerton ’14, awarded the Rising Star for her fundraising and engagement efforts for the School of Public Health, the grounds team that “cleared over 80 inches of snow during the blizzard of 2015” and Sidalia Piriquito, a custodian in the Math and Judaic Studies departments.

Piriquito “even shares vegetables from her garden with faculty members, staff members and students,” Chernow said. “Can we talk after this?” Chernow added jokingly.

Men’s Health Coordinator Marc Peters was awarded the Excellence Award for Innovation. Though he was only hired in 2014, Peters has initiated “programming addressing toxic masculinity and violence prevention” and “coordinated a sexual assault peer organization,” Peters said.

Peters works with athletic and Greek organizations to “build healthy communities,” organizes Men’s Health 101, which gives male-identifying students the space to discuss how masculinity affects their lives, and co-facilitates a support group called Men Talking. He is also currently collecting submissions from male-identifying students for a Men’s Story Project performance on the topic of personal masculinity in March, he added.

“I work with an issue I am deeply passionate about with young people who care so much about making their community safer and a more just place,” Peters said, adding that his programs have been successful because students are “so hungry for the conversation.”

Kris Cambra, director of biomedical communications, received the Excellence Award for Citizenship for starting a new program that brings art exhibits to the Alpert Medical School. While at work in the “new shiny building,”  Cambra “heard from the staff that they would love to see something different on the walls,” she said.

Inspired by the community’s desire for artwork, Cambra began to commission three art exhibits a year. Last May, the school hosted the first ever medical student art exhibit to showcase the students’ “hidden talents in painting, drawing and sculptures,” she added.

Other exhibits have included Beyond the Diagnosis, a partnership with the Rare Disease United Foundation, which displayed artwork of children and adults with rare diseases to educate students and the community. The subjects could communicate with the medical community and doctors in training, “allow(ing) them to tell their stories,” Cambra said. 

The art exhibits have “given a platform and sanctuaries for different angles on medicine,” Cambra said, adding that the exhibits’ effects reach beyond the immediate medical community. Since its debut at the University, the exhibit has traveled to Harvard Medical School and will soon be aired on a CBS morning show.

Of the three Excellence Awards for Diversity recipients, Director of Leadership Programs in the School of Professional Studies Kisa Takesue ’88 received the award for placing social justice at the forefront of the Brown Leadership Institute, according to the BEAR Day pamphlet.

After ending her activism-based undergraduate career at the University in 1988, Takesue was hired as an assistant dean of student life in 1996. Since then, she has “expanded support programs for students of color, international students and first-generation students,” according to the pamphlet. Though she has “had the opportunity to have several different jobs at Brown,” her favorite aspect of any position has always been “creating inclusive and empowering educational experiences for students,” Takesue wrote in an email to The Herald.

Thanks to Takesue’s “color-conscious” efforts, diversity training in the Leadership Institute includes dialogues on identity development, intersectionality, socio-economic status and first-generation college experiences. She has also worked to ensure that the faculty members teaching workshops are scholars and students of “various backgrounds, disciplines and lived experiences.”

“It feels terrific to be recognized, but I am just one of many who support University diversity efforts day after day, year after year,” Takesue wrote.

Overall, the honorees said they enjoy BEAR Day and the recognition it brings to staff members who often go unnoticed behind the scenes of the University. “BEAR Day is a terrific opportunity for staff to gather together as a community in celebration of one another and our combined contributions,” Takesue wrote.

“At a school, obviously students and faculty are going to be most important — that’s the ambition,” Cambra said. “But in the background are all these staff members who make everything work … It’s just nice to know that Brown recognizes that and knows that there is a huge component of staff that makes it successful as well.”

“People who don’t win awards also make incredibly important contributions to the University,” Paxson added, recognizing Norman “Bubba” Morris, who has worked in the Brown Bookstore for 33 years. During Paxson’s staff office hours, Morris had mentioned that he would miss having access to the fitness center after he retired someday, inspiring her to create a new employee benefit. She announced that, effective immediately, “upon retiring from Brown with 25 years of service or more, employees will receive free lifetime membership to the fitness center and library.”

Staff members were then asked to stand up if they had served the University for five, 10, 20 and 30 or more years. One by one, each category stood to be showered with applause by the audience and their peers. “For folks to have the opportunity to stand in front of their peers and have their work honored and validated is a really awesome thing,” Peters said

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