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The Fantastic Five

Faculty and Staff Appreciation Barbecue a fitting forum for Distinguished Service Awards.

May 9, 2016

The 2016 Distinguished Service Award winners, from left, Health Center at Auraria Director Stephen Monaco, Associate Dean of Professional Studies Kathy Heyl, Professor Peggy O’Neill-Jones, Professor Kenn Bisio and Bursar Christina Nguyen. PHOTO: Dave Neligh
The 2016 Distinguished Service Award winners, from left, Health Center at Auraria Director Stephen Monaco, Associate Dean of Professional Studies Kathy Heyl, Professor Peggy O’Neill-Jones, Professor Kenn Bisio and Bursar Christina Nguyen. PHOTO: Dave Neligh

Last week’s Faculty and Staff Appreciation Barbecue was a fitting forum for the recognition of this year’s recipients of the Distinguished Service Awards, developed in 1977 to allow MSU Denver employees to recognize the outstanding and unusual contributions of their peers who go above and beyond the norm.

Receiving this year’s Faculty Distinguished Service Award is Professor of Photojournalism and Social Documentary Kenn Bisio, who Jordan described as possibly “the most enthusiastic and passionate teachers MSU Denver has ever had the good fortune to call its own.” When he arrived at MSU Denver 22 years ago, Bisio was an award-winning photojournalist who had worked at numerous magazines including Sports Illustrated and National Geographic. He was instrumental in the development of the University’s Convergent Journalism Program and was named the 2015 Educator of the Year by the Colorado Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.

Christina Nguyen is the recipient of this year’s Classified Staff Distinguished Service Award. Nguyen has worked at MSU Denver for more than 30 years starting in Student Accounts and advancing to her current position of Bursar. Jordan commended Nguyen for helping “more students with financial issues and keeping them on the path to graduation than can be counted.” He cited her work to streamline the tax-reporting process for students, automate MSU Denver’s billing process and waive unnecessary health insurance charges that helped to reduce student balances by roughly $300,000 annually.

Describing her as “a thoughtful leader, passionate educator, consummate team player and a treasure to all who know her,” Jordan presented this year’s Administrative Staff Distinguished Service Award to Associate Dean of Professional Studies Kathy Heyl. Noting Heyl’s transformational contributions to MSU Denver in her 18 years here, Jordan cited her advocacy for online learning; her role in the creation of the Department of Nursing and approval of the minor in nutrition; her roles as a Title IX investigator and a mentor and communications lifeline to College of Professional Studies faculty; her work to resolve student issues “expeditiously and with compassion;” and her contributions to “nearly every key area of the University including Commencement; enrollment, retention and graduation; Banner; Digital Measures and Capp.

Director of the Health Center at Auraria for 26 years, Stephen Monaco received this year’s President’s Award. Described as a visionary, Jordan cited Monaco’s “many entrepreneurial programs that have broadened the Health Center’s mission in ways that improve our students’ overall health and experience at MSU Denver.” Of note, Monaco created the Campus Wellness Initiative for students, faculty and staff; the Student Health Advocates for Diversity in Education and Services – or SHADES – program; the Academic Vital Signs Program; and a partnership with Athletics that provides extensive physical therapy to student-athletes – and all MSU Denver students – at no cost. Jordan went on to highlight Monaco’s leadership in the community, including developing partnerships between MSU Denver and University Physicians Incorporated/Colorado School of Medicine, Denver Health and Kaiser Permanente, and his integral involvement with Clinica Tepeyec.

Finally, Jordan presented Professor of Journalism and Technical Communication Peggy O’Neill-Jones with the University’s first-ever Extraordinary Service Award, developed to be given “only occasionally and under clearly exceptional circumstances.” Noting her 12-year leadership in the Library of Congress’ Teaching with Primary Sources program, Jordan praised O’Neill-Jones, who serves as director of the TPS Western Region at MSU Denver, for obtaining $5.2 million in Library of Congress grants to date. In turn, under Peggy’s direction, the TPS Western Region has funded 57 grants totaling more than $730,000 to universities and school districts in 16 states, and has trained K-12 teachers in all of its member states, reaching nearly 1,800 individuals. A faculty member at MSU Denver since 1990, O’Neill-Jones developed the Interactive Media, and Social and Mobile Media concentrations. She helped found the Council for 21st Century Learning Board of Directors and received a gubernatorial appointment to the Colorado Lincoln Bicentennial Commission.

View our gallery of images from last week's Faculty and Staff Appreciation Barbecue. For more information about MSU Denver’s Distinguished Service Awards, visit the website.

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