Fine Arts student services team receives Service Excellence Award

The team reacts to the news that they won the award

The Faculty of Fine Arts is full of stars: students, faculty and alumni who make headlines for their talent and accomplishments. Last week, it was the staff in the Faculty of Fine Arts Office of Student & Academic Services (SAS) who stepped into the spotlight. At a collegial ceremony on Friday, Dec. 7, the team got their own star – the one gracing a crystal trophy awarded in recognition for their excellence in serving students and supporting educational partnerships at York.

group photo of Tina Pietrangelo, Mary Riccardi, Jane Skinner, Joanne Duklas and Lynda TamFrom left, Tina Pietrangelo, Mary Riccardi, Jane Skinner, Joanne Duklas and Lynda Tam

Faculty of Fine Arts Director of Academic Affairs, Lynda Tam, and her team, liaison staff Mary Riccardi and Jane Skinner and administrative services coordinator Tina Pietrangelo, accepted the second annual Service Excellence Award from Joanne Duklas, assistant vice-president of enrolment management and University registrar. The presentation was punctuated by whoops and cheers from their peers in Duklas’ division, who nominated and voted to give them this special honour.

“I’m so pleased that as a group we elected to recognize the tremendous work of the Student & Academic Services unit in the Faculty of Fine Arts,” said Duklas. “It’s been a great pleasure working with them and seeing their many achievements over the past years. Congratulations are definitely in order!”

One of those achievements was the development and implementation last summer of Borderless Enrolment, which gives incoming undergraduate students the flexibility to set up their course schedule online at their convenience, without having to travel to York or take time away from summer jobs. To help users navigate the new online enrolment system, the student services team produced a series of instructional videos with the help of current students in the Fine Arts Student Ambassador & Mentor (FASAM) program (see YFile, Aug. 13).

The innovative thinking and student-centric focus of this initiative is reflected in other programs and processes devised by SAS to support students throughout their time in the Faculty of Fine Arts.

Insight, an individually customized counseling program for students on academic probation, was conceived and launched by Tam in 2010. In one-on-one sessions, SAS liaison staff work with each student to identify the issues that are leading to failing grades, and then connect the student to helpful campus resources such as the Learning Skills Centre, Library Commons, English as a Second Language Drop-In and the Career Centre. As needed, they organize follow-up meetings to touch base, monitor progress or explore additional support in tandem with the student’s program advisors and course directors.

Other special supports developed by the student services team in the Faculty of Fine Arts include the Fine Arts 4 U mobile site (see YFile, Aug. 9), which includes a fine arts career guide called Finding Your Way and information about Toronto’s arts scene, and the FASAM program, which enables students to connect digitally or in person, with upper-year, trained peer mentors in their discipline. The peer mentors act as a friendly “guide on the side” during the academic year. Another flagship SAS project is Connect/Reconnect, a networking event that brings dozens of successful alumni back to campus each year to meet current students and share their experiences in creating community and careers in arts and culture (see YFile, Nov. 15).

In expressing her appreciation for the Service Excellence Award, Tam acknowledged the work of those who gathered to applaud her team.

“Everyone in this room is committed to putting students first and doing all we can to support student success,” said Tam. “It’s such an honour to be recognized by colleagues and peers for our efforts. And to be able to bring home a trophy in this year without hockey – how great is that?!”

The team reacts to the news that they won the awardThe team reacts to the news that they won the award

In addition to the York-wide student service division award, staff in the AVP’s office also nominated two individuals from their own team to be honoured for service excellence. The local recipients this year are George Grigoriadis and Ivana Wolsegger.

Faculty of Fine Arts Dean Barbara Sellers-Young and Executive Officer Carol Altilia were on hand to congratulate and celebrate with their winning student services team and other honorees. Altilia thanked everyone involved and in particular Duklas, who had mentioned in her comments that it was her last day at York.

“While I give full credit for this award to the relentless creativity and dedication of our student services team, I want to also say thank you for instituting this award,” said Altilia. “It’s about best practices and taking the time to reflect on how the excellence of your peers strengthens partnerships on campus. This kind of activity exemplifies Joanne Duklas’ many contributions to York. It’s a perfect moment to acknowledge the work she’s done to build bridges throughout the University. I know I speak for many when I say her dedication and responsiveness will be missed.”