Written largely by Elizabeth Bowler, senior Communication major from Washington, UT
DE NEAN PETERSEN, a counselor at Southern Utah University’s Wellness Center, was honored with the Outstanding New Professional Award at Utah’s National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) Conference in September.
Petersen was nominated for the award by Georgia Beth Thompson, SUU’s vice president for student services, and was chosen out of professionals from six states, including Utah, Nevada, Washington, Oregon, Alaska and Idaho.
The award is given to a professional with fewer than five years of experience in student affairs and who has given outstanding services to an institution of higher education. The individual should also demonstrate innovation or creativity within student affairs, be active in student affairs professional organizations, and show a significant promise for future leadership roles in the student affairs profession.
In the nomination letter Thompson submitted to the awards committee, she described Petersen as “a positive, experienced professional” and “an excellent match for our campus.”
Thompson continued: “She is warm and friendly with students, (and) very supportive and non-judgmental with individuals . . . She enjoys university students, sees herself as a crucial part of Student Services, and is engaged in the best practices in terms of student growth and learning, and particularly in the psychological counseling area.”
Marjean Allen, SUU’s director of student health services, said Petersen deserves the recognition. “De Nean is a true asset to the university,” Allen said. “She goes above and beyond expectations in making sure that the students she sees are succeeding in life, and at the university. She provides consultation with other members on the Wellness Center staff and looks for innovative ways to make the most of our limited resources.”
Petersen was complimented by her nomination and the acknowledgment she has received. “I am deeply honored to receive this award,” she said. “I think it reflects positively on the Wellness Center, the counseling office and the university as a whole.”
She gives much of the credit for earning the award to her colleagues in the Wellness Center and the supportive relationships they share. “We all love what we do, and we love the students and are committed to serving them,” Petersen said. “It takes all of us to make this work, and I have a whole office of folks behind me, supporting me and strengthening me.
“I have a great love for this school and for the people I work with,” she added.
Neal Cox, SUU’s associate vice president for student services and dean of students, said he is thrilled that Petersen received this honor. “She is very deserving of such recognition,” Cox said.
Petersen graduated from Southern Utah State College (now SUU) with a bachelor’s degree in social work. She earned her master’s degree at UNLV and has been active in SUU’s Wellness Center’s counseling services since 2003.
Utah is located in Region V of the NASPA organization. The leading national voice for student affairs administration, policy and practice, its mission is to provide professional development and advocacy for student affairs educators and administrators.
A second SUU employee who has been recognized by NASPA for outstanding job performance is GEORGIA BETH THOMPSON, vice president for student services. She was honored at the NASPA Western Regional Conference in Tucson, Ariz., on Nov. 11. Thompson received the Scott Goodnight Award for Outstanding Performance as a Dean, a feat for which she was in competition with candidates from Utah, Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, Alberta, Nevada, Montana, Washington and British Columbia.
The Scott Goodnight Award is given to a dean or vice president who has demonstrated sustained professional service in student affairs work; competency in administrative skills; innovative response in meeting students’ needs; effectiveness in developing junior staff members; and leadership in community and university affairs. The award is given at both the regional and national levels and is named for NASPA’s founding president.
Thompson was nominated for the award by her colleagues at SUU. In their nomination letters, her co-workers praised her leadership skills, infectious enthusiasm, vision and dedication.
“I have benefited immensely from her expertise and empowering leadership style,” said Lynne Brown, director of SUU’s Student Support Center. “Her affiliation with SUU has always been marked by enthusiasm, innovation and upfront honesty. Georgia has a passion for helping students access educational opportunities and succeed in achieving their life goals.”
Brown said one of Thompson’s most distinguishing characteristics is her unwillingness to back down when making difficult decisions. She also said Thompson inspires the personnel in her office to “go forward with a positive attitude.
“A significant and lasting legacy of (her) leadership at SUU,” Brown continued, “is seen in the exceptional achievements of those students and colleagues that she has inspired through her mentoring and friendship.”
Mindy Benson, SUU’s director of student leadership, praised Thompson for her progressive thinking and the support she gives students, saying that she has been a key leadership figure in students’ lives. “She is a trusted colleague who is professional, creative, diverse in her abilities and diverse in her thinking and education,” Benson said. “She helps us all be better people.”
G. Neuman Duncan, SUU’s director of Housing & Residence Life, described Thompson as “an individual of the highest caliber and professionalism” and “a friendly, enthusiastic and well-organized leader.” He commended “her grace under pressure and her ability to motivate and inspire others.”
Thompson said receiving the award was a complete surprise. “I had no idea I had been nominated for the award,” she said. “I was pleased to hear that my colleagues felt I had represented students and student affairs professionals well at SUU and in the student affairs organizations.
“It was a real honor to have been nominated by people I’ve enjoyed working with for many years, and then to have the regional committee select me as the regional recipient was an additional gift,” she added.
Thompson said she has been concerned with student growth and learning ever since she began working in student services. “It is nice to receive a regional award that recognizes professionals who have been concerned about students and how they learn and grow, as well as the student services professional as a whole,” she said.
Thompson received her bachelor’s degree in journalism from Utah State University and a master’s degree from American University in public relations. She has been serving students at SUU for the past 19 years.
According to www.naspa.org, NASPA is the largest professional association for student affairs administrators, faculty and graduate students, with 8,500 members representing 29 countries at 1,400 campuses.
And, last but not least, JEB BRANIN, associate director of the SUU Student Success Center, was named the Outstanding Orientation Professional at the international conference earlier this month in Florida of the National Orientation Directors Association (NODA).
This award is given to an individual who makes outstanding contributions to the orientation, retention and transition profession; enhances a model orientation, retention and transition program that meets the varied needs of students; exhibits notable regional and/or national leadership; gives excellent to student service; and extends the scope of the orientation, retention and transition profession beyond his/her institution.
Patrick Clarke, director of the Student Success Center, said of Branin: “Jeb is well respected throughout the entire orientation profession nationally. This award, which is long overdue, recognizes Jeb as a cutting-edge innovator where transition programs for new students are concerned."
Sharing his knowledge and expertise, Branin was invited to co-present a workshop on utilizing technology in orientation at last year’s annual meeting of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO). And, he is currently the NODA Policy Manual Editor.
Next year’s international NODA conference will be in Salt Lake Center. Branin will be co-hosting the event with Gwen Fears at the University of Utah and a team of about 30 professionals from all over the country.
Throughout its more -than 100-year history, Southern Utah University has evolved from a teacher-training school into its current role as a comprehensive, regional university to 6,000 students from across the globe. It serves the southern region of Utah and contiguous counties in surrounding states with undergraduate and graduate programs in six colleges. People of the region look to the university for outreach services, culture, economic and business development, higher learning, regional history, public affairs, major academic specialties, and significant entertainment and recreation. Accentuated by the notable, economic value of its services, SUU’s hallmark is its quality staff, faculty and academics.