After TCS staff members Jill Glenn, Katia Mitova and Saraheva Monroe became the first-ever winners of the new President's Vision Award, they said something telling.
Each of them had nominated other staff members for the award, which recognizes employees for fulfilling The Chicago School's mission, and hoped their nominees would win.
That collegial, make-others-look-good spirit exemplifies some of the qualities that won them the award. Their co-workers praised them for engaging and serving others. It was this sense of community, which, along with education, innovation and service, make up the core school values and the criteria for the honor.
"Nominees were judged on how well they demonstrated at least three of those four values," explained Susan Craig, associate vice president for human resources.
For example, they might demonstrate the value of innovation by employing creative ideas that reduce costs, or demonstrate the value of service by participating on committees not related to their positions.
"The award not only recognizes employees' values and hard work, she added, "it boosts morale."
"The award originated when the Human Resources Department received feedback on an employee survey that noted the school made annual awards to distinguished faculty, yet did not have similar recognition for staff," said Curt Allee, human resources generalist.
"We mulled it over for awhile, and the process for the President's Vision Award went through several iterations," he said. "We looked at criteria and landed on the idea of basing it on the four values."
To make the first-year effort successful, the school needed to raise awareness of the award and generate lots of nominations. So in May, it kicked off announcing the event with posters, email blasts, balloons, and chocolate bars.
"HR put our own labels on candy bars and handed them to everybody. The instructions on how to nominate people were right on the label," Craig said.
Craig and Allee were happy with the 35 nominations that came in by the June 15 deadline, and turned them in to the selection committee, which consisted of Ted Scholz, Louvenia Hardaway, Amanda Kim, Colette Landry and Johanna Atienza.
"For the most part, the nominations were very well-written," Atienza said. "The people doing the nominating were very thoughtful and descriptive and submitted specific examples of how the nominees exemplified every value."
Dr. Michael Horowitz announced the award recipients at the school's 30th anniversary celebration and employee appreciation luncheon on Sept. 30. Dr. Horowitz presented each winner with a check for $1,500 and an award designed by employee Robert Cleve. Though Cleve works full time in the Office of Applied Professional Practice, he is also a glass artist who has a studio in the Ravenswood neighborhood.
Jill Glenn's nominators praised her dedication to finding meaningful community service positions for students, her willingness to arrive at work at 6 a.m. Tuesdays so she can volunteer at an after-school program and her commitment to continuous learning. She has worked at The Chicago School for three years.
The thing about The Chicago School is, if you have an idea, people listen," said Glenn, director of community partnerships, citing the examples of how both the Forensic Center and the ABA school started as ideas that TCS faculty suggested. "It's amazing to see how quickly thoughts turn into ideas and action," she added.
Katia Mitova's nominators said she not only excels at her core responsibilities of teaching students to write and research, she anticipates students' needs and created online tutorials. She also helped sharpen students' critical thinking skills by resurrecting the Socratic Roundtable and instituting two seminars, Starting from Scratch and Storytelling in Psychology.
"People here want to do their best. Everyone here tries to go beyond their job requirements, I think," said Mitova, assistant director of the Center for Academic Excellence, who has been at TCS just shy of three years.
Saraheva Monroe's nominators lauded the fact her efforts in creating a new web portal (eGo), identifying new software, harnessing social media, etc., have increased the number of inquiries about the school by 134 percent-from 5,200 last year to 12,000 this year.
"I think The Chicago School does a great job motivating employees," said Monroe, who has served as the director of interactive marketing since February 2008. "HR looked to the community to nominate their peers, and it makes it even better to know that those I work with most closely appreciate my work."
In addition to the winners' comments about high morale and motivation, The Chicago School recently received recognition from an independent source.
In July, The Chronicle of Higher Education named TCS to its annual list of "Great Colleges to Work For." It chose schools for the list based on compensation, benefits, faculty/administration relations and overall job satisfaction.
For more information on the President's Vision Award, contact Susan Craig at firstname.lastname@example.org