2021 Staff Make Students Count Awardees

During the June Board of Regents Meeting, UA Interim President Pat Pitney recognized four outstanding staff members -- one each from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, the University of Alaska Anchorage, the University of Alaska Southeast, and University of Alaska System Office -- for the 2021 Staff Make Students Count Awards. 

The Staff Make Students Count Awards were established in the spring of 1999 to recognize university staff who have provided outstanding service to students. 

Staff members lay the foundation for student success in many ways. Service to students may include assistance as part of the job, through volunteer service, directly to students, or service provided behind the scenes. Staff members are nominated by their co-workers and the students they support, making this recognition particularly meaningful. This award recognizes the outstanding work they do for our universities. 

Although they have varied position descriptions, one thing these staff members have in common is their evident care and dedication to the students at the University of Alaska.

Congratulations to all of this year’s Staff Make Student Awardees. Each will receive a plaque, $1,000 cash award and two domestic airline vouchers from Alaska Airlines. 

This year’s award recipients are:

Allie Hartman

Student Organization Coordinator - University of Alaska Anchorage

Allie Hartman began working at UAA in August 2017 as the Administrative Assistant for Student Media. She has shown a passion for and dedication to advancing student engagement and inclusion in all aspects of UAA life. 

During her time working with UAA's student media organizations, she showed a knack for connecting with students and supporting personal and professional growth. She helped new student leaders learn about their job duties and helped them find and use their voice in critical conversations and decisions. She worked alongside students as they navigated tough budgetary decisions and made sure the students always understood impacts. Allie helped students understand the importance of assessment and how it can be used for organizational improvement. 

Since 2019 Allie has served as the Student Organization Coordinator in Student Life and Leadership. Allie has gone above and beyond to engage students virtually since the pandemic began in March 2020.

Under her lead, virtual student engagement through @uaalife social media accounts increased significantly. Allie determined that the best approach to virtual engagement was finding students where they already are -- on social media platforms like Facebook and lnstagram. Allie posted regularly on both platforms, which led to an increased following in both places. 

Allie began the Takeover Tuesdays during the 2020 fall semester, which has given an opportunity to highlight UAA students every week including club leaders, student employees, leaders from our fraternity and sorority community, athletes, students who identify with specific cultures, etc. This has been a true highlight of virtual engagement.  

Allie also quickly worked to adjust club registration requirements to ensure clubs could continue despite depressed student involvement due to COVID-19. 

She has been a tireless advocate to ensure university policy decisions are student-centered and has worked to bring about essential changes in policies around student payments and fundraising systems. Ensuring student-centered policies are in place benefits all students at UAA. 

Another area that Allie has gone above and beyond this year is UAAVotes. UAAVotes has long been a core function of Student Life and Leadership. Allie volunteered to take the lead this year and did an outstanding job. During the fall national election, she created partnerships with the Alaska Center Education Fund, Native Peoples' Action and the Campus Election Engagement Project. She worked with Seawolf Debate and Anchorage Daily News on a virtual series regarding the ballot measures for the state of Alaska. In addition, she conducted a number of voter training sessions to help students as they prepared to vote. Allie worked to redo the website to include an amazing ballot guide to offer guidance and education to students, as well as voter information.

Allie is often the first to volunteer when staff are asked to assist in different areas. Allie has served on several search committees this year. She also is a highly competent mentor of UAA students that are involved in student clubs, Greek life, and leadership programming. 

Quotes from her nomination letters:

“Regardless of her role, Allie has consistently shown to be an innovative professional and staunch advocate for lifting the student voice.” 

“I can think of no one more deserving to be recognized for her efforts this year. She is an amazing employee and leader for our students, and I am proud of the work she does daily to enhance experiences for UAA students.”

“In a letter like this, it is difficult to capture the energy and optimism that Allie brings to UAA. In the years that I have known her, I have been continually impressed and inspired by her example. When things get tough, Allie shows up with a positive attitude- and that positive attitude spreads to all of us. Her impact on UAA is more than just data- more than the number of students who sign up for clubs or Greek life, and the percentage of those students who persist to graduation. While her impact can be partially measured by that kind of data, it is also deeper and more personal. UAA's students are better leaders because of Allie. UAA's students are happier and possess greater emotional intelligence because of Allie.”


Stacey Howdeshell

Pre-­major advisor in the Academic Advising Center - University of Alaska Fairbanks

Stacey has been dedicated to making the University of Alaska Fairbanks a welcoming, supportive and caring environment for UAF students since she began her career in 1991. 

Stacey has always been committed to the university by assisting students reach their academic and personal goals. She is dedicated to excellence in every endeavor and is highly respected amongst the campus community for her 'can-do' attitude and vast knowledge base. 

Stacey is currently the pre-­major advisor in the Academic Advising Center, a strong advocate for students, and a go-to, knowledgeable resource for the academic advising community. 

Stacey is often the first to ask how a new process, policy change, or curriculum change will affect students. She is quick to identify areas that may create barriers for students and potentially have a negative effect on their success. 

Stacey has students' best interest at heart whether it is providing assistance and guidance during an advising appointment, listening to their concerns, or boosting their confidence that college is for them. Her comprehensive advising approach creates a sense of belonging for students. 

She is a role model of perseverance by graduating with her bachelor's in 2018, more than 40 years after she began her educational journey, demonstrating to students it is never too late to achieve their dreams. Additionally, she is extremely supportive of other advisors' learning and professional development so they in turn can serve students with utmost care and respect. She has helped train new faculty advisors, coordinate the Academic Advising Roundtable agenda, and represents the Academic Advising Center on various university-wide committees. 

As the Pre-major advisor in the Academic Advising Center, Stacey serves UAF’s most-at-risk student population -- primarily new students who's high school GPA or low ACT/SAT scores have flagged them as not meeting the university's admissions requirements. This unique population of students requires a level of complexity and compassion due to their potential academic under-preparedness and/or other life hurdles, all of which Stacey successfully demonstrates on a daily basis. Her passion for helping students meet their individual goals, tailoring students' education to their own interests and intentions, as well as removing as many institutional hurdles as possible are skills and qualities that students have recognized and showed appreciation for, as a level of care and service unlike anywhere else in the University.

Stacey was key in helping with the implementation of a new prerequisite checking process in Banner. Her knowledge of transfer credit was so important. She was able to draw from her past experience as the Banner rules were built. Her goal was an outcome that would make prerequisite checking as easy as possible for new and current students. Stacey kept very detailed notes and instructions and was meticulous in documenting the steps involved which made future training easy. 

Stacy has cultivated countless relationships within the UAF staff web to help her aid students at a moment's notice. She asks valuable questions on behalf of students that in turn help her students as well as all advisors to learn more about the most effective and efficient ways to advise students. These relationships have been built over years of mutual trust and are essential to her ability to help students. 

Quotes from the nomination letters:

“Stacey epitomizes servant leadership through her dedication and passion for students and helping them achieve their goals. She inspires those around her to always put students first. I know she has inspired me and I can't think of anyone more deserving than Stacey for this award.” 

“Stacey consistently gives confidence and possibility where students have often felt mostly confused, apprehensive and unsure. Her dedication, undiscriminating kindness, sensitivity and care as well as her broad institutional knowledge make her the ultimate champion for the success and accomplishments for these students. I cannot recommend Stacey more highly for this prestigious award and hope that her valiant and selfless efforts are  recognized by the whole University of Alaska community.”

“Stacey's kindness, approachability, and commitment give these students the support that they need to succeed. I have heard from many students who have been positively impacted by Stacey, including students who might not have continued their education without the right person to connect with.“

“It is clear to me that Stacey takes this job very seriously and enjoys working with her  students. She finds ways to quickly make a student feel at ease over the phone. This helps the student to remember to ask questions, become invested in their own education plan and to  know they have an advocate in their academic advisor. She is a remarkable academic advisor and I know she has made a difference in countless students' experiences at UAF. “

“I have had countless opportunities to engage and work with almost every department on campus in one way or another during my 32 years of employment at UAF. I have not met many who serve or care for the welfare of our students more than Stacey Howdeshell. Her selflessness and passion for the Institution is second to none.”

“It is people like Stacey who make UAF a student- centric community and I wish there were more people like her on our campus. She truly represents the intent of the Staff Makes Student Count award.”


Cheryl Stromme

Academic Advisor - University of Alaska Southeast Sitka Campus

Cheryl is exemplary at her job, determined to help students in every way she can, and always a positive, knowledgeable staff member vital to all at the Student Success Center and Sitka Campus. 

Cheryl goes above and beyond to get her students the help that they need. She knows each student well and their family and work situations and their personal needs and goals. 

Cheryl is not only a great adviser; she is focused on students’ concerns and she is always open to addressing them regardless of the topic or concern. 

Cheryl recruits students, guides them along the complex path of getting registered and enrolled, tracks them down and clarifies any questions they may have, helps struggling students throughout the semester, and then starts recruiting again!

In addition, she stepped up during the budget uncertainty by taking on additional roles to help students, such as helping students with their financial options after we lost the financial advisor at Sitka Campus. 

UAS has four core themes: student success, teaching and learning, community engagement, and research and creative expression- all of which Cheryl has demonstrated over and over. She is the main go-to person for students when they have a question or need help in any way and thus provides the foundation of academic support. Her work connecting Sitka Campus to the community is vital as she works with the high school students to take classes, get dual-credit and certificate programs. 

Cheryl has made a vital and wonderful impact on our university. She cares deeply for the students and goes out of her way to help them in any way she can. Finally, as a co-worker, she is always giving a helping hand by stepping in where help is needed. 

Quotes from the nomination letters:

“In one advising meeting, I knew that UAS would be the place I'd start the next phase in my life. Even though I had no idea what I was doing, and I was so stressed with the idea of starting college again, I was able to get through it because of that first meeting with Cheryl. She showed me around campus, talked to me about my options, and introduced me to some of the departments I might've been interested in. But it was more than that which attracted me to the school. She showed me a sense of community there. It was because of her that I felt confident enough to go back to school and knew who I could talk to if I ever needed help.”

“I know that Cheryl goes out of her way to treat each student as an individual and get them the support and resources that they need to succeed, especially when they are getting started, when they have a question or idea on a course substitution, when they struggle, and when they have financial aid issues and questions.”

“The empathy, engagement, and belief in each student that Cheryl has always impresses me. I feel as though many of my students are in my class due to the effort that Cheryl has put in beforehand.”


Steve Mullins

Emergency Planner & Continuity Director - University of Alaska System Office

In his capacity as emergency planner and continuity director, Steve has a long history of service to students throughout the University of Alaska system. Emergency management might not conjure images of student service; most students will never meet Steve. However, the core mission of emergency management is to ensure that our university is ready to respond to emergencies in a way that keeps people safe and minimizes disruption to their daily lives.

For the past 18 months, Steve has served as the incident commander for the UA Systemwide Incident Management Team handling the university’s COVID-19 planning and response. That role requires being on call 24-7 and ready to respond to any emergency or disaster that affects multiple MAUs and their students. 

Even before COVID-19 was known to have been present in the U.S. and before our university community was aware of the pandemic about to engulf us and the world, Steve was engaged with federal and state organizations gathering information so that when we mobilized our incident management team, our efforts were informed by the best and most current intelligence.

Steve’s indefatigable work ethic and dedication to this mission has paid dividends for students during the COVID-19 pandemic, and he’s always there, day or night, when our students and university communities need him. Throughout the year, he has been our incident management team leader and the glue that kept our pandemic response efforts moving forward among constantly shifting conditions.

He has been a tireless champion for University of Alaska policies that align with public health and emergency management best practices so that students can be safe in their residence halls and classrooms. He tenaciously sought out information and clarification from state and federal agencies about policies that affect our operations and our students, and advocated on the university’s behalf when our interests did not appear to have been considered.

He sought out PPE supplies and testing resources. He has transparently shared information so that the public information team could keep our students and employees informed. He has established and maintained processes to ensure that the university can provide what our community needs now, while being confident that we will have our ducks in a row when the time comes to seek federal aid.

Several times during this crisis, policies would change or complete processes had to be designed to meet operational readiness and communication across the wide spectrum of the University. Steve’s ability to pull together experts and define and collaborate on those processes directly impacted student success and the campus level operations. Often behind the scenes working hard, and maybe not directly seen by students, Steve’s work is noticeable in all aspects of students being able access campus, continue online and ensure their education goals are met.

Of Steve’s many accomplishments, one of his most impressive is the establishment and maintenance of Rave, an emergency alerting system that allows the university to inform students in real time about hazardous situations. Rave is also regularly used to send out news and information throughout the UA System.

When a natural disaster or emergency situation happens -- such as COVID-19 or the November 2018 earthquake -- students quickly get the information they need to make good decisions for themselves because of this alerting system. Steve has created and maintains dozens and dozens of custom geo-targeted templates within the Rave system, allowing our university first responders to get the right information to the right people in minutes. It is an immensely complex task that takes an uncommon level of technical expertise and continuous diligence.

Following are just a few additional examples of how Steve’s work supports students by creating a safer environment in which to live and learn:

He arranges training and exercises for incident management teams and leaders throughout the system, so those charged with keeping students safe during an emergency are prepared to do so. In addition, he is active in national university emergency management organizations and is constantly looking for ways we can incorporate emerging best practices at our university.

He manages the administrative processes and substantial documentation associated with disasters, such as the recent southcentral Alaska earthquake. This is no small task. The federal government requires an incredible amount of detailed and precise recordkeeping in order for the university to receive federal disaster aid. His work ensures that the facilities that serve students are repaired and that the massive costs associated with disaster recovery does not adversely affect students’ academic programs and campus life.

To quote from the letters of nomination:

“Through all of the challenges of the last year, it has been abundantly clear that a driving force behind Steve’s work is a genuine commitment to service and to the students of our universities. I truly believe that Steve’s skill, tenacity and hard work has kept our students safer and saved lives, all while allowing students to continue their education.”

“In a year when our students across the UA system and their families have faced unprecedented levels of uncertainty and fear for their own health and safety, I can think of no other employee more deserving of recognition than the person who works every day to help ensure that safety.”

“Throughout the past year, Steve has maintained a focus on making UA a safe place for students in a time of uncertainty and rapid change. These efforts have paid off. UA has not experienced large outbreaks or crippling closures that have been seen in other US universities. Students have benefited from the behind-the-scenes work and planning that helped get us to this point. Steve Mullins played a major role in making this happen and deserves to be recognized by the “Staff Make Students Count” award.”

“I don’t think that very many people understand the breadth of support that Steve Mullins provides to the entire university community. He is one of the hardest working employees I have the pleasure of collaborating with, and a great example of someone who provides critical support but is so far behind the scenes that many don’t know how crucial the functions that he fills really are for the university.”

“While most students probably don’t even know his name, it is because of the hard work by Steve Mullins that they receive dependable communications, responsible risk management policies, coordinated COVID-19 response, safe facilities, and federal and state disaster funding.”