Each year, the University honors staff colleagues who exemplify Notre Dame’s core values of accountability, teamwork, integrity, leadership in excellence and leadership in mission, as well as those who make exceptional contributions in a given year, with Presidential Awards.
Presidential Achievement Award Winners
The Presidential Achievement Award recognizes a staff member who, in a manner in keeping with the University’s core values, has accomplished a significant achievement in the past calendar year that advances Notre Dame’s mission.
Jack O’Brien is the manager of the ServiceNow platform in the OIT department. Jack has been instrumental in leveraging the University’s strategic investment in this platform to improve the experience for our students, faculty and staff. Over the past year, Jack and his team collaborated with colleagues in NDHR, Institutional Innovation and the Office of Information Technologies to launch the new Self Service Center. This transformational initiative has been a big first step of a large cross-University effort and provides colleagues with real-time access to relevant information and more intuitive and streamlined processes. He is an exceptional steward of University resources, continually seeking ways to improve existing solutions and take full advantage of the platform to serve the Notre Dame mission. Jack’s collaborative and fun approach to work paired with a thoughtful dedication to his team make him a joy to work with and an invaluable asset to the University community.
Esthela Gonzalez Serna is a custodian for Eck Law in Building Services. Esthela shows a strong commitment to customer experience by consistently going beyond what she is expected to do. While her home building is Eck Law, she often works cross-functionally during her scheduled work day to help out a colleague, covering many other buildings when the team is short-handed as well as weekends anytime she is needed. She is a dependable employee and demonstrates a high commitment to delivering her best on the job every day. Esthela is the most trusted and reliable employee and the most valuable team player to our group who can be counted on for any request anytime.
Kristin Michel is the senior pre-award program manager in the Department of Electrical Engineering. She is the ultimate professional, carefully navigating the submission process for the diverse and complex funding environment that includes federal grants (NSF, NIH, DOE, DOD), industry contracts (SRC, individual companies) and foundations. The success rate of her proposals is a significant achievement professionally, and her kindness and service to the University and the community advances the University’s core values and Notre Dame’s mission. Each year, Kristin supports 40 different faculty members as a lead investigator, primarily from the College of Engineering (electrical engineering and computer science and engineering), the Lucy Family Institute for Data and Society and the turbomachinery lab. She submits roughly 10 percent of all proposals submitted by Notre Dame by total number and total dollar amount with a remarkable funding success rate of greater than 45 percent. In the most recent full fiscal year (FY22), Kristin supported 40 faculty members who submitted 128 proposals with a total proposed value of $77.7 million, of which 48 percent (62 total) were funded (overall, ND submitted 1,229 proposals for $788.5 million in FY22 with a funding success rate of about 30 percent). Because of her professionalism and friendly nature, Kristin has excellent contacts across groups in Notre Dame Research, across departments all over campus and at key institutions around the country. She regularly provides advice on who to contact for specific needs related to proposals or other aspects of my role as a faculty member, again making all of us more efficient and productive. Kristin embodies the University’s core values and is an excellent role model.
Presidential Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Award Winners
The Presidential Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Award recognizes a staff member who has exercised leadership or made significant contributions in advancing diversity, equity and inclusion at the University or in the greater Michiana community.
Arnel Bulaoro is the director of Multicultural Student Programs and Services. Arnel embodies what we look for in our division leadership and all those who work closely with students by bringing a genuine love for students and for our Catholic mission into all that he does, and leveraging the University’s mission toward greater diversity, equity and inclusion. Arnel was asked to staff the University’s strategic framework advisory committee on diversity, equity and inclusion; to participate in high-level conversations with University leadership around the future of the Moreau First Year Experience and program; and, perhaps most impressively, serve as an important leader and steward of the effort to design and open the new Center for Diversity and Inclusion, opening in LaFortune Student Center in August. He has also worked closely with Campus Ministry and other partners to re-envision our approach to retreats at the beginning of the academic year for underrepresented students. Arnel’s ability to provide such leadership on a divisional and University level, while building close relationships with students, leading the MSPS team and overall balancing the many responsibilities of a demanding director role, has been nothing short of impressive.
Janet Rudasics is the program manager for Sacred Music at ND (SMND). Janet is an exemplary leader in providing and promoting an inclusive space for all students, especially diverse, international and underrepresented students. She works tirelessly to ensure everyone is included and belongs in the Sacred Music program and at the University. Janet is the cornerstone of the SMND student experience, creating a culture where all people are treated with the utmost respect and care, and embodying a spirit of open-armed inclusion. Janet oversees everything from organizing students’ visa arrangements to making their travel plans to gathering blankets, sheets, pots and pans, and toiletries for when they arrive in the country. It is a rare occurrence not to find students sitting in Janet’s office, often sharing deeply personal anecdotes of their daily triumphs and struggles, while she listens attentively and without judgment. Be it the emotional, the practical or the technical, Janet does it all, and in the most diverse graduate program at the University. She has made the difference, case after case!
Joan McClendon is the senior counselor to the vice president for enrollment. Joan is a remarkable community leader dedicated to advancing diversity, equity and inclusion on campus and in the region. Most recently, in 2022, Joan was recognized for her outstanding contributions to diversity, equity and inclusion when she received the Dean’s Excellence Award for Integration for the inaugural Mendoza College of Business for DEI case competition for graduate students. Joan co-founded the BRITE Women Project, which helps women serve on boards with a focus on business acumen. She is the founder of the Thrive Engaging Women Conference at Saint Mary’s College, now in its eighth year, empowering women to reach their full potential. She also chairs the Inclusion and Belonging Committee for the Undergraduate Enrollment Division, where she and her team help create an inclusive environment for her colleagues. Joan provides a safe space for people to share their experiences and perspectives and is committed to creating a positive change in her community.
Presidential Leadership Award Winners
The Presidential Leadership Award recognizes a staff supervisor who demonstrates the principles of servant leadership.
Annie Cahill Kelly is the executive director in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences. Annie exemplifies servant leadership. She extends a welcome to everyone she comes into contact with — be it a student, a faculty member, an alum returning for a football weekend or a visiting lecturer. Annie recognizes the talents of each staff member and utilizes this to ensure that the needs of faculty and students alike are met. Where improvements or changes can be made, Annie will lead with supportive feedback and work with staff to find workable solutions. Annie goes above and beyond simply accomplishing tasks in her job efficiently. She makes everyone feel welcome and fully supported in achieving their goals — from other staff, to the faculty, to the visitors to our University. Annie builds community with every interaction by providing individualized direction and guidance to all those she works with. Annie is a treasured colleague: providing guidance, supporting the efforts of others, and doing so while making this a fun and enjoyable place to work.
Ron Powlus is the senior associate athletics director in the Athletics Department. Ron is an exemplary leader of the University. In everything he does and every decision he makes he puts the University first. He sees and understands the vision of the University and the vision of Athletics, and thinks broadly regarding impact when deciding the best path forward. Ron is a great relationship builder; he is quickly thought of as a trusted colleague and thoughtful decision maker. Even in the toughest of situations he has the amazing ability to demonstrate poise and gain respect. He thrives on taking care of every little detail and with being challenged to figure out projects with multiple layers of complexity. Ron truly cares about the people he works with and the students we serve. As a former student-athlete himself, he is very passionate about ensuring we do all we can to help maximize the student-athlete experience. Ron pushes for excellence in all that he does. He holds himself and others to a high standard and always wants to ensure everyone is putting their best foot forward. Ron is a genuinely positive person to be around. He has a saying that he shares regularly: “Who has more fun than we do?”. Even on the toughest of days, Ron exemplifies positivity and feeling blessed to be at a place like Notre Dame.
TJ Pillari is the senior director of gift planning advancement in University Relations. TJ embodies Notre Dame’s charge to be a force for good in the world, and authentically lives that out in his unmatched dedication, in his work for ND Development and through his leadership. He leads by example and his approach is simply and consistently, “Do the right thing, and all will work out.” He pursues the team’s objectives through the formation of an authentic human community graced by the spirit of Christ. TJ is a trustworthy and unselfish leader. He is the quintessential servant leader who shows up and does the right thing. TJ inspires his team not only to be better at their jobs, but to be better people.
Presidential Values Award Winners
The Presidential Values Award recognizes a staff member who lives the University’s mission and is a role model who embodies all of the University’s core values.
Roger Fairchild is the hospitality executive associate in the hospitality department within University Enterprises and Events (UEE). Roger exemplifies the University’s values and does an extraordinary job educating staff and guests within the hospitality world. From sharing knowledge of the University’s history and current events in the weekly newsletter to putting personal notes in guest rooms, Roger goes the extra mile every day. Always positive, Roger meets new hires with joy and enthusiasm. As Roger continues to educate and onboard new staff, his dedication means that UEE’s story and mission are spread throughout campus.
Melissa Paulsen is the program director for Entrepreneurship and Education Programs in the Pulte Institute for Global Development. Melissa advances Notre Dame’s mission to place scholarship and professional practice in service to the common good and to the world’s neediest people. A leader of personal integrity and professional accomplishment inspired by her Catholic faith, Melissa embodies the University’s dedication to educating the whole person. One of Melissa’s signature programs, the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, is a six-week leadership institute that supports young African leaders as they spur economic growth and prosperity, strengthen democratic governance and enhance peace and security across Africa. To date, Melissa has taught and influenced more than 225 fellows from 38 countries through this program. Melissa has also led a partnership with Mendoza College of Business on a $1 million U.S. Agency for International Development grant with Balkh University, Afghanistan’s third largest university. Her leadership in the design, training, delivery and assessment of a new master’s degree program has culminated in the recent graduation of the program’s first class, including eight women. Melissa uses three primary tools for her work: teaching, mentorship and community building, infused with the University’s core values prizing the dignity of each person she encounters.
Karen Carmona is a police officer in the Notre Dame Police Department. Karen joined the University a little over a year ago and in that time she has made consistent advances toward diversity and inclusion on campus. She seeks out conversations and interactions with students, faculty and staff, and enjoys hearing stories about their cultures that make them unique and special. Karen has a special place in her heart and soul for first-generation students and builds upon her own experiences to help guide students and assist them to be successful. She also teaches students how to have positive interactions with police officers so they know what to expect and aren’t scared. Karen’s bubbly and effervescent personality transcends all barriers and endears her to all she meets as she makes them feel welcomed and included. Karen is an amazing pillar for the Notre Dame Police Department and the University as a whole.