Joelle Park and Jennie Burel, both graduate program coordinators in ASU’s School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences, recently received notable awards.
Park received the Michelle Howe Staff Award for Outstanding Service, the highest award for staff at the school. Burel was named Outstanding New Staff Member by the Graduate College.
“Jennie and Joelle go above and beyond to ensure our students are supported throughout their graduate journey. Their dedication and hard work are critical contributors to their academic success and overall experience at ASU,” said Donatella Danielli, school principal and math teacher.
The Michelle Howe Staff Award for Outstanding Service is based on nominations by faculty and school staff. Sharon Crook, Associate Director of Graduate Programs and Professor of Mathematics, nominated Park for her outstanding service to graduate students.
“Joelle knows the program well and is always able to answer any questions effectively. It also provides a warm and welcoming environment for our students – that’s so important. She makes the grad office a better place every day. She always has a smile on her face and never hesitates to go out of her way to help our students,” said Crook.
Some faculty appointments included these positive comments about Park:
“I am so impressed with the graduate program office these days. Joelle has made a real difference; she is warm with the students, but manages to make sure everything is done. Also, as a faculty member, no matter what I ask her, she always finds the answer. I can’t imagine anyone more worthy. She has been a major asset to the graduate program, which is so important to (its) vitality.”
“Joelle has been incredibly efficient in ensuring the transition of the Graduate Studies office in the summer of 2021. We had a change in Graduate Studies directors simultaneously with a change in office staff. This was happening at the same time as we were all dealing with the ongoing disruptions of COVID. As a result, while the summer months of June and July are usually the time to take a break from the graduate office, it was very busy. Joelle put in many overtime hours, weekends and evenings, to deal with all the problems that resulted. It is largely to his credit that the graduate program and office of graduate studies came through the summer of 2021 with flying colors and that the teaching of TA in the fall of 2021 began without any major problems. .
Park grew up in the village of Poland, Ohio, an idyllic town of 2,336 people. She attended Bethany College, a small liberal arts college in West Virginia, which provided each student with a memorable and personalized experience.
“It was meaningful to be in such an environment of trust and support. It was with that confidence that you were able to focus on your development and academic success,” Park said. “My goal has always been to model my guidance to students after this experience and to provide each student with an interaction that lets them know they are respected, valued, and supported.”
Park joined ASU in October 2017. During her job interview, it was emphasized that the school was student-focused and that she would be challenged to prioritize the changing needs of students in her role. During her sophomore year at ASU, a graduate student she mentored called her “Coach Park” because the guidance Park provided helped her maintain a positive attitude and stay on track.
“At that moment, I knew that I had succeeded in providing this experience. From what I learned about Michelle Howe, it was also her standard of excellence. It means a lot to me to to be able to live out his legacy by providing this level of service to students,” Park said.
Joe Davis, assistant director of academic services in the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences, oversees the two award winners and believes their recognition is well-deserved.
“Joelle and Jennie both work with a student-first mindset,” he said. “Their primary mission is to help SoMSS students achieve their academic goals. They do so using empathy, creativity, and dedication.
“It’s not uncommon to see them go the extra mile, and sometimes overtime, to make sure students get the support they need. In times of crisis, they have both been available to help students solve problems with a personal touch. Graduate students often said they went the extra mile in the support they offered.”
The Graduate College Staff Awards for Excellence were created to recognize the prodigious role Arizona State University staff members play in the success of graduate students at the university and to highlight the tireless work of staff members at ASU who play an essential role in the mission of the college.
“Jennie Burel is well deserving of the Graduate College Award for Outstanding New Staff Member. She is very organized and responds quickly to every request for data. We call it the “spreadsheet queen”. She also brings so much energy and knowledge of how ASU works to our office of graduate studies. She is a pleasure to work with every day, with a great sense of humor and an always warm, yet professional attitude,” said Crook.
“Jennie’s attention to detail and her connections across the university give her unique insight into student processes and experiences. She saved the day many times with her knowledge and understanding,” Davis said.
He applauds how hard Park and Burel have worked to make the graduate office a community for the school’s students.
“By organizing smaller events, graduate coordinators have worked to bring graduate students together. This community supports the university’s retention efforts by creating bonds between faculty, staff and students,” Davis said. “From the beginnings of a grad student with the grad recruitment weekend, to being out in the field during graduation to welcome and mingle with grad students, they are involved in supporting our students.”
Burel was born in New Jersey but raised in Florida. She moved to Arizona in 2018 when her husband took a faculty position at the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts at the Polytechnic Campus. She joined ASU in 2019 in the Office of the Registrar and joined the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences in July 2021.
While working on records and enrollments, she became interested in working closely with students and fostering their success on a more personal level.
“I love working with graduate students because of their passion for what they do. As a former graduate student myself, I understand many of their struggles and issues. I believe (the school) in particular has a very high quality of positive and highly motivated students, and I do my best to provide them with everything they need to succeed,” Burel said.
Crook feels fortunate to work with Park and Burel as the school’s graduate studies coordinators.
“I know I can count on them and that the students will get the help they need. It is so important that our students feel comfortable in the graduate office and are welcome to ask any questions. I know they think Joelle and Jennie will give them the time and help they need,” Crook said.