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Presidential Staff Excellence Awards winners with SDSU President Adela de la Torre Presidential Staff Excellence Awards winners with SDSU President Adela de la Torre

SDSU Staff Recognized in Annual Awards Ceremony

SDSU President Adela de la Torre recognized staff members in seven categories.
By Cory Marshall

The Presidential Staff Excellence Awards recognize outstanding contributions and efforts made by San Diego State University staff in support of the university, fellow employees and the community. 

Formerly known as the Zuma Awards, the name change was made in response to former SDSU President Sally Roush’s Aztec Identity decision in May. The decision called for the elimination of the nicknames “Monty” and “Zuma,” noting that use of such nicknames is inappropriate.

During an awards ceremony on Aug. 9, President Adela de la Torre recognized staff members in seven categories, including staff-to-staff mentoring, innovation and team effort. Candidates were nominated by their colleagues, and the finalists were individually selected from more than 130 entries.

Auxiliary Support

Eric Elson, director of facilities, planning and management at the SDSU Research Foundation

Elson’s devotion to each project as well as his positive, forward-thinking attitude is particularly applauded. His colleagues largely credit him with the successful, recent grand opening of the Black Resource Center in spring 2018. 

Community Service

Bertha Hernandez, administrative coordinator in the Department of Chicana and Chicano Studies

Hernandez, an SDSU employee of nearly 30 years, is recognized for her commitment to working class communities and also her love of the arts and unwavering faith in creating a better world. In addition to numerous other community organizations and volunteer projects, Hernandez works closely with the Arts for a Better Tomorrow, a trans-border nonprofit organization that seeks to positively impact the lives of underprivileged youth in the California–Baja California region and the Imperial Beach Community Health Center, of which she serves on the board of directors. 

Manager of the Year

Cassie Steadman, associate director for the Office of Advising and Evaluations in Enrollment Services

Steadman is largely being recognized for her entrepreneurial initiative and problem-solving abilities. She is credited with creating several automation tools that aided in the review of enrollment-related materials. Fellow staff members refer to Steadman as the “unsung hero of services for SDSU students’ academic success.” 

Staff-to-Staff Mentoring

Chia Her, counselor in the Office Educational Opportunity Programs and Ethnic Affairs

A nod to her mentoring skill, Her is recognized as a resource for fellow Educational Opportunity Programs (EOP) staff members, patiently guiding them through different processes. Colleagues call Her a “silent hero” who demonstrates on a daily basis what it means to make a difference and be a true leader. 

Service to the University

Pablo Bryant, site manager for the College of Sciences

As manager of the university’s various field stations across San Diego County, Bryant is tasked with a diverse set of responsibilities that range that include assisting in research projects on the reserves and rebuilding roads washed out by winter storms. According to his colleagues, the SDSU community has benefitted for more than a decade from Bryant’s passion and dedication to the field stations and their mission.


The Learning Analytics Working Group

The team consists of: 
Emily Bates
James Frazee
Maureen Guarcello 
Stephen Schellenberg 

The Learning Analytics Working Group is being recognized for its commitment and subsequent expansion of the Supplemental Instruction (SI) initiative. Since its start in 2015, the program, which identifies historically difficult courses and offers free sessions to all students on a voluntary basis, has grown from serving 750 students to 5,400 students.  


Wendy Sandoval, administrative coordinator for the School of Exercise and Nutritional Sciences

Sandoval is widely recognized for her work in developing a powerful social media presence for the School of Exercise and Nutritional Sciences. Through her work and across a variety of digital platforms, colleagues say Sandoval has ensured this new online audience is in the know when it comes to ENS-related news.