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ESF Faculty, Staff Receive Chancellor’s Awards


Four ESF employees were honored with SUNY Chancellor's Awards. Honorees were Dr. Paul Crovella, Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Teaching; Dr. Lee Newman, Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Faculty Service; and Debbie Caviness, SUNY Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Professional Service; and Debbie Faust, Chancellor's Awards for Excellence in the Classified Service.

The Chancellor's Awards for Excellence are system-level honors conferred to acknowledge and provide system-wide recognition for consistently superior professional achievement and to encourage the ongoing pursuit of excellence. The awards provide SUNY-wide recognition in five categories: Faculty Service, Librarianship, Professional Service, Scholarship and Creative Activities, and Teaching.

Crovella, assistant professor in the Department of Sustainable Resources Management (SRM), was recognized for Excellence in Teaching. He is characterized by colleagues and students as an exceptional teacher, who brings years of industry experience to the classroom and incorporates his research in his teaching. He has used his research monies to fund graduate students and research projects to mentor graduate students to graduation and publish their theses/dissertations.

Since 2008, Crovella has taught 20 different undergraduate and graduate courses. His approach to teaching is based on an interactive, problem-based inquiry method. He believes this approach provides the best "value" for students to develop technical excellence and team leadership skills.

Crovella has led efforts to earn program accreditation through the American Council of Construction Education. This effort began in 2019, and the program is preparing for the accreditation visit in the first quarter of 2022.

"Paul is the type of instructor you want to impress and look good in front of considering his high level of knowledge and experience in the topic," a student wrote in the nomination material. Crovella recently re-formed a chapter of the student Construction Management honor society, Sigma Lambda Chi, helped create a dinner for the students the night before the career fair to meet the employers in an informal setting and started an award for the outstanding senior in the program.

His interest in maximizing student engagement and benefit led Crovella to pursue and receive a SUNY Performance Improvement Fund grant in 2018 to allow students to work on real-world LEED projects while receiving financial and instructional support to earn an industry-recognized professional credential: the LEED Green Associate. Based on the success of this collaborative work, Crovella has co-presented at the NY Coalition for Sustainability in Higher Education in November of 2019 and in October of 2020 at the US Green Building Council webinar "Experiential student learning & LEED - An Arc case study from SUNY." Crovella has also been the faculty program chair for the New York State Green Building Conference, hosted by ESF.

Newman, associate professor in the Department of Environmental Biology, was awarded the Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Faculty Service.

Newman has received recognition for her service at multiple levels, including ESF's Presidential Service Award and the Distinguished Service Award by the International Phytotechnology Society.

In 2014, Newman took on the role of coordinator for the environmental health bachelor of science program, as well as serving as faculty leader for the health in the environment option area in the environmental science bachelor of science program. She led the process towards full accreditation from the Environmental Health Accreditation Council, making ESF's the only accredited program in the northeastern United States.

Newman teaches a full load of courses and advises more than 70 undergraduate students and serves as major advisor for three Ph.D. students. She holds several patents, and she publishes regularly.

Newman has consistently stepped up to serve on committees at the college and departmental levels and has contributed to the environmental biology's biotechnology program, serving as the biotechnology major coordinator for the past several years.

She leads a group of student volunteers to maintain the raised bed gardens she designed to support the culinary program at Clear Paths for Veterans. Newman met with directors of the Onondaga County Department of Health about internship opportunities for ESF students to get them involved with the larger community as well.

Newman serves as editor-in-chief of the "International Journal of Phytoremediation;" she is the founding and continuing president of the International Phytotechnology Society. She also served as co-chair for the New York State Biotechnology Symposium for six years.

Newman has been a key player in the development of cooperative international programs with institutions in Kazakhstan, Siberia, Thailand, New Zealand and China.

Caviness is the recipient of the SUNY Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Professional Service.

Caviness, director of ESF Alumni Relations, took over this position in 2013 and has been instrumental in implementing several valuable services that benefit not only alumni but also current ESF students and the campus as a whole. Caviness has been with ESF since 1996, serving as the assistant director of Alumni Relations before her current role as director.

Caviness' initiated the Alumni/Admissions Ambassador Program. In conjunction with the Admissions Office, she recruited alumni to attend college and high school fairs throughout the country to forge a personal connection with prospective students. She developed an online training program for the Alumni Ambassadors, which she administered during non-business hours and weekends so working ESF alumni could more easily participate. In the time of COVID-19, when there are no in-person college/high school fairs, she adapted to the situation and instituted an initiative whereby the Alumni Ambassadors send handwritten postcards to prospective students, still forging that essential personal connection despite the circumstances.

Caviness created and implemented ESF Connections, an alumni mentorship program that connects current ESF students with alumni working in the field. ESF Connections provides students with "real-world" experience via externships and internships.

Caviness continuously seeks out opportunities to assist current students, who she often refers to as "our future alumni." She understands that any meaningful relationship between an alumnus and the College begins when that person is a student. Before she took over as director, ESF did not have a mechanism for students to order their textbooks. Through her efforts, ESF students can now order their materials through ESF's online bookstore.

Caviness helped grow the ESF College Bookstore from a cash box located in the Alumni Office selling a few memorabilia items to a successful brick-and-mortar store/e-commerce fulfillment center that serves the campus and beyond.

Under her leadership, the ESF Alumni Association instituted the Alumni Grant Program, a funding opportunity for students who are working on projects beyond their typical program of study. ESF has also offered a variety of virtual programming, including an in-depth Virtual Homecoming Weekend that was widely attended. She developed a virtual lecture series aimed at showcasing current research at the College and plans to implement various online training for alumni, including one focusing on career assistance.

Faust has been with ESF for 30 years beginning her carer as a cleaner progressing to her current position of Supervising Janitor where she manages a team of 19 people. Deb is known for her attention to detail coordinating with other Facilities Department supervisors to ensure campus work requests are completed and that all divisions are working together. She breaks down complex and oftentimes stressful topics to members of her staff. She is empathetic and truly wants to help those who report through her to improve and have a positive workplace experience. Faust personally trains each new member of the custodial team on their first day and frequently checks in with other members of the training team during an employee's first few weeks of employment.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Faust took an active role in ensuring the campus was a safe environment. She created door hangers to indicate whether campus spaces were disinfected or needed disinfecting. Deb worked with the Analytical and Technical Services (A&TS) stockroom to purchase isopropyl alcohol to make disinfecting wipes. She properly diluted the isopropyl alcohol and soaked dry wipes and created a bucket dispensing system. This saved the College thousands of dollars and ensured a steady supply of alcohol wipes during the pandemic.

Faust is in charge of Syracuse campus custodial operations, however, during the pandemic, she helped ESF's regional campuses and Centennial Hall prepare for repopulation. Her work group had one of the most high-stress and highly visible safety roles on campus during the summer and fall. She handled this stress with grace and was always willing to help create policies and procedures during this unprecedented time.