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Division of Student Affairs

Award Winners

Joe Paul Rising Stars

Jason Darby

2021 Recipient

Jason Darby, Associate Director for Campus Recreation

"Jason demonstrates an extraordinary efforts toward advancing the division's mission and vision through our values of Civility, Education, Engagement, Integrity, and Wellness. He takes it upon himself to provide exceptional support and service to his subordinates and student staff. He discerns quickly their individual needs and moves efficiently to provide key information, recommendations, or direction."

Meg Freeman

2019 Recipient

Meg Freeman, Housing and Residence Life

"Meg is an adaptable staff member, who agreed to move areas only days before her start date, as a new RLC opening became available in Sorority Village. Meg was ready and able to bring her Housing and Greek Life experience to this role.  Within her first year, she has shown that she wants USM employees in the department and division to grow in their field and to better help students." 

Sam Lamb

2018 Recipient

Samantha Lamb, Fitness and Wellness Coordinator for Recreational Sports

“While we have been impressed with her first years of service as a graduate assistant, it is the past 9 months where Sam has made a significant impact on the students, colleagues and the campus community as a whole. . . . Her daily performance is top notch, her attitude is terrific and her organizational skills are unrivaled. I have no doubt that Sam embodies the spirit of the Joe Paul Rising Star Award."

Lydia Pierce

2017 Recipient

Lydia Pierce, Conference and Event Services

"Lydia has made a huge impact in a small amount of time. I am very confident she will only continue to flourish . . . [she] definitely embodies Joe Paul’s encouraging phrase to “Leave it Better Than You Found it.” 

Peter Durkee Award Recipients


2021 Recipient

Delores McNair, Assistant Dean of Students (Student Outreach & Support)

"Her care is the same for each student, regardless of the intensity of the situation. She is patient, compassionate and very thorough in her work. These interactions are usually what starts the relationships with students that she develops while they are pursuing a degree and beyond."

Nneka Ayozie

2020 Recipient

Nneka Ayozie, Assistant Director of the Center for Community Engagement (CCE)

"As Assistant Director, Nneka works closely with undergraduate students in CCE’s REACH and Alternative Service Break programs and serves as advisor to our affiliated student organization, Volunteer USM. The work she does to develop students’ sense of civic responsibility, leadership skills, organizational ability, and goal-setting is incredible. I charged Nneka with restructuring all three of those programs when she arrived at USM in August, and the turnaround has been remarkable."

Emily Holmes 2019 Recipient

Emily Holmes, Director of the Office of Leadership and Student Involvement 

"Emily is a gem uncovered here in Student Affairs. She advocates for the students daily, as well as, supports the university and divisional goals and values. She is efficient, pays attention to detail and makes sure that everyone on her team is taken care of."
April Broome

2018 Recipient

April Broome, Assistant to the Assistant Vice President for Student Life

“April has become a stronghold of support. . . .There is never a question she cannot assist with; never a role she does not excel in. . . More than just getting the job done, April truly cares about the mission of the division and the institution as a whole which is why she goes above and beyond her “day” job duties as serves as Staff Council president as well as advises a sorority. . . . Many times you will find April behind the scenes—not asking for the accolades or recognition but truly working hard from her own intrinsic motivation to make a difference."

Tom Deus

2017 Recipient

Thomas Deus, Associate Director for Recreational Sports

"Not only is Tom a key contributor to the success of Recreational Sports, he is also a strong supporter of the mission, vision, and goals of the [Division] of Student Affairs. His mentorship continues to be a catalyst in the professional development of his employees and peers.” 

Pillars of Student Affairs

Mattie Payton

2021 Recipient

Mattie Payton, Information Desk Clerk for the Union 

"Mattie is selfless. She is giving 
of herself more than she should be at times, but this is just who she is and wants to make sure we succeed as a department. Mattie is always willing to help another person and do it when no 
one is looking to know that assistance was given. She listens to students when they need someone to hear them. She walks students to the food pantry when they talk about needing food. She has even been known to assist financially when students need a few dollars to get gas, food, etc. This is beyond of what is expected of her and she keeps her actions quiet. This helps showcase her commitment to our students, department, division, institution and profession."

Gail Sledge

2020 Recipient 

Gail Sledge, Lead Medical Office Assistant for Student Health Services at the Moffitt Health Center

“Gail shows compassion for all of the students, faculty and staff. I would be willing to say that many of you know Gail on a personal level. That’s who she is. She’ll ask about your momma; she’ll ask about your classes; she’ll ask about your hometown because she genuinely cares about the people at USM..... Gail consistently remembers our frequent visitors and always makes a connection with them….. She constantly displays behaviors that put others above herself. Gail is one of those employees you want on your team. She is upbeat, kind, hardworking, selfless, and always striving to make sure our USM community feels welcome and safe when they aren’t always at their best."

Charlotte Roberts 2019 Recipient

Charlotte Roberts, Campus Recreation

"Charlotte is a long time employee of the university and a trusted team member of Campus Recreation, she has always embodied integrity. Her main focus is to do the best possible job so that the students and the university community can enjoy the Payne Center facilities."

2018 Recipient

Rodger Jackson, Assistant Director of Facilities and Operations for Housing and Residence Life

“[Rodger’s] do-it-yourself and can-do attitude is contagious and drives tradesmen and women to strive toward success. Extremely pleasant to work with, Rodger is committed to improving college students’ housing experiences at this university and, quite frankly, is incapable of having a bad day.

Distinguished Friend of Student Affairs

Todd McCall

2021 Recipient

Todd McCall, Head Athletic Trainer

"I have witnessed Todd's devotion to his position as athletic trainer and to the student athletes at USM. He went above and beyond to ensure each student was tested and given instructions on next steps regarding the COVID-19 virus. He strived to keep my office updated in order for my staff to produce academic notifications in a timely manner. This became a very tedious process, but he always got the information that we needed to us. Honestly, I have no idea how he kept up with it all, but he did. He is a Rockstar!"

Laura Laughlin

2020 Recipient

Laura Laughlin, Director of Orientation and Transition Programs (previous Interim Director for Fraternity and Sorority Life)

"Although our paths do not intersect often, I do see her working hard to help prepare the office and the position for a search for a full-time director. In the short time, she has been involved in the office, we have all seen a cleaned-up web presence and a name change, which included an intentional, and, I think, an effective marketing campaign to roll out that announcement. I have also noticed a bounce in some of the office staff's steps. Perhaps related to that, I was pleased to hear that Laura tasked Megan Wilkinson, the Assistant Director, with crafting some objectives and key results for the office's submission to the VPSA office's strategic planning efforts. Professional development opportunities like that will only help support the office's future development."

Belinda Patterson 2019 Recipient

Belinda Patterson, Event Management Coordinator for Parking Management

"Belinda is always willing to lend a helping hand and go above and beyond when needed. She is someone willing to step in and get the job done alongside the rest of her team when necessary. She is not someone who stands around on the outside and just tells others what to do. She would never say "That is not my job." She responds quickly and works with us to make sure we are satisfied." 
Julie Reid

2018 Recipient

Julie Reid, PhD, Associate Dean for Undergraduate Affairs

“As chairwoman of the VPSA Screening Committee, Julie was fully responsible for ensuring the committee members were organized, attended meetings, and asked thoughtful interview questions. She also collected and organized multiple rounds of feedback and created the committee’s final report to Dr. Moser. . . . The most commendable aspect is the fact that she approached this task with all the seriousness it deserved [and] she brought that disposition to every single interaction she had with this process."

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