Blake Wood
Publish Date

University of Illinois Springfield employees were honored for their outstanding contributions during an annual awards ceremony held at the Student Union on March 21, 2024. The ceremony, overseen by UIS Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Provost Brandon Schwab, presented two prestigious awards, the Chancellor’s Academic Professional Excellence (CAPE) Award and the Chancellor’s Award to Recognize Excellence in Civil Service (CARE).

Four new awards were also presented recognizing outstanding contributions by UIS staff members in various categories such as student success, leadership, rapid growth and community enhancement.

CAPE Award

Joan Sestak

The CAPE award was presented to Joan Sestak, director of community and government relations. This award recognizes Sestak's unwavering dedication, exceptional service and profound impact on the UIS community.

“Sestak's unparalleled knowledge of the alumni network, her work with students, her deep engagement with the local community and her unwavering commitment to the university, underscored by her extensive volunteer work, make her an exemplary candidate for this prestigious award,” said her nominator.

Leveraging this knowledge she has significantly strengthened UIS' relationships, fostering collaboration and mutual support.

Her volunteer work with the Springfield Muni Opera, The Legacy Theater and various community organizations exemplifies her commitment to enriching the cultural and social fabric of Springfield. This engagement not only benefits the broader community but also enhances the university's connection to it, creating invaluable opportunities for students and alumni alike.

Sestak is consistently approachable and responsive, always ready to assist staff, students and community members with a wide range of inquiries.

"Sestak's demonstrated excellence, her deep commitment to the university, her positive influence on the UIS community, and her extensive volunteer work make her deserving of this accolade,” added her nominator. “It is with great admiration and respect that I nominate her for this distinguished award, confident in her continued contributions to our university and community.”

CARE Award

Aaron Stewart

The CARE award was presented to Aaron Stewart. This award honors his exceptional performance, exemplary leadership and significant contributions to the university community.

Stewart has demonstrated outstanding dedication and proficiency in his role as the manager of the accounting operation within Facilities and Services at UIS. In his capacity, he oversees 80 financial accounts, ensuring meticulous attention to detail and a comprehensive understanding of financial processes to maintain the organization's financial integrity.

Among his many achievements, Stewart’s leadership in upgrading the SchoolDude work order system stands out. Proactively identifying constraints in the existing system, he led the adoption of a more advanced cloud-based solution named MaxPanda. This initiative streamlined work order management, optimized asset utilization and enhanced preventive maintenance practices within his department, resulting in improved operational efficiency.

Stewart has also demonstrated exceptional commitment to UIS through his active participation in various university committees. His involvement with the Campus Senate, Senate Executive Committee, Civil Service Advisory Council and University Planning & Budget Committee showcases his dedication. Additionally, he generously shares his expertise by serving on high-level search committees for critical positions within the university.

"Aaron distinguishes himself as an outstanding campus community member by embodying the qualities of an exceptional proactive leader with a dedicated work ethic," said one of his nominators. "His consistently positive attitude and approachable demeanor contribute to effective communication, while his adept listening skills enable him to provide sound and thoughtful guidance on challenging or ambiguous topics."

Other awards:

  • Nicole Hager was the recipient of the Orion Award, which is presented to a current full-time employee not classified as a faculty member. This award recognizes individuals who demonstrate a strong focus on student success, enriching the student experience, providing excellent customer service and embodying a student-first mentality.
  • Craig McFarland was honored with the Polaris Award, reserved for individuals employed full-time for at least one year by January 1, 2024. This award celebrates excellence in leadership and mentorship, active involvement on campus, mentoring individuals and serving as a role model for others.
  • Angela Dyer was recognized with the Nova Award, designated for staff members employed between 0-2 years at the University. This award acknowledges rapid growth in their position, advanced contributions to the University mission, outstanding performance and innovative ideas to improve their unit/department.
  • Kristin Nisbet-White received the Sirius Award, which honors staff members who have completed their probationary status as of January 1, 2024. This award highlights positive attitudes, inclusivity, fostering diverse discussions, behind-the-scenes contributions and consistent actions that enhance the university community.