Aerial view of the Dowagiac campus

Four feted at SMC’s Oscar-style Employee of Year awards

Andrew Dohm, Carolyn Hodge-West, Sue Schmeichel and Jessica Worthington wouldn’t appear to have much in common besides Southwestern Michigan College.

Dohm teaches math and physics and steers STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Club.

Hodge-West teaches, too, but social sciences, usually psychology.

Schmeichel is SMC's webmaster.

Worthington works in the business office to further her goal of becoming an accountant.

Collectively, they represent SMC’s first Employee of the Year class — Dohm for fulltime faculty, Hodge-West for adjunct faculty, Schmeichel for staff and Worthington, student worker.

An extensive nomination process determined winners announced at an Academy Awards-style breakfast April 25 complete with red carpet and escorts to the podium, admissions counselors Shelby Willis and Tessa Grashuis.

“For the 20 years I’ve been here, I’ve dreamed of a day like this to recognize the excellence of our employees,” said Dean of Arts and Sciences Dr. Scott Topping, who served as master of ceremonies before Vice President and Chief Business Officer Susan Coulston awarded trophies. “I get great joy in being able to spread good news about others and I’m glad you’re here to celebrate the achievements of your peers, which is very meaningful.”
Student worker finalists include Christian Lopez and Tiffany Brooks.

Brooks, with the Computing Services Department since May 2012, received her Associate in Applied Science and Information Technology Support degree that year and added an Associate in Applied Science and Information Technology Networking degree and an Information Tech Help Desk certificate in 2013.

She is working towards a 2015 bachelor’s degree in computer information technology through Ferris State University with a 3.87 grade point average.
Lopez is completing his Associate in Arts degree in psychology and works in the Career Planning Center as an advising assistant.

His goal is to become a child therapist based on the East Coast. He’s been accepted to Western Michigan and Grand Valley this fall. In the meantime, he landed a University of Michigan summer research fellowship.

Worthington works in the business office and will be receiving her associate degree in accounting at the 47th commencement May 3, then attend Ferris State through SMC for her bachelor’s with the goal of becoming a certified public accountant.

“Jessica deserves this award because of her outstanding attitude and customer service skills,” her nomination stated.

Hodge-West “generously invests her time and concern to understand her students and their full range of learning needs. She requires respect for all people in her classroom and attention and effort on the part of every student. Her classroom motto is failure is not an option.”

Adjunct faculty finalists include Deirdre Kurtis, environmental science; Jane Mitchell, business; Sherrie Styx, ceramics; and Peg Myers, nursing.
Staff finalists Jane Comden, a Niles Campus academic advisor, developed a mentoring program; Kathie Gries, Career Planning Center advising coordinator, “knows most students by their first name, has a great positive attitude all the time, with exceptional customer service and work ethic”; Danielle Lucas, financial aid systems analyst, is a great team player who collaborates with other departments and is patient and hard-working even in stressful situations; and Char McGowan, director of academic assessment and testing services, is known as dedicated, flexible and leads by example to create a professional environment.

Schmeichel “a miracle worker when meeting deadlines, has a very positive approach to all of her work — even in stressful situations — is always willing to go above and beyond to make sure projects are of the highest quality, often saves the day on projects on time-sensitive schedules and gives exceptional customer service.”

Fulltime faculty finalists are Dr. Ronald Herr, economics; Jim Benak, business; Gail Shirey, developmental reading and writing; and Christi Young, Social Sciences chair.

Dohm “provides high-quality classroom instruction, oversees adjunct faculty and high school dual enrollment, works with enrollment management, has become the face of STEM Club and been involved with the Pokagon Band to help train science educators.”

Benak “made me love going to school again. He holds you to higher expectations than you think you can achieve, pushing you to work harder. He genuinely cares about his students. He is a mentor in my life who exhibits a high level of sophistication, intelligence and professionalism when dealing with students and colleagues that’s masterful, yet unintimidating.”

Herr “is determined to give SMC students the best possible education. Dr. Herr cares. He gets upset if you don’t attend class. He always takes time to help students during office hours — even with material he didn’t teach. SMC is so fortunate to have him as an instructor.”

“There is not one faculty member I can think of more dedicated to recruiting, retaining, developing and graduating students than Gail,” Shirey’s nomination states. “Inside the classroom, I hear great things from her students, but my experience comes from her dedication outside, such as countless conversations about strategies to help struggling students. At times, it seems she puts more effort into her students’ success than them.”
Young’s “sharp intellect, kind demeanor and sensible mindset make her a highly effective teacher, advisor, colleague and chair. She embraces lively spontaneity. Students take Christi repeatedly because they respect and like her. She invests appreciable time training and encouraging part-time instructors. She sets an excellent example of engagement on behalf of others, including the gift of a rose to each of her graduates.”