Elizabeth Austin ties a particular green satin ribbon around her wrist whenever she could use a little luck, whether it be at exam time or for a job interview. That very same ribbon was on her wrist at the 2001 JHU Student Employee of the Year awards ceremony, held April 4 in the Garrett Room of the MSE Library at Homewood.
For Austin, a senior who had been nominated twice before, it was now or never to claim the big prize. Her employers had shared in her disappointment and this year came out in force to support her. Needless to say, when the time came to announce this year's winner, no sooner was the word "Elizabeth" uttered when a chorus of cheers erupted from Austin's table.
Austin, summoned to the podium, quickly told those gathered the story about the lucky ribbon and offered emotional words of thanks. Clutching the ribbon with her hand, she finished her short acceptance speech with "Wow. I guess it works."
The ninth annual ceremony was part of National Student Employee Appreciation Week, an event whose purpose is to enhance awareness of student employment and the important role it plays in higher education.
Campus jobs are held by roughly 3,300 Homewood undergraduate and graduate students, a work force without which many of the university's offices, programs and departments could not operate, said Susan Boswell, dean of students and interim dean of Homewood Student Affairs, who spoke at the event.
Boswell also addressed how important it is for students to be involved in activities outside the classroom, such as volunteer work, athletics or a campus job.
"There is value in doing something else. I know very well the more I have to do, up to a point," Boswell said amid laughter, "the better I am at balancing my time and making sure that I get things done.
"So one very important role of the jobs that we provide for our students, in addition to being such a tremendous help to us, is the opportunity for them to really balance things, and to learn to develop all those life skills that will help tremendously when they leave the university."
The annual weeklong celebration includes daily prizes, contests and food and culminates with the Employee of the Year ceremony. This year, 23 individuals and nine departmental student groups were honored, with the Student Employee of the Year Award going to Austin, who works in the Department of Geography and Environmental Engineering. Austin, an English major, received a $500 savings bond and will compete in the state, regional and national Employee of the Year contests sponsored by the National Student Employee Association.
First runner-up prize went to Robert Black, a graduate student in the Near Eastern Studies Department, who works at Hopkins ITS. In second place there was a tie between Dawn LaBarre, a senior computer science major and an employee in the Controller's Office, and Jennifer Abras, a sophomore in mechanical engineering and an employee at the Mechanical Engineering Department. Cash prizes for first runner-up and second place were $200 and $50, respectively.
The Employer of the Year award went to Nancy Powers, historic house assistant at Evergreen House.
Group awards were given to Career Planning and Development, MSE Library/Cataloging, the Department of Sociology, the SOM Department of Psychiatry/Neuro Imaging, the Student Counseling Center, and the offices of the School of Engineering Dean, the Registrar, Special Events, Security and Student Activities.
Judges were Cynthia Holstein, administrative manager in the Biology Department; Timothy Mudric, senior research data manager in the School of Medicine's Department of Psychiatry; Richard Sanders, associate director of the Office of Academic Advising; and Renee Naomi Carter, graduate student in biological technologies.
In addition to Boswell, other speakers were Jerome Schnydman, executive assistant to the president, who read a proclamation from President William R. Brody, and Dmitry Ruban, last year's Student Employee of the Year.
Ruban, currently a Web/database administrator at the School of Professional Studies in Business and Education, was in full agreement with Boswell as to the importance of diversifying one's activities. The same year Ruban took a campus job, he earned a 4.0 grade point average.
"A big part of why that happened was because I was working at the time. I had all these things going, and, as Dean Boswell said, you have so many things to juggle, you have to sit down and get organized," Ruban said. "I am thankful for that because I know I wouldn't have done so well without that job."
Ruban, who plans to go to medical school, said if the world of medicine turns out not to be for him, he is glad to have the computer skills he learned as a student employee to fall back on.
First-place winner Austin was nominated by seven DOGEE faculty members. She has worked in the department since her freshman year, and said it has been time well spent.
"It has been really rewarding for me. I have learned so many skills," Austin said, referring to various computer and interpersonal skills.
Austin plans to get into marketing for the fashion industry after she graduates and recently had several interviews in Manhattan that "went very well." Wherever she winds up, Austin said it will hard to duplicate the experience she has had working at Hopkins.
"I am going to miss everybody so much. I would be blessed to find a department or a workplace that is even half as great as DOGEE is," Austin said. "Everybody is so kind and accepting. I mean, they hired me even though I had green hair."
For the record, Austin's hair is now brown.