Emory University staff receive Award of Distinction honors

By Erin Long | Emory Report | Oct. 24, 2019

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Emory President Claire E. Sterk (center) poses with this year’s Award of Distinction winners at an Oct. 23 dinner in their honor. They are (left to right) Jennifer Crabb Kyles, Deepa V. Pawate, Vanda Palmer Hudson, Datta Patil, Frank Gaertner, Pres. Sterk, Timothy Glenn Stephens, Janelle Clark, Heather Mugg, Cara Smith, Craig Watson, Michelle Hempfling and Peggy Goedken.

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Twelve Emory University employees have been selected as this year's Award of Distinction honorees. Since 1985, the award has annually recognized staff members who have made outstanding contributions to the Emory community.

Honorees were celebrated at a dinner on Oct. 23 with Emory President Claire E. Sterk and received a $1,000 award.

The 2019 Award of Distinction honorees include the following:


Janelle Clark

School of Medicine

Janelle Clark is a senior financial analyst in the Department of Human Genetics, where she has worked for nearly 30 years. Her contributions over the span of her career have significantly impacted the department.

Clark created a unique process of partnering with research faculty and trainees to help the department obtain federal and private research support. As biomedical research has become increasingly more complex, she has become an expert in the funding process, particularly with National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants and contracts. Her work has not only helped free up the faculty, allowing them to focus on the science, but it also has brought in $24 million in external support for research as a direct result of Clark’s special hands-on approach to the funding process.

Always striving to submit the best grant possible, Clark stays abreast of new NIH research opportunities, edits grant proposals prior to their submission, assists with grant budgets and helps oversee the management of grants once they are awarded. She also has proven herself to be an effective mentor to new junior faculty on the mechanisms of NIH funding. Throughout her career, Clark has played a critical supporting role to the department’s faculty, graduate students and staff, all with a smile, a laugh and a wonderful sense of humor. Each person she has assisted knows they have an advocate at Emory who can help them navigate the system.


Frank Gaertner

Emory College

As the associate director of advising in the Office for Undergraduate Education, Frank Gaertner serves as Emory’s only international student academic adviser, with a case load of approximately 1,000 students. Gaertner is deeply committed to international student success. He is genuinely interested in learning about each student individually and takes the time to develop meaningful relationships. In addition to meeting during regularly scheduled appointments, he serves students when they are struggling, acts as an advocate for those going through the Honor Council process and serves as an interviewer for those competing for national awards. When the students are ready to graduate, he schedules one-on-one lunches with them to reflect on their time at Emory and celebrate their successes.

Gaertner manages the widely successful Academic Fellow program, which matches student mentors with international first-year and transfer students. He helped to develop the International Student Welcome using his special knowledge of international students to design a program that complements orientation. He engaged faculty to lead the “Your First Class at Emory” sessions to teach international students about Emory’s academic culture and expectations.

In addition, Gaertner serves as the staff adviser for numerous student organizations and often can be found on campus during evenings and weekends, either leading a program or attending student-sponsored events. What is most impressive is not the number of student contacts Gaertner has, but the overwhelming enthusiasm and advocacy he shares for Emory’s international students every day.


Peggy Goedken

School of Medicine

Serving as associate director of research projects in the Family Planning Division of the Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics, Peggy Goedken is an essential member of the research team, contributing protocol development, study implementation and the presentation of findings.

Goedken’s contributions to research and teaching have laid the groundwork for numerous grants, presentations, manuscripts and national and international accolades. She has worked on more than 15 funded research projects as well as dozens of other research projects; has coauthored 25 abstracts that were presented at academic meetings; and has published more than 20 manuscripts in peer-reviewed journals.

Her contribution to mentoring the next generation of researchers is equally impressive. Goedken truly believes in the team and actively works to promote harmony in it and high performance from it. She has personally mentored numerous fellows, residents and medical/public health students. She also leads a team of junior research staff, mentoring and managing them in the conduct of research.

Goedken joined with division faculty to create and deliver an elective for second-year medical students that includes an inter-professional student class from across the Woodruff Health Sciences Center. She also served as project director for two multidisciplinary projects that connected Emory’s School of Medicine, Rollins School of Public Health, Grady Health System and the CDC. In this capacity, she was central to the scientific work, but also steered the cross-institutional communication and directed the day-to-day activities.


Michele Hempfling

Oxford College

As associate dean of Campus Life and director of Residential Education and Services (RES), Michele Hempfling oversees Oxford College’s residence life program. This includes staffing, training and managing the residence hall facilities as well as serving as the chief conduct officer.

Hempfling’s contributions and her genuine passion for the people and students at Emory have made a huge impact on student engagement. Because of her leadership, Oxford’s residential community is noted for its student-centered staff, comfortable facilities and creative programming. In national student satisfaction surveys, Oxford consistently scores at the top, especially in the area of racial, cultural and ethnic diversity.

Hempfling selects resident assistant staff and trains them with a firm commitment to diversity and inclusion. She created Oxford’s first gender-neutral housing and was named Outstanding Ally of the Year in 2016 by Emory’s Office of LGBT Life.

In her work with crisis response and student support, Hempfling is compassionate while still holding students accountable. She oversees the college’s emergency response effort and is the first contact for the on-call staff when there is a medical or psychological situation or incident of concern. She is on-call at all times when school is in session and always exercises good judgment for prioritizing appropriate responses. She developed training and protocols to help ensure that Oxford is a safe and responsive campus community. Hempfling is truly dedicated to Emory, also serving on several committees and routinely collaborates with many different departments on campus.


Vanda Palmer Hudson

Rollins School of Public Health

Vanda Palmer Hudson is director of the Fulfillment Services Department at the Rollins School of Public Health, overseeing a team of individuals who ensure optimization of the physical space. This unit serves as a one-stop-shop for services like mail delivery, office supplies, room reservations and other operational needs. In this role, Palmer Hudson has demonstrated her ability to hire and train a strong and reliable team of individuals who provide courteous, efficient and professional service.

Palmer Hudson is continually bringing forward ideas to increase efficiency, lower costs and provide better services to the Rollins community. When she saw a need for providing better access to student lockers, she developed a new online reservation system. She also created the opportunity for new students to get their ID cards onsite instead of going to EmoryCard Services.

She and her team also oversee special events at Rollins that help promote a culture of diversity and encourage interaction among faculty, staff and students. The team encourages this spirit of inclusivity by creating a series of visual displays throughout the two buildings (Grace Crum and Claudia Nance Rollins Buildings). Each month, they highlight a different country with decorations, presentations and food to celebrate diverse cultures. The team also plans special events to honor Black History, Gay Pride, Saudi Day and many other observances.

Additionally, Palmer Hudson strives to influence positive change and bring a lasting impact by serving on numerous campus committees, including her current role as University Senate secretary.


Jennifer Crabb Kyles

Advancement and Alumni Engagement

Jennifer Crabb Kyles is an Oxford and Emory alum who now works as a senior director of Advancement and Alumni Engagement. She also is serving as the interim alumni director for both the Emory School of Law and the Goizueta Business School. When each of these schools had an urgent need for assistance, Crabb Kyles stepped up and assumed the duties of the alumni director positions. With her many years of knowledge and expertise in alumni relations, she has been able to assist each of the schools through a critical transition period, ensuring important activities continue while giving them time to hire permanent staff.

Although this is a recent example of Crabb Kyles using her talents and abilities to help the Advancement and Alumni Engagement division, she has done this for years in other ways. She has worked tirelessly to develop strong relationships with alumni and friends of Emory and has played a strategic role in helping build the Emory Alumni Association into the organization that it is today. She has personally developed hundreds of alumni leaders and has mentored and supported many colleagues across campus. She also currently serves as president of the Oxford College Alumni Board.

Crabb Kyles understands the importance of being present for university events and often can be found at Emory outside of her regular work hours, such as attending Oxford’s Convocation to show her support for faculty, staff and students. Her willingness to give her time and service to Emory has had a significant impact on the university and its relationship with its alumni.

Crabb Kyles’ mother, Donna Crabb, received the Award of Distinction in 2006 for her work in creating Emory Temporary Services.


Heather Mugg

Office of the Provost

An Emory alum, Heather Mugg initially began her career as a student programs coordinator with the Goizueta Business School. Over the years, she has continued to serve in increasingly senior positions.

In her current role as associate vice provost for undergraduate affairs, Mugg has led several new initiatives to improve student success and outcomes. During the past year, she focused her efforts on first-generation students and Oxford students, two populations often at risk of attrition, to better understand the difficulties they face and to enact creative solutions to better assist them. Examples of that work include creating the inaugural dinner celebrating first-generation students and collecting student data in order to better tailor services to the needs of specific student populations. She regularly meets one-on-one with students who face challenges and has been instrumental in lobbying for additional academic advising resources and in refining the student of concern reporting and tracking process.

Mugg’s efforts have touched nearly every aspect of the Emory experience. Known and widely respected as a change agent who produces results, she has served on multiple committees and has led or collaborated with many units across campus on several major projects. She has conducted benchmark reviews related to residential expectations and costs, honor code violations and sanctions and undergraduate retention policies. Additionally, Mugg contributed to the Goizueta Business School during a leadership transition in 2018, serving as an interim program leader while maintaining her role in the Provost’s Office.


Dattatraya Hari Patil

School of Medicine

After completing his MPH at the Rollins School of Public Health, Dattatraya Hari Patil became the lead biostatistician in the Department of Urology, where he has had a tremendous impact on urological research and education.

Patil holds exceptional skills in statistical analysis and data management and has employed them for a number of projects. For example, he successfully instituted a statistics and clinical data repository and provides an analytic perspective to urological investigations ranging from health services research in cancer and reproductive medicine, to the development of biomarkers for guiding clinical decision-making, to interrogating the immune response in cancer.

His work has resulted in multiple peer-reviewed journal articles as well as grants from the National Institutes of Health and the American Cancer Society. He has contributed to more than 100 scientific publications and has given numerous research presentations at institutional, regional and national meetings. His presence also has been pivotal to the recruitment of several faculty who now constitute a vibrant critical mass of investigators.

Patil has contributed to Emory’s educational mission by helping train others in biostatistics and clinical trials. He has impacted urology graduate medical education through his partnership with 11 different urology residents on research projects. Nearly all of his collaborations have led to the learners presenting their work at regional or national meetings and in peer-reviewed publications. He also leads an annual didactics course which has been very well-received by the residents.


Deepa V. Pawate

Internal Audit

Deepa V. Pawate serves as associate chief audit officer for Emory University, leading the University and Information Technology audit teams. She is an alum of Goizueta’s Executive MBA Program and has worked at Emory for 15 years. In her role, she helps advance Emory’s reputation and improve business processes. She also helps promote enterprise-wide risk mitigation strategies in areas such as cyber security, emergency responses to active threats, minors on campus, fiscal policies, business continuity practices, award life-cycle key metrics, corporate governance and institutional data policies and procedures.

Pawate has managed and conducted numerous sensitive fraud investigations across the enterprise, for both Emory University and Emory Healthcare. She also volunteers by serving on the Emory Alliance Credit Union board. In this capacity she shares her skills and subject matter expertise in corporate governance to help protect the financial institution and its more than 19,000 members and $150 million in assets.

Pawate’s ability to build consensus from multiple decentralized stakeholders and reach agreement on actions makes her particularly effective. She explains the issues, develops concrete recommendations for solutions and creates reasonable time frames for implementation. Her passion for the work and her genuine care and concern for minimizing risks to Emory is evident. Furthermore, her style and approach make her feel much more like a partner than an auditor, which allows her to be significantly more successful.


Cara L. Smith

Advancement and Alumni Engagement

Cara L. Smith is the director of donor relations for Advancement and Alumni Engagement. She is recognized for developing a new and improved process for delivering accurate financial and beneficiary information to Emory University’s endowment donors and their representatives (known as stewardees).

Smith recognized that the reporting process was in dire need of improvement, identified the problems quickly and sought to overhaul the entire process. To accomplish this, she undertook a multifaceted solution: she implemented the use of a new design tool that could handle variable data for every stewardee; she provided more direct support for schools to collect content; and she facilitated faster approvals and centralized delivery. Because of her leadership, 1,231 endowment reports arrived two months earlier, with more student impact stories and beneficiary photos than ever before. Additionally, the report was beautifully designed and included the most important information that donors wanted to know about their funds. Her work unified 13 schools and units and significantly increased the customer satisfaction of the stewardees.

Moreover, by decreasing the time and costs to produce the reports, Smith’s work has freed up the fundraising teams to do strategic stewarding of other key donor groups at Emory, which is critical groundwork for Emory’s upcoming campaign. Her commitment to improving the endowment reporting process through her creativity, collaborative spirit and customer service mindset has had a significant and lasting impact at Emory.


Timothy Glenn Stephens

Emory College

Timothy Glenn Stephens, an electronics coordinator with Emory College’s Department of Chemistry, has had a tremendous impact that goes far beyond his normal job responsibilities.

Committed to increasing efficiency, his efforts have led to meaningful cost-savings. Not only does Stephens save thousands of dollars by repairing machines that are critical to the daily scientific work of the department, he also led an effort to survey and document the department’s data network utilization. With approximately 900 data ports spanning 300,000 square feet, this was a substantial effort which resulted in a 34 percent reduction in monthly network expenses. These saved funds are now being used to support the department’s teaching and research missions.

Beyond his core responsibilities, Stephens finds many other ways to contribute to the department and the larger Emory community. He has a passion for inspiring young people and partners with faculty to team teach two courses: CHEM 105 (How Things Work) and CHEM 190 (Creative Problem Solving). He manages work study students each semester and is a regular fixture at department and college events.

Stephens also is the department’s official data recovery specialist. He recovered more than a year’s worth of research for a faculty member and has saved dissertations for students. He attends graduate orientation every year to emphasize the importance of protecting data to students. On his own time and with his own money, he repairs electronics to donate to those in need, including fixing old phones to send overseas where they can be repurposed as safety tools.


Craig T. Watson

Campus Services

Craig joined Emory as a police officer more than 41 years ago and worked his way up through the ranks to become chief of police. In 2016, he took on the role of assistant vice president for public safety, responsible for overseeing the entire Public Safety team including the Emory Police Department (EPD), Emory’s Emergency Medical Services (EEMS) and Fire Safety.

While the primary focus is to protect Emory’s campuses every day, Watson also has made a direct impact on the organization by driving numerous community outreach programs. EPD conducts the Emory Community Police Academy; provides important community-wide training; participates in the Special Olympics; volunteers at the Frazer Center; and participates in Shop With a Cop during the holidays. EEMS, a student-operated, volunteer organization, services between 800 and 1,000 calls per year and also provides CPR/first aid courses, emergency planning assistance and educational programming on alcohol/drugs, sexual assault and suicide. EEMS members also volunteer at local Atlanta races to provide on-site support. Fire Safety provides training for students, faculty and staff and is a vital partner in completing fire coding review.

In his role, Watson has been instrumental in overseeing campus compliance of the Clery Act, which requires colleges and universities to maintain and disclose campus crime statistics and security information. Through his leadership, the Public Safety team is continuously deepening their engagement with Atlanta while also doing their most important work of keeping the entire Emory community safe and secure.