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Staff Recognition Awards: Behind the Scenes

Anna Fiorucci's picture
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Ever wonder how the recipients of the RIT Staff Recognition Awards are selected, and what goes into choosing the final 6 out of the many outstanding nominees?  Well here’s the tell-all blog that will unmask the mystery and give you a look at the clandestine meetings that are held in an undisclosed location behind lock and key…don-don-don-da (dramatic music plays). I feel a bit like an informer about to reveal confidential information that was up till now, only privy to a select few…actually anyone who knows me, knows I can’t keep a secret so this is perfect, I get to share it all - with all of you!

I’m not exactly sure what made me volunteer to sit on the Staff Recognition Awards Selection Committee – maybe some sense of paying it forward or just an intense curiosity about how a large group of fabulous nominees is narrowed down to just six. Anyways, there I was sitting at the first meeting with a group of highly skilled, seasoned selection committee pros. A couple of us were newbies but most of the members had done this before.  The significance of that fact did not hit me until later in the process, when about midway I thought, "People intentionally put themselves through this more than once?" Do you have any idea how much reading goes into this? Do you even have a clue how agonizing a process of elimination it is?  I’m guessing not because I sure didn’t. Had I had any indication of how time consuming and how difficult a task this would be I would have thought twice, more like thrice before volunteering.  

The number of candidates varies from year to year so when I discovered that we were starting with only 50+, I was slightly relieved. In the past there have been as many as 70+. What I didn’t understand at the start was the number of nominees was only one factor in the level of difficulty, the excellence of the pool was another and we had a lot of quality candidates.

The meeting began with introductions then we went straight to work. Peg, the Staff Council Coordinator, began passing out large binders and as she did the realization of the daunting task we were about to undertake became even clearer. I was struck right from the start by how very seriously everyone took this responsibility.  

Let me back up a step and explain… the call for nominations went out last spring.  All nominees were asked if they would accept their nomination and, if so, to name three people Peg could contact as references.  In the case of team nominations, each team selected one team member to act as their spokesperson in communicating with Peg. Once they accepted the nomination, Peg worked to secure the necessary supporting documentation consisting of a letter from their supervisor, three additional letters of reference and a one page statement from each nominee answering these two soul searching questions:

  • What motivates you to do your job well?
  • What accomplishments are you proud of?

Peg takes all this information and creates a file for each nomination.  At our first meeting there is a lot to get through and every committee member is given a binder to review. So off we went with binders in hand and we read and read and read at any opportunity we could get. This is a devoted group.

At the risk of being redundant, right from the get-go the process of elimination was a painful one and with each step it became more challenging.  I was impressed by how much fairness was stressed over and over at every level (and how expertly Peg worked a spreadsheet :). Somehow by our second meeting we had managed to narrow the candidates down to twenty-something. I’m being intentionally vague with the numbers; after all I have to preserve some mystery. It astounded me how in synch we all were and how our choices were so similar.  At the same time I'm thinking “there’s no way we’re going get this down to six people!” but again each meeting we brought the number closer and closer to our goal.

Let me be very clear, all the nominees are weighed and measured carefully against the established criteria.  That information is no secret. You can find it all on the Institutes Policy and Procedure web page at:

You will also find the criteria for the Rising Star and the Dancy Duffus awards. These honors have specific standards and if no one measures up we are not obligated to award them. This would be the perfect moment to tell you whether we chose anyone for those particular awards this time around but I think I’ll make you wait until the ceremony, which I’m sure you’re all planning to attend.

Finally we chose the group to be interviewed. We divided up the interviewees, assigning them to teams of two and recusing ourselves from interviewing people we felt too close to. I think I can speak for all of us when I say we really looked forward to the interview process because we actually get to meet these fabulous people we’ve read so much about.  I was not disappointed. I LOVED the interviews. These people were even more amazing in person than they appeared in the letters we read.

Our last meeting was the most intense. Fights broke out, things were thrown, and injuries were sustained by every member…just kidding…no one even cursed. It’s with an eye for subtle differences, nuances in job descriptions, attention to small details, and of course the established criteria that we picked the “super six” (it helped that we had M&Ms at the end to keep us going – thank you J). I intentionally do not use the word “winners” because when it’s all said and done each and every nominee is a winner. This is a magnificent group to be counted among and I don’t care how cliché it sounds, it truly is an honor to be nominated!

So here we are. The weeks of deliberation are over, this year's award recipients carefully and painstakingly chosen, the envelopes sealed and locked away safely in a vault somewhere in the basement of Building 1 guarded by vicious, half-starved RIT tigers. Okay so I’m exaggerating a little (in case you haven’t guessed we don’t meet behind lock and key either) but have you ever tried to get Peg to reveal the names of the recipients? You might be better off facing those tigers cause ain’t no one gettin’ that information until the big reveal! 

I am really excited about the next RIT Staff Recognition Award Ceremony; October 5th at 10 am in case you missed the announcement, and I hope you’ll all come and honor these incredible folks. I am so proud to call them colleagues, each and every one of them. Their motivation reaches far beyond monetary gain or advancement, to what really matters…the students.

Oh and if they’ll have me, I’d like to sit on next year’s selection committee.


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