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Heather Huckins

Distinguished PAT (Professional, Administrative, and Technical Staff) Award

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Patricia Cantor

Award for Excellence in Faculty Service

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Bonnie Bechard

Distinguished Graduate Teaching Award

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Mary Campbell

Patricia Storer PAT (Professional, Administrative, and Technical Staff) Award

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Jennifer Frank

Distinguished Operating Staff Award

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Janis Bass

Distinguished Adjunct Teaching Award

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Warren Tomkiewicz

Distinguished Teaching Award

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Naomi Kline

Award for Distinguished Scholarship

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Terri Johnson

Sara Jayne Steen Operating Staff Service Award

Carol Kuzdeba

“My work gives me the opportunity to listen to, understand, and help people. It’s not just about relaying policy; it’s about connecting with people.”

“My work gives me the opportunity to listen to, understand, and help people. It’s not just about relaying policy; it’s about connecting with people.”

Distinguished Professional, Administrative, and Technical Staff Award

Assistant Director, Human Resources for Benefits and Employee Relations
Beagle rescuer/Avid walker/Polka dancer

There aren’t many people on campus who don’t know Carol Kuzdeba. From the time she joined human resources in 1992, Kuzdeba has been one of the first people most new employees meet during their first days and weeks at PSU.

As assistant director of human resources for benefits and employee relations, a large portion of Kuzdeba’s time is devoted to reviewing the University’s benefits package with faculty and staff. “People sometimes ask me ‘Do you ever get tired of doing benefit overviews?’” Kuzdeba says. “I don’t. I love what I do—I get to meet new people and talk about a benefits package that’s easy to brag about.”

But meeting with new employees for benefits reviews is just one facet of Kuzdeba’s work. Another is managing employee relations—from simply listening to an employee who needs a confidant to collaborating with an employee and a supervisor to develop a performance improve­ment plan. Kuzdeba appreciates PSU’s approach to employee relations, which she characterizes as “respectful and humane. If someone is having a difficult time in their position, we do all we can to get them back on track.”

While she loves what she does, a career in human resources was not in Kuzdeba’s plan. A member of the Plymouth State class of 1971, she earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary edu­cation and taught for six years in the Nashua area. One of the highlights of her teaching career was cofounding the first after school care program in New Hampshire elementary schools. She helped direct the program for three years before making a career change to human resources—a change prompted by her need for health care benefits.

Her first human resources position was at a large company in Nashua. “I loved the company,” she says. “They trained me in human resources and financed my master’s degree in counseling.” But when a merger resulted in mass layoffs, it fell to Kuzdeba to deliver the news to employees. “For two years, that was my job—laying people off.”

Wanting a more positive work environment, Kuzdeba looked at numerous human resources positions, including the one she ultimately accepted at Plymouth State. She credits her long tenure to PSU’s close-knit community. “I love the people,” she says.“When you work in a place that has 11,000 employees, you don’t get to know them like you can here.”

Over the years, Kuzdeba’s love of people, cou­pled with her experience in teaching and counsel­ing, has earned her the trust and admiration of her colleagues. For Kuzdeba, that is a reward in itself. “My work gives me the opportunity to listen to, understand, and help people,” she says. “It’s not just about relaying policy; it’s about connecting with people.”

Rodney Ekstrom

"We want the students to be independent thinkers with a skill set to make their own mark on the world."

"We want the students to be independent thinkers with a skill set to make their own mark on the world."

Distinguished Professional, Administrative, and Technical Staff Award

Assistant Director, Student Activities

At Plymouth State University, student activities provide leadership experience, opportunities to explore and purse academic interests outside of the classroom, and avenues to serve the University as well as the surrounding community.

As assistant director for Student Activities at PSU, Rodney Ekstrom strives to make the student experience as enriching and fulfilling as possible by highlighting the many opportunities available to students, regardless of their interests.  His “the sky’s the limit” attitude serves him well; in 2006 he was named the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators Outstanding New Professional for New Hampshire and New England. “If we don’t have a group formed around a student’s particular passion I say, ‘Hey, you can take the lead and get it going.  Here’s an opportunity for you’”, he says.

Ekstrom advises a wide variety of student organizations, including PACE (Programming Activities in a Campus Environment), the student programming board; the Spring Fling Committee, the Conning Tower Yearbook Committee; and the Outing Club.

“He has definitely helped shape me into the leader I will become after I graduate, ” one student says. “He listens, acts as a mediator, and sometimes plays an essential role in making an organization more cohesive.”

In addition to working with students and student organizations, Ekstrom has participated on the President’s Commission on Diversity; the University Environmental Committee; the Brennan Hart Scholarship Selection Committee, and the Plymouth Holiday Parade Committee.  He was recently chosen to serve as the speaker-elect of the Professional, Administrative, and Technical Staff Senate and was appointed to serve on the newly-formed President’s Commission on Environmental Sustainability at PSU, a group charged with leading the campus to carbon neutrality.

Ekstrom combines his love of the outdoors and his talent for leadership into much of what he does, both professionally and personally.  He has taught technical and skill courses in canoeing, rock climbing, winter backcountry travel and challenge course fundamentals and holds certification in many related fields.  Off campus, Ekstrom has served the town of Rumney, NH as an officer of the Community Profile Steering Committee and a fire department volunteer.  He has also worked with the Plymouth District Drug Court, serving at-risk and court-referred youth.

With his wide variety of interests and commitment to serving PSU and his community, Ekstrom is a strong role model for students looking for a well-rounded college experience.  “We want the students to be independent thinkers with a skill set to make their own mark on the world,” Ekstrom notes, adding, “If I have done my job, they need me less and less.”