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Meet the Staff Merit Awards recipients

Indiana University Bloomington’s annual Staff Merit Awards ceremony will honor seven staff members at 3:30 p.m. Feb. 7 in Presidents Hall at Franklin Hall.

The awards, which honor staff members for outstanding service to IU Bloomington, come from the Office of the Provost and Executive Vice President and the Office of the Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer. RSVP if you plan to attend the ceremony.

Meet the winners:

Barbara Breitung

The evolution of the Department of International Studies has followed a dramatic trajectory since 2008, when Barbara Breitung joined the staff of Indiana University. From its former position as a program in the College of Arts and Sciences, it has grown into a full-fledged department in the Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies, founded within the College in 2012. As the department’s fiscal officer, Breitung has supported its students, faculty, staff and guests throughout the past decade and a half with a proficiency that has been recognized as truly outstanding.

Barbara Breitung. Photo by Wendi Chitwood, Indiana University Barbara Breitung. Photo by Wendi Chitwood, Indiana University “I cannot think of a single aspect of our department’s success that Barbara has not shaped,” said Jess Steinberg, the department’s interim chair. “The broad range and large number of procedural, logistical and programmatic activities she undertakes reflect her capacity to solve a wide array of problems in a professional and impressively efficient manner.”

Breitung’s responsibilities include supervising office staff; managing the department’s budget; preparing and maintaining each term’s schedule of classes; supervising registration and enrollment; processing reimbursements; managing alumni and donor relations; facilitating visits by guest speakers and visiting scholars; and providing administrative support for the chair and all members of the department’s faculty. She also coordinates searches for new faculty hires, manages departmental retreats and serves as the department’s United Way coordinator.

“Barbara is the Department of International Studies,” said Zac Muller, assistant director of faculty relations in the office of Nick Cullather, the Hamilton Lugar School’s interim dean. “Without the stewardship and care Barbara has shown, the department and our school would look markedly different.”

Since the department’s beginnings, Breitung has stood as a model of dedication, according to former chair Purnima Bose: “In everything she does in her job, she is guided by concern about people and about the department as a whole.”

Don Inman

A resource as extensive and essential as Campus Bus Service demands employees of outstanding ability, knowledge, helpfulness and dedication. For 35 years, this is the kind of staff member the service has had in diesel mechanic Don Inman.

Don Inman. Photo by Wendi Chitwood, Indiana University Don Inman. Photo by Wendi Chitwood, Indiana University “He has taken immense pride in his work, always ensuring that the buses that IU community members travel on are in safe working order,” Director Justin VanLeeuwen said. “He consistently brings forth ideas to help reduce costs and save time, and he helps consult when we make large purchasing decisions.”

A recent innovation that benefited from Inman’s input was the installation of hardware and other components for use with a GPS/AVL system, global positioning technology that makes it possible to follow the buses’ locations in real time. This was “a complicated and labor-intensive project,” said Brady Hargrove, the service’s operations supervisor. Hargrove said that when mechanical problems arise, “Don seeks solutions that are reliable first, and then efficient to implement, in order to minimize the possibility of recurrence, thus minimizing bus shop time and adding value to our service.”

Brian Alexander, the service’s assistant director, praised Inman’s team-building skills.

“Don’s dedication to the department became evident when we were in search of a new diesel mechanic,” Alexander said. “Not only did he actively engage in the recruitment process, but he also played a crucial role in securing a capable replacement. His foresight and proactive approach demonstrate his commitment to the long-term success of the team.”

Mary Lou Nierzwicki

By the time she retires in May, Mary Lou Nierzwicki will have devoted nearly four decades of her life to promoting health and well-being for Hoosier students.

Mary Lou Nierzwicki. Photo by Chris Howell, Indiana University Mary Lou Nierzwicki. Photo by Chris Howell, Indiana University Nierzwicki joined the Student Health Center staff in 1980 as a registered nurse and held that position for six years before obtaining a master’s degree as a nurse practitioner. She continued to work at the Student Health Center in the nurse practitioner role until leaving to work in private practice in 1998. She returned to the Student Health Center in 2003 and has helped lead its medical services department for the past four years, first as assistant medical director and since 2023 as interim medical director.

“Mary Lou has shown great capacity to serve in this role, demonstrating a leadership style that is collaborative, team-oriented and inclusive,” said Pete Grogg, the center’s executive director.

Nierzwicki specializes in women’s health and is certified as a sexual assault nurse examiner, providing comprehensive care to IU students who have been victims of sexual assault. It’s a challenging job, Grogg said, “one in which you need only your best and most compassionate providers.”

Lamar Hylton, IU Bloomington’s vice provost for student life, said that Nierzwicki’s contributions during the height of COVID-19 were key to a successful campus response.

“Mary Lou helped support testing protocol and practices, helped organize and execute massive vaccination clinics in Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall, kept operations running efficiently for all patients and provided care for COVID-positive students both in the Health Center and in isolation,” Hylton said.

She is known beyond the Student Health Center for another great act of service: her longtime participation in providing care at the Little 500 medical tent, coordinating that care for the past three years.

“She is responsible for overseeing all aspects of the medical tent, including staffing, supplies and procedures,” Emily Carrico, assistant director of the race, and S. Trent McGee, director of the IU Student Foundation, wrote in their nomination letter. “She works tirelessly to ensure that the medical tent is prepared to handle any medical emergencies that may occur during the Little 500.”

Leslie K. Prince

For more than 40 years, Leslie Prince has supported the successful functioning of the Indiana Memorial Union. Prince joined the IMU’s business office in 1979 and worked there until 2003, when Gary Chrzastowski hired her as an administrative assistant in the IMU’s facility services department.

Leslie Prince. Photo by Chris Howell, Indiana University Leslie Prince. Photo by Chris Howell, Indiana University “The facility services department is the first place most turn to when they don’t know where to turn,” said Chrzastowski, who recently retired as the IMU’s assistant director for facilities. “Students, staff, faculty and guests can show up at Leslie’s desk at any time, and she always provides the highest level of service to everyone. Leslie’s critical-thinking skills and knowledge of the Indiana Memorial Union have allowed her to master the many different needs of this front-facing position.”

Prince also directs her service to her colleagues’ workplace needs. When Chrzastowski’s former position was filled, and when a new maintenance manager joined the office’s staff, Prince quickly turned her attention to the onboarding and orientation of these hires.

“The role she played in this transition has allowed the IMU to seamlessly provide all the services and amenities to students, staff and guests without interruption,” Chrzastowski said.

Joe Meadows, who succeeded Chrzastowski, said: “I knew within my first few days what a critical part of the team Leslie is. Her deeply rooted care for this department and the IMU show through day in and day out.”

An enthusiastic volunteer, Prince has served on numerous committees for holiday parties, employee recognitions and retirements in an effort to support staff and create a community, Chrzastowski said.

But it is the students who are most often the beneficiaries of Prince’s dedication, said Fred Webb, the IMU’s custodial manager: “Although Leslie’s job is mostly behind the scenes, she has a genuine desire to make certain that students’ needs are being met here at the IMU.”

Tana D. Sorrells

In a career spanning a remarkable 43 years at Indiana University Bloomington, Tana Sorrells has held varied administrative positions. For 16 of those years, she has worked in the Office of Enrollment Management as executive liaison. Both within the office and throughout the campus, staff members regard Sorrells as the embodiment of professionalism.

Tana Sorrells. Photo by Wendi Chitwood, Indiana University Tana Sorrells. Photo by Wendi Chitwood, Indiana University “OEM’s strong sense of camaraderie and community owes much of its credit to Tana,” said Ronda Stogsdill, project manager and administrative coordinator in the office. “She has an innate ability to make colleagues feel as if they are part of a close-knit family within the larger IU and OEM organizations. Her contributions to Indiana University have left an indelible mark on both the institution and those privileged to work alongside her.”

Supervisor David Johnson, vice provost for enrollment management, cited specifics about what makes Sorrells such an indispensable asset.

“Tana prepares background and research for my meetings and additional follow-up after meetings and projects, often before I even request the information,” Johnson said. “Tana also dutifully assists me by being the go-to person for staff who have challenges, issues and concerns, and she carefully listens, responds and vets the concerns for my review in a manner that supports a positive work environment.”

Former OEM co-worker Katie Higgins, now director of finance at The Media School, described Sorrells as “a tremendous resource to all who encounter her.”

“From families who contact the office, to new employees, to directors within OEM and colleagues on campus, her support is consistently helpful, tactful and accurate,” Higgins said. “Her continual display of professionalism and persistence, particularly during demanding times, are traits that I greatly admire. It is rare that someone on campus learns of my experience in OEM and does not ask whether I had an opportunity to work with Tana.”

Marcey Jo Tidwell

With her engaging social media presence, Marcey Tidwell promotes healthy living for students and fills them in on the multitude of services available from the IU Student Health Center. A registered nurse at the center since 2002, “Nurse Marcey” informs her audience about topics as relevant and wide-ranging as stress management, contagious illness avoidance, vaping and health insurance basics, to name a few.

Marcey Tidwell. Photo by Wendi Chitwood, Indiana University Marcey Tidwell. Photo by Wendi Chitwood, Indiana University Though her role as a public face of the center has raised student awareness, it is her clinical expertise that lies at the heart of Tidwell’s service.

“On any given day, you can find her on the second floor of the Student Health Center, providing direct nursing care to students,” Hylton said. “Students who have had her as a provider know they are not only going to get exceptional care but also an extensive education to better understand the recommended regimen, future preventive measures and general advice.”

Tidwell often ventures beyond the center to support campus efforts that enhance student life.

“She has done orientation sessions with Residence Life staff members so they are aware of the students’ options if a medical need should arise, and she also participates in New Student Orientation sessions to educate students and their families,” said Jennifer Boes, director of nursing. “Most recently, she has worked with the Groups Scholars Program to educate its students on health care options.”

Kelly Hogan, associate vice provost for student life, health and wellness, described the spirit of empowerment that Tidwell brings to her work: “Her office is decorated with a Wonder Woman theme, which seems befitting of her efforts with our students.”

John D. Walker

At nearly 500,000 square feet, the Indiana Memorial Union presents formidable challenges to the staff members, who are crucial to the building’s operation. But the IMU is much more than a massive structure; it is a central and treasured resource for the tens of thousands of students who constitute its largest customer base.

John Walker. Photo by Wendi Chitwood, Indiana University John Walker. Photo by Wendi Chitwood, Indiana University As a maintenance technician in the IMU’s facility operations department for 44 years, John Walker regularly exceeds the expectations that his title might imply, always with the needs of these customers in mind.

“A lot of John’s work is around students or for students,” Chrzastowski said. “He adjusts his work schedule to best fit the needs of the students around him. This is evident when he is adding or removing artwork throughout the IMU.

“Most of this type of work takes place in public corridors where there is a heavy student presence. He completes these assignments in ways that don’t interfere with student activity.”

“John is always quick to jump in and assist students, staff and colleagues with any task he is presented with,” said Joe Meadows, the IMU’s current assistant director for facilities. “I have continuously watched him go above and beyond his duties with no reservation or requirement for additional praise. John is the true definition of a team player. His love for the IMU and dedication to the university are evident every day.”

Walker’s supervisors and co-workers remarked about his obvious sense of commitment.

“I have personally seen John mentor others in the department,” Meadows said. “John does this not because he is required to; he does it because he enjoys sharing with others, and he knows it will make the team stronger.”

Karen Garinger is a contributing writer for Indiana University.