Pair of undergraduate coordinators earn 2023 Edmund A. Hajim Outstanding Staff Awards

The Hajim School is giving its top annual award that recognizes staff contributions to two trusted resources for undergraduate students. This year’s Edmund A. Hajim Outstanding Staff Awards went to Sara Klinkbeil, undergraduate program coordinator for the Department of Computer Science, and Dustin Newman, undergraduate program coordinator for the Institute of Optics.

Sara Klinkbeil

Computer science students, faculty, and staff called Klinkbeil a steadying force for the department who provides outstanding leadership and dedication. Klinkbeil has primary administrative and advising responsibility for the department’s approximately 300 juniors and seniors.

“Sara has a huge job, which she performs with exceptional competence and grace,” said Michael L. Scott, the Arthur Gould Yates Professor of Engineering and chair of the Department of Computer Science. “Everyone who works with her is amazed at the skill with which she negotiates these responsibilities, while remaining proactively helpful, responsive, and professional.”

Colleagues commended Klinkbeil for her help navigating emergence from the pandemic and praised her for her constant help at numerous critical events, including fall orientation, TA training workshops, Meliora Weekend events, the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, and spring Commencement.

“She has overcome many challenges such as training multiple staff members and staying organized during staff transitions, as well as coordinating our graduation ceremony with little assistance while overcoming mandated Covid restrictions and hybrid operating schedules,” said Academic Operations Manager Amanda Rigolo.

One computer science student noted Klinkbeil’s ingenuity, saying, “She is also extremely resourceful; whenever students inquire about help in computer science courses, she is always able to give them the necessary resources and direction, including my tutoring program. Her kind and supportive demeanor has created an environment that fosters academic excellence.”

Most of all, her passion for helping students shines through. Another student said Klinkbeil “puts in so much time and energy to help us succeed, and it's clear that she cares deeply about the students at this university.”

Dustin Newman

Newman’s colleagues at the Institute of Optics praised Newman for his enthusiasm, the high level of standards he maintains, and above all else, the concern he shows for the Institute’s students.

“He cares for each and every student, is timely and efficient in helping students navigate the bureaucracy and puts an enormous amount of time into making sure each and every student has the kind of extra-curricular training they need for a successful career,” said Professor Thomas Brown, director of the Institute of Optics. “I’ve seen timid first year students blossom into self-confident seniors over their time here at the Institute and much of it is a credit to Dustin’s care.”

Andrew Berger, professor of optics and biomedical engineering, called Newman the ultimate team player and said he routinely takes on significant duties beyond the undergraduate program to help build a sense of community. Examples include instituting a 5K run for the fall welcome picnic, taking on roles at the Industrial Associates meeting, and helping with aspects of graduate student recruitment.

“Dustin goes so far beyond the call of duty that I struggle to believe that he is constrained to 24-hour days like a mere human,” said Berger.

Another colleague noted Newman’s eagerness to partner with colleagues in admissions and neighboring institutions such as RIT and Syracuse University to help recruit students to the undergraduate and master’s programs.

“Dustin has distinguished himself in his service to the university, his caring and concern for students, his diligence in training, and in his outreach to the community,” said Lori Russell, administrator for the Institute of Optics.