Shepherd wins award for embodying 'difference between dreaming and achieving'

Various staff members say that the difference between dreaming and achieving on campus is embodied in one person: JoAnn Shepherd '91, winner of 2011 George Peter Award for Dedicated Service.

Shepherd, manager of CULearn in Organizational Development for Faculty and Staff (ODFS) in the Division of Human Resources, received the award from the Employee Assembly March 30 and was recognized again at the S.T.A.R. Salute event for human resource staff in June.

Throughout the 17 years that Shepherd managed the Office Professionals Certificate Program, she recruited many individuals to teach the skills needed to excel as an office professional at Cornell and encouraged hundreds more to obtain those skills and further their careers. Under her leadership, 281 staff received certification as office professionals - including some who began as temporary staff, in entry-level positions or had not previously worked in an office environment.

"Her enthusiasm and determination are contagious," noted the group of five staff members in their nomination letter. "She not only encourages people to examine their strengths, skills and interests and to see their possibilities, but also provides them with the resources they need to create and carve out a path to make their individual dreams come true. … The counsel she provides to follow this process is the difference between dreaming and achieving."

Beyond mentoring staff to develop their careers, Shepherd was also applauded for stressing the role of each individual in furthering the mission of the university, the importance of balancing work and personal life and the need to embrace change when it happens.

"Whether it is leading the Office Professionals Program, counseling others or managing CULearn, JoAnn's ultimate goals are always that she is furthering an individual's career or furthering Cornell University in some way," said her supervisor, Kathryn Burkgren, director of ODFS, in her letter of support.

"I have always said that office professionals are the backbone of the university, and that I am just in awe of all that they do," Shepherd said in responding to the accolades. "I have seen them move up through the office professional ranks, become supervisors, leaders and mentors, receive degrees and, in the midst of all of that, hold second jobs, pursue hobbies and contribute to the life of their communities."

Shepherd said that she gained from the office professionals as much or more than they gained from the certificate program. "I got to see so many of the program participants as well-rounded individuals who take pride in their work, in Cornell and in serving the faculty in their departments, staff and students," she said. "They contributed so much to my own personal and professional life, and I learned so much from them. Cornell's office professionals are self-developers who don't brag about what they do; they just do it."

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Joe Schwartz