From left, Craig Wiggers, chair of the Employee Assembly, Sarah Gould, senior administrative manager for the Department of Natural Resources, and Mary Opperman, vice president and chief human resources officer. 

Sarah Gould wins Opperman Award for Staff Advocacy

Known widely for her respect and support for staff, Sarah Gould, senior administrative manager for the Department of Natural Resources, became the second recipient of the Opperman Award for Staff Advocacy. Gould received the award at a ceremony Feb. 8 in Emerson Hall.

The Opperman award, developed by the Employee Assembly, recognizes Cornell staff members who consistently foster a positive environment in which staff are valued as contributors to Cornell and its mission, and create a culture that supports staff members in fulfilling their responsibilities at home and in the workplace.

The award’s namesake, Mary Opperman, vice president and chief human resources officer, presented Gould with the award. “After reading the nominations, I thought we should rename it the Sarah Gould Award,” Opperman said. “It was like we had built this award just for her.”

Opperman quoted from a letter of support that seven administrative staff had submitted. They described Gould as someone who “communicates frequently” and “fosters an open and inclusive environment.” They wrote that they feel free to learn from their mistakes and are respected and valued for their backgrounds and differences.

“When we need to be away from our job, Sarah works with the other administrative staff and the people we support to manage expectations and ensure adequate coverage,” they wrote. “This allows us the flexibility to address our personal needs without worrying about falling behind on our job responsibilities.”

Opperman noted that good leaders have the ability to help staff juggle work and personal responsibilities, take risks and learn from their mistakes. “Leaders like Sarah create workplaces where staff can grow, learn, innovate, and bring their whole selves to their jobs,” she said.

Daniel Decker, professor of natural resources who was department chair when he nominated Gould, said he was not surprised to see her receive this award. In his nominating letter, Decker wrote: “Sarah has built great loyalty and trust with staff …. She is simply remarkable, and respected by faculty and staff alike.”

Asked for comment, Gould said her job is made easy by the leaders in her department, who have created a culture of respect and appreciation, and by the staff. “The people who nominated me, they deserve the credit. They work together; they’re a team,” she said.

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Lindsey Knewstub