In March 2024, the Division of Student Affairs presented the inaugural Student Affairs Staff Awards. The Awards Committee congratulates and acknowledges the following award recipients for their well-deserved recognition.

Monique Hankerson

Pinnacle of Excellence Award

Monique Hankerson, Associate Director of Housing Services, Residential Education & Housing Services

The Student Affairs Pinnacle of Excellence Award represents the highest and most esteemed honor within our division. This award stands as a testament to the unparalleled dedication, unwavering commitment, and extraordinary contributions that have left indelible marks on the Division of Student Affairs.

Recipients of this award are not merely outstanding; they are trailblazers, visionaries, and true architects of positive change. Their achievements and leadership have set a standard that others aspire to attain, and their impact on our division, institution and students are immeasurable.

This award is a symbol of the profound respect and admiration that our community holds for those who have reached such high echelons of achievement and in doing so, have enriched the legacy of Occidental. This award is a celebration of the rare, the extraordinary, and the outstanding, and it serves as an enduring reminder of the heights that dedication, passion, and commitment can reach within our student affairs community.


Kerri Miller

The Heart of Student Affairs

Kerri Miller, Executive Assistant to the Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students




Devon Sakamoto

Dean's Award of Distinction

Devon Sakamoto, Assistant Dean of Students for Emmons Wellness Center

This award is presented yearly to an individual in the division whose actions or work performance stands out as an exceptional reflection of our divisional values (integrity, culture of care, community, wellness, inclusivity, collaboration, and service to all students).

This individual demonstrates a commitment to the betterment of the Occidental and/or their department. Has sustained outstanding performance in one’s job responsibilities that is frequently above and beyond the normal scope of expectations and has demonstrated impact on creating an environment which enhances the student experience at Occidental. Has proven leadership and innovation within the context of the individual’s role and position responsibilities.


Shanda Ness

Outstanding Manager of the Year

Shanda Ness, Director of Athletics

This award recognizes someone who displays exceptional leadership for their student and/or professional staff, provides constant support and guidance when needed, and consistently works to elevate their office or staff. The recipient is a manager/supervisor to a staff of more than one student worker or professional staff member and displays exemplary leadership and communication skills with their unit. This manager cares deeply about their staff and impacts their staff in a positive way.


Krista Place
William Ruiz

Silent Extraordinaire Award

Krista Place, Student Benefits & Insurance Specialist, Emmons Wellness Center

William Ruiz, Director of the Neighborhood Partnership Program

This individual works behind the scenes for the good of Student Affairs and Occidental College though not publicly celebrated, demonstrates leadership and care through exceptional work ethic, dedication and service. No task is too small or too large. 

This award is designed to celebrate the contributions of all levels of employees, often completing projects and/or programming, administrative support and responsibilities that are usually “unseen;” however, without these individuals, Student Affairs would not thrive.


Isaiah Thomas

Tiger Tenacity Award

Isaiah Thomas, Assistant Dean of Students and Director of Residential Education, Housing Services and Office of Student Conduct

This award celebrates an individual who embodies the spirit of tenacity in leadership, demonstrating unwavering determination, resilience, and perseverance in their role while fostering a culture of collaboration and empowerment/excellence among their team.

Award recognizes an employee who has demonstrated perseverance in the face of the constant challenges, setbacks and obstacles in their role within Student Affairs and Occidental College but is always able to see “the bigger picture” and continues to succeed with care and humility.


Joaquin Caro

Beacon for Student Service and Support 

Joaquin Caro, Project S.A.F.E. Prevention Education Coordinator

This award recognizes an individual who has served as a beacon of guidance and support for students, demonstrably advocating for their needs and creating a positive impact on student life.


Cori Vallembois

Diversity and Inclusion Trailblazer 

Cori Vallembois, Assistant Director of Operations, Athletics

This award acknowledges an individual that has made significant contributions to advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion within the student affairs division, promoting a more inclusive campus community.


Laura is smiling and standing in front of an orange-red wall

Wellness and Mental Health Advocate 

Laura Fettig, Health Promotions Specialist, Emmons Wellness Center

This award honors those who have played a pivotal role in supporting the mental health and well-being of students and/or staff, promoting a culture of wellness and self-care.


Alex Fulcher headshot

Friends of Students Affairs (FOSA)/Campus Partnership 

Alex Fulcher, Civil Right & Title IX Coordinator

The FOSA/Campus Partnership Award recognizes an outstanding faculty and staff member or department, outside of Student Affairs, who has made significant contributions to student development and co-curricular learning as demonstrated through collaboration, involvement and partnership(s) with Student Affairs. The recipient enhances the mission of Student Affairs and goes beyond occupational requirements – through guidance, mentorship, advocacy and/or advising; promoting leadership, personal responsibility and self-governance; and fostering an environment of inclusivity and appreciation for all.


We also would like to give a special thanks to Anaid Garcia, executive assistant to the VP & COO and General Counsel, and Rachael Warecki, director of communications, for joining us on the Nominations Review Committee. We appreciate your help and support with this selection process.

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