Mark Kelly receives a regional award

By Alexandra Kukulka

Students are eager to get involved in Columbia activities and programs. But no one stops to think of the hard work put into making the programs happen. The credit can be given to one man: Mark Kelly, vice president of Student Affairs.

Because of his efforts, Kelly is the recipient of the 2011 NASPA IV-East Outstanding Performance as a Senior Student Affairs Officer Award. President Warrick L. Carter nominated Kelly for the award in September 2011, also giving Kelly the opportunity to win a future national award.

NASPA is an association representing student affairs administration in higher education, according to the NASPA website.

Kelly created a whole new environment on and off campus that has improved student satisfaction during the last 11 years, Carter said. It is because of his efforts to increase student involvement around the campus that he was recommended for this award, according to Carter.

“There was no direct connection [before]between inside the classroom and outside the classroom,” Carter said. “Mark and his team [have] done that, and therefore, we’ve made this a much more welcoming, congenial and enjoyable place for students.”

Carter created the position of vice president of Student Affairs when he came to the college in 2000. At that time, there were only 10 student organizations on campus, compared to the hundreds of organizations there are today, Carter said.

According to Kelly, there were student service offices before a Student Affairs office came on campus, but those offices were scattered around campus and weren’t seen as a solid unit.

“I think it is fair to say 11 years ago, there was no sense of community for Columbia students,” Kelly said. “There were no places to hang out, and there were no

special events.”

According to Carter, the students who attended Columbia 11 years ago did not feel positive about the institution. Columbia students have made an effort to get involved during the last few years because of Manifest, Student Convocation and the Student Government Association, Kelly said. Galleries and lounges have also been created around campus for students to get together and collaborate.

“Even though we don’t have a student center, we have so many places where students can congregate, build community and look at each others’ work,” Kelly said, adding he is very honored to win this award.

The NASPA IV-East region award covers the Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa and Ohio areas, according to William Mattera, awards chair for NASPA IV-East region. Any student affairs representative in the region is eligible for the nomination. However, the main requirement for this award is that the president from the university writes the nomination, he added.

“The main criteria is making an impact on the campus and looking at what they have done to better the institution since they have been [hired],” Mattera said.

Mattera said the choice was made by a committee of five from across the region who have different backgrounds and come from different institutions in the

educational field.

Kelly had a very strong nomination that resonated well with the committee, he added.

“Kelly’s nomination had a lot of talk about impact on students, integrating academic and student affairs and creating a total experience for students,” Materra said.

When being reviewed, each nominee gets evaluated individually and gets a score based on the nomination. A reviewer will then pass the points on to Mattera, who keeps record of the scores. The highest average score wins.

Winners of the regional awards automatically get a chance to compete for a national award called the Scott Good Knight Award, Mattera said.

However, educators who lost the regional award can still be nominated for the national award, as well as other educators who did not compete for the

regional award.

Overall, Columbia has become a “special” place, Kelly said. With every year that passes the freshmen get more involved around campus, especially this year’s freshmen,

he added.

“The new students feel like they are part of a community,” Kelly said. “They are proud to be at Columbia. When you start believing you are in a special place, then you start becoming more motivated, more focused and doing better work in the classroom.”