Three Penn State staff members honored by University Staff Advisory Council

A group of five individuals pose for the camera

From left are Penn State President Neeli Bendapudi with 2024 University Staff Advisory Council (USAC) award winners Nichole Ginnan, Erik Cagle and Dawn Hamaty. Pictured at right is USAC Chair Rachel Galloway.

Credit: Penn State

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The University Staff Advisory Council (USAC) honored three outstanding Penn State staff members at a ceremony on May 10 in Old Main’s Alumni Lounge. 

This year’s honorees included Erik Cagle, manager of custodial operations in the Office of Physical Plant and recipient of the USAC Staff Leadership Award; Nichole Ginnan, research project manager at the One Health Microbiome Center in the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences and recipient of the USAC Staff Excellence Award; and Dawn Hamaty, human resources consultant at Penn State Harrisburg and recipient of the USAC Staff Morale Award. 

“The University Staff Advisory Council and the awards committee extend our sincere congratulations to this year’s staff award winners,” said Susan Warner, USAC awards committee chair. “Each year we receive numerous nominations highlighting outstanding staff members from across the commonwealth. This year was no exception. We thank all of those who took the time to put together such tremendous nominations to recognize their colleagues, but most importantly, we thank all of those who were nominated for the inspiring work they do for their units and the University community.” 

Staff Leadership Award 

Erik Cagle, manager of custodial operations in the Office of Physical Plant (OPP), received the Staff Leadership Award, which goes to a staff member who leads by example and focuses on team successes while inspiring those around them. The recipient recognizes natural gifts in team members and works with them to continue their development, while seeking ways to improve the operations of their unit and the University. 

In his role in OPP, Cagle leads more than 450 technical service and staff employees. His nominator wrote that, under Cagle’s leadership, custodial operations at Penn State have achieved a national reputation for excellence, making significant improvements in cleaning methods and standards.  

The nomination also noted that despite Cagle overseeing such a large workforce, he makes it a priority to meet every employee and knows almost all of them on a first-name basis. Because custodial operations occur around the clock, Cagle often comes in early or stays late to connect with second shift and overnight crews. In recent years, Cagle has also overseen snow removal operations, which requires him to be on campus at all hours to coordinate various snow removal tasks and crews that work to ensure campus is safe for faculty, staff, students and visitors.  

Cagle’s nomination also included letters of support from leaders in Intercollegiate Athletics and the Penn State Sustainability Team, as well as external stakeholders, making it clear that his work and leadership are felt not only in OPP and across Penn State, but also in the local community. In a letter of support, a colleague wrote, “Erik’s genuine empathy and compassion for others are reflected in his interactions with colleagues, staff and community members alike. He treats everyone with dignity and kindness, creating an environment where all individuals feel valued and heard, one of his greatest strengths.” 

Staff Excellence Award 

Nichole Ginnan serves as the research project manager at the One Health Microbiome Center in the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences. In her role, she serves a large community of center members with faculty and students from 42 departments at University Park and campuses across the commonwealth.  

Ginnan’s nominator described her as “a consummate enthusiast and spirited community mover.” The nominator noted that Ginnan never shies away from a challenge, sharing an example from when, new in her role, she led and served as first author of a T32 institutional training grant interconnecting the University Park campus, the College of Medicine and external minority-serving institutions.  

In one of many letters of support for Ginnan, a colleague highlighted how Ginnan facilitated the expansion of the dual title doctoral program in Microbiome Sciences, working with department heads and graduate directors to make it possible. Another colleague cited Ginnan’s efforts to help lead the development of a doctoral level student internship program with a multi-billion-dollar company exemplifying her dedication to student success and building bridges between academia and industry.  

Another supporter wrote that Ginnan “…deals with challenges with a level of honesty and clarity that inspires trust and sets a standard for her colleagues.” Additionally, her nominator said, “Nichole is a Nittany Lion star, abundantly worthy of this honorific and a standard-bearer for complex project management from which the University-wide pillars gain foundational strength.”   

Staff Morale Award 

Dawn Hamaty, a human resources consultant at Penn State Harrisburg, is the recipient of the Staff Morale Award. This award recognizes an employee who leads with enthusiasm, fosters a respectful and cooperative work climate, values the opinions of others, practices active listening and is considered trustworthy by peers. Acting in an honest, optimistic and ethical manner, they work to create a culture that is safe and inclusive and encourage everyone to coalesce around institutional goals. 

In Hamaty’s nomination letter, she was described as someone who is always there to support and build up her colleagues and does whatever needs to be done to ensure their success. The nomination letter noted that Hamaty is a champion of important campus efforts, including Harrisburg’s mentoring program, as well as professional development opportunities focusing on diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging. 

In a letter of support from a colleague, Hamaty was described as someone who is naturally talented in establishing a workplace atmosphere that cultivates respect and collaboration. She is known for offering small gestures of kindness and for fostering connections through shared passions and interests. Another letter stated that, “Dawn is one of those people who lives her life to celebrate those around her.” 

Hamaty’s nominator and colleagues all shared that her contributions at Penn State Harrisburg are powerfully positive and that she is the epitome of everything a staff morale leader should be. One letter of support included, “Dawn is a subtle, gentle, calming morale booster. She helps the boat stay steady and intentionally navigates us toward tranquil, more peaceful waters. She encourages, motivates, inspires and celebrates her colleagues … Dawn has enriched the culture at Penn State Harrisburg and made it a better place to work for her colleagues.” 

About the University Staff Advisory Council

USAC serves the president and her administration in an advisory capacity through the vice president of Human Resources about issues that have an impact on staff across the University. USAC provides a forum for the exchange of ideas among members of the University staff and serves as an advocate for staff welfare and development. 

For more information, visit USAC’s webpage