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Student Affairs in Higher Education Announces 2012 Distinguished Alumni Award Recipient

Rhonda Gifford

Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s Department of Student Affairs in Higher Education (SAHE) is pleased to announce Rhonda Gifford as the recipient of the Ronald Lunardini Distinguished Alumni Award for 2012.

Rhonda is a 1993 graduate of the SAHE program and is currently the director of Career Services at California University of Pennsylvania. She started at Cal U in 2002 as the associate director of Career Services and was promoted to director in 2005. Prior to Cal U, Rhonda worked in the area of Career Services at both the University of Pittsburgh and Saint Vincent College.

Her contributions to the profession are highlighted by several leadership positions in the PASSHE Career Services Association (chairperson), the Western Pennsylvania Association for Career Services (president), the Pittsburgh Education Recruitment Consortium (executive committee), and the Mid-Atlantic Association for Employment in Education.

In the letters of nomination and support, Rhonda was noted for her “patience, professionalism, and commitment to collaboration.” Furthermore, the “energy and enthusiasm” she brings to her work has made an impact the entire campus as well as individual students. She has been praised for her work in implementing Great Work, Great Career—a program that augments Cal U’s Leader for Life Program. A Cal U student reported that Rhonda has been instrumental in educating members of Alpha Lambda Delta on the importance of career readiness and preparation. She is credited with helping the organization win the Order of the Torch—an award that is given to the best chapter nationally. For her efforts, she was inducted into Alpha Lambda Delta as an honorary member.

The award selection committee (comprised of faculty, students, and alumni), in their review of the nomination materials for Rhonda, unanimously affirmed that she meets and exceeds the award criteria, particularly in the areas of fostering student learning and leadership, making a significant impact on her profession, and supporting and mentoring students. One of the selection committee members, after reviewing Rhonda’s nomination materials, was impressed by the comments from Cal U students “who describe her with elaborate, heartfelt words such as ‘extraordinary’ and ‘exceptional’. She seems to selflessly give of herself.”

Rhonda will formally be presented her award at the annual SAHE Banquet on May 10, 2012.

The Ronald Lunardini Distinguished Alumni Award, begun in 2006, was created to acknowledge an alumnus of the SAHE Department whose experiences and accomplishments as a student affairs professional significantly reflect the standards and values of the SPS program/SAHE Department. In 2008, in recognition of Ron Lunardini’s 37 years of service to IUP (18 as a SAHE faculty member), the award title was changed to honor him. Previous recipients include Bob Gatti (’78), Peter C. Groenendyk (’94), Becky L. Verzinski (’94), Kevin W. Bailey (’90), Julie Elkins (’85), and Colleen Ruefle (’89).

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