USM Board of Regents honors Monica Gellene and Amy Griffin with Staff Awards

August 4, 2020

Two University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science staff members have received the University System of Maryland’s prestigious 2019-2020 USM Board of Regents Staff Award.

Monica Gellene, Associate Director of administration at UMCES’ Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology, will receive the Staff Award for Exceptional Contribution to the Institution and/or Unit to Which the Person Belongs. Amy Griffin, Assistant to UMCES’ Vice President for Education, will receive the Regents Staff Award in the category of Outstanding Service to Students in an Academic or Residential Environment. Both recipients will be acknowledged at the September 18 virtual Board of Regents meeting and will receive a $2,000 monetary award.

“This year, there were nine winners selected from only four USM institutions, and we are proud that two of them, Monica Gellene and Amy Griffin, are from UMCES, proving that we are small but mighty and our staff is unparalleled in their commitment to UMCES’ collegial environment, expertise, and service,” said University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science President Peter Goodwin.

“Monica’s contributions during eight years of service can be described as both exemplary and transformative as she has linked the different sites of UMCES and the partner institutions of IMET through collaborative entrepreneurship activities, community outreach and advancement,” said Goodwin. “Amy has been a tireless champion for delivering an exemplary student experience. She is always available to students at any of our six diverse sites and at whatever time. She is a true collaborator who draws on the best ideas from sister USM institutions and beyond to implement innovations to the student service.”

Monica GelleneCRA, MBA

Exceptional Contribution to the Institution and/or Unit to Which the Person Belongs

Monica Gellene, associate director of administration at UMCES’ Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology has been called ambitious, committed, self-motivated, and driven to succeed, and among the highest rank of administrators. She was lauded for her efficiency with essential tasks, her enthusiasm for taking on new projects, and her focus on professional development for herself and others in her department.  

Starting as a coordinator at IMET in 2012, she was rapidly promoted to the position of associate director of administration. In the past few years, Gellene has created a sustainability initiative, increased the efficiency of business processes, increased private fundraising and improved donor relations, and effectively coordinated between IMET’s partner institutions and the other UMCES labs.

“Monica is absolutely dedicated to the success of UMCES and IMET. She is very highly respected by all of our IMET faculty and greatly appreciated by the UMCES-IMET faculty because of her efficiency and all of her assistance in preparing proposals and in post-award grants administration,” said IMET Executive Director Russell Hill.

In recent years, Gellene established a sustainability committee at IMET with the goal of reducing plastic and other waste. Since this initiative was started, IMET has eliminated 90% of plastic consumption , no new plastic has been purchased, and events and meetings are plastic-free. She has also organized ongoing sustainability seminars to educate IMET and the general public on sustainability issues.

One of Gellene’s key achievements is her successful transition towards a “paperless” and highly efficient business office, resulting in reduced costs for office supplies such as paper and toner as well as more efficient processes for routine travel, purchasing, human resources and account reconciliation tasks. 

Gellene has also been very active in expanding IMET’s private fundraising. She has established relationships with foundations, and has invested in building a base of smaller donors. Since Monica has started spearheading development for UMCES-IMET, there has been a 26% increase in private funding.

Gellene has been most effective in managing funding from the Ratcliffe Foundation and in interacting with the Ratcliffe co-trustees. There has been renewed interest and support from existing donors, resulting recently in a new award to Eric Schott from the France-Merrick Foundation in the amount of $250,000 for UMCES. A proposal submitted to the USM Foundation resulted in a $30,000 quasi-endowment to IMET for new development efforts. Additionally, the Bunting Foundation provided $60,000 for the IMET Summer Internship, enabling ten minority students to spend the summer learning at IMET. Donor contributions for Sook Chung’s project to map the genome of the Maryland blue crab were raised in the amount of $47,000, and as a result, the project is close to providing a deliverable for these donors. She also played a critical role in securing the James Albrecht Fellowship, which will fund one graduate student in their first year of graduate studies for the next five years.

 “She has been actively leading our institutional advancement efforts, helping us connect with the right foundations and expand the funding landscape for our institute. Ms. Gellene and her team successfully raised funds for the IMET Student Fellowship. The second year of this new fellowship funded a new Ph.D. student in my lab, helping me carry out research and advise the next generation of scientists,” said IMET Associate Professor Yantao Li.

Monica has increased IMET’s exposure within the Baltimore community and beyond through improved communications, using newsletter emails to reach the non-scientific community and using a video format as a communication medium, reaching at least 6,000 people through these newsletters. Additionally, Monica took leadership in the process of including IMET as a Top Work Place in Baltimore, as named by the Baltimore Sun magazine. As a result of this, IMET was awarded a Top Work Place.

Amy Griffin

Outstanding Service to Students in an Academic or Residential Environment

Amy Griffin has made graduate students her first priority in all of her work since being hired as the assistant to the UMCES vice president for education in 2014. In addition to fulfilling her roles in the accreditation and reaffirmation of accreditation processes, she has become the unofficial student services officer for UMCES. Words used to describe her include an integral component of the UMCES community, dedication, enthusiasm, initiative, trusted advisor, and student advocate.

“Amy fills a key position at the interface between the vice president for education, the administration, the faculty, and the students in UMCES. She makes the UMCES Education Program run,” said UMCES Vice President for Education Larry Sanford. “Amy’s extensive and ever-growing support for UMCES’ students has been a hallmark of her UMCES career to date. She genuinely cares about each and every UMCES grad student, both professionally and personally.”

Griffin has served as the liaison between the UMCES Graduate Student Council and the Office of the Vice President for Education since 2016. She has been key to ensuring UMCES continued accreditation compliance and to working towards re-accreditation and is always the first to step up to volunteer on issues that enhance the culture and support structure for students, staff and faculty. She has been the champion for ensuring students are represented on all relevant committees where students can gain experience and insights to the research enterprise or how higher education functions.

She serves on several committees, many of which directly relate to the student experience. These include the MEES Program Committee; UMCES Program, Curricula, and Courses Committee; UMCES Graduate Faculty Committee; and UMCES Graduate Student Council. She is also is in charge of running and coordinating several student-centric events each year, including new student orientation and the annual UMCES Commencement. She has also taken on critical roles in the UMCES Staff Council, serving as its chair and as representative to the USM Council of University System Staff and co-chairing the Task Force on Mental Health.

“Amy is a leader within UMCES, and she has shown commitment and dedication to making UMCES a better place for our students,” said Professor Mike Wilberg, chair of the Faculty Senate.

She works diligently to address as many student concerns, questions, and inquiries as she can, going above and beyond to make sure she finds the correct answers and policies. She has instigated several student-centric events and she has revamped the student orientation and on-boarding process at UMCES and created an UMCES-wide student newsletter to keep students up-to-date.

“She has created an atmosphere in which students feel they are valued and can trust her guidance. Because students feel comfortable discussing their ideas with Amy, with her help many of these student concerns and requests have been turned into action,” said Graduate Student Council Chair Christina Goethel.

For example, Griffin encouraged a student proposing a Mental Health Committee to draft a plan and convene a committee composed of students, staff, and faculty from all of the UMCES campuses. She served as the co-chair of this committee that produced a document of mental health resources.

"Amy Griffin has been a cornerstone of my experience as an UMCES student. She has been an invaluable resource of administrative knowledge within the MEES program, a tireless advocate for the concerns of the students to center administration—communicating to and for the student community on topics ranging from the curriculum to mental health resources at UMCES—and a constant source of accessibility and support to students navigating the path to graduation,” said a graduate student.

Outside of an official capacity, Griffin actively joins in events at her home campus, the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory. Participation in these activities increases her accessibility to students and demonstrates that she cares about both our academic achievements and our personal and social well-being. For example, she is a member of the American Association of University Women and was a speaker during one of the meetings, sharing personal experiences designed to spark discussion and help other members of the group dealing with similar situations.