SUNY New Paltz employees recognized with SUNY Chancellor’s Awards for Excellence

NEW PALTZ – Five members of the State University of New York at New Paltz’ academic, professional and classified staff have been honored with the 2012 Chancellor’s Awards for Excellence and will be recognized at the Undergraduate Commencement Ceremony on Sunday, May 20, and the Graduate Ceremony on Friday, May 18, on the Old Main Quadrangle.

Cecelia Donato, secretary in the Department of Elementary Education will receive the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Classified Service; Gwen Havranek, director of business operations for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (LA & S), and Linda Smith, senior instructional technologist in the Department of Academic Computing, will receive the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Professional Service; Susan Kraat, associate librarian and coordinator of instructional service in the Sojourner Truth Library, will receive the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Librarianship; and Tom Meyer, associate professor in the Department of Secondary Education, will receive the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Faculty Service.

Cecelia Donato
Donato, who joined the New Paltz staff in 1977, is a strong advocate for students in the Department of Elementary Education. Each academic year, she assists with the department’s special events for its over 100 student teachers, including student teaching orientation, the Effective Teaching Professional Conference; and Portfolio Day. Donato is also instrumental in the geographic placement of the student teacher supervisors who will be responsible for 80 to 100 student teachers in the Hudson Valley. She works alongside the chair of the department to gather locations and schools within each of the supervisor’s range before making the assignments. She also assists faculty with a variety of administrative tasks, and assists students with graduate school applications and requirements to finish their undergraduate degrees. Donato is a member of the Employee Assistance Program and has facilitated on-campus workshops. She is also a CSEA shop steward and handles employee grievances.

In his nomination letter, President Donald P. Christian stated, “Ms. Donato is regarded as one who goes above and beyond the expectations of her position, especially where students are concerned. Cecelia’s advocacy for students, her commitment to her position and her department, along with a strong working knowledge of campus programs, makes her stand out as an exceptional employee of SUNY New Paltz.”

Gwen Havranek
For the past 30 years, Havranek has held both classified and professional positions in the administrative, academic, and student affairs divisions at the college. In her current position as business director for the College of LA & S, the largest academic unit at New Paltz, she has taken a leadership role during challenging budgetary times at the institution, making necessary cuts while keeping the integrity of the program. One of Havranek’s main tasks is to manage the $11 million LA & S State purpose allocation to support operations, in particular, academic programs, within the college, as well as several other departmental accounts. She has implemented more efficient use of secretaries and clerical staff, and tracked part-time instruction funding. Havranek also reviews budgets for grant proposals and tracks funding from grants received. She is known as a “go-to” person by faculty and other staff members who have questions within the department, and is often a liaison between LA & S and other academic divisions on the campus.

Commenting on the reasons for Havranek’s success in her position, President Christian said, “Gwen Havranek demonstrates excellence in every aspect of her work every day. She is a role model, a problem solver, a communicator, and a valued colleague. She approaches all that she does with thoughtfulness and integrity, and she offers guidance based on an unparalleled level of expertise developed over her years of extraordinary service.”

Susan Kraat
Kraat joined the Sojourner Truth Library staff in 1998 as a reference librarian and was appointed to her latest position as coordinator of information literacy in 2003. As such, she has been instrumental in developing and expanding the information literacy program at the library. Kraat has played a significant role in bridging the gap between the library and instructional faculty and has helped to incorporate library instruction more fully into the campus curriculum. Due to Kraat’s efforts, library instruction is one of the most important and recognized services the library offers. She also helped lead the library into the online world by promoting the visibility of library resources through the library website and expanding the availability of full-text electronic databases. Kraat teaches a number of course-related library sessions each semester that introduce students to library resources. Several of her important leadership roles on campus include team leader of the Information Access Team, University Writing Board, and recent search for campus president. Kraat is a member of the Southeastern New York Regional Library Council and the SUNY Librarians Association.

In her nomination letter, President Christian wrote, “(Susan) is an outstanding ‘bridge builder:’ the connections she makes between faculty, students and library resources; between information and knowledge; between practice and assessment; and between campus and community, elevate her to the highest ranks of professionalism in librarianship.”

Dr. Tom Meyer
Dr. Meyer is well known for bringing colleagues, students and a community of P-12 educators together in a network of mentorship and learning that has received local, regional and national attention. Eleven years ago, Meyer established a connection with the National Writing Project, and under his leadership, created the Hudson Valley Writing Project (HVWP). Focused on the importance of teaching writing at all educational levels, Meyer has expanded on the national model of “teachers teaching teachers.” He has involved New Paltz faculty, undergraduate and graduate students, area teachers and school administrators in programming to develop and support literacy education, bridge theory and practice and promote professional development and systemic leadership in local schools and districts. Since its inception in New Paltz, the HVWP has reach over 5,000 pre- and in-service educators through a range of collaborations, including experiential institutes, workshops, study teams, inquiry groups, research opportunities and customized in-service partnerships. Meyer’s personal and professional commitment as the director of the HVWP has earned the organization an outstanding national and statewide reputation. He is also known for his service to the university, serving on many committees including the recent search for the campus’ new president.

Commenting on Meyer’s nomination, President Christian stated, “It is Professor Meyer’s willingness to offer his time and effort in a range of capacities, his ability to reach out to build relationships around teaching and learning and his passion for creating communities that inquire, inspire and teach that brings us to seek the well-deserved recognition.”

Linda Smith
Smith’s responsibilities at the college involve work for both academic computing and The Teaching and Learning Center. Her efforts have resulted in the campus’s success in incorporating rapidly evolving information technology into the teaching and learning environment. Smith began her career at New Paltz in 1994 as the manager of student computer labs, when the internet and email were in their infancy stages. She helped provide training to both faculty and students that encouraged them to use this new technology. Smith spearheaded the creation of the Student Help Desk; was responsible for helping the campus develop online courses; is system administrator for Blackboard, the college’s online Learning Management System; and is co-director of The Teaching and Learning Center offering faculty training on Blackboard and numerous web tools that can be used to enhance the classroom teaching experience.

President Christian’s nomination stated: “To say that Linda has singlehandedly brought New Paltz into the technological age is cliché; yet the fact that we have successfully integrated technology into all aspects of our teaching and learning is largely due to her vision, tireless work, and ability to effectively interpret technology to almost anyone.”

These five individuals join a list of 46 other New Paltz academic, professional and classified staff and emeriti faculty who have received the State University of New York Chancellor’s Awards for Excellence. For a complete list of the names and the award areas, visit

“These awards underscore SUNY’s appreciation of faculty and staff who serve our campuses and students with absolute excellence,” said SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher. “Cecelia Donato, Gwen Havranek, Susan Kraat, Dr. Tom Meyer and Linda Smith have demonstrated extraordinary dedication and service to New Paltz and are highly deserving of this distinction.”

The Chancellor’s Awards for Excellence are SUNY System-level honors conferred to acknowledge and provide system-wide recognition for consistently superior professional achievement and to encourage the ongoing pursuit of excellence. These programs underscore SUNY’s commitment to sustaining intellectual vibrancy, advancing the boundaries of knowledge, providing the highest quality of instruction, and serving the public good. Through these awards, SUNY publicly proclaims its pride in the accomplishment and personal dedication of its instructional faculty, librarians and professional staff across its campuses.