UCI News

Best bosses

Four staff supervisors win Excellence in Leadership Awards.

by Laura Rico, University Communications | July 2, 2012
Best bosses
The 2012 recipients of UCI’s $1,000 staff leadership awards are (from left) Natalie Schonfeld, Kimberly Ayala, Donna Grochow and Jia Frydenberg. Steve Zylius / University Communications

A good leader has the ability to increase staff morale, build an enriching work environment, serve as a mentor and assist in career development. Luckily for UC Irvine employees, the campus recognizes these qualities with the annual Staff Assembly Excellence in Leadership Awards.

“This program aims to identify and honor supervisors who do an excellent job providing leadership to their staff,” says DeeDee Nunez, Staff Assembly Council vice chair and director of administrative operations at the Donald Bren School of Information & Computer Sciences. “We hope that the program boosts morale and motivates staff leadership to perform at higher levels of excellence.”

The awards are supported by the Office of the Executive Vice Chancellor & Provost and include a $1,000 cash prize and an engraved crystal plaque.

Winners this year are Jia Frydenberg, Natalie Schonfeld, Kimberly Ayala and Donna Grochow. Frydenberg’s team describes her as “flexible, honest and understanding,” while Schonfeld’s colleagues say she’s the “creator of a work environment that promotes a strong sense of support and community.”

Ayala, according to her staff, “places great value in the training and development of each member of her team,” and Grochow is called “a credible, knowledgeable and practical leader with a participatory management style.”

Here, this year’s honorees share their secrets to success:

Jia Frydenberg – associate dean, Distance Learning Center

How long have you worked at UCI? Since 1984

What do you enjoy most about your job? Throughout all those years, I have worked for every Extension dean since our founding dean, Dick Baisden. All my bosses have been superior! They have given me exactly what I need: total independence and backup when something goes sideways. But the true reason for longevity here is summed up in one word: people. I’ve been blessed to have been able to work with caring, innovative and enthusiastic people at every step of the way.

If you could give one practical piece of advice to fellow leaders on campus, what would it be? Care about your staff. Not everyone has the opportunity to take on decision-making positions, and not everyone wants the spotlight or the risk. But everyone is important! “Many a flower is born to blush unseen,” said Thomas Gray. If you truly care about people and the educational enterprise, the petty issues dissolve into insignificance.

Natalie Schonfeld – director, Student Transition Services

How long have you worked at UCI? Almost 14 years

What do you enjoy most about your job? The variety

If you could give one practical piece of advice to fellow leaders on campus, what would it be? In an average week, we spend more waking hours at work than we do with our families. It’s up to us to make that time positive, meaningful and productive – for ourselves and the people we work with.

Kimberly Ayala – director, undecided/undeclared and pharmaceutical sciences advising

How long have you worked at UCI? 28 years

What do you enjoy most about your job? I love to see the growth and development of first-year students. Every day I have the privilege of meeting students, getting to know them and assisting them in problem solving. I absolutely enjoy celebrating our students’ successes and have an outstanding staff that shares in the care of these students. In addition, I enjoy working with first-year students and encouraging them to make connections with staff and faculty while developing their leadership skills. My goal is for our students to have a successful first year, which is the foundation to an amazing undergraduate career.

If you could give one practical piece of advice to fellow leaders on campus, what would it be? Value your team. Really get to know each member. Listen to them and acknowledge each one’s strengths and accomplishments. Be supportive and encourage them to be all that they can be by helping others, growing in their positions and growing personally.

Donna Grochow, R.N. – director, nursing quality, research & education

How long have you worked at UCI? 36 years

What do you enjoy most about your job? The people

If you could give one practical piece of advice to fellow leaders on campus, what would it be? Communicate