Outstanding FAS staff honored at Dean’s Distinction celebration


An “incredible advocate for students.” An “administrative MacGyver.” A revitalizer and re-energizer of promoting gender equity, with a “warm, human-centered approach.”

Those words and more described winners of the 2024 Dean’s Distinction awards, which annually recognize exceptional work of Faculty of Arts and Sciences staff. Sunny skies befitted a festive awards ceremony earlier this month, where 12 individuals and two teams were feted for their dedication and expertise over the past year.  

The annual FAS celebration took place in the Dunster House courtyard among throngs of cheering colleagues who came to support their peers and celebrate the academic year’s end.

“You shine as leaders within your individual departments and across the FAS as a whole,” said Hopi Hoekstra, Edgerley Family Dean of the FAS, before bestowing the awards. “You collaborate, you tackle problems with enthusiasm and energy, and you have a positive impact both here and in the world.”

Honorees hailed from across departments and centers, from the Dean of Students Office and the Kenneth C. Griffin Graduate School of Arts and Sciences to the Harvard Forest. Cheers erupted as Hoekstra read each name.

Francisco Arellano, events manager in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, accepted his award onstage before a lively group from MCB wearing matching sunglasses and waving balloons that spelled out his name in his favorite color, orange.

Arellano said he was “thrilled and humbled” to receive the award. “It’s an extraordinary feeling to be recognized in such a meaningful way. The best part of this experience has been how my team, who have been instrumental in my success, celebrated with me.”

Hopi Hoekstra.
“You shine as leaders within your individual departments and across the FAS as a whole,” said Dean Hopi Hoekstra.

Fellow awardee Genesee Johnson, director of financial administration and operations in Arts and Humanities, was likewise deeply touched by her team’s outpouring of support. “It’s one thing to receive recognition from a formal body or committee, but it’s another thing entirely to be uplifted by those you work alongside every day,” she said.

Boisterous supporters hoisted glittery signs for awardee Dell Hamilton, imaging and publications rights coordinator at the Hutchins Center for African & African American Research. In her nomination, Executive Director Abby Wolf highlighted Hamilton’s curatorial experience and “tenacious attention to detail” that has brought the organization through “many difficult spots.”

“She went far above and beyond what was anticipated, driven always by our mission to educate and fill in gaps of traditional histories and institutions,” Wolf said.

Awardees were lauded for a range of qualities, Hoekstra said: cultivating a strong sense of community and connection across the FAS; creating humane and supportive work environments; exceeding regular responsibilities and expectations; fostering diversity, inclusion, and belonging; collaborating with the University’s best interests and mission in mind; and demonstrating ingenuity and creativity in their roles.

Two staff teams were honored: The Crimson Summer Academy, an academic program serving local public schools that hosts 30-40 students on campus each year; and the Research Administration Team that supports the Department of Human Evolutionary Biology and the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, managing faculty research portfolios in financial planning, sponsor requirements, and other areas.

In opening remarks, Dean of Administration and Finance Scott Jordan said, “It is worth taking a moment to be happy to be together.” 

“I want to acknowledge ­— and this is heartfelt — that we are all winners today,” Jordan said. “We have gotten through the 2024 academic year.”

The 2024 Dean’s Distinction awardees:  

Francisco Arellano, Molecular and Cellular Biology
Marvin Glenn Arenzana Baclig, Dean of Students Office
Raul Figueroa, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences
Meg Fuchs, Harvard Forest
Andrew Gitchel, Theatre, Dance & Media
Dell Hamilton, Hutchins Center for African & African American Research
Genesee Johnson, Arts and Humanities Administrative Services
Sol Kim-Bentley, English
Helen Lewis, Linguistics
Patricie Niyitegeka, Science Division
Daniel Oliver, Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology
Alejandra Rincon, Dean of Students Office

Team awardees:

Crimson Summer Academy, in the Division of Continuing Education
Joseph Lewis
Kimberly Parker
Jamie Shushan
Melissa Trottier

Human Evolutionary Biology-Organismic and Evolutionary Biology Research Administration Team
Diana Gjino
Jenna Legault
Kristin Pennarun
Emily Reynolds
Liliana Teixeira-Davis



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