SJSU Staff Awards Honor Exemplary Service, Contributions and Spartan Spirit

San José State’s second annual Staff Awards culminated the university’s Spartan Service Celebration—an annual tradition of more than 50 years—which honored nearly 300 staff members in 2021 for their milestone years of service.

SJSU’s Staff Awards, sponsored by the SJSU Staff Council and the Office of the President, were hosted on March 4 and honored outstanding staff members in three categories: Spartan Spirit, Distinguished Service and Staff of the Year.

This year’s celebration is even more important, as SJSU staff in every area of the university have worked remotely and tirelessly through a global pandemic to keep operations moving forward, rising to every challenge along the way.

In particular, the Facilities Development and Operations team ensured the campus was safe and prepared for students, faculty and staff to learn and work on campus, and the Student Health Center staff continuously provided medical services, including virtual services, and lead our contact tracing efforts.

“Staff members are the driving force behind the university, connected in some way, shape, or form to all that we do,” said President Mary Papazian.

“To this year’s honorees: Thank you. You are devoted Spartans who have committed all or much of your careers to serving our students, supporting faculty and staff and being an integral member of the San José State University community.”

2020-2021 Staff Award honorees:

Each award has one winner and two honorable mentions. The winners receive a plaque and a $1,000 cash award; each honorable mention receives a certificate and a $250 cash award. This year, the Staff Council received more than 50 nominations for the three awards.

Spartan Spirit Award Winner: Erlinda Yañez, Chicana and Chicano Studies

Honorable Mentions: Cindy Aubrey, Communicative Disorders and Sciences and Tamela Sullivan, University Personnel

Distinguished Service Winner: Kim Huynh, Undergraduate Education

Honorable Mentions: Jocelyn Douglas, Moss Landing Marine Labs and Maria (Elma) Arredondo, Student Affairs Systems

Staff of the Year Winner: Rhett Frantz, Moss Landing Marine Labs

Honorable Mentions: Joshua Kas-Osoka, Peer Connections and Nha-Nghi Nguyen, Psychology

Read more about the awards and winners below.

How the awards started

When the SJSU Staff Council was formally established in October 2019, the members quickly formed a Staff Recognition Committee. The council understood the importance of recognizing their colleagues—many of whom have dedicated most of their entire careers to SJSU with dedication, perseverance and exceptional abilities.

The committee defined the award categories, developed the nomination questions and criteria, and then gained the support of President Papazian and her cabinet, who agreed to provide funding for the awards.

“It has been such a pleasure to recognize colleagues who give so much time and energy to the university,” said Janet Sundrud, finance systems and operations senior analyst and chair of Staff Council.

“We already knew we were working with exceptional people and now we get to honor some of them for their efforts. We hope that the Staff Council can continue to be involved in staff recognition efforts on campus.”

The Staff Council welcomes all interested staff to join and contribute to their monthly meetings and future events like this.

Joanne Wright and Erlinda Yañez

(L-R) Joanne Wright presents Erlinda Yañez with the Spartan Spirit award.

Erlinda Yañez, Chicana and Chicano Studies

Spartan Spirit Award Winner

The Spartan Spirit Award honors a San José State staff member, manager or auxiliary employee who displays exceptional Spartan spirit, passion and pride in their work at SJSU. They embody SJSU campus values such as social justice, diversity, helping and caring, and innovation, among others and demonstrate a commitment to campus and community service.

Nominees describe Erlinda’s contributions to the campus community that go well beyond the scope of her job description. Her passion and pride about being a Spartan is unmatched, and she never intentionally seeks the spotlight or recognition for her numerous activities, programming and guidance she offers to students.

Ravisha Mathur and Kim Huynh

(L-R) Ravisha Mathur presents Kim Huynh with the Distinguished Service award.

Kim Huynh, Undergraduate Education

Distinguished Service Winner

The Distinguished Service Award honors an SJSU staff member or an auxiliary staff member who has worked for the university for more than 10 years and has displayed a commitment to excellent service to the campus community with the utmost professionalism and helpful attitude.

Nominators spoke of Huynh’s unwavering dedication to our students, staff and faculty and her ability to anticipate problems and streamline processes and systems. She does it all with a can-do attitude, which has led her to be known as the “glue” of her department, attuned to others’ needs—even before they know them.

Huynh was genuinely surprised and humble about the recognition, crediting her teammates for their hard work and inspiration. “I never ever thought that I would ever be nominated for a prestigious award,” said Huynh.

“I was once a struggling student at SJSU and have seen what it takes to be successful in college. To be able to be on the other side of the desk, helping students find success in their studies, graduate and land incredible career opportunities is the best part of my job, and I love it.”

President Mary Papazian and Rhett Frantz

(L-R) President Mary Papazian presents Rhett Frantz with the Staff of the Year award.

Rhett Frantz, Moss Landing Marine Labs

Staff of the Year Winner

The Staff of the Year Award recognizes an exemplary SJSU staff member or auxiliary staff member who has made a valuable contribution to the campus in the past three years by improving the campus community and/or the California State University system through their work.

Nominators decidedly affirm Rhett’s unwavering commitment, dedication and passion for SJSU’s Moss Landing Marine Laboratories and his immeasurable impact on the graduate student experience, faculty, researchers and staff.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, he worked non-stop, 24/7 to maintain MLML’s IT services, support the transition to online learning, and ensure all complex marine research applications and data systems remained functioning when no one was allowed onsite.


The SJSU staff’s efforts are a testament of their resiliency, commitment and dedication—truly embodying what it means to be a Spartan.

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Spartan Service Celebration Honors Staff and Introduces Three New Awards

The 53rd annual Spartan Service Celebration honored staff milestone years of service and awarded three exemplary Spartans new annual awards—Distinguished Service, Spartan Spirit and Staff of the Year—on Thursday, March 5 at the Diaz Compean Student Union Ballroom.

Dora Ozawa and President Papazian

Dora Ozawa accepts the Staff of the Year Award from SJSU President Mary Papazian. Photo: Robert Bain.

Staff of the Year: Dora Ozawa

Dora Ozawa, systems coordinator for Registrar’s Office, received the Staff of the Year award in recognition of her commitment to the campus, her extensive knowledge of registration policies, procedures and her 43 years of service to San Jose State. Originally hired as a student employee, Ozawa describes SJSU as her “second home,” a community of friends, students and colleagues who have encouraged her to grow in her various roles. She said that seeing the campus evolve over the last four decades has taught her so much about streamlining processes, supporting students and brainstorming ways to improve registration systems. Ozawa has been a critical force in transitioning the university to the PeopleSoft database for record-keeping.

“When I first heard that I’d been nominated for this award, I was pretty overwhelmed emotionally,” said Ozawa, who is used to working behind the scenes. “It’s been amazing to see how much we accomplished with so little technology back in the day and how far we’ve come. I like knowing that the work I do helps students make it to their goal of graduating.”

Vuong Vu and Joanne Wright

Joanne Wright presents Vuong Vu with the inaugural Spartan Spirit Award. Photo: Robert Bain.

Spartan Spirit Award: Vuong Vu

The Spartan Spirit Award, which is intended to highlight someone who is “spirited, passionate and proud to work at SJSU,” while embodying campus values of social justice, diversity and innovation, was awarded to Graduate Admissions and Program Evaluations (GAPE) Evaluator Vuong Vu, ’01 Psychology.

“I enjoy knowing that my work makes a difference,” said Vu. “I know that education, especially graduate education, changes lives, not only for students, but for their families and communities. Every application that I review, I do so with attention and care because I know that once you are a graduate student at SJSU, your life will change forever—for the better. I love my team and look forward to coming into work every morning. GAPE Director Tricia Ryan encourages and fosters independence and creativity. This allows me to enjoy my work and find it meaningful.”

Nancy Day and Ravisha Mathur

Nancy Day accepts the 2019-2020 Distinguished Service award from Ravisha Mathur. Photo: Robert Bain.

Distinguished Service Award: Nancy Day

Vice Provost of Undergraduate Education Thalia Anagnos describes the inaugural Distinguished Service recipient Nancy Day as an “invaluable resource.” Day, who works in undergraduate e-advising, is adept at navigating PeopleSoft and quick to field questions from students, staff and faculty across campus.

“There are a lot of students that need help and assistance getting through college,” said Day. “Working in Undergraduate Education on the degree audit project, we are really able to help students. We want to see people graduate and the tools that I work on really help facilitate that.”

“Due to the work done by Nancy and her team, the Lucas College and Graduate School of Business has been able to replace paper major forms with MyProgress,” wrote Anagnos in a 2019 “Stepping Beyond” blog post. “This helps our evaluators complete graduation checkout much more quickly and gets diplomas to our students just days after the semester is over. Every day of the year, Nancy steps beyond.”

Each of the award recipients received $1,000, sponsored by the Office of the President. Two honorable mentions in each category were awarded $250. Ana Navarette Avina of the UndocuSpartan Resource Center and Robert Davis of the Veteran’s Resource Center received Spartan Spirit honorable mentions. Virtual Servers and Networking Analyst Altaful Khan of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library Information Technology Services and Ramon Perez, ’01 Biological Sciences, ’04 MA Economics, of the College of Health and Human Sciences received honorable mentions in the Distinguished Service category. Staff of the Year honorable mentions went to Kim Le of the Valley Foundation School of Nursing and Tom Reisz of Academic Preparation programs.

In addition to these inaugural awards, more than 100 Spartan staff members were recognized for their years of service, ranging from 15 years to more than 40. See the full list of honorees here.