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Dean's blog: Recognition resolution

Dean Fernando Miralles Wilhelm presents at Celebration of Success

Let’s face it, we’re all so very busy at this time of the year. With finals, winter graduation, and the holidays all upon us, it’s hard to imagine any free time to just take a moment and reflect on the past year.

But at the college’s Celebration of Success this week, we did just that to meaningfully recognize members of our team who have made significant contributions to our shared success during this very challenging year.

I really appreciate all who carved out the time to attend this in-person recognition event (first time back like that since the pandemic began). Understandably, not all of our virtual workforce could be there, yet we can share it with you, recounting the day with tons of pictures and stories. All can check the website and our social feeds where we will post nomination excerpts for the accomplished award winners. And we’ll keep the celebration going each day throughout the week with a daily prize raffle for all to join in the fun. For the first time in the history of the Celebration of Success, you don’t need to be present to win!

After all, we have much to celebrate. Thank you all for a great year.

I am now convinced that 2021 is the year we’ll remember for establishing the foundation for our future. We worked hard to determine how to continue learning, conducting research and outreach, and, thanks to COVID vaccines, begin to establish what will become our new normal. Highlighting all COVID-19 efforts would take this whole blog so I’ll just broadly say, thank you to you all for conceptualizing, setting up, volunteering, and staffing all the vaccine testing and COVID monitoring efforts at Mason and for our communities. You are the main reason we are all able to be together to celebrate.

In addition to presenting the Dean’s Awards to staff and faculty, we also discussed some of our collective efforts in inclusion, diversity, and sustainability; thanked our staff with four quarters of perfect reconciliation; highlighted additional staff and faculty who had gone above and beyond; and met some of our newest colleagues. It was a great afternoon that left me very excited for 2022.

I also want to take time to thank each and every one of the 50+ nominators who thoughtfully brought forward kudos for their co-workers. Along with the Dean’s Award selection committee (thanks, Jennifer, Nirmal, Hao, Jim, Rachel, and Kathryn), I read every nomination. We have a very impressive team. I was also moved by how many of the winners took to the mic to thank their teams of students and mentors personally when they received their awards. Our mentoring culture is strong and vibrant and producing meaningful results.

This is just the beginning though. We can’t let recognition happen only a few times a year. Science gives us good reasons to keep our kudos culture going. As some of our scientists know, recognition affects the plasticity of the brain by regularly stimulating the hypothalamus and increasing the production of dopamine. According to Psychology Today, ‘regularly practiced gratitude and increased dopamine can keep someone healthier and happier.’ And these days, with all the stress we’re under, that’s really a good thing. Meaningful and timely recognition also has an important part in the workplace; it can create stronger teams to help us better compete.

Some suggest creating a team recognition list, and even a personal kudos file, logging examples of excellence so when it’s time for nominations, or times to bring forward your personal successes and accolades, you’ve got ideas. Better yet, also share your kudos spontaneously when you see your colleagues do something extraordinary. It takes just a minute to share a kind word of recognition. Yet it can mean a lot to the person hearing it.

Consider adding ‘sharing gratitude and recognition’ to our collective New Year’s resolutions lists. I think this can be part of our mantra for the college in 2022.