Ford School staff honored by peers for being resourceful, thoughtful, and kind

July 9, 2024

Congratulations to four recipients of the 2024 Staff Recognition Awards! Kathryn Cardenas from Student & Academic Services, Jackie Riecks from the Office of Development, May Skelton from Career Services, and International Policy Center administrative assistant Zalma Valencia were recognized at the annual Ford School staff retreat.

“A delight to work with, a positive and pragmatic approach to her work, and a proactive cross-unit collaborator,” are among the ways nominators described PhD program coordinator Kathryn Cardenas. Cardenas works with all of the Ford School’s doctoral students to ensure they have the support they need to complete their degree. To do so she must work with counterparts in PhD departments across the university, as well as with Rackham and the business office to manage student financial aid. “Kathryn’s level of service is exemplary - responsive, timely, complete.”

Jackie Riecks is the senior development assistant at the Ford School’s Office of Development, is active on schoolwide committees, and jumps in to help others across the school with their events.  “She is the very definition of customer service!” exclaimed one nominator. “Jackie is resourceful and thoughtful. Her attention to detail is unmatched.”

May Skelton works with nearly every single graduate student who matriculates through the school. Citing her intentional, thoughtful, respectful approach, she was praised for her ability to ask questions that enable students and peers to open up about their aspirations, challenges, and opportunities. This year, 16 graduate students nominated her for a U-M advising award and she was among the top 5 finalists.

“Rarely flustered, Zalma Valencia approaches every situation with a contagious calm and patience that immediately puts you at ease,” writes one nominator. In her role, Valencia works collaboratively with student groups, outside vendors, faculty, and staff to coordinate student trips abroad and ensure they run smoothly. “She is extremely detail-oriented which allows her to keep track of so many things and ensure that everything is done with quality.” This year she prevented a potential disaster when she uncovered a mistake in the wire transfer to a Colombian hotel and was able to mitigate without distraction for the faculty and students in-country.