The State University of New York system recently honored SUNY Oswego's Daniel Griffin, director of admissions, and Michelle Bandla, coordinator of first-year programs and interim director of the Center for Experiential Learning, with the 2018 Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Professional Service.

Since recipients are considered professional role models for the entire university system, SUNY says, "Nominees for this award must transcend the normal definition of excellence by repeatedly seeking to improve themselves, their campuses, and ultimately, the State University."

Daniel Griffin

Phrases such as "consummate professional," "true visionary" and even "Oswego's biggest cheerleader" dot the letters supporting the nomination of the college's top recruiter of new students for the Chancellor's Award.

An Oswego alumnus with a 1992 bachelor's degree in English and a 2000 master's degree in education, Griffin has worked for Admissions since he was a student, and has demonstrated his credentials for the SUNY honor during a 27-year career, supporters said.

Jerald Jones Woolfolk, Griffin's supervisor as vice president for student affairs and enrollment management, called him "an individual of the highest level of integrity who is committed to excellence."

Under Griffin, said Woolfolk, the college in 2017 attracted a record one-year total of 11,000 applications, enrolled more than 2,200 freshmen and transfers, and succeeded in enrolling the most diverse freshman class of Oswego students ever -- 34.9 percent last fall came from historically underrepresented groups.

Richard Kolenda -- who as assistant vice president for residence life and housing works closely with Griffin on occupancy and other strategic issues -- called Griffin "a true visionary" whose data-driven projections and analyses helped keep Oswego's enrollment strong during a downturn in the numbers of college-eligible high school students in the Northeast.

"He has an uncanny ability to see and project the future," Kolenda wrote. "He recognizes that the work of his department is essential in maintaining Oswego as one of the finest four-year institutions in the SUNY system." 

Among the steps Griffin has taken are to coordinate and grow the college's scholarship program for first-year students, organize a College Night at SUNY Oswego, expand open houses and accepted-student days, create an admissions counselor-in-residence program in New York City and Long Island, boost recruitment efforts in such cities as Philadelphia and Washington, and work closely with the Office of International Education and Programs to increase the numbers of international students. 

Mark Humbert, director of financial aid, called Griffin not only "Oswego's biggest cheerleader," but also someone who is never satisfied with the status quo.

"Dan has been exemplary at infusing technology and industry best practices into the Oswego recruitment and enrollment process to improve both the efficiency and effectiveness of the college's efforts. Dan continually looks for opportunities to do things in better ways," Humbert wrote, adding, "He is a consummate professional and a role model for all who work with him."

Expanding that to the SUNY system level, Cheryl Perrillo, assistant vice chancellor for enrollment services, said Griffin also serves as a role model "for the counseling profession at large." She said Griffin has served as an elected board member of SUNY College Admissions Professionals, has advocated for the organization's Operation Inform Program to work closely with the high school guidance counseling community, and is one of the leaders at meetings of SUNY directors of admissions and is held in "high regard" by his peers. 

Michelle Bandla

Coordinator of programs to support first-year students in advisement, course selection, summer pre-registration, learning communities, an early-warning academic performance system -- along with other measures to help the new students succeed and remain in college -- Bandla earned praise for innovation, persistence and excellence.

Elizabeth Dunne Schmitt, professor of economics and a faculty leader in the college's retention efforts, called Bandla -- recipient of several previous awards for her leadership in student-success programming -- one of the "quiet heroes" making a difference for student support and retention.

"These awards attest to a willingness to push beyond the boundaries of a position and list of responsibilities and look at the entire institutional environment as supporting the success of its students," Schmitt wrote.

Rameen Mohammadi, Bandla's supervisor as associate provost, addressed "the contributions she has made to our campus positively impacting our students' experiences and truly all of us who focus our energy on student success."

He pointed out that Bandla has served as the functional lead for the college's Starfish Early Alert software project flagging the need for advisors and instructors to intensify efforts to guide students in making improvements, or conversely, to notify students deserving of kudos. "SUNY Oswego is now a mentor campus at the system level, where we participate in assisting other SUNY campuses to implement Starfish Early Alert and Connect. Other SUNY campuses look to us for guidance and training as part of their implementations," Mohammadi wrote.

Paul Tomascak, associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, said Bandla listens well, solves problems and defuses volatile issues. She has been "active, responsive and downright essential," he wrote. 

"In her position with first-year programs, she ran the summer pre-registration and orientation (system) for several years," Tomascak said. "This is a consequential, high-stress, high-impact position. It is an area where I suspect it would be easy to decide that a particular strategy is good enough and stick with it unwaveringly. It is clear to me that Michelle does not possess the mindset that would allow her to settle for 'good enough.'"

Schmitt hailed Bandla for serving as more than a caretaker of the Center for Experiential Learning -- the college's clearinghouse for internship and other learning-by-doing opportunities -- during her time as interim director: "She has streamlined and revised internship materials and documentation to better align with the goals of these experiences, and she has undertaken an overall look and assessment of various skills/experience courses offered through the center."

Gary Morris, director of the Office of Career Services, said Bandla's accomplishments stretch back years: She was key more than a decade ago, he said, when the concept of Oswego's first-ever student-success center -- ultimately called the Compass -- was in the defining and goal-setting stages.

"Her strengths truly shine in this area," he wrote. "We struggled for months with the thousands of details that need to be managed when creating something that does not exist. Michelle's drive to move forward, find answers, develop solutions and operationalize the broader vision was critical in launching the Compass."

Michelle Bandla has served Oswego's students, especially first-year ones, in many capacities

'Beyond boundaries' -- The SUNY system recently honored Michelle Bandla, SUNY Oswego's coordinator of first-year programs and interim director of the Center for Experiential Learning, with the Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Professional Service.