Omadelle Nelson and Cindy Patten Named SBS Outstanding Staff Award Winners

Cindy Patten
Cindy Patten

Two exemplary staff members have been recognized this spring for their outstanding work in the UMass Amherst College of Social and Behavioral Sciences (SBS). Cindy Patten, bookkeeper and business manager for the department of sociology, and Omadelle Nelson, manager of academic programs for the department of communication, were chosen by their peers from a pool of deserving nominees. The Outstanding Staff Award is presented to staff who have made a positive impact on SBS by fostering creativity, collaboration, integrity and innovative work processes or systems.

“The college could not function at such a high-level if not for the commitment, creativity and unrelenting optimism that Cindy Patten and Omadelle Nelson bring to work every single day,” said John Hird, dean of SBS. “This award is our token of our appreciation, a testament to the hard work and integrity our staff bring to their departments, SBS and the UMass community.”

Omadelle Nelson has worked in the department of communication for five years with increasing responsibilities over her tenure. She began her role with a focus on publicity, promotions, and communications, and transitioned to her current role as Academic Programs Manager after the retirement of another staff member. Now, she single-handedly manages scheduling, curriculum planning, student enrollment, student data and important aspects of the department's continuing education programs; in addition to her original responsibilities in the areas of publicity and promotions. Concurrently, Nelson is also pursuing a master’s degree in public policy at the UMass Amherst School of Public Policy.

“I am extremely grateful to be recognized for this award. It was such a surprise, and I’m encouraged given the last year especially,” said Nelson upon receiving the award. “It speaks volumes about the supportive environment and colleagues I have around me in the department of communication.”

Given the multi-faceted nature of her role, Nelson works cross-functionally with a multitude of partners across the college and university. She works closely with important student-facing partners in the department including the undergraduate program director, graduate program director, and chair of the department; and with advisors on student enrollments, curricular changes and other student-related projects that are integral to the department’s offerings.

In the communications and events areas, Nelson collaborates with graduate students and faculty — especially those who serve on research, programming and events committees — to ensure that the department’s programs and events are successful, and effectively engaging alumni, students, and others in the community. Additionally, she works closely with the college’s central communications team and several other campus partners.

“With her extensive professional networks, Omadelle has an amazing capacity to get speedy answers to our most important questions, and to meet the many needs of our large and vibrant academic unit,” said one faculty member. “Omadelle consistently brings a positive, generous spirit to her work and to all of her interactions with those around her. We are incredibly lucky to have her and she is richly deserving of this award.”

Cindy Patten has worked in the college for more than nine years taking on more and more responsibility over the years, as the department evolved. Specifically, over the last year, due to personnel changes and COVID-19 related challenges, Patten took on significant responsibilities in the areas of finance and administration.

 “Cindy held the department together. She calmly stepped into new job responsibilities, learned new skills, worked long hours, sought advice [from colleagues] as needed, and generously served faculty and students,” explained one SBS staffer. “Her professionalism, dedication, and eagerness to expand her job skills are simply exceptional. We are lucky to have her.”

Patten’s mastery in these areas is evident. She tracks costs, manages budgets and facilitates transparency and information sharing throughout the department; and is diligent at implementing new work processes, which might be specific to faculty as well as those that are system wide. “Significantly, over time she became the go-to person people turn to for administrative help regardless of whether the issue was within her purview,” said one colleague. “This is a mark of how she is seen as a superior problem-solver.”

In addition, several staff that work closely with Patten express admiration and gratitude for the positivity she brings to the workplace. “Cindy is always friendly, always kind and always makes a favorable impression for the department, the college and the university,” says one staff member. “I have never heard her say an unkind word about anyone and she always makes me feel like the sociology department is a friendly, empathetic, humane place.”

In response to receiving the award, Patten expressed gratitude to her peers and coworkers. “I was so very surprised that I received this award. My department is like my family, I try my best to make their life easier.”, said Patten. “I am very lucky and love working in my department.”

The SBS Outstanding Staff award was created in 2015. This semester’s award winners were recognized at the spring Four @ Four event on April 14. Two $1,000 awards and commemorative plaques are given during each spring semester, one for Exempt (formerly known as professional) and another for Non-exempt (formerly known as classified) staff. Award winners have demonstrated impact through growth in areas of responsibility; improved a work process or system that significantly increased efficiency or fiscal savings; performance of duties with superior integrity and dedication; and creation of a positive and motivating work environment.