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Staff Assembly Announces 2015 Staff Excellence Award Winners

May 21, 2015

The winners of UC Merced’s 2015 Staff Excellence Awards were announced last Friday (May 22) during the campus’s annual Staff Appreciation Week picnic.

The awards acknowledge and celebrate exceptional achievements of five staff members. Each recipient receives $500 and a crystal award. Their names also are placed on a perpetual plaque that is displayed on campus.

Awards are given in five categories, and this year’s recipients represent a cross-section of the campus. Congratulations to this year's award winners:

Jodon Bellofatto, winner of the 2015 Staff Excellence Award - CreativityJodon Bellofatto

Classroom technology specialist — Creativity award

Bellofatto is described as a consistent, high-level performer who has worked as one of the campus’s IT classroom technology specialists for the past nine years. He keeps the equipment running and assists faculty members and instructors who need technology help in their classrooms.

He goes beyond his assigned classroom support and maintenance duties. He trains new staff members on how the classroom technology systems operate and has worked with a team to develop and implement policies for IT student employees, participated in construction meetings for new buildings, researches and tests new technologies and more.

His nominator wrote that Bellofatto “is a prime example of an outstanding employee.”

Darryl Davis

Police officer — Community Involvement and Public Service award

Darryl Davis won the Staff Excellence Award for Community Involvement and Public Service.

Davis is coordinator of the Citizen Police Academy, which teaches community members about law enforcement and the importance of community partnerships. The academy was recently recognized by the state Assembly. Community members who have completed the program praise Davis for his ability to connect with people. Meanwhile, other police departments have used the academy’s format as a template for their own programs.

Davis recently became the president of the local NAACP chapter and has been involved with youth football for many years. His positive contributions to the university and the community at large have left long-lasting impressions on many people.

His nominator said Davis, “is always looking for another way to make our community a better place.”


Steven Lerer won the Staff Excellence Award for Organizational/Leadership AbilitiesSteven Lerer

Assistant director of Student Life, Student Government and Leadership — Organizational/Leadership Abilities Award

Lerer has used his strong background in leadership theory and development to create and implement a three-tiered leadership program — the Bobcat Leadership Series, P.A.W.S. Leadership Seminar and Leadership In Action — to engage new, emerging and seasoned student leaders on campus. The leadership programs have become preferred qualifications for student employment in many offices at UC Merced.

Lerer also coordinates the Margo F. Souza Leadership Center program, is a volunteer for the UC Merced Food Pantry, presents at national conferences and facilitates workshops for departments across the campus.

“Steven has proven himself a team player, student mentor, committed professional and a phenomenal leader,” his nominator wrote.


Onar Primitivo

Social Justice Initiatives coordinator — Teamwork Award

Onar Primitivo received a Staff Excellence Award for teamwork.

Primitivo is exemplary in team participation and support, and is lauded for providing a safe environment for all individuals across campus to speak and listen. In the past year, he took on the major duties and responsibilities of the vacant women’s programs and LGBTQ+ program area in addition to his own area’s programming. While balancing both positions, he also took the lead in the search to fill the vacant women’s programs/LGBTQ+ position.

“Onar goes above and beyond to support his team, and in doing so, demonstrates his positive influence on managers, peers, supervisors and subordinates.”


Rebecca “Becky” Smith

Academic personnel manager in the School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts — Outstanding Customer Service and Job Performance Award

Described as a gifted leader and excellent mentor, Smith has created an effective and highly efficient office operation that makes the complex UC academic personnel process as transparent to SSHA faculty members as possible.

Her office was the most highly rated of all SSHA operations in the school’s first administrative review. Additionally, Smith was singled out for praise by faculty members for her patience, ability to explain procedures in an unambiguous manner and attention to detail, all of which are absolutely critical in the merit and promotion process.

“Becky is outstanding…(SSHA) would be lost without her skills, wisdom and good nature,” her nominator wrote.