A biweekly publication for faculty and staff

Staff Excellence Award Winners Announced

August 24, 2016

UC Merced's Staff Assembly and Chancellor Dorothy Leland announced the recipients of the 2016 Staff Excellence Awards during Staff Convocation on Aug. 19.

Each year, the Staff Excellence Awards recognize and celebrate the outstanding achievements and meritorious service of staff members nominated by their peers. Each award recipient receives a crystal award and $500 (subject to tax). Award recipients’ names will be added to a perpetual plaque displayed in the administrative wing of the library.

Congratulations to this year's winners:


Alumna staff member Dulcemaria Anaya won the Staff Excellence Teamwork Award.

Dulcemaria Anaya

Bright Success Center

Teamwork Award

UC Merced alumna Dulcemaria Anaya was tasked with remodeling and implementing a new orientation program. In the spirit of teamwork, she reached out to campus partners to form the first Parent Program Orientation Committee. Her solid relationships within the Merced community helped her build focus group teams and recruit Spanish-speaking parents.

Her inclusive efforts created a more focused and engaging program for UC Merced students and their families, who see themselves as vital partners of their student’s ‘success teams.’ She always keeps the student perspective in mind and displays a positive, can-do attitude.

Anaya is also a member of the UC Merced Alumni Association Board of Directors, which represents more than 6,000 UC Merced graduates. She embodies what it means to be a team-builder alum, and her continued passion and dedication serves as a shining example for staff and alumni.


Brenda Ortiz of University Communications, winner of the Staff Excellence Community Involvement and Public Service Award.

Brenda Ortiz

University Communications

Community Involvement and Public Service Award

Colleagues describe Ortiz as a generous person, skilled writer and a true professional who routinely goes the extra mile. Her involvement in campus events and activities goes beyond the norm and speaks to her spirit of engagement and her commitment to the university’s mission.

For years, Ortiz has worked behind the scenes helping develop, update and ensure the effectiveness of the campus’s crisis communications plan. She has attended workshops and seminars to learn the best practices, and has established and maintained strong relationships with campus police, The Office of Student Affairs and other key departments.

Ortiz has organized and led exercises to ensure that all University Communications team members know their roles in the event of campus emergencies. She does all of this in the hope that her diligent preparation will never be needed. Sadly, the stabbing incident on Nov. 4 was a reminder of just how important those efforts are.

During the crisis and its aftermath, Ortiz was everywhere. She spent the better part of three days — with barely a break to eat or sleep — answering phone calls and emails, conducting media interviews and helping those who simply didn’t know where else to turn. She did it all with poise and grace, in spite of the incident that had so shaken the campus community.


Fatima Paul, winner of the Staff Excellence Organizational/Leadership Award.

Fatima Paul

Academic Senate

Organizational/Leadership Award

During her 10 years of service at UC Merced, Fatima Paul has worked in the Academic Senate office and has served as the unit’s interim director three times.

She has trained two directors and six analysts in office procedures, policies and protocol, shared governance and the paramount importance of providing high-level analytical support to faculty members. She has mastered budgets, strategic planning and HR policy — all things she never anticipated having to learn when she started a decade ago but has eagerly embraced.

Paul has stood as the consistent, unifying force and backbone of the Academic Senate operation. Faculty members have often said they only agreed to serve on Senate committees because they had the reassurance of her guiding hand and leadership. Administrators and fellow staff members routinely contact her with questions and issues, as they know they will receive thoughtful, well-researched, and professional input.

Her nominator said she is truly remarkable, and to quote one faculty member, “Without her, there is no Academic Senate at UC Merced.”


Mort Peyvandi, winner of the Staff Excellence Creativity Award

Mort Peyvandi

Development and Alumni Relations

Creativity Award

Creative, selfless, unique, positive, professional, dedicated and indispensable describes Mort Peyvandi. During the past fiscal year, he was assigned a challenging but essential project to research and develop a new system for recording and tracking the rapidly increasing volume of work requests received from the various stakeholders served by Development Services.

Peyvandi’s efforts led to the development and implementation of the Development and Alumni Relations Tracking System (DARTS). Through his enterprise, he learned of a program that allowed the campus to receive licensing for the platform free of charge. He also located two development firms that agreed to assist with the project on a pro bono basis. Thanks to his efforts, DARTS was delivered to the university at no cost and tracked more than 230 work orders submitted by more than 30 employees in its first year.

Peyvandi’s hard work and creative approach led to the creation of a tool that will continue to serve Development Services’ needs as our campus continues on its path of rapid expansion.


Megan Topete, recipient of the 2016 Staff Excellence Award for Outstanding Customer Service and Job Performance.

Megan Topete

School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts

Outstanding Customer Service and
Job Performance Award

Megan Topete joined the campus when it was experiencing massive growth and staffing challenges. She brought a combination of intelligence, work ethic, patience, humanity and humility to her work.

She has successfully steered faculty members through complicated and evolving procedures necessary to construct, deliver and evaluate undergraduate curriculum. Those successes wouldn’t have been possible without her tireless efforts to ensure that students and faculty members are positioned to succeed.

While preparing her school to establish a new major, she went above and beyond the call of duty, using her vast wisdom to navigate the approval process while producing a rigorous and deliverable curriculum. Throughout all of this, she has paired her mastery of academic procedures with keen wit, sympathy and warmth. Her nominator said she has been a joy to work with her over the past seven years.