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Chancellor’s Award Honors Three Professionals at SUNY Oswego

OSWEGO — Longtime SUNY Oswego professional staff members in technology services, alumni relations and financial aid have been recognized by the statewide university system with this year’s SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Professional Service.

They are Katharine Dutton, learning support specialist; Elizabeth Oberst, associate vice president of alumni relations and stewardship; and Kathleen Pagano, associate director of financial aid.

Katharine Dutton

Katharine Dutton
Katharine Dutton

A 20-year employee of SUNY Oswego’s Campus Technology Services, Dutton recently managed a change in the college’s learning management system from Angel to Blackboard Learn, a nine-month transition involving training more than 500 faculty and migrating more than 900 courses.

“Through it all, Kathi demonstrated outstanding organizational skills for keeping the project on track and on time, collaborative decision making, excellent communication skills and leadership,” wrote her supervisor, Nicole Decker, associate director of the college’s technology services.

John Kane, professor of economics and her nominator for the award, praised her work — often well beyond the expected — on several fronts, from her time and patience working with faculty and staff to her doggedness in solving problems. “She has a soothing, reassuring demeanor that neutralizes user frustration and brings focus to solving the problem at hand,” he wrote.

Dutton models SUNY Oswego’s commitment to lifelong learning. Kane commented on her drive to stay current with the latest technology and to adapt her role to the times. She earned a master’s degree in human-computer interaction at Oswego in 2010 and a graduate certificate in adult education from Buffalo State in 2015. Dutton’s undergraduate degree in cognitive science is from Oswego.

Dutton distinguished herself in support of Open SUNY, the system’s effort to offer seamless access to courses, degrees and professors across its 64 campuses, according to the author of another letter of support, Harris Cargile, manager of Open SUNY Application Services. “SUNY Oswego is fortunate to have such an outstanding employee,” Cargile wrote.

Dutton is a member of several college-wide committees in her field as well as the Alcohol and Other Drugs Prevention Committee. Her community service includes Syracuse Al-Anon Information Service as chair and webmaster, NY-Penn Girl Scouts and Westside Community Gardens.

Elizabeth Oberst

Elizabeth Oberst
Elizabeth Oberst

For more than 33 years, Oberst has led SUNY Oswego’s efforts to engage what are now more than 80,000 alumni, becoming the face and spirit of the college to them, according to her supporters for the Chancellor’s Award.

Kerry Dorsey, vice president for alumni and development, wrote that Oberst “has worked tirelessly to achieve the Oswego Alumni Association’s goals to build and sustain a strong infrastructure, including staff and board of directors; engage a broad spectrum of alumni and friends in OAA activities and programs; position the OAA as a ‘value-added’ component on campus and within the broad alumni network, and help build a culture of giving to encourage alumni and friends to share their time, talent and treasure with the college.”

Oberst’s innovations include programs such as Alumni-in-Residence, Alumni Sharing Knowledge, Welcoming Torchlight and New York City Career Connections. She has served as publisher of Oswego alumni magazine since 2000 and for 25 years has nurtured Reunion, which annually draws more than 1,000 alumni to campus. Her newer achievements have included establishing a formal stewardship program to recognize and support donors. She has won numerous awards from higher education advancement organizations.

Jennifer Shropshire, class of 1986, an alumni association board member and a consultant and trainer to nonprofit organizations, said Oberst’s “footprints are made gently yet powerfully.” She recalled Oberst’s approach when a fellow board member died unexpectedly, “Once I had a little distance personally, the organizational consultant in me recognized that Betsy was singlehandedly responsible for transforming our loss into community building. . . . It has made us a stronger team that works even better together.”

Tracy Chamberlain Higginbotham — class of 1986 and president of Women TIES and Five-Star Events — said she’s known Oberst since Higginbotham was 20. “In every position I have held supporting my alma mater, Betsy has remained a constant beacon of positivity, professionalism and excellence for the institution I love,” she wrote.

Oberst’s community involvements have been many, from lector and Eucharistic minister at Hall Newman Center to past president of Children’s Board of Oswego, from the Success by Six Policy Council to the board of Oswego County Humane Society.

Kathleen Pagano

Kathleen Pagano
Kathleen Pagano

In 1972, then a first-generation college student, Pagano started working for the financial aid office at SUNY Oswego. Since her graduation and employment here 42 years ago, she has modeled a students-first ethic, supporters said.

Financial Aid Director Mark Humbert wrote that “Kathy was concerned with student retention long before it received the attention it receives today. . . . She has not only gone above and beyond for individual students, but has led the Financial Aid Office and encouraged other offices to redesign systems and processes to address student needs.”

Admissions Director Dan Griffin amplified that: “She in particular works with ‘tough cases’ where students with special circumstances or who have endured some tragedy in their lives require extra care. . . . As students like this come to my attention, Kathy is usually the first person I call. She is a warm, deeply caring person of great character that I know I can always count on.”

Raelynn Cooter, a 1977 alumna and now an associate provost at Thomas Jefferson University, wrote that Pagano provided direction in her life. “I had the honor (and I do mean it was an honor) to be a work-study student in the Financial Aid Office for almost three years in the late 1970s,” she wrote. “Like many first- and second-year students, I was unsure of what professional path I would take. Under Kathy Pagano’s mentorship I found the perfect path.”

Humbert said Pagano has embraced technology for its labor savings and the information it can provide. “As financial aid regulations increased and technology emerged, she seized opportunities to use technology to simplify manual processes such that staff had more time to serve students directly,” he said.

She has served on several college-wide committees and has been active in the statewide activities of the SUNY Financial Aid Professionals and the New York State Financial Aid Administrators Association.

In the community, Pagano has conducted financial aid workshops for students and parents, and served such organizations as the Oswego High School Home and School Board and the Oswego Lacrosse Club.