OSWEGO — The SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Professional Service recently honored three SUNY Oswego employees for contributions that include leading forward-looking college digital services, managing nationally ranked master of business administration programs and spearheading operations for a vibrant culture of campus activities.
The 2019 Oswego award winners for the prestigious statewide award are Richard Buck, director of digital services in the Office of Communications and Marketing; Dr. Irene Scruton, assistant dean and director of MBA programs in the School of Business; and Holli Stone, director of Campus Life event management.
Buck is “a consummate professional who works collaboratively with all constituencies of SUNY Oswego” and “a leader in the technical and strategic maintenance of SUNY Oswego’s digital communications, website infrastructure and user accessibility,” according to his campus nomination letter.
In leading both day-to-day and long-range planning for the college’s website and other strategic digital communications, Buck “helps the college support student success on many levels, starting with student recruitment and extending all the way to … our alumni,” Chief Technology Officer Sean Moriarty wrote in a letter of support. “Due to his extraordinary knowledge, vision, leadership and passion, he has an impact far beyond his job description.”
Buck’s professional responsibilities have grown over his 11 years as a professional staff member at SUNY Oswego, but consistently focus on how to infuse advancements in technology with a user-first approach.
This has included spearheading upgrades to the college’s content-management system, most recently to dynamic Drupal software that powers most of SUNY Oswego’s website. Buck also led the creation of the college’s official SUNY Oswego app, and the development of a personalized MyDegree mobile app that allows students to track their degree progress and eligibility for Oswego’s $300 Graduation Return on Investment upon earning their undergraduate degree.
“Rick’s contributions span the campus and help drive us forward,” wrote SUNY Oswego Chief of Staff Kristi Eck. “Rick constantly pushes himself to improve his skill sets as an individual as he works collaboratively with his team to create and deploy solutions.”
Buck also championed a campus-wide accessibility initiative that emphasizes ease of use for all website visitors on whatever assistive devices they might need. “Rick has helped Oswego be a leader in meeting accessibility requirements throughout SUNY” and “has done several workshops and presentations outlining the work that our campus has done, which acted as a model for other schools,” Moriarty wrote.
After earning his bachelor’s degree in computer science from SUNY Oswego in 2005, Buck started in what was then the Office of Public Affairs as a student worker in 2006 while pursuing his master’s in human-computer interaction, which he completed in 2010. According to his current supervisor, Chief Communication Officer Wayne Westervelt, Buck continues to pay these opportunities forward to Oswego students.
“He generously supports the work and development of SUNY Oswego students, through part-time job and internship opportunities,” Westervelt noted. “Rick regularly hires and challenges our students to learn, contribute and develop technical skill sets and abilities that position them to succeed as students and compete as graduates in search of jobs post-graduation.”
For Buck, the constant evolution of technology means finding new ways to support student and institutional success. This means not only technical knowledge but ongoing interaction with the campus community both through a wide range of committee work but also working with on-campus clients and students to deliver the best results for all stakeholders.
“I continually look for opportunities where innovation will serve as a catalyst to help achieve organizational goals and/or increase return on investment,” Buck said. “The experience I’ve gained during this time allows me to take a broad-spectrum approach when deploying new technologies and digital communication strategies while visioning their potential to improve user experiences and business operations.”
Scruton’s leadership, tireless work ethic and commitment to services has led to phenomenal growth for Oswego’s MBA program as well as national levels of recognition — all while ensuring the highest levels of experiences and opportunities to its student and graduates, her nomination materials noted.
“Program enrollment has doubled since 2013 when she became MBA director,” Dean of Business Richard Skolnik wrote in his letter of support. “The success of the program is attributed to Dr. Scruton’s leadership. Her genuine concern for students, faculty and her staff creates an environment of trust and collaboration, which leads to program excellence.”
That excellence is reflected in high national ratings for the program, including Oswego’s online MBA top ranking among programs of its kind in New York state for 2018 by U.S. News and World Report, as well as top five nationally in terms of enrolling women. Oswego’s MBA offerings consistently appear in Princeton Review’s Best Business Schools and have garnered additional recognition from the likes of USA Today and Poets & Quants.
Scruton has spearheaded the addition of MBA programs that meet growing and emerging needs, including its health services administration option to meet demand in the ever-evolving health care field, for which she obtained and implemented a SUNY High Needs Grant.
In addition to serving more than 300 students in the program, she continues to look for new ways to help working professionals refine and improve their skill sets to grow their careers and fulfill opportunities, such as designing a program in partnership with SRC Inc. that was delivered on site with a first graduating class of 21 participants.
“From the start of our working relationship she has been a true business partner, exceeding our expectations in support of the program,” wrote Melanie Johnson, director of talent management for SRC. This included maintaining regular office hours at the company, coordinating several special events and customizing the program while maintaining the program’s high standards.
“Dr. Scruton displays creativity in designing innovative programs,” Skolnik wrote. “She has met the needs of students while continually improving the program.”
Mary Canale, vice president of develop and alumni relations, praised Scruton’s creativity and dedication to Oswego’s students and graduates while seeking out new partners for its quality educational initiatives.
“When Irene has a new idea — which is a frequent occurrence — she comes to the conversation not only with the desire but also some creative ways in which the goal can be met,” Canale wrote. “She appreciates the development world is relationship-driven, and she has a talent to develop new and stronger programs that helps us move our relationships with corporations forward.”
Scruton earned her doctor of education degree in executive leadership from St. John Fisher, her MBA from Syracuse University and a bachelor’s in business from University at Buffalo.
As the MBA program has seen a 114 percent enrollment jump and new tracks come in under her leadership, she is quick to credit “the extraordinary effort of the many dedicated people I work with every day” across the college’s main and Syracuse campuses.
“I am humbled to be considered for recognition that is really the result of staff and faculty across campus contributing amazing support for all we do,” Scruton wrote.
‘Commitment to excellence’
In running the day-to-day operations of Campus Life’s Event Management Office, Stone shows “her commitment to excellence, outstanding customer service skills and calm demeanor” while ensuring continuous success “in the ways she approaches her work, specifically through her leadership, creativity, flexibility and adaptability,” her campus nomination letter said, adding that “she is typically on site long before an event begins and stays available throughout each event, some that go well into the evening or early morning hours.”
In overseeing happenings that range from large VIP events to smaller student activities, Stone “is well known across campus and in the community as a person who is deeply committed, ethical, highly skilled and extremely positive,” wrote Jennifer Westcott, catering manager for the college’s Auxiliary Services. “She is quick on her toes for any changes that may occur at the last minute. On many occasions Holli has gone above and beyond what is expected of her.”
Stone’s thoroughness, adaptability and dedication regularly received praise from those nominating her for the award. “Holli’s ability to solve a problem and adapt to the needs of the college are remarkable,” wrote Robert Hageny, advanced technology classroom operations manager in Campus Technology Services. “Holli’s assigned duties with Campus Life often require her to be on campus early, late and on weekends and holidays. It doesn’t seem to matter when she is doing her job; she is pleasant, calm and has a good handle on things.”
Allison Macey, an admissions counselor who works with her on the college’s crucial open house and admitted student events, recalls times where Stone has successfully planned and executed alternative strategies. “Holli can also make decisions on what would be best in the situation and I know I can trust her in those decisions,” Macey wrote.
People may not see much of Stone’s behind-the-scenes work to ensure the success of a range of events, but these efforts are not lost on Barbara St. Michel, associate director of campus life and her longtime supervisor. St. Michel has seen Stone take on additional responsibilities in their 20 years working together.
In thinking of Stone, “words such as dignity, consistency, loyalty, dedication, dependability, accountability, adaptability, zeal, magician and philosopher immediately enter my mind,” St. Michel wrote. She further commended Stone as “inspiring in the face of adversity” in a demanding job, while always seeking “to improve her ability to provide a high level of service to the department and to the campus.”
A 1996 SUNY Oswego graduate with a bachelor’s degree in English writing arts, Stone transferred to the college in her junior year and was a student-athlete and peer advisement intern in Career Services. Also earning a master’s in education from Defiance College, Stone — who has worked at Oswego since 1999 — relishes her increasing responsibilities and opportunities to interact with students, faculty and staff at Oswego through special events and extensive committee work.
“I challenge myself to be a forward thinker and to identify any areas of concern before they become problematic,” Stone wrote of her philosophy. “I often have to think on my feet and to be creative in responding to requests. I love new opportunities and enjoy hearing what a wonderful experience folks have had hosting their events at Oswego.”