Empowerment, respect, and support were the common characteristics echoed among the winner and honorable mentions of the 2013 Supervisor Spotlight Award. 

This year's recipient, Monika Gibson, demonstrates all of those qualities and many more, according to her colleagues in the Graduate School. 

Gibson is the director of student services at the Graduate School, where she oversees services that “contribute to the professional and academic development of graduate students” including graduate student orientation, general advising, and graduate assistantship support.

The award is presented annually to the supervisor who best exemplifies and promotes work/life balance through consistent recognition of and responsiveness to their employees' professional and personal lives.

Honorable mentions went to Mildred Johnson, associate vice provost for enrollment management and director of undergraduate admissions; and David Hodgson, professor and head, Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences in the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine.

A study of 8,000 corporate leaders found they valued a supportive work environment, a challenging job, and a good fit between work life and home life more than being well compensated according to a 2011 article in Health Promotion Practitioner. The article also mentioned that employees with jobs that positively affect their energy levels at home – and vice versa – are more likely to be engaged, feel satisfied, and remain with their current employers.

Gibson is credited with empowering her employees to take ownership of their careers and is considered to be a friend and confidant for the group.

“She’s always aware of what’s going on in our lives, and takes the time to ask us about it,” said Nicky Bertone, front desk receptionist. “It just shows that she cares about us as people, not just co-workers,” said Lauren Surface, graduate student services manager. 

Bertone and Surface nominated Gibson for the award.

“Monika believes in me,” said Bertone. “She believes in all of us. She not only respects our lives outside of our position at the Graduate School, she shows us by the way she manages and leads our team.”

Surface, who completed her part of the nomination form while on maternity leave, added that while it was difficult to leave her baby to come back to work, she was “at peace knowing that I was back in a work environment where I am empowered each and every day by a supervisor who values my thoughts, ideas, and contributions.”

With a little planning and conniving on the part of her staff, Gibson was caught off guard and completely surprised when the Hokie Wellness staff visited her office in the Graduate Life Center at Donaldson Brown to present her with the award, complete with balloons, flowers, and treats for the department.

“I was deeply moved and honored by being nominated for this award by people with whom I work most closely – I can’t imagine a recognition that would make me happier,” Gibson said. “But I don’t think anyone can be a good leader without having a great team. We push each other forward and make each other better through our work and our relationships. It takes not just my, but all of our combined efforts and attention to each other to make our workplace empowering, inspiring, and work- and life-friendly. So I’m happy and proud to have a team that shares these ideals, and because of that I very much share this award with them as well.”

Written by Ana Agud, wellness program coordinator, Hokie Wellness.