Engagement and Recognition

Employee Engagement and Recognition


With the rise of remote work and the need for greater agility in a changing workplace, employee engagement has become increasingly more critical. The best workplace is one that cares for its employees (Gallup 2022).

At Rice, we look at employee engagement through the lens of the employee lifecycle and encourage leaders and team members to identify what intentional engagement strategies can be implemented throughout the Rice employee experience. Please contact your HRBP to discuss strategies for enhancing employee engagement.

Rice Employee Experience


Employee recognition provides opportunities to reward achievements (i.e. what they are doing well) and milestones, while also positively impacting employees' motivation and retention. It is a foundation for creating a culture of excellence

Whether formal or informal, recognition plays an integral part in the employee experience and makes work more meaningful. Recognition preferences can vary from one employee to the next, so supervisors should consider different types of recognition based on the employee or team.

Local Recognition Programs and Resources

Free or Low-Cost Ideas

All About Me (template)

100 Ways to Recognize Your Staff

Employee Recognition by Chester Elton (video | 5 min)

Sample Recognition Letters

Send a FREE e-card

School or Department-based

Hardy Bourland Award from the George R. Brown School of Engineering - Annual award that recognizes staff members in the School of Engineering whose performance is consistently outstanding or whose contributions have significantly improved the School of Engineering or Rice as a whole. Frequency: annually. The award is announced at the School of Natural Sciences/Engineering Ice Cream Social.

Dr. Alemka Kisic Distinguished Staff Service Award from the Department of Biochemistry and Cell Biology - Annual awards two department members in recognition of exceptional leadership and devoted service in the department.

The Ruth Parks Award for Distinguished Service - Annual award conferred on one NSCI staff member each year in recognition of long-standing and distinguished service to the School, departments, and programs. This award was first conferred on Ruth Parks in 1999 to recognize the breadth and depth of her more than 35 years of extraordinary service to the School and the deans. Ruth witnessed the conferral on two staff members in subsequent years prior to her retirement in 2001. An endowment was established in Ruth’s memory to ensure the continuation of NSCI staff member recognition.

The Shapiro Library Staff Innovation Award - Annual award presented to a library staff member or project group/committee who has "developed an innovative program to provide library services at Rice University or who has shown exemplary service to the University community." Visit http://library.rice.edu/shapiro-award for details.


Friends of Rice Graduate Students Award - A plaque is awarded to individuals who have significantly enhanced the lives of graduate students at Rice University in some way. This award is a token of appreciation to honor people within and beyond the Rice community who may not otherwise be recognized for their service to graduate students. Candidates for the award may or may not be members of the Rice community, but they should not be eligible for the other four awards. Visit https://gsa.rice.edu/awards-and-recognition for details.

GSA Faculty/Staff Service Award - A plaque awarded annually to one or two recipients in recognition of efforts beyond the call of duty to improve the quality of life for graduate students at Rice. https://gsa.rice.edu/awards-and-recognition for details.

The Women's Resource Center's Impact Award - Originally awarded in 1996 as the Outstanding Rice Woman Award, the IMPACT award is given to a member of the Rice community who has exhibited outstanding service in support of women's rights and/or gender equality.

Why Recognition is a Critical Aspect of Engagement

Recognition is Essential

Engagement - I Felt Valued


The RICE MILE Award (currently being revised and updated) is a staff award that recognizes staff who generally exhibit the qualities in the RICE MILE (responsibility, integrity, community, excellence, mission-driven, impact, leadership, and entrepreneurial).

Award Criteria:

Staff should demonstrate a commitment to making their departments, division or school, and Rice better through their work and through their embodiment of two or more of the RICE MILE values, as listed below:

Responsibility: is accountable, aware, and conscientious, uses good judgment and is consistent.
Integrity: is honest, ethical, open and transparent, discreet, and trustworthy.
Community: is collegial, values collaboration with others is respectful, generous, and a role model to others.
Excellence: is persistent, tenacious, continuously improving, strives toward “no upper limit”, and is ambitious for Rice.
Mission Driven: is passionate for Rice, dedicated to teaching and research, puts their department and Rice first, is motivated to make Rice a better place, and is here for more than just a paycheck.
Impact: is goal-oriented, effective, takes on tough issues, is intentional in their decisions and actions, and thoughtfully implements actions.
Leadership: takes initiative, is action-oriented, is persuasive, motivates others, is decisive and courageous, thinks broadly, studies thoroughly, and raises needed issues.
Entrepreneurial: embraces change, is creative, thinks outside the box, is innovative and intellectually curious, and takes risks.

Award Recipients:

Month 2019 2018
March Ray Jones, David Toombs Developing World Class Staff project group
April Kate Cross, Alecia Harris, Jennifer Hunter, Altha Rogers, Dora Vides Susannah Mira, Jie Wu and Shirley Tapscott
May Kate Abad, Danika Brown, Mary Cronin, Ellen Everett, Diana Heard and Megan McSpedon
June members from faculty support at the Jones Graduate School of Business, and service team members from Human Resources
July Francis Aguilar, Alaina Schuhsler, Gloria Godinez, Stephanie Thomas

Hope Gatliff and Dr. Ryan Brown

August Nehemiah Ankoor, John Croft, Justin Schilke, James Buggs, Ann McAdam Griffin, Sarah Linda Gonzales Diane Yee Veronica Leautaud and Juan Carlos Rodriguez
September Chemistry Core Staff – Vicky Armstrong, Nancy Adler, Pam On, Pedro Prado, Abby Vacek, Patricia Villanueva, Anita Walker, Selena Zermeno Kevin Yuen
October Hector Pineda and Alan Russell
November Sandra Bloem-Curtis Jackie Blyden, Jenny Brydon, Jeff Falk, Andy Meretoja and Agnes Vajtai
December Fernando Gonzalez, Jay Lee Erin Baezner, Pat Roycroft and Karen Shelton

RM Award

Recipients of the first RICLE MILE award: Developing World Class Staff Working Group

Service Recognition

The university recognizes years of service for all staff who celebrated milestones from 5 to 50 years (in five-year increments) at the spring Staff Appreciation event. Faculty and staff are recognized, at retirement, with a gift. Additionally, Rice will dedicate a tree on campus to all faculty and staff retiring from Rice with at least twenty years of benefits-eligible service.

To view the list of staff service milestones for calendar year 2023.

For questions or updates, please email employeerelations@rice.edu.

Board of Trustees Recognition

The Board of Trustees Award honors staff members for their outstanding performance and service to the University at the quarterly meetings at the Rice Board of Trustees. Recipients of this award are nominated by senior leadership at Rice. The recognition may be used to honor specific contributions, including but not limited to:

  • the implementation of new processes, procedures, and projects;
  • an extraordinary effort to improve or better an aspect of the University; and/or
  • the acknowledgment of a specific professional honor or high achievement from an organization outside of Rice.
Name Department Recognized by the Board of Trustees
Rebecca Salinas Human Resources 2022
Sandra Bloem-Curtis Office of International Students and Scholars 2021
Brandon Martin Public Affairs 2021
Rice Crisis Management Team 2021
Amanda Focke Fondren Library 2020
Matthew Taylor Office of the Provost 2019
Amy Kavalewitz Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen 2019
Danny Blacker Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen 2019
Marilee Dizon Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen 2019
Fernando Cruz Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen 2019
Sukaina Ahmed Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen 2019
Lea Aden Lueck Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen 2019
Sondra Hernandez Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen 2019
Joe Gesenhues Mechanical Engineering 2019
Richard Johnson Facilities Engineering & Planning 2019
Tommy LaVergne Public Affairs 2019
Karen Rubinsky Development & Alumni Relations 2019
Richard Johnson Facilities Engineering & Planning 2019
Brian Gibson Dean of Undergraduates 2018
Daniel Williamson OpenStax 2018
Karen Capo Glasscock School of Continuing Studies 2018
Anita Norwig Humanities 2017
Tamara Siler Office of Admission 2016
Jan West Public Affairs 2016
Philip Bedient Civil and Environmental Engineering 2015
Nick Fang Civil and Environmental Engineering 2015
Rick Mello Athletics 2015
Larry Vossler FE&P Engineering 2015
B.J. Almond Public Affairs 2014
Hope Grant Electronic Research Administration 2014
Echo Medina Office of Sponsored Research 2014
Nancy Nisbett Technology Transfer 2014
Debra Purtee Mathematics 2014
Elle Ristow Electronic Research Administration 2014
Matthew Taylor Art History 2014
Mauricio Benitez Chemistry 2013
John Greiner Computer Science 2013
Beverly Konzem History 2013
Scott Rixner Computer Science 2013
Joe Warren Computer Science 2013
Stephen Wong Computer Science 2013
John Cornwell Office of Institutional Effectiveness 2012
Jeff Cox Public Affairs 2012
Crystal Davis General Accounting 2012
Donald Ostdiek Student Judicial Programs 2012
Wendy Chung Administrative Systems 2011, 2014
Jaye Anderton Rice Gallery 2011
Celeste Boudreaux Vice Provost Academic Affairs 2011
Mia Culton Budget Office 2011
Jennifer Gigliotti-Labay Glasscock School Continuing Studies 2011
Elizabeth Gillis Award for Exemplary Service

In 2000, the Rice Board of Trustees recognized the contribution of Mrs. Elizabeth Gillis, wife of former Rice President Malcolm Gillis, in the creation of a university-wide award for exemplary service.


The Elizabeth Gillis Service Award for Exemplary Service was established to recognize outstanding service to Rice University by a member of the university’s staff. The award is named after Mrs. Elizabeth Gillis in an effort to recognize and honor her unflagging commitment and service to Rice. The primary purpose of the award is to annually recognize the significant achievements and service of a staff member in support of the overall mission of the university.


Eligible recipients include staff members in regular, benefits-eligible positions who:

  • Display consistently outstanding overall performance
  • Embody the service attitude displayed by Mrs. Gillis during her tenure with Rice
  • Contribute directly to significantly improved department or student support, user satisfaction, cost savings, or productivity improvement.

Nomination Process:

Nominations are solicited from the provost, vice presidents, athletics director, and other senior officers of the university. The nominations include a description of the accomplishments and performance of the staff member. Nominations are submitted to a selection committee.

Selection Process:

A committee, consisting of the associate vice president for Human Resources, Mrs. Gillis and members of the Staff Advisory Council, reviews the nominations and submits their recommendations to the Rice Board of Trustees.


The recipient of the Elizabeth Gillis Service Award receives an engraved award.

For questions or updates, please email hrbp@rice.edu.

Name Department Recognized for the
Elizabeth Gillis Award for Exemplary Service
Amanda Focke Fondren Library 2020
Matthew Taylor Office of the Provost 2019
Philippa Angelides Student Center 2018
Jim Bevan Athletics 2017
Carlos Garcia Office of General Counsel 2016
Jana Callan Human Resources 2015
Debra Purtee Mathematics 2014
Wayne Robinson Human Resources 2013
Crystal Davis General Accounting 2012
Jaye Anderton Rice Gallery 2011
Rachel Miller Wiess School of Natural Sciences 2010
Debra Kolah Fondren Library 2009
Joyce Bald College Office, Hanszen 2008
William Deigaard Networking Telecommunications & Ops 2007
Eusebio Franco FE&P Custodial and Grounds 2006
Adria Baker International Students and Scholars 2005
Nancy Letness School of Engineering 2004
Nelson Correa Facilities Engineering & Planning 2003
Melinda Sue Hutchings Office of University Relations 2002
Suzanne King Administrative Systems 2001