AP Assembly

OU honors Administrative Professionals with awards

icon of a calendarMay 11, 2021

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OU honors Administrative Professionals with awards
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Oakland University’s AP Assembly Awards Committee has recognized three Administrative Professionals for outstanding contributions to the OU community and beyond. This year’s top AP awards went to Michelle Southward (School of Health Sciences), Melanie Chamberlain (School of Education and Human Services) and Kelli Dowd (School of Health Sciences), who have all made a positive impact on the lives of students and colleagues. 

Michelle Southward
2021 Outstanding AP Award

Michelle Southward

Michelle Southward, director of Academic Advising and Student Services for the School of Health Sciences, is this year’s recipient of the Outstanding Administrative Professional Award. Southward has served at Oakland University for nearly 20 years and her numerous nominations referenced her strong commitment to Oakland University. 

“When I think about somebody who represents what makes Oakland University such a special place to work, people like Michelle come to mind,” shared a colleague. 

Southward is leading efforts to help first-generation students be successful at OU. One of the initiatives that she partnered with fellow advising professionals to develop and lead is the Second Year Experience, a program which continues to support student success. She has served in a variety of capacities to bring forth OU’s Diverse Voices Conference and also teaches a Mental Health First Aid training program. In terms of her director role, a colleague commented that “she has been at the heart of the school’s growth by developing new programs, leading new advising initiatives, and directing and training the award-winning advising team.” 

Southward’s outreach and service extend to her local community. She is a member of the Bloomfield Hills School District Board of Education and a mentor for a new initiative that aids pregnant women in Detroit. A colleague described Southward’s commitment to others: “Whether it be faculty, clerical staff or other AP colleagues, Michelle has such a wide array of information that she points every person in the right direction no matter what they are looking to figure out.” Another described how she is “incredibly easy to work with and is not only compassionate but also puts the needs of students and others before her own.”

Additionally, a colleague highlighted how Southward “is the product of OU and one who makes all of us proud by extension. I have great respect for Michelle - she's a true professional, a friend and an incredible advocate for education.”

Southward holds two master’s degrees – one in counseling and one in administration and is pursuing her Ph.D. in education. Colleagues describe her as “smart, thoughtful, engaging and humble.”

Even with all that she juggles both professionally and as a wife and mom to four, she always makes time to lift the spirits of others. A colleague said, “Michelle is always a positive force in my life, and I know that when I am struggling I can go to her for support and affirmation.”

Melanie Chamberlain
2021 Rising AP Award

Melanie Chamberlain

The Rising Administrative Professional Award recognizes an individual who goes beyond their current career responsibilities to help create a positive university community, demonstrates exceptional work in their current position and displays leadership qualities. The 2021 AP Awards Committee selected Melanie Chamberlain as the 2021 Rising AP who embodies all of these attributes.  

Now in her sixth year working at Oakland University, Chamberlain has served in the role of academic adviser in the First Year Advising Center and is currently an academic adviser in the School of Education and Human Services.  In this capacity, one of her nominators stated that “it is clear to see that Melanie is appreciated and respected by her students, her peers and the faculty that she works with. This is due to her consistently exceptional work.” 

Her tireless work ethic is evident in her current role as chair of the Professional Advisers Council (PAC), which is made up of the 58 academic advisors across campus. A nominator described how she “previously held this position and volunteered to serve again as PAC chair when no one else would step up, which is a lot of time and effort above and beyond what she already put in and continuously gives to the PAC.” 

One of her greatest impacts while serving in this role is the revamping of a PAC web page on the OU website in collaboration with University Communications and Marketing and the First Year Advising Center. A nominator described how “the website is robust, easy to navigate, and explains to advisors and campus partners about the roles and work that advisors do.”

One of her nominators described Chamberlain’s willingness to go above and beyond in helping a student find an internship for the Human Resource Development program: “In addition to advising and coaching the student, Melanie helped him call around campus to see if any offices would be willing to take on an intern that needs a little more support than most. She helped this student to navigate challenges that arose during his internship and helped him seek an alternative path towards graduation when the internship didn’t work. Undoubtedly, Melanie played a huge role in this student’s ability to graduate from college. It's not just this student that Melanie has supported and encouraged, she is there in an exceptional way for all of her students. This year, 14 students nominated Melanie for the outstanding advising award this year, and every year she has been in SEHS she’s been nominated.” 

In addition to the passion she brings to her advising role, Chamberlain’s innovative nature touches various aspects of the OU community. She has partnered with Career Services and the School of Business Administration to hold a Human Resources recruiting night with employers and students, and re-envisioned it to successfully host it virtually. Chamberlain also represents the advisors on the Senate General Education Committee. In this role, she serves as the voice for advising and seeks insight and feedback from advisors related to discussions held in the committee.

Chamberlain also serves as the AP representative to the School of Education Human Services Executive Committee. She was elected by her peers and she represents the 43 APs that are employed in the School of Education and Human Services. She has also held prior leadership roles in the Women’s Employee Resource Group (WERG), and served as a COM 1100 Instructor. She also helped chair the Excellence in Academic Advising (EAA) Collaboration and Communication committee.  One of her nominators succinctly described her as “exemplifying the best of Oakland University and is deeply deserving of recognition as the 2021 Rising AP.”

Kelli Dowd
2021 New AP Award

Kelli Dowd

Kelli Dowd is the recipient of the 2021 New AP Award. The award honors an AP who goes beyond the call of duty, shows great potential through their contribution of ideas and displays leadership qualities. One of Dowd’s nominators described the essence of her service to Oakland University, noting that “Kelli includes a quotation that describes well her approach to service and leadership: ‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.’ - Margaret Mead.”

Dowd leads with a collaborative spirit that energizes all involved. She has served at Oakland University since 2018 as the coordinator for Student Services, Leadership & Engagement in the School of Health Sciences. As one of her nominators shared: “In this time, the ECLIPSE program started with about 20 students and she has grown it to 90 in the 2.5 years she has been there. She also developed zero credit hour courses for the program and a peer mentoring aspect that helps keep the students connected.” 

Dowd has helped develop sustainable community partnership, increase growth and activity with SHS' ECLIPSE Leadership program, and established a student activities board. The student activities board students are able to create and participate in peer mentoring groups to discuss challenges and issues related to health. As one of her nominators shared, “She is someone who never hesitates to provide resources, not only for students but colleagues who surround her.”

She currently chairs both the LGBTQIA Employee Resource Group (ERG) and the Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Social Justice (SJ) Task Force in the School of Health Sciences. She was the catalyst for the Anti-Racism Discussion Group as part of the AP Professional Development Committee. A nominator commented, “In Summer 2020, Kelli proposed we facilitate ongoing learning related to racial justice. From that point, she has led an Anti-Racism Discussion Group Subcommittee that continues to have monthly discussions supported with freely available learning materials. While we claim to lead the discussion group as non-experts on anti-racism, Kelli has dedicated much time and work to learning in this area, including an intensive weeks-long program called Academics for Black Survival and Wellness. Working on this committee with her is one of the most meaningful campus experiences I have had, and I know many discussion participants would agree.” 

Dowd also participates in a leadership council focused on student leadership development on campus, participates in the Pride Month Planning Committee, has taught COM 1100, and serves on the Healthy Campus Initiative Sustainability Subcommittee and Diversity Strategic Plan LGBTQ Subcommittee. In terms of her many areas of services, a nominator expressed how “her leadership and involvement are fueled by human justice rather than fleshing out an impressive resume.”  Another nominator encapsulated her spirit, saying “she leads projects and committees with all of her mind and heart.”

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