March 20, 2018

Janet Aiello-Cerio Receives Hall Award for Innovation

Janet Aiello-Cerio is flanked by Officer in Charge Mitch Nesler and James Hall, the first president of Empire State College, and founder of the award for innovation.

(SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – March 22, 2018) Janet Aiello-Cerio, events and communications coordinator with the Office of Enrollment Management at SUNY Empire State College’s Coordinating Center, was selected as the recipient of the James William and Mary Elizabeth Hall Award for Innovation. Colleagues cited Aiello-Cerio for streamlining the college’s eight commencement ceremonies held across the state.

“This award is given to a member of the college’s faculty or staff who has been especially innovative in problem solving and improving college systems,” said Vice President for Advancement Walter Williams. “I applaud Janet’s organizational skills and the creativity it took to upgrade and transform our eight commencement ceremonies across the state.”

“I was so grateful, and frankly, stunned, to have been awarded the 2018 James William and Mary Elizabeth Hall Award for Innovation for my work on collegewide commencements,” said Aiello-Cerio. “There’s really nothing better than planning our ceremonies... seeing the faces of students with a baby in tow as they cross the stage, or hearing the conversation of a staff member and graduate as they meet for the first time, is hard to describe. The culmination of my daily work is a celebration of a lifetime journey for our students, and that I am able to do this eight times a year, every year, is outstanding. I’m grateful, again, for this award, and will do my best to continue to be innovative and forward-thinking when it comes to creating an experience our graduates won’t soon forget.”

In 2014, the then-president of SUNY Empire requested that the commencement ceremonies reflect “one college.” Aiello-Cerio was charged with working with on-site planners to implement changes including the registration form, invitations, programs, signs, table and stage banners, staffing and volunteers.

Michael Mancini, chief of staff to the president, in his letter nominating Aiello-Cerio, wrote,“Janet was methodical in her planning and communicated clearly, and with that, the first year went incredibly smoothly and her systems were employed again in the years that followed.”

While restructuring the process, she also left room for flexibility in providing personal touches at the ceremonies across the state. Graduates at SUNY Empire can attend any of the eight ceremonies that is convenient to them.

Brandon Aldous, coordinator for the Student Wellness Initiative and a member of the commencement committee, said, “I have never seen such a streamlined process for college graduation ceremonies before.”

Susan McFadden, the college’s special events coordinator said, “From the first meeting of volunteers through the actual event [graduation planning] was like a carefully choreographed ballet. It was organized, well thought out and extremely well executed.”

Clayton Steen, vice president for Enrollment Management, who oversees the office of which Aiello-Cerio is a part, said, “Janet is the ‘gold’ standard for event planning and communication. She has continuously improved the coordination process and quality of commencement, while maintaining a very high performance level for her other assigned duties.”

“This award is given to a member of the college’s faculty or staff who has been especially innovative in problem solving and improving college systems,” said Vice President for Advancement Walter Williams. “I applaud Janet’s organizational skills and the creativity it took to upgrade and transform our eight commencement ceremonies across the state.”

About the Hall Award for Innovation

The James William and Mary Elizabeth Hall Award for Innovation is given periodically to a college employee who creates, or puts into effect, an innovation that advances Empire State College’s mission and benefits the college’s students.

About SUNY Empire State College

Empire State College, the nontraditional, open college of the SUNY system, educates nearly 18,000 students worldwide at eight international sites, more than 30 locations in the state of New York, online, as well as face to face and through a blend of both, at the associate, bachelor’s and master’s degree levels.

The average age of an undergraduate student at the college is 35, and graduate students’ average age is 40.

Most Empire State College students are working adults. Many are raising families and meeting civic commitments in the communities where they live, while studying part time.

In addition to awarding credit for prior college-level learning, the college pairs each undergraduate student with a faculty mentor who supports that student throughout his or her college career.

Working with their mentors, students design an individual degree program and engage in guided independent study and course work onsite, online or through a combination of both, which provides the flexibility for students to choose where, when and how to learn.

The college’s 78,000 alumni are active in their communities as entrepreneurs, politicians, business professionals, artists, nonprofit agency employees, teachers, veterans and active military, union members and more.

The college was first established in 1971 by the SUNY Board of Trustees with the encouragement of the late Ernest L. Boyer, chancellor of the SUNY system from 1970 to 1977.

Boyer also served as United States commissioner of education during the administration of President Jimmy Carter, and then as president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

 More information about the college is available at www.esc.edu.

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