Professional Staff Award for Excellence

The Professional Staff Organization Award for Excellence recognizes a member of the professional staff whose work has promoted Western's strategic plan objectives to advance inclusive success, enhance academic excellence, and/or increase Western's impact in Washington. This may be through one or more of the following: exceptional communication and interpersonal skills; exceptional integrity, professionalism, and job performance that inspires excellence in others; exceptional dedication to encouraging initiative, creativity, and exploration of new ideas through work and interaction with others.

Selection Criteria

Successful nominees exhibit exceptional communication and interpersonal skills; exceptional integrity, professionalism, and job performance that inspires excellence in others; exceptional dedication to encouraging initiative, creativity, and exploration of new ideas through work and interaction with others. 


The award recipient will be presented with a Western medallion award at the Celebration of Excellence Awards in May.

Award Administration

Professional Staff Organization

Nomination Process

The nomination process for the 2023 award is CLOSED. Thank you to those that took time to nominate a collegeague!

Additional Information


Terri Kempton wearing a WWU award medallion

Terri Kempton - Outback Farm

Terri Kempton is the first Farm Manager of the 5-acre Outback Farm on Western's campus and teaches food-related classes at Fairhaven College. Terri comes from a background of agroecology, permaculture, ecological restoration, and community organizing. She is also an accessible and engaging mentor for the students who learn gardening and food production skills at the Outback.  

Terri supervises student farm staff of eight, coordinates independent studies and class projects, and engages in strategic long-term planning for the site. But you can also find her cleaning chicken feet with volunteers or leading tours of the forest garden! Terri restarted the Outback Apiary, has assisted students in Bee Campus certification through the Xerxes Society, and on sunny days is often suited up to get in the beehives.  

Thanks to her dedicated professionalism, leadership, and vision, the Outback Farm has made major progress towards inclusive excellence as a resource for the entire WWU campus community. When COVID hit, Terri partnered with a dedicated farm team to continue growing, turning the focus to food justice and feeding students facing food insecurity, including pantry popups and free farmer's market events. With an eye on equity, Terri organized a speaker series on Food, Farming, Justice, and Diversity in 2021 that culminated in a day with Dr. Robin Wall Kimmerer. 

Nara Samuels wearing a WWU award medallion

Nara Samuels - Student Health Center

Nara Samuels is a behavioral health counselor and program coordinator at the Student Health Center. She has worked in college student mental health for 15 years. She joined the Western community in 2017. Nara's career has primarily focused on serving students experiencing mental health crises and post-hospitalization programming. In her role at the Student Health Center, Nara has worked to improve mental health screening and expand access to behavioral health services. With early identification and responsive services students can heal more quickly and get back to the important work of pursuing their goals. It is most important to Nara to create a welcoming, supportive space in which all students feel seen and valued. She is honored to work at the Student Health Center with a team of health care professionals and support staff who are all striving to improve health outcomes for students and to support student success academically, physically, and emotionally.

Past Awardees

3 awardee(s) for this year

2021 Awardees

Photo of Brandon Joseph, Prevention & Wellness

Brandon Joseph - Prevention & Wellness

Brandon Joseph coordinates the Men’s Resiliency Program, which focuses on mental health promotion and holistic wellbeing for male-identifying students. In collaboration with campus and community partners, he has hosted various campus wellness events, initiatives, and programs, such as Wellness Wednesdays and Men & Mental Health.

As an Athabascan and Muscogee Creek, Brandon’s work is fundamentally inspired by his Native identity. In August 2019, Brandon established the Black & Brown Male Success Collective (BBMSC), a research-based program that provides male-identifying students from historically marginalized racial and/or ethnic communities with an affinity space for their holistic wellbeing. The group has represented WWU at regional and national conferences and in June 2020 collaborated to host, Not Just Social Media. Social Justice., the first anti-racist workshop at WWU using Zoom, attracting 300+ participants and illuminating the voices of WWUs Black Student Organizations during a crucial time in our history.

Brandon also serves on President Randhawa’s Structural Equity and Bias Response Team and the Social Justice and Equity Committee, where he co-led the Underrepresented Student Needs Assessment Project during the summer of 2020. Finally, Brandon will be completing his Ph.D. in Counseling and Personnel Services at the University of Louisville in August 2021.

Dr. David Hansen, WWU Student Health Center

David Hansen - Student Health Center

Dr. Hansen began his career working in finance and marketing.  After participating in numerous volunteer medical missions to Central America, Dr. Hansen left corporate America to pursue a life in medicine. Dr. Hansen earned his medical degree at Brown University’s School of Medicine. He then completed his training at the Tacoma Family Medicine Residency Program. He is a board-certified family physician and has been with Western’s Student Health Center (SHC) since 2017.

As the Student Health Center’s Associate Medical Director, Dr. Hansen has actively been involved in Western’s Incident Command response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Assuming the role of Western’s public health officer, Dr. Hansen and the dedicated team at the Student Health Center have designed, implemented and overseen many COVID-related processes including: the COVID Clearance Status System for students on campus, the Fraser Hall COVID Testing Program, the SHC Annex (a respiratory clinic created specifically for COVID patients), Western’s contact tracing efforts in support of the local health department, Isolation and Quarantine coordination with housing and facilities management, and the rollout of COVID vaccines. His colleagues praise his thoughtful and inclusive communication style, his integrity, and his commitment to truly serving and listening to WWU students.

Jeniene Bengtsson, University Advancement

Jeniene Bengtsson - University Advancement

Jeniene Bengtsson has worked in University Advancement for more than 15 years and is a 2004 graduate of Western, following her family’s Viking tradition. Throughout her tenure, she has consistently brought integrity, innovation, and professionalism to her division from her previous roles as administrative assistant, then office manager, and her current role as the Associate Director, Alumni and Constituent Relations, Western Engaged. Western Engaged is revolutionizing not only alumni engagement at WWU, but is seen as a model in the Advancement/Alumni Relations profession nationally, raising the stature and visibility of Western. Jeniene enjoys and excels at collaborating and partnering with colleagues across campus in strategic efforts to keep Western alumni engaged throughout the University. Due to COVID-19, Jeniene creatively pivoted from in-person to remote events including managing dozens of Western Insight and CFPA, Huxley, and CHSS webinars to bring thousands of attendees and dollars to support the Racial and Equity Fund and the Student Emergency Fund.

When not working, Jeniene enjoys spending time with her husband and two boys outdoors and finding new places to explore.