Fall 2016 SLU Stars Recognized for Living the Mission

SLU Stars recipients gather for a photo at the breakfast ceremony. From left to right: Jay Haugen, Patrick Holt, Lisa Israel, Peter Garvin, Joanne Salas, Leah Sweetman, Karen Janiak, Susan Hoffstetter, Jennifer Popiel, Kari Elbe, and Debra Blanquart
Eleven members of the University community were recognized as the fall 2016 SLU Stars in a ceremony on Thursday, November 17. The awardees are as follows:
  • Debra Blanquart, School for Professional Studies
  • Kari Elbe, School of Nursing
  • Peter Garvin, Department of Public Safety
  • Jay Haugen, Office of the Registrar
  • Susan Hoffstetter, Ob-Gyn
  • Patrick Holt, Transportation Services
  • Lisa Israel, Retention & Academic Success
  • Karen Janiak, Student Financial Services
  • Jennifer Popiel, History
  • Joanne Salas, Family & Community Medicine
  • Leah Sweetman, Center for Service & Community Engagement
SLU Stars is a peer-to-peer recognition award that recognizes colleagues who demonstrate professionalism and behavior congruent with the University's Ignatian ideals, and whose accomplishments further the mission of Saint Louis University. SLU Stars are those unheralded faculty and staff members who regularly go above and beyond to touch the lives of the colleagues, students, clients, and patients with whom they interact on a daily basis. Their commitment to the mission is not a singular event, but a continuous story of the mission in action. As an initiative within the Cura program, SLU Stars support a culture of understanding, respect, and appreciation for everyone, and they inspire a collaborative and collegial working, learning, and social environment.

SLU Stars are nominated by their peers to receive the award. Each nomination cycle, the SLU Stars Committee reviews nominations and selects those which best speak to the criteria of the award. The SLU Stars Committee includes:
  • Alexis Bruce-Staudt, College for Public Health & Social Justice
  • Judi Buncher, Mission & Identity
  • Peter Garvin, Department of Public Safety
  • Cathy Happa, Internal Medicine
  • Katie Hoff (Chair), Learning & Development
  • Maddie O’Connell, Learning & Development
  • Rita Stites, Pediatrics
  • Cathy Zimmer, College of Arts & Sciences

This year, Chris Collins, S.J., Assistant to the President for Mission & Identity, and Mickey Luna, Vice President for Human Resources, offered remarks.

Luna expressed, “During each award cycle, the committee receives numerous nominations, which in itself is a tribute to the regard SLU colleagues have for one another. Not only do these tributes tell the story of our mission one SLU Star at a time, but they also reflect how ardently the nominators admire and support their colleagues.” Maddie O’Connell, SLU Stars Committee member, added, “it is an honor to be nominated, and an even greater honor to be chosen as a SLU Star.”

Collins remarked that it is wonderful to learn about the unique contributions of each SLU Star, which demonstrate the wide variety of activities and departments of Saint Louis University. “The SLU Stars event is a time to build community, with many individuals you typically would not interact with.”

To learn more about the SLU Stars award, please click here.


The following is a summarized version of the nominations of each SLU Star:

Debra Blanquart, senior academic advisor in the School for Professional Studies. Deb exemplifies what it means to live by the Ignatian ideals in her daily interactions. There have been several instances when Deb handled a situation involving a deeply upset student and managed to turn it from a negative to positive through her compassionate communication and respect for them as an individual. With her can-do attitude and optimism, she continues to contribute positively towards maintaining the morale of all her colleagues. Thank you, Deb, for exemplifying how to live the Ignatian values for your students and colleagues.

Kari Elbe, contract coordinator for the School of Nursing. In Kari’s role, she interacts daily with the School of Nursing’s clinical partners and has built strong relationships with them. In addition to building strong relationships with key partners, she also takes the time to know her School of Nursing colleagues on a personal level and will stop what she is going to listen to a coworker in need of some words of encouragement, which sometimes take the form of song lyrics. Faculty and staff also come to Kari for her excellent knowledge of technology and how to utilize it for effective record keeping; she has a gift for taking large amounts of data and organizing it in a meaningful format. Thank you, Kari, for building relationships and sharing your skills with outside partners of the University and your colleagues.

Peter Garvin, officer for the Department of Public Safety. Pete brightens up a room, and more often SLU’s campus, while treating everyone with kindness. Pete is a person that is professional at all times; mindful of his position; lives the SLU mission, embraces Cura and what it stands for, and does not just hope for a change but actively takes part in fostering positive change to make SLU a better place for all of us in the years to come. He will stand up and identify an injustice when all around him will choose to look down or look away. Thank you, Pete, for your optimism and kindness towards all members of the community.

Jay Haugen, University Registrar. Over the past several years, drastic systematic changes were implemented across the university, in large part, due to the leadership and dedication of Jay and his team. Jay’s respectful and kind approach to addressing various concerns has continued to allow him to brainstorm with the users. He offers proposed solutions to problems or needs and reflects on the issue at a later date to ensure the process is as seamless as possible. Thank you, Jay, for your commitment to collaboration and continuous improvement at SLU.

Susan Hoffstetter, associate professor for Urological Gynecology (Ob-GYN). Susan is committed to St. Louis University’s philosophy as evidenced by the exceptional care she provides to her patients and her steadfast dedication to the mission. She is sensitive to cultural and ethnic diversity as seen in the individualized care plans she provides for her patients. Susan’s integrity and honesty are all encompassing and she treats her colleagues with the same amount of respect and dignity as she does her patients. Thank you, Susan, for providing exceptional care to your patients through your unrelenting pursuit of women’s health.

Patrick Holt, assistant for Transportation Services. Patrick is a shining example of serving others while skillfully completing the many diverse and challenging duties related to his position. He works to ensure the transportation for the Micah program is coordinated as easily and efficiently as possible, always in a professional and positive manner. Patrick positively impacts those he works with through his sense of humor, can-do attitude, and willingness to reach out and do more than is expected. Thank you, Patrick, for your dedication to serving our Micah students and the local St. Louis community.

Lisa Israel, director of retention and academic success for the Student Success Center. Lisa has not only been an exceptional leader and contributor to the Division of Student Development, but additionally an active member in service to the larger SLU community. She is a collaborative leader throughout campus - maximizing her relationships to advance the work to support student success. Lisa consistently fosters a spirit of excellence in her own work, and in her expectations and accountability of the staff who report to her. Thank you, Lisa, for your leadership to support the success of your colleagues and SLU’s students.

Karen Janiak, assistant director of student accounts for Student Financial Services. Karen has been instrumental in developing the Banner system to charge student accounts. The rules that go into charging tuition are very complex, and she has mastered how to input the information so it makes it look like a simple puzzle she’s worked on. Karen always has an open ear and is easily approachable; whether it be a tense phone call or even a personal matter she always makes you feel comfortable going to her about it. Thank you, Karen, for your dedication to your work, colleagues, and the community.

Jennifer Popiel, associate professor of History. The History Department’s go-to person on any question related to SLU’s mission, Jennifer has led workshops on Ignatian pedagogy, taken part in discussions of the Jesuit core and participated in week-long seminars on SLU’s mission. Jennifer is a person of utter integrity, one willing to speak her mind for the sake of the higher good, even risking unpopularity if necessary. She has been responsible for helping instill a sense of community not only in the History Department but at the University, all the result of her commitment to Jesuit mission. Thank you, Jennifer, for living and demonstrating SLU’s mission and values to your students and colleagues.

Joanne Salas, senior biostatistician in the Department of Family and Community Medicine. Joanne always goes above and beyond expectations by learning new biostatistical methods to support her team’s research. She does not simply generate results, but she ensures researchers understand the logic of her decisions and helps others express the technical aspects of advanced data analysis in their scholarly presentations and papers. Joanne’s commitment to the Ignatian ideals of learning, serving, generosity, respect and concern for others has greatly increased morale and a sense of common purpose in the Department of Family and Community Medicine. Thank you, Joanne, for sharing your wealth of expertise and knowledge with SLU students and your colleagues.

Leah Sweetman, assistant director for the Center for Service and Community Engagement. At a University that prides itself for service and volunteerism, Leah is the sole service-learning coordinator for faculty on the entire campus. Leah works collaboratively with SLU’s faculty, staff, and students, as well as with stakeholders in the greater St. Louis area, in developing programs and events supporting social change and justice initiatives. In addition to many leadership roles in support of the University mission, Leah also participates frequently in professional development opportunities to enrich her own understanding of SLU’s Jesuit identity. Thank you, Leah, for driving the mission of the University through collaboration and commitment.