2020 ExCEL Awards – The Graduate School

The Excellence in Collegiate Education and Leadership (ExCEL) Awards honor College of Charleston students, staff, faculty, and community members for their commitment to creating a campus environment that promotes diversity and excellence. This year, three amazing members of the graduate studies community received these prestigious, community-nominated awards.

Administrator of the Year Award: Marla Robertson, MPA Program Coordinator/CAP Director

This award recognizes an administrator who has made a profound impact upon the College, has contributed to advancing the College’s strategic plan, its mission, and goals.  The award goes to an individual who has demonstrated effective leadership in support of the College’s vision and core values.

Marla Robertson is an alumna of the Master of Public Administration program, and currently serves as the Program Coordinator for the program, as well as the Community Assistance Program (CAP) Director. She received her B.A. in English from the College in 2006, and her M.P.A. in 2019. She’s worked with the College for 12 years working in Academic, Student, and Business Affairs before joining the MPA program as Program Coordinator. Other ways she is involved in diversity on campus and in the community include serving on the board of the Post Landfill Action Network (PLAN), which focuses on educating campuses and students on zero-waste and landfill aversion initiatives, being staff advisor for the Black Student Union for the last 5 years, and being an executive board member for the Gender Sexuality and Equity Center (GSEC) on campus.

Here are some words from MPA students on Robertson:

“I’m honored to say that I have known Marla as both a student in our MPA classes, as well as a working professional in the MPA Office. In both instances, she has always been hard-working, diligent, and focused, without ever missing a chance to make someone laugh or smile. She is a perfect balance of the College’s mission and the MPA program’s public service values. I am never surprised to hear she’s won an award or received recognition for her efforts – she fully deserves it!”

“Marla is someone for whom I have great respect, and who is a highly effective leader. She has an advanced understanding of human relationships in the workplace, and her clear insight and relevant personal examples on ways to navigate them have been integral to my professional development. I have learned much from her about social justice and equity due to her depth of knowledge, lens through which she views and experiences the world, and ability to have candid conversations about topics most do not possess the skills of language to discuss productively. Additionally, through active listening, she has a way of instilling confidence and a feeling of being heard in those around her.”

Outstanding Graduate Faculty of the Year: Dr. Judy Millesen, MPA Program Director

This award recognizes a member of graduate faculty who has made a profound impact upon the College, has contributed to advancing the College’s strategic plan, its mission, and goals.  The award goes to an individual who has demonstrated effective leadership in support of the College’s vision and core values.

Dr. Millesen joined the College as MPA program director in January 2018, and teaches classes on public administration and nonprofit management. She received her MPA from the University of Hartford and her Ph.D. in public administration from the University at Albany (SUNY). As program director of the MPA program at the College, Dr. Millesen has made diversity and inclusion a priority through initiatives like the Community Conversation on Diversity, which encouraged open dialogue on how to define diversity for the program and what next steps are needed for all students to feel welcome. She also worked with students within the program to create a recruitment video for the program called “How MPA Works for me” that shows prospective students that the MPA program works for all kinds of students and that current students have rich life experiences from which they can speak.

Here are some words from Dr. Millesen’s students:

“I have had more opportunities for professional and personal development offered to me in the two-year MPA program than I ever have in the past. I fully attribute this to Dr. Millesen. The best part is: if she knew I was saying this, she would immediately direct the compliment to the MPA students, faculty, and staff. This just goes to show how truly wonderful she is – never once taking credit for the amazing work she inspires.”

“Dr. Millesen is such an inspiration to me, it’s genuinely difficult to find words. She cares so deeply for her students both academically and personally. When I was in a tough spot, she made a point to reach out to me personally to check in and see what support she and the MPA program could offer me, something I cannot express how much I appreciated. She not just talks the talk of diversity and inclusion, she walks the walk in everything she does on campus and in the community. Working with Dr. Millesen has been one of the highlights of my graduate career, and it’s truly been an honor to be her student.”

Outstanding Graduate Student of the Year: Delaney Drake, M.S. in Marine Biology

This award recognizes a graduate student who has made a profound impact upon the College, has contributed to advancing the College’s strategic plan, its mission, and goals.  The award goes to an individual who has demonstrated effective leadership in support of the College’s vision and core values.

Delaney Drake is a current student in the M.S. in Marine Biology program. Recently, she was named the winner in the Sciences, Mathematics, and Business category of our Graduate Research Poster Session presenting her research project “The U.S. Caribbean Hogfish (Lachnolaimus maximus) Conservation and Management: Filling Critical Life History Gaps”.

Here are some words from fellow Marine Biology student Emily Parsons:

“I’ve had the privilege of getting to work closely with Delaney on a number of projects the past two years from class assignments, to fundraisers, to cleaning the backyard. Delaney is one of the most determined, hard-working, and community-minded people I’ve had the privilege of getting to know in grad school. Along with giving 110% to everything she does, she brings a uniquely creative and fun energy to the room and isn’t afraid to challenge the status quo to help out her fellow students. The GPMB and graduate school are better because she is here!”

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