Florida Poly recognizes employees despite COVID-19

May 07, 2020
Ablaze graphic
Florida Polytechnic University’s annual employee celebration Ablaze was turned into a memorable recognition video. The traditional ceremony scheduled for April 15 was canceled due to COVID-19.

LAKELAND, Fla. – The COVID-19 pandemic may have forced the cancellation of in-person events, but that is not stopping leaders at Florida Polytechnic University from honoring its faculty and staff.

This year, Florida Poly’s annual Ablaze ceremony became a memorable video that recognizes employees for their extraordinary contributions to the University. The award celebration has become one of the school’s most cherished traditions. It was scheduled for April 15 at the Magnolia Building in Lakeland.

“While we can’t celebrate our winners the way we planned, I’m pleased we’ve found new ways of sharing their accomplishments and their Florida Poly spirit with the entire University community,” Dr. Randy K. Avent, president of Florida Poly, said in the video.

The five-minute recognition video features seven winners in five award categories, which include excellence in teaching, research, and service to others.

Phoenix Spirit Award

Jake Morrow, curriculum and assessment manager for institutional research, received the Phoenix Spirit Award, for being a continual source of encouragement and demonstrating a genuine interest in helping others. In his nomination, Morrow was described “a ray of sunshine wherever he goes on campus” and was praised for his artwork around the Innovation, Science, and Technology Building. He joined Florida Poly in 2018.

Exemplary Service to Others Award

Jorge Velazquez, maintenance technician for facilities and safety services; Mary Vollaro, associate professor and Mechanical Engineering Department chair; and the Academic Technology and Support Services Department were the recipients of the Exemplary Service to Others Award. The award recognizes significant and positive impact within the recipient’s department and the University as a whole, as well as among students and external stakeholders.

Velazquez was described by his peers as someone who consistently goes above and beyond and pays great attention to detail. He joined Florida Poly in 2016. Vollaro was praised for playing a key role in the successful ABET accreditation outcome for the Mechanical Engineering department. She joined Florida Poly in 2016. The Academic Technology and Support Services Department was recognized for always finding creative ways to solve problems.

Excellence in Teaching Award

Reinaldo Sanchez-Arias, assistant professor of data science and business analytics, received the Excellence in Teaching Award. Sanchez-Arias was described as a fervent, compassionate instructor who enjoys challenging his students to think differently. He joined Florida Poly in 2018.

Excellence in Research Award

Grisselle Centeno, professor of data science and business analytics, was honored with the Excellence in Research Award. Centeno is the lead investigator of the largest NSF grant Florida Poly has received and is one of two professors in Florida ever to be selected for the prestigious ELATES program. She joined Florida Poly in 2019.

Pinnacle Award

David Calhoun received the Pinnacle Award, the highest honor for a Florida Poly employee. It recognizes those who rise to the top through hard work, commitment, and excellence. Their success is defined by service and a generosity of spirit. Calhoun was acknowledged for placing service above self in all aspects of his job and balancing his great responsibility with integrity and humility. Calhoun is the assistant vice president of facilities and safety services. He joined Florida Poly in 2014.

Lydia Guzman
Director of Communications