2023 Ablaze awards recognize exceptional Florida Poly employees

2023 Ablaze winners

Florida Polytechnic University recognized outstanding employee contributions during its sixth annual Ablaze awards on Wednesday, April 13. Pictured are Andrew Konapelsky, University registrar; Jay Hoying, associate registrar; Jennifer Kent, assistant registrar; Derek Lower, assistant director of campus recreation; Dr. Randy K. Avent, University president; Casey Gorman, interim assistant director of platforms and systems in the Department of Technology Services; Dr. Ashiq Sakib, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering; Dr. Muhammad Ullah, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering; and Sherri Bougher, administrative assistant.

Standout Florida Polytechnic University employees were recognized for their outstanding efforts on Wednesday, April 19, at the University’s sixth annual Ablaze awards ceremony.

“We’ve accomplished so much in the last year, and that is due in very large part to each one of you,” Dr. Randy K. Avent, Florida Poly’s president, said to the audience of employees at the City of Lakeland’s Magnolia Building. “Thank you all for your dedication and service to our University and to our students. Your work is valued and appreciated.”

Awards were presented for exemplary service to others, excellence in teaching, and excellence in research. The Phoenix Spirit Award recognized an employee for creating an energizing and supportive experience for those around them, and the Pinnacle Award, which is the highest honor a Florida Poly employee can receive.

Additionally, service awards were presented to those who have been with Florida Poly for five or 10 years. This is the first year the University was able to recognize 10-year anniversaries, which were being celebrated by five employees who have been with Florida Poly since its earliest days.

Pinnacle Award

Lidia Vigil, director of corporate and foundation relations, received the Pinnacle Award – the most prestigious award bestowed by Florida Poly. The award recognizes an individual who exemplifies what it means to be a Phoenix, acknowledging their success and excellence in their career performance. Vigil was recognized for her work in developing a program to engage industry partners for philanthropic support. In addition, she shares her contacts with relevant departments to further the relationships through internships, student employment, capstone projects, and more. 

Phoenix Spirit Award

Derek Lower, assistant director of campus recreation, received the Phoenix Spirit Award in recognition of his consistent demonstration of a sincere interest in the well-being of students, while also being an encouraging and positive force throughout the entire campus. His achievements during his time at Florida Poly include leading TEAMs, intramural sports, employee vs. student volleyball and basketball games, and the naming of the Phoenix; founding the Solaris Spirit Squad, and managing the Student Development Center. This academic year, he launched a new effort to take students camping during spring break.

Excellence in Research Award

Dr. Ashiq Sakib, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, received the Excellence in Research Award. The award recognizes a faculty member for excellence in academic research, creative activity, scholarship, and contributions to expanding knowledge or its application in their field. Sakib’s research is focused on advanced digital designs, and he received a National Science Foundation grant in 2022 to research resilient and energy efficient designs for ultra-low power applications.

Excellence in Teaching Award

Dr. Muhammad Ullah, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, received the Excellence in Teaching Award. Ullah was recognized for his passion for teaching and for the creative and effective ways he engages students. Ullah also was responsible for reconstructing and improving a foundational course sequence for students. He was described by Dr. Tom Dvorske, vice president of academic affairs, as “collegial, open, honest and always willing to share with his department, exhibiting a true commitment to student learning and development.”

Exemplary Service to Others

This year, the Exemplary Service to Others Award was presented to two recipients: the Registrar’s Office and Casey Gorman, interim assistant director of platforms and systems in the Department of Technology Services. The award recognizes the person or department that consistently makes a positive impact on the University. Gorman was recognized for “always going above and beyond” during his workday, and for helping others. The Registrar’s Office was recognized for its professionalism and its work to ensure student academic needs are met while always showing a great attitude and willingness to help. 


Lydia Guzmán
Director of Communications