Staff Commitment Awards - The University of Tulsa

Staff Commitment Awards

In 2017, The University of Tulsa adopted the TU Commitment as a recognition of the powerful role our faculty and staff play in the development of our students in an accepting environment as engaged members of the community, empowered individuals and life-long devotees to self-discovery and intellectual curiosity.

To recognize staff contributions to the campus community, the Staff Advisory Council (SAC) has implemented award categories for individuals and teams.

Submission for the Commitment Cup (teams) or Pillars of the Commitment (individuals) can be made online by clicking here.

Commitment Cup

The Commitment Cup is awarded to the team that best exemplifies the TU Commitment. Nominees are vetted by SAC with the winner chosen by the President from a list of selected finalists.

Pillars of the Commitment

Pillars of the Commitment are awards granted on a quarterly basis to individual staff members.

Log in here to view timelines and additional information.

If you have any questions regarding the information above, please contact

  • Pillar Award Winner - Quarter 1 (2020-2021) - Dave Kobel

    Q1 Pillar of the Commitment Award Recipient

    Dave KobelThe Staff Advisory Council recognizes Dave Kobel, director of access for The University of Tulsa’s Student Success Center, as a Pillar of the TU Community!  David started working at TU in 2007 as an instructor of English in the English Institute for International Students, moving to the role of assistant dean in International Student Services in 2012. In 2019, Kobel became assistant director of the Center for Student Academic Support (CSAS) and took on new responsibilities in the areas of student accommodations and success coaching. He now leads Student Access (formerly CSAS) under the Student Success Center and manages a team of amazingly dedicated student advocates and coaches.

    Working at TU has allowed him unique opportunities to utilize his education and experience in teaching and cross-cultural communication and tremendous chances to grow as a student advocate and team leader. When he is not working, he enjoys hiking, kayaking, cooking, photography, gardening and going to live music (when it’s safe to resume, of course!). Most importantly, he enjoys spending time with his wife, daughter and two dogs, Pablo and Frida, in an early 1900s home located in one of the oldest and most vibrant neighborhoods in Tulsa.

    Here’s what faculty and students had to say about Dave:

    • “Dave Kobel became assistant director of CSAS after I had been at TU only a few months. I was still trying to establish myself at TU and find my way around both the campus and my new position. Dave guided me in finding how to use my talents to best help TU students. He showed me how to take the raw material of our STEM Boot Camp presentations and make them even more pedagogically effective for the age group. If I had questions about student services at TU, or general services in the TU area, Dave was always knowledgeable and able to point me in the right direction. His 13 years of experience at TU make him a capable administrator. But, his natural compassion for employees in our department who have had to deal with medical and personal issues while still maintaining a strong focus on the university’s mission, has made him an excellent administrator and an asset to the university.”
    • “Dr. Kobel has helped shape my TU experience thus far to be the best it can possibly be multiple times. The greatest thing he has ever done, though, is help me navigate my way through getting the correct housing accommodations so as to maximize my time at TU. He’s one of the friendliest faces and biggest helping hands on campus, and I will always commend him for that!”
    • “Dave is a kind, compassionate, smart leader who cares for his team and his students. He develops his team by pushing and challenging us gently, and is also patient with us as we learn and grow. Dave gives us the opportunity to learn from him and to teach him! With his students, Dave cares deeply for them and will help them in the best way he can. He consistently uses best practices with students to help them grow in their academic, professional, and personal endeavors.”
    • “I shared an office with Dave at the English Institute in the summer of 2012. As a new teacher, I needed a lot of help and guidance which Dave provided. I remember one time when I caught some students using hand signals to cheat on an exam. Dave guided me through the accusation process and helped me cover all the bases. Later when Dave was an assistant dean at ISS, he continued to be helpful with any problems. I think the key to Dave’s success is that he always leaves you with a feeling of confidence.”
    • “Dave Kobel has been a TU colleague of mine for almost 8 years. I can say that every time that I have called Dave he responds enthusiastically to how he can help me and the student I am working with. In his current role in the CSAS office he is handling a delicate case of an international student who I believe is on the autism spectrum. The student’s interaction with faculty, staff and fellow students were not always positive because of his lack of social ques. I know that he has talked with the student many times and has really tried to help this student.”
    • “Dave goes above and beyond to help his students. Seeing the way he helps them and inspires them to succeed motivates me to work that way with my students and make sure that they are confident. He does this with every student he works with; it’s truly inspiring to watch.”
    • “Dave has been one of my go-to people since I have started working at TU. We collaborate in regards to shared students, trainings and committees. You will always find a kind word, an ease-of-mind and possibly a joke when you are interacting with Dave. He goes above and beyond for the students he works with!”
    • “Formerly, I worked with Dave when he was an Assistant Director in ISS, and, currently, I work with him in CSAS. In both capacities Dave has provided me with crucial positive support. On more than one occasion, when I have been worried about some work-related concern, Dave has been there to listen, to offer constructive suggestions and advice, and, especially, to help me stay calm. Dave has a remarkable ability to reassure people when they’re in need of his calm assurance, I believe, and the university is stronger for this. There would be several stories I could recount when I went into his office feeling flustered and came out feeling like I could figure out whatever challenge had perplexed me. Since his move to CSAS, I think he is positioned
      to provide this support more than ever to a wider audience of students and coworkers. I am sure that I am not the only one whose life and work he has positively impacted in this way.”
    • “I believe I can speak on behalf of all international students on TU. Dave Kobel has been the person who has always been there to support us. He is always interested in our well being and available to help us in any way! I know he is no longer working at ISS, and how much do we miss him! Whenever we were planning a cultural event with AIS or LASA, he was always willing to help in any way possible. As an AIS advisor, he was the best. He was there at every single event helping out. A picture of Dave carrying papa john’s pizza boxes to the New U just popped into my head. We are all so thankful for all the support that he has given to our community of international students.A more personal story that I share with Dave would be that he was always interested in getting more and more international students to come to TU. I remember that whenever he had trips to Colombia, my home country, he would offer to bring me some stuff from home. Also, he went to my school and was willing to meet my little sister there. Whenever he came back he would tell me about his trip and asked me about other students at my school who would be interested in coming to TU. He once also asked me to participate in some interviews and videos to help students understand more about scholarship opportunities on TU. He is a person who deeply cares about the TU and its development.”
    • “I have worked with Dave Kobel when I started at TU. He has always been a dependable and caring individual. There are nice people and there is Dave. My experience with him has been positive and uplifting. Focused on students and how to help them. Always offering a caring word and giving you the best place to eat around town. He is an employee who deserves recognition.”
    • “This is my dissertation year for a PhD in English literature, so I’ve had to produce a 200-page document, which I found more than a little daunting. Seeking help to keep on track with a workable rate of production, I asked at the counseling center and was hooked up with Dave Kobel for weekly accountability meetings. He helped me lay out a timeline with target dates for completion of chapters, which I plugged away at, so that now I am wrapping up the final bits and pieces, getting ready to turn it all in a couple of weeks from now. Dave helped me with my word-count, as well as providing advice for triangulating with my dissertation advisor regarding the content for my project. Some of my colleagues used a writing group to maintain production rate as well as for mutual moral support, and I have done that in the past, as well, but I found working one-on-one with Dave to be even more effective in my case (and I will be thanking him on my dissertation acknowledgment page).”
  • Pillar Award Winner - Quarter 2 (2020-2021) - Janet Cairns

    Q2 Pillar of the Commitment Award Recipient

    The Staff Advisory Council recognizes Janet Cairns as a Pillar of the TU Community!

    Janet Cairns is director of academic and learning technology and applied assistant professor of education. In her position in TU’s Faculty Resource Center, Janet is able to explore her enthusiasm for academic technology and passion for teaching. She finds working with faculty and students extremely rewarding, helping them effectively use technology in their teaching and learning. She is grateful to have a position in the Department of Education teaching education technology to future teachers, where she “practices what she preaches.” When not at work, Cairns enjoys training and showing her Belgian Tervuren named Hutton, hiking and camping in the mountains of Colorado, gardening and coaching youth volleyball. Cairns is a proud Tulsan who grew up around TU thanks to her dad who coached volleyball and taught mathematics at TU for over 50 years.

    Selection of testimonials:

    • “Janet has risen to the occasion since the pandemic has started. She had limited staff and resources but never failed to answer my questions, tested my system, and trained me so that I could help other faculty so that we could get the online teaching going. Till today, I email her about trying to get my hybrid classes to a better place. If we do not reward her, then when? She demonstrated that she could support the faculty in a time of crisis and I for one am very thankful.”
    • “Janet is a great help during these virtual classes. She always responded immediately to fix the technical problems.”
    • “Janet Cairns has assisted my students and me more times than I can count. She has assisted me in person, in the classroom and in my office, both virtually via Collaborate. She has made me feel comfortable and enjoy using HARVEY for recording lecture videos, creating HARVEY tests with Lock Down Browser, grading online, and resources that she has created and made available, just to name a few. She has responded to my requests for help with 5 minutes of my making the request!”
    • “Besides working with faculty 24/7 on using all the tools that Harvey has to offer, along with having an open office for faculty to visit to ask questions about making videos and web pages, as well as spending time with departments to work specifically with departmental technology needs, Janet has time to teach a technology seminar for elementary education majors. My story comes from students in her class. They shared with me their amazement of how instructor Cairns gives 100% of her time to help them with their projects. Projects that take hours to create and align with state and national technology standards. These projects require students to work diligently to complete and challenges even the most technologically advanced student. Janet stays in the computer lab until all students are done with their assignments/questions each week, sometimes ending past the 6:00 pm hour. She doesn’t teach technology; she teaches students. She teaches with enthusiasm and with an energy level that surpasses even the best of our regular faculty. Janet Cairns supports everyone at TU, including students. Few others at this university fit this statement.”
    • “I would like to highlight the tremendous and remarkable job that Janet Cairns has done during this unusual Covid-19 year. When the quarantine suddenly began, Janet Cairns and her team acted very expeditiously and effectively to train the entire faculty with their transition to virtual teaching and testing ensuring that teaching could go on. Thanks to Janet and her leadership, we, the faculty, were able to successfully finish the spring 2020, summer 2020 and fall 2020 semesters. That was only possible due to her daily support and constant help and training. So, in short, the university has been able to deliver classes this past year in great part due to her efforts.” … She trained, helped, and supported us to do our teaching job. I can’t imagine what this year would have been without her help. I don’t recall any instance when I have contacted her with a question or request that she has not quickly jumped to help me. I am very thankful and I think that, indirectly, our students are grateful as well.”
    • “I have never had an IT person so quick and happy to help with anything. Janet has helped me with lots of technical glitches for many years and such a prize is long overdue. She almost always responds to my distress calls within a half hour, identifies the issue, tracks down a solution, and is friendly and personable in the process.”
  • Pillar Award Winner - Quarter 3 (2020-2021) - Shelley Faust

    Q3 Pillar of the Commitment Award Recipient

    The Staff Advisory Council recognizes Shelley Faust as a Pillar of the TU Community!

    Shelley FaustShelley Faust, department assistant II for Student Success Coaches, began her career at TU in 2018 as the department assistant in the Housing office. She soon realized that her passion was for the students. With the creation of the student success coaches in 2019, she jumped at the chance to support the start-up team as well as the student community. She strongly believes that every student has the potential to be successful especially when given the right tools. Faust has been given the opportunity to be the project lead on recent student call campaigns. She works closely with Dean of Students Casey Reed, assisting with student-retention efforts. Faust truly believes that the success of student retention rests upon every member of the TU faculty and staff: from the diligent custodians to the president of the university.

    Working in the Student Success Center has allowed her more opportunities to connect with students, staff and faculty. Engaging in conversations with the students and the coaches has led to her own personal self-discovery and has re-ignited an interest in research and discovering new and efficient processes.

    When not working, Faust enjoys spending time at her happy place (her family’s cabin in New Mexico), hanging out with her three young adult children and dreaming about being empty nesters (someday) with her husband.

    Selection of testimonials:

    • Throughout the development of the Student Success Team, Shelley has sought out ways to improve processes and procedures to better serve students. She has developed a process for tracking data that allows for us to see real-time details about the effectiveness of the Student Success Team and also maintains the Student Success Team email, which students frequently reach out to with questions. Shelley has been leading the charge on outreach to students as they are referred to succes coaching. She is also currently working on contacting students who decided not to return to TU in order to understand more of those students’ needs and how TU can improve culture and services for students to feel a sense of belonging. Shelley is a joy and a wonderful, indispensable part of our team. She makes our work possible and believe she deserves public recognition for her dedication and work!”
    • “Our staff volunteers have already called 911 TU students and our latest call campaign just kicked off Monday. The timing coincides well with the inclement weather and the students and parents have overwhelmingly expressed their gratitude for the check-in. This is the work retention dreams are made of. Shelley Faust, department assistant in Student Success, coordinated the entire project. She collected edits to the questions from the last campaign based on previous caller feedback and current trends, front-facing staff are seeing, solicited volunteers, rerecorded the detailed video training, and provided written instructions and an updated list of resources for referrals. She also makes a lot of the calls herself. If you have a chance to thank her in the near future, please do.”
    • “Regardless of the project, Shelley’s first words are ‘How can I help?’ She will do whatever she can to assist peers in their effort to support our students. She quickly learns software programs that can optimize the team’s work and NO ONE, I mean NO ONE can organize a project like Shelley! We simply couldn’t accomplish the amount of work that we do without her on our team. She oversaw the call campaign in the fall and is doing the same this semester, so if she is spearheading a project, others are soon to join in. Shelley even goes to campus to help proctor exams when Student Access needs help. If the task relates to supporting our students, Shelley is always one of the first to volunteer to help. Shelley truly is an amazing asset to the Student Success Team.”
    • “Shelley always goes above and beyond for our team. She is always available with a kind word and a smile.”
    • “Shelley is a joy to work with. She puts a kind and helpful face on TU. She goes out of her way to help students and parents, never complains, and handles challenges with ease. She is essential to the operation of the Student Success Center.”
    • “Shelley is always quick to respond to students, always keeping them as her priority. She is reliable, honest, and overall a really pleasant person to work with. Shelley is well-deserving of this.”
    • “I worked with Shelley in the Housing Department and she was always so helpful and pleasant. If you had a question she was always more than willing to help. She always has a smile and a big heart for everyone.”
    • “Shelley has gone above and beyond helping students and staff many times this past year.”
  • Pillar Award Winner - Quarter 4 (2019-2020) - Kevin Harris

    The Staff Advisory Council would like to recognize Kevin Harris as a Pillar of the TU Community!

    Kevin HarrisKevin Harris earned a bachelor’s degree in history from George Washington University in 1992 and a master’s in education from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 1997. He went on to work as head coach at Mills College (1997-99) and as assistant coach at Kansas State (1999-2002) before coming to The University of Tulsa as head coach for women’s rowing in 2002. In his 18 years at TU, Kevin has had a positive impact on a variety of student athletes and continues to work hard and teach/coach in a way that makes student athletes feel loved and supported during their time at Tulsa.

    More on Coach Harris

    Selection of letters of support form TU faculty, staff, students and parents:

    • “We have tremendous respect and admiration for The University of Tulsa’s Women’s Rowing Coach, Mr. Harris. We have had the good fortune of knowing Kevin over the past 5 years. His sterling reputation based on fairness, respect, teamwork and shared accomplishment certainly was evident to us from the outset. He is a passionate coach and educator who has the unique ability to find the very best of his team members and develop a passionate group of community supporters. His ‘student-athlete’ first approach is centered on the academic success of his team members combined with the absolute dedication of his team to success on and off the water. Key characteristics that we have witnessed first-hand from Kevin are compassion, kindness, encouragement and perspective. Breaking the stereotype of ‘win at all costs’ NCAA coaches who put athletic achievement above academic and personal success, Kevin brings a unique perspective to coaching. He understands that winning athletes are also enjoying success in other aspects of their lives and work to create the optimal condition for team performance. His track record speaks for itself. Kevin is the epitome of someone who ‘walks the talk’ and is grounded by an incredible capacity for kindness; it looks to just be part of his DNA. We understand that this is not limited to relationships within the rowing team but is recognized throughout the TU community. One of the key draws for our daughter to become a member of Kevin’s team was its involvement in the TU community beyond rowing, contributing to campus events and volunteering throughout the broader Tulsa community. During this challenging time, we are shown examples of people who truly care, think beyond themselves, look for the good in everyone and whose compassion is a guiding light in their lives. Kevin is one of those individuals. His depth of caring, capacity to share, ability to encourage and willingness to lead by example is consistent with his core beliefs. As a long-serving and senior member of the TU community, Kevin exemplifies those personal qualities of a true TU ambassador who encourages everyone to do better, not for themselves, but for their team, family, school and community. We know that our daughter has been a real beneficiary of being a member of Kevin’s team and the TU community that aligns ideals with actions, encouraging everyone to do their best. As our daughter looks to graduate later this spring, she will take with her many experiences from TU. We believe that none has been more life-enriching than her relationship with her coach, mentor and friend, Kevin Harris.”
    • “Kevin has demonstrated every pillar of the TU commitment – acceptance, engagement, empowerment and self-discovery.
      ACCEPTANCE: Kevin makes each student-athlete feel valued by providing a well-balanced team environment with positive relationships. Kevin makes sure that student-athletes engage in both their athletics and academics in such a way that they are striving to be their best selves.
      ENGAGEMENT: Kevin promotes discussions on what they learned, as well as accepting feedback and opinions so the student-athletes feel they have a big part in their learning process.
      EMPOWERMENT: Kevin has a unique gift of seeing the potential in every athlete and being excited in helping that athlete reach their full potential. He does a great job of letting them own their wins and failures and always helps them think about how they can improve and make an impact.
      SELF-DISCOVERY: Kevin cultivates such an environment for the student-athletes to become who they want to be, allowing space for self-exploration, failure and success.”
    • “Kevin Harris exudes positivity! His smile alone lights up any room he enters. He truly cares for his students and it shows. He has always been one of the best coaches to work with over the years as I have transitioned from different positions on campus. He is there for his students. He advocates on their behalf and goes above and beyond to do what he can to make sure they succeed. He is a pleasure to work alongside! His great attitude, energy and warm, caring demeanor is contagious!”
    • “Kevin openly accepted me into the TU community and the rowing family. Every day, Kevin empowers me as a leader by continuing to help me express myself, supporting my learning and growth, and creating space for ownership and responsibility.”
    • “I walked onto the women’s rowing team this year as a freshman and part of the novice group, and Kevin was quick to treat all of us as just another part of the team. He and the other coaches always push us to be better, which resulted in many of us blending in right away with the varsity girls. With the recent COVID-19 related challenges, Kevin has made it clear to the whole team from the word go that if we have any issues at all he is ready to help us in any way possible.”
    • “Kevin has shown nothing but support and guidance towards me since the first day I became apart of the athletics staff at TU. He has trusted my abilities and judgment and has always considered me when making decisions in regards to his athletes. As an intern, this gave me the confidence I needed. As my internship was coming to an end, Kevin adamantly vouched for me to be hired full-time. His commitment and dedication to the university and to the athletes is beyond commendable.”
    • “I moved 3,000 miles away from my family, to a place I had visited once, for 24 hours, because of Kevin to row at The University of TulsaFrom the get-go, Kevin was honest and upfront about the expectations he had for my teammates and me. We were students and then athletes; meaning that school always came before sport. I ended up having to sit out my first fall season due to injury, but Kevin didn’t give up on me. I then ended up having to step away from the TU rowing team about a year ago due to a different personal event. I hadn’t realized the unconditional respect I had for Kevin until the day I told him I was leaving the team. As we get closer to graduation and I reflect over the last four years, I am where I am today, because of the person Kevin was to me. And the best part is, I am not the only one who has a story to share like mine. Throughout life, if you are lucky, people will come into your life that truly change your life for the better. Despite my challenges over my last four years, the impact Kevin Harris had on my life was truly life-changing and I am so grateful I took a chance on Tulsa and he took a chance on me. I believe there is not a more deserving person for this award than Kevin. I will be forever grateful for the incredible impact that this coach has left on my life, as well as many of my other teammates.”
  • 2018-2019 Staff Pillar Winners by Category

    Quarterly pillar awards are granted to individuals throughout the year, but SAC also wanted to highlight those nominees that particularly represented certain elements of the TU Commitment.  These yearly winners were chosen from those nominated throughout the year as quarterly nominees and were recognized at the Employee Appreciation Week Picnic!

    Acceptance: Sheila Givens-Rains

    Fostering an atmosphere of acceptance requires a holistic approach, where someone is made to feel safe, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.   As Director of Student Retention, Sheila’s institutional knowledge has proven particularly indispensable this past year during the development of the Student Success Initiative, but the true scope of Sheila’s impact on our campus community is often a story of compassion and acceptance.  There is little doubt that Sheila embodies the pillar of acceptance in her dealings not only with students, but staff and faculty as well.  Examples of her support and acceptance of difficult situations include everything from helping grieving families to finding foster homes for stray animals.  Whether you are student, faculty or staff, Sheila is a cornerstone of the campus community that accepts us all for who we are and will lend a hand wherever she can.


    Self-Discovery: Lindsey Perry

    In her role as Enrollment Management Coordinator and Retention Specialist for Oxley College of Health Sciences, Lindsey always makes time to help students chart a path of self-discovery to reach their enrollment and academic goals.  But her contributions are not limited to the students.  She has diligently sought to improve student interactions, the staff voice, and the collaboration between faculty, staff, and administration with a strong focus on efficiency, satisfaction, and success. Her input, participation and initiative has been instrumental in such groups as University Council, Drop Guard Transition Team, Gardner Institute Initiative, Provost’s Student Development and Success Group, Student Success Initiative and the Collegiate Advisory Council.   Lindsey is not only dedicated to helping our students cultivate their intellectual curiosity and inquisitiveness, she’s crucial to the University finding its way through this time of significant changes and introspection.


    Engagement: Justin Kendrick

    Engagement requires active participation to develop unique gifts and talents.  This can be difficult if the tools or equipment necessary for active engagement in various projects is not available or functioning.  Justin’s work as an Instrumentation Technician in the College of Engineering & Natural Sciences involves maintaining aging lab equipment so faculty and students can continue their research and coursework projects.  He’s known for the ability to “fix just about anything” as well as his enthusiastic and friendly can-do attitude.  Faculty and staff all know that he’s a problem solver who understands the time-sensitive nature of their work and how it  can quickly be derailed when a piece of equipment breaks down. They trust him and know he can fix it!  Justin’s commitment to the active engagement of our faculty and staff means he does whatever’s necessary to get them up and running as soon as possible.


    Empowerment: Joey Oneal

    Empowerment is about helping others to grow and develop personally and professional.  As Director of Student Activities, Joey leads by example and challenges student leaders to develop their own management and leadership styles.  Students find in her a reliable coach and helpful conversational partner for personal and professional growth.  She encourages and facilitates student leaders to create new collaborations with institutional funding policies, interfaith experiences, student training opportunities and campus experiences related to diversity and inclusion.  The role of coaching and overseeing student leaders requires a constant commitment to self-evaluation, ongoing assessment, flexibility, and consistency of focus that might be difficult to maintain for many of us.  But Joey does that in a way that empowers students to constantly strive to be not just better leaders, but better individuals.  On her path to empowering our students, Joey doesn’t just lead, she inspires!


  • 2020-2021 Commitment Cup Winner - Information Technology

    Congratulations to TU’s Information Technology team for winning the Commitment Cup! Thank you for your work, service and dedication. The Commitment Cup is awarded to the team that best exemplifies the TU Commitment. The Staff Advisory Council vetted the nominees and Interim President Janet K. Levit chose the winner from a list of selected finalists.

    Submissions for the Commitment Cup (teams) or Pillars of the Commitment (individuals) can be made online here.