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 or completing a word document and emailing to

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.

Submission Deadline                         Announcement of Winner

April 24, 2020                           May 21, 2020 (Employee Appreciation Picnic)

Pillars of the Commitment

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

Submission Deadlines

  • October 31, 2019
  • January 23, 2020
  • March 19, 2020

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

  • Pillar Award Winner - Quarter 1 (2019-2020) - Marla Zumwalt

    Q1 Pillar of the Commitment Award Recipient

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

    Marla is the Department Assistant for the Electrical & Computer Engineering department in TU’s College of Engineering & Natural Sciences. She works hard to get student’s issues resolved and is a point of contact they are willing to go to for help. She consults with Dr. Kaveh Ashenayi, Department Chair, before recommending action, and has gathered information about other campus offices to ensure students are directed to the correct person or office.

    She has also taken on the task of guiding students in Senior Design through TU’s purchasing process, which can be time-consuming. Students are exposed to something close to a real-world experience to help prepare them for jobs after graduation. As part of the course, students identify and purchase parts for their design project. Marla has worked hard to document and define the purchasing process for the students, including developing forms for approval to help the students through the purchasing process. Dr. Ashenayi notes, “Marla is not afraid of taking on new tasks. She will do her best to complete any task she is charged with.”

    Here’s what some of the faculty from Electrical & Computer Engineering had to say about Marla:

    • “Marla is wonderful. She constantly provides strong support for the faculty and students in the department. In addition, she cares for students, forms a close [bond] with the students, creates family environment for the students, and makes the students feel that the department is like home.”
    • I have known Marla from day 1. I was an undergraduate, in the electronics lab, on the day Dr. Kane was giving her a tour of the department. From that day, Marla became part of our TU community and has been an important member of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and TU as a whole, ever since. There is not a day where I don’t hear someone answer a question with the response, “Ask Marla”… she is the department assistant, department psychologist, department guide, but most importantly, the department mom. Having realized how important she is to our community and culture of our department, I have begun having Marla take part in my EE1001/EE1011 class every year. This gives her the opportunity to work with each of the freshmen and help them adjust to the new experiences at TU. I cannot express how important Marla is to our department. She is is always willing to step up and help, whether you need a signature from a professor, someone to talk with, or just a piece of candy to brighten your day.”
    • “Marla is very much deserving of this award. She is always willing to help out whenever asked and she is willing to take on any assignment to see it through to successful completion. She has been a great asset to the department and the university community. Her rapport with students is remarkable. Just about every student in ECE knows Marla. She welcomes them in her office with a great smile whenever the students have a question or need information.”
  • Pillar Award Winner - Quarter 2 (2019-2020) - Devinder Singh

    Q2 Pillar of the Commitment Award Recipient

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

    “Where does one begin when writing a statement of support for Devinder Singh? One story cannot sum up all the good she has done and inspired across TU’s campus. It is not possible to recount her countless acts of service, seen and unseen, for TU’s international student community…”

    Devinder Singh is the Clinical Instructor/Student Liaison for international students in the English Institute. She has been with TU for 28 years. As a former international student from India, she came to the U.S. in 1984 to attend university. The experience has given her a personal perspective and empathetic understanding of what international students experience when they come to the U.S. to study. The staff in TU’s Center for Global Education have witnessed her patience when working to bridge the language and cultural barriers that exist for international students. Devinder has been a tireless and fierce advocate  for students, while respecting the department’s structure and administrative process.

    Selection of quotes:

      • “Devinder has worked tirelessly for many years to help students improve their language acquisition skills in the EIIS so that they may matriculate to academic programs.” Additionally, “she provides many opportunities for students to grow socially and culturally. She is often seen at student events in the evenings, encouraging students to participate with peers from other countries.”
      • “While she will realistically acknowledge challenges, she ALWAYS focuses on how to solve problems and put everything TU in the best light possible.”
      • “Devinder has been a positive role model for our English Institute and beyond. She has gone above and beyond for the students over her many years at TU. She encourages them to make the most of their time at TU and in the U.S..  She is an example of positivity and inclusiveness for all!”
      • “She is always thinking of the students and how to better serve them. She is always friendly, and you will never see her at an event with students without her camera. She loves to capture moments!”
      • “She demonstrates the ability to add value to everything that she does with dedication, creativity and resourcefulness… Her contributions to the team reflect her priorities as an individual and the importance she places on doing a good job.”
      • “Devinder is a caring, compassionate, and authentically delightful person. She is a joy to be around and everyone feels like a better person after spending time with her. In today’s climate, it is more important than ever to follow her example of the universal principles of civility, compassion and decency toward individuals – international and domestic alike.”
      • “Devinder loves her work and ensuring international students are successful and are a part of our TU community.”
  • Pillar Award Winner - Quarter 3 (2019-2020) - Rick Arrington

    Q3 Pillar of the Commitment Award Recipient

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

    Rick Arrington - Pillar of the Commitment

    Rick exemplifies the meaning of TU Commitment.  His dedication, excellence, and true caring for our students is obvious daily.  He has built and nurtured the best Advising team at TU.  His guidance and willingness to help whoever needs help is clear.  His dedication to the students’ experience and success at TU has been his major focus for two decades.

    Selection of faculty/staff/student quotes:

    • “Frankly, I would not have earned my degree without Rick’s guidance and support over the last 7-8 years. Throughout all my unfortunate/untimely family circumstances, having to leave TU and re-enroll multiple times, he always welcomed me back to start where I’d left off. I cannot fully express how truly grateful I am to have had him in my corner through the better part of the last decade. It has been an experience full of ups and downs, but when I needed help he was always willing to fight for me.”
    • “Rick has always been supportive of our international student community. I have worked with Rick in different capacities over the years and have always found him so helpful and willing to go above and beyond to help our students be successful. He is a wonderful colleague and I appreciate his willingness to always be available for the students and co-workers!”
    • “Rick is one of the hardest-working people I know and he cares deeply about student success. As a faculty member and administrator, I have found Rick very easy to work with. He is a great person to seek advice from about any curriculum changes.”
    • “Rick has always been supportive, but I became confident of this when I decided to return to The University of Tulsa. Rick spent countless hours with me on the phone trying to figure out my schedule. Whenever I have a question, he is always prompt to reply, even on weekends at all times during the day. He is succinct and very clear in the manner he communicates. He always says hello in passing, and seems to genuinely care about how you are doing.”
    • “I have come to know Rick through our work with Associate Deans Council, as well as on the Tulsa Curriculum Review Committee. So many times Rick has picked up the phone to advocate for a student or to help find a solution to a complex or thorny curricular problem. I worked with him for a few months on revising our undergraduate grade appeals policies, and Rick was so thorough and thoughtful in his approach; he made it so easy to work together to arrive at a common solution. I am always so impressed by how he puts the students first and how he, in his very gentle way, reminds us of our priorities and need to focus on student learning and success. Rick is such a worthy recipient of this honor.”
    • “Rick is a great guy and I cannot think of another person more deserving of such a recognition. He works tirelessly (inclusive of nights & weekends–just check his emails to the faculty!). He is attentive to faculty (my) inquiries and delivers. He cares deeply about students and it shows. But he is no pushover with students’ hard-luck stories either. Always proper, always prompt, and a friendly face the faculty enjoying seeing every day.”
    • “Rick Arrington is the glue that binds our Collins College of Business together. He is the intermediary between the faculty and the students. He is the person who faculty can go to in order to get questions answered. I have visited his office in the last year to discuss student advising, academic misconduct, requirements for independent study, asking for the names and majors of students in our entrepreneurship minor, questions about errors on the website, etc., etc., etc. He is always welcoming and works hard to find answers to all of our questions. I have no idea how his institutional knowledge will be replaced when he decides to end his career.”
    • “Rick Arrington is critical to our students’ success. He often works all weekend and takes his job very seriously. He has been a rock for the Collins College of Business. He will take as much time as needed when talking with students, faculty or staff.”
    • “Rick has a positive impact on me. As a regular faculty member of the Collins College of Business (CCB), I am impressed by Rick’s work ethics and knowledge. In particular, I am very impressed with his diligence and his willingness to go that extra mile. As far as I know, Rick has significantly helped many of us in the contexts of course development issues and student issues such as advising. Rick always does a great job!!! I joined the CCB curriculum committee in 2019. As a committee member, I have completely realized how important Rick is to our committee, to our college, and to TU. Without him, our curriculum changes and development would not even be possible, because Rick helps us to ensure that all the work at this committee goes smoothly. For this, we sincerely appreciate his time and work. My belief is that Rick is an honest, responsible, and very capable individual. Almost every faculty and staff member in our college believes that it is very easy to develop a good relationship with him because he is a nice and wonderful person.”
    • “I can attest to Rick’s leadership in the Williams Student Services Center, whose primary function is to assist students. He leads by example, and his staff goes out of their way to ensure that students are successful.”
    • “Rick is indispensable. Everyone knows that he is nearing retirement, but we cannot allow him to retire! He will need to give three years’ notice because it will take that long for him to train someone to fill his shoes. There is no one story that demonstrates just how much value he adds to our college and to TU. He is the expert for all things curricular, and helps hundreds of students and faculty day after day, year after year, with no fanfare. I cannot think of anyone who would be more deserving of this award.”
    • “Rick is dedicated to our students and to the university. He is constantly looking for ways to improve the student experience. His expertise in navigating our systems is unsurpassed and he uses his knowledge to streamline processes and to ensure that students receive the best educational experience possible. He is truly an exceptional TU employee and student advocate.”
    • “I don’t have a single story about how Rick has positively impacted a student, I have dozens. I want to address Mr. Arrington’s 24/7/365 dedication to the students of the CCB. I regularly catch up with my student-advising related administration in the evenings. No matter how late, or what day of the week, I email Mr. Arrington, he responds usually within minutes. He doesn’t turn off his commitment to our students at 5 p.m., he is non-stop. You should not believe me on this – I recommend you contact the CIO to get the timestamps of Mr. Arrington’s emails and you will see that the man’s dedication to this university is unwavering.”
    • “Rick taught me so much when I started as Associate Dean in 2011. He knew just about every procedure on campus and was willing to work long hours to make sure that our students received quality service.”
    • “Rick has a positive impact on all who encounter him (from my perspective). I have worked alongside Rick for almost 8 years now and he always endeavors to treat everyone with politeness, respect and kindness. Students, staff and faculty always default to Rick because they know that they can count on him for thorough and reliable information. I can’t think of a better example of a pillar on this campus. He is very committed to TU and advising and excellence.”
    • “Rick has been instrumental in re-writing our degree audit for the College of Law, so that it makes sense for the students and gives accurate information. Also, he has spent considerable time working with and training me on student planning, degree audits, etc. since I am fairly new in my current position. He is always informative, friendly and quick to assist.”
    • “I have had the privilege to work with Rick Arrington since I came to TU in fall 2012. He quickly became my mentor and I have had many opportunities to learn from him during my time here. Rick has had an impact on me by his constant focus on how we can help our students achieve their goals and dreams. This may be as simple as helping them enroll in their classes to having a conversation with them regarding a difficult subject matter. Everything is important! Rick has been involved in so many committees, organizations and groups both on and off-campus that has positively influenced so many lives. He truly is a vital person to The University of Tulsa and the greater Tulsa community.”
  • 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!


  • 2018-2019 Commitment Cup Winner - Gardner Institute Transfer Team

    The second annual TU Commitment Cup was awarded to the Gardner Institute Transfer Team on May 23, 2019, by The University of Tulsa Present Gerard Clancy.  The award is designed to spotlight outstanding work by university employees specifically related to the TU Commitment, which helps our students feel accepted, engaged, empowered, and set on a path to self-discovery.  Each nomination received by the Staff Advisory Council described how departments, committees, and project teams come together to help others succeed.  For a full story on the winning team and this year’s runner-up, click here.