Rutgers Cooperative Extension (RCE) conducted its annual awards program at the 2013 Annual Joint Department Meeting of Rutgers Cooperative Extension last December 10. The awards acknowledge outstanding performances of students, faculty and staff. For 2013, the RCE Award of Excellence was given to three staff members: Judith Laganga, Michelle Teitsma and Jennifer Matthews. The purpose of this award is to recognize faculty and staff who demonstrate outstanding performance and creativity, and highlight their contributions to RCE and how they have resulted in a positive change or have made a significant impact and enhanced RCE at the local county, state or national levels.
Judith Laganga is the office manager of Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Union County and is responsible for overall operations of the office. Due to severe county budget cuts in 2012, Laganga duties evolved to supporting to all three RCE departments in Union County. Her keen organizational skills keep the office flow and output on time and focused. She works to build the RCE Team of employees keeping communication lines open between all Rutgers faculty/staff as they reach out to the residents of Union County. Always carrying through with her obligations, Laganga is the first to volunteer to try new, innovative ways to accomplish tasks and improve office work. She shares ideas and makes county residents her priority. Laganga is able to make good decisions on a daily basis because she looks at the issues from a variety of standpoints, gets input from others and always does her research before making a decision. She sets her goals and works to achieve them.
Over the years Laganga has developed her leadership skills and is a good role model for others. Her work habits are excellent with tasks always done on time, excellent attendance; and showing initiative and commitment to the department to RCE and Union County. Laganga is an excellent office manager and RCE of Union County employee. Her work and team spirit have been recognized by Union County and she is most deserving of the Excellence Award.
Michelle Teitsma came up through 4-H as a youth in the equine program and joined the Sussex 4-H staff working as a program assistant with 4-H Agent, Sherman “Buz” Tomasino.
Among Teitsma’s many contributions has been the growth of the 4-H public presentation program in Sussex County. When she began, the program involved 25-30 youth annually making county-level public presentations. Over the years, she has grown this number ten-fold. In 2013, 300 youth participated in the Sussex 4-H public presentations program.
Teitsma has worked with staff and volunteers to coordinate events that have raised more than $70,000 (41% of total project costs) in local donations. These events have included raffles (50/50’s) and silent auctions (tricky trays). Coordinating these events required months of preparation including reserving a location, permitting, advertising/promotion, solicitation of local donations as well as organizing volunteers from planning to completion. Teitsma has been highly resourceful and diligent in implementing the most successful fundraising venture in the Sussex County program’s history.
Program Assistant Jennifer Matthews has been an exceptional staff member for the Rutgers Annie’s Project New Jersey Program since the fall of 2011. Annie’s Project is a risk management educational program for farm women offered throughout the U.S. The national program has no curriculum, thus, the program in each state is developed locally. In New Jersey the award-winning program is tailored to small and specialty crop producers.
In addition to being instrumental in securing funding and coordinating all of the paperwork and partners required, Matthews has handled all of the logistics for the 2013 courses, arranging over 70 speaking engagements in seven separate locations and connecting more than five agencies to educate over 180 farm women. This led to 100 women completing their farm business plans.
Matthews exemplifies the standard of excellence of Rutgers daily: she is timely, pro-active, detailed, organized and can successfully bring a project to completion with limited supervision. Her pleasant, professional demeanor continually contributes to a positive, collaborative work environment for everyone. Matthews exhibits exceptional resourcefulness, innovation, and creativity as part of the team when determining next-steps, developing a project proposal or promotional materials, or assisting with problem-solving.