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Honoring Excellence: Highlights from the 2023-2024 Alice J. Smith Service & Academic Awards Ceremony at Clayton State University

(April 30, 2024) - Hundreds of Clayton State University faculty and staff flooded the ballrooms at the campus’ Student Activities Center on Wednesday, April 24, to celebrate their peers in the 2023-2024 Alice J. Smith Service & Academic Awards Ceremony.

matthew stansbury and royal baxter

With the recent launch of the university’s new Strategic Plan, “Transforming Today for Tomorrow,” President Dr. Georj Lewis opened the ceremony by recognizing the efforts of all nominees up for the award, saying they epitomize the university’s mission of service to everyone who calls themselves a Laker.

Helen McSwain, chair of the Clayton State Foundation, and Dr. J. Celeste Walley-Jean, Assistant Provost, then joined Pres. Lewis to present the afternoon’s awards, beginning with the 2024 Chancellor’s Academic Achievement Award, which was awarded to Michael D. Jones II. 

audience at smith awards

Michael D. Jones II, a former U.S. Marine turned dedicated double major at Clayton State University in Music and Chemistry, embodies the fusion of science and art. His journey from military service to academia reflects resilience and a passion for learning. Despite past challenges, Michael's near-perfect GPA and academic accolades, including representing the university at a statewide event, underscore his commitment to excellence. Through his dedication, Michael not only pursues his aspirations but also honors the sacrifices of his family, showcasing the transformative power of education. 

Service Awards were then presented to the 29 faculty and staff who have worked for five years at Clayton State, the 24 persons who have worked for 10 years, and the seven who have worked for 15 years.

Awards for 20 years of service were then presented to 16.

Additionally, three staff members all celebrated 25 years of service.

kevin fitzgerald accepting his award for 30 years

Three staff and faculty members were then called up to be recognized for an astounding 30 years of service for the university. One staff member, Kevin Fitzgerald received his recognition of 35 years of dedicated service to a standing ovation. 

Eight retirees from 2023-2024 were also honored by their peers.

And finally, the event concluded with the 2024 Alice J. Smith Staff and Faculty Award presentations – three staff were nominated for the former, three faculty for the latter.

This year, Dr. Royal Baxter from Student Affairs received the staff award while Dr. Matthew Sansbury from the College of Arts and Sciences received the faculty award.

As expected, both were honored and grateful for those who had nominated and voted for them to win the prestigious awards.

“It is truly an honor to receive such a prestigious recognition from my peers. The rewards I receive from working directly with students show up each and every day as I witness the energy and joy they bring. Receiving this recognition from my peers is a reward I will both cherish and utilize as fuel to keep serving Laker Nation with compassion, consideration, and care,” said Dr. Baxter, Assistant Dean of Student and Alumni Engagement.  

“I lead with compassion, set high standards, and show up early when it is time to do the work. I see myself as an educator first and view my research and service as extensions of my teaching. Ultimately, I relate to Alice J. Smith’s legacy because I teach from the heart and foster inspirational spaces for students to learn,” said Dr. Sansbury, Director of First-Year Writing & The Writers’ Studio, Assistant Professor of English.

On behalf of Clayton State University, congratulations to all award winners and nominees!

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