2006: Anne Ch'ien, Department of Anthropology

From the Office of the Vice President and Dean of Students in the University and the President of Student Government

June 15, 2006

Anne's professional commitment to our department seems tireless.  She clearly believes in the department's mission and is personally committed to guiding students new and old.  I believe there is scarcely a student in the Anthropology Department's graduate school program who has not been personally encouraged or otherwise affected by Anne.  For my part, I can only say that I would not have gotten this far without her.

The above comment was one of many tributes to Anne Ch'ien, the Student Affairs Administrator in the Department of Anthropology and the 2006 winner of the Marlene F. Richman Award for Excellence and Dedication in Service to Students. Marlene Richman served students with extraordinary commitment and caring during her career at the University that spanned four decades and included serving as Resident Master of Burton-Judson and 36 years as a CAPS career counselor.

As Steve Klass, Vice President and Dean of Students in the University, announced on the occasion of Marlene's retirement in October 2002,

The Marlene F. Richman Award recognizes University of Chicago staff members who demonstrate the highest levels of dedication, care and compassion in the service of students. The winner of this award will exemplify the qualities demonstrated by Marlene F. Richman during her decades of untiring effort to guide students in the articulation and achievement of their dreams, to be a true friend and leader to colleagues, and to promote students' happiness and well-being.

More than 80 students submitted letters of nomination for 6 full-time staff members eligible to receive the award – faculty members and senior management were specifically excluded so that the award would recognize University staff members who work directly with students outside the classroom. The selection committee included undergraduate and graduate students, members of the University Dean of Students senior staff, and a divisional Dean of Students.

The winner of the 2006 Marlene F. Richman award is Anne Ch'ien, about whom Marlene, herself, said upon learning of the nomination list: "I am delighted to see Anne Ch'ien is nominated.  What a treasure she has been for the University."

An unprecedented 70 nominations were submitted for Anne, a testament to an exceptionally committed, caring, sharp, and beloved member of our community. Here are some other tributes to her work in the Department of Anthropology:

"From the moment that prospective students start to receive materials from the department, Anne knows their names and research interests and shows a general concern for their needs. This concern continues through the 8-10 years that those students will spend in the department: their recommendation letters will be mailed out promptly; they will receive helpful emails from Anne from 5am to 11pm; their hands will be held as they attempt to navigate the bureaucracy of the University and the institutions that students apply to for jobs and grants; they will know that no relevant job or grant announcement will fail to be sent their way; joy will be shown when they win fellowships; and they will be made to feel (truthfully) that they have a friend and ally in a graduate-student life that is sometimes brutally discouraging and competitive.  I have never in my student or professional life met an administrator who so seamlessly combines the qualities of professionalism, dedication, and kindness."

"Very often, her guidance makes the critical difference in allowing some important matter to be resolved smoothly."

"Anne is also a formidable intellectual presence.  She has an astonishing body of knowledge at her disposal, gleaned from years of devoted study of the anthropology and amazing experiences abroad (she travels during vacations as hard as she works during the school year!).  Perhaps this is why she has such rapport with students: she, and we, are fascinated by the same things.  Our exchanges on scholarly issues are always provocative and enlightening.  She's not just a staff member; she is very much a colleague."

The nominees for the fourth annual awarding of this honor included the following full-time staff members: Deborah Jones, Front Desk Clerk in the International House; Julie Less, Student Affairs Administrator in the Department of Economics; Kathi Marshall, Student Affairs and Admissions Coordinator in the Harris School of Public Policy Studies; Jacob Plummer, Section Administrator for Dermatology in the Department of Medicine; Rovana Popoff, Senior Advisor in the College and Director of CAAP (Chicago Academic Achievement Program).   

Each nominee received a certificate and letter highlighting some of the comments included in students' nominations.  Anne Ch'ien was honored at the annual picnic for the Student Services division, hosted by Steve Klass, Vice President and Dean of Students in the University.  She received an award certificate, Marlene Richman's chocolate cake, and her name is inscribed on the Marlene F. Richman Award Plaque displayed in the stairwell of the Reynolds Club.