maroon wave
Phillip Brunecz Jr. and Brooke Church
Phillip Brunecz Jr. and Brooke Church

SU's Brunecz, Church Earn USM Regents' Staff Awards

SALISBURY, MD---Two Salisbury University employees who helped improve services and kept their areas running during the COVID-19 pandemic have received one of the University System of Maryland’s (USM’s) highest honors: the Board of Regents’ Staff Award for Excellence.

Phillip Brunecz Jr., administrative assistant for SU’s TRIO Student Support Services program, was recognized for “Exceptional Contribution to the Institution and/or Unit to Which the Person Belongs.” Brooke Church, academic program specialist in the Music, Theatre and Dance Department, was honored for “Outstanding Service to Students in an Academic or Residential Environment.”

“As a vital staff member within SU’s TRIO Student Support Services, Phillip is instrumental in supporting our first-generation students, our students with financial need and our students with disabilities,” said SU President Carolyn Ringer Lepre. “Brooke, recognizing how important our music programs were as COVID-19 was such a difficult and challenging time for people, made remarkable efforts to ensure students could continue to learn and practice music in a safe environment. We join the USM Board of Regents in saluting their service to SU and their efforts in making a difference in the lives of students every day.”

Phillip Brunecz Jr.

Brunecz’s accomplishments with TRIO have included innovative information technology and admissions partnerships, improving annual assessment report management, and creating a dashboard to better track communications, program demographics and U.S. Department of Education (USDE) reporting requirements.

TRIO’s partnership with SU’s Information Technology Department started when Brunecz and his supervisor, Dr. Margaret Sebastian, TRIO Student Support Services director, sought to move the program’s paper processes to digital platforms.

“Our partnership with IT began with understanding what data we had about the students and how to connect that data to the Department of Education reporting processes,” said Sebastian. “This partnership led to our overhauling our caseload management process, our semester student data reports and the participant application process, with Phil at the helm.”

This led to other efficiencies, such as digital input of student grades into TRIO’s system, which shortened the process of creating a report meeting USDE requirements from three to six weeks to just 20 minutes. A partnership with SU’s Admissions Office, also spearheaded by Brunecz, helped triple the number of monthly applications to the program and shortened acceptance time from two weeks to less than an hour.

Similarly, Brunecz worked to decrease the time to compile the program’s annual USDE performance reports from a month to less than a day, also allowing the creation of monthly and quarterly assessments. These have provided up-to-date information for presentations that have led to additional partnerships on campus and a waitlist for students interested in enrolling in the program.

His creation of the TRIO dashboard also allows the program to document timely information and has led to interest in a dashboard for the University’s Center for Student Involvement and Leadership, with which Brunecz also is assisting.

“Phil goes above and beyond, and is a highly motivated, thoughtful and loyal employee,” said Sebastian. “His work, his innovation and his excellence inspire us all.”

Brooke Church

Church was praised for her efforts in ensuring that the show could go on — literally — in SU’s Peter and Judy Jackson Music Program as COVID-19 threatened arts programs around the globe.

“Arts programs in higher education depend on significant face-to-face interaction, and when this was deemed impossible during the pandemic, we had to pivot quickly and drastically,” said Colleen Clark, Jackson Music Program chair and co-chair of SU’s Music, Theatre and Dance Department. “Music-making was deemed a particularly high-risk activity.”

To ensure the program could continue, the department adopted stricter safety guidelines for students, faculty and staff. Church coordinated the new policies and performed the tasks necessary to ensure their effectiveness. These included purchasing and distributing specialized personal protective equipment, scheduling activities in appropriate spaces with adequate breaks for ventilation, and ensuring proper signage existed in each area. She also coordinated and oversaw an online audition system that proved so successful that the department continues to use it today.

As the University joined others in recovering from the pandemic, Church turned her attention to shoring up the program’s enrollment, leading efforts to organize a Music Major for a Day event with local schools that was so popular that plans are being made for its return this fall at the request of area school administrators. In addition, she has assisted with scheduling and budgeting for SU’s PRESTO performing arts outreach program since its transition to the Music, Theatre and Dance Department in 2022.

“Brooke has had a huge impact in increasing the visibility of the arts at SU and enhancing our academic programs through challenging times,” said Clark. “Her efforts support not only our own University students, but prospective students and community music students, as well. We are extremely proud to call her a colleague.”

Brunecz and Church will receive their awards during the USM Board of Regents’ first meeting of the 2023-24 academic year, scheduled Friday, September 22, at the University of Maryland Global Campus in Adelphi, MD,

Learn more about SU and opportunities to Make Tomorrow Yours at the SU website.