Office of the President

May 11, 2023

Dear William Paterson University Faculty and Staff,

I am pleased to share the news that five of our colleagues were recognized for their exceptional performance and service by Governor Phil Murphy at a State Employee Recognition Day (SERD) Award Ceremony in Trenton earlier today.

The ceremony was held to recognize and honor state government employees for their outstanding contributions, a work ethic that inspires accomplishment, and their commitment to excellence in public service. Recipients were chosen from a pool of statewide nominees based on the following criteria: outstanding effort, consistent quality performance and contributions to the department/agency above and beyond the call of duty; innovative thinking, taking initiative, identifying organizational efficiencies and effecting cost savings; a demonstrated commitment to the citizens of the state and the clients we serve; demonstrated willingness to share knowledge, teach others and work as part of a team; and representing the State of New Jersey with the highest standards of professionalism and ethics.

Please join me in congratulating the following colleagues, who consistently demonstrate all of these attributes:

Dr. Jill Guzman, Director of the Counseling, Health & Wellness Center, Governor’s Team of Excellence Award in recognition of her exceptional leadership throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. In her Director role, as a member of the University's emergency response leadership team, and Co-chair of the University Pandemic Response Team, Jill brought her long record of providing excellent student health services to inform WP’s pandemic response for the entire campus community. She advised the Cabinet and me on policy matters and maintained ever-changing protocols to ensure compliance with State requirements. Thanks in large part to the tireless work of Jill and her colleagues, we were able to safely bring our students back to campus for in-person classes sooner than most New Jersey colleges and universities while avoiding major outbreaks and earning the acclaim of local health departments. 

University Police Sgt. LaWanda Walker-Roney, supervisor of Community Policing Office and Student Patrol Staff, received the New Jersey Award for Heroism for her life-saving service to the campus community. A core mission of community policing is developing relationships and building trust, and Sgt. Walker-Roney’s success in doing so created the circumstances in which she was able to prevent a student from taking their own life. Without regard for her personal safety, Sgt. Walker-Roney approached a dangerous situation, brought the student to safety, convinced them to be receptive to help, and stayed with them in the ambulance until they reached the hospital. She is a true hero.

James Shelley, Director of Physical Plant Operations, received the Innovation and Efficiency Award for identifying cost saving measures, especially in the University's energy and sustainability initiatives, which have contributed to William Paterson becoming a green campus through conservation, efficiency, and education in areas including food waste composting, energy-efficient lighting and HVAC systems, recycling initiatives, and resource conservation. Through Jim's leadership, Physical Plant Operations has fostered a culture of efficiency that has resulted in an interest in conserving both funds and resources. For example, more than 25 percent of the University’s energy purchases now come from renewable sources. Jim has placed a high priority on energy efficiency, the use of renewable energy sources, water conservation, waste minimization, and green building design.

Joseph Alaya, Director of Enterprise Information Systems, received the Leadership /Professional Achievement Award, for his work on a suite of COVID-19 applications, which were instrumental in the University’s functioning and compliance throughout the pandemic. One particular application that Joe led allowed William Paterson to interface with the New Jersey Immunization Information System and obtain COVID-19 vaccine information for our population, a project that was completed swiftly and successfully. In fact, WP was the first higher education institution in the State to accomplish this integration, which directly contributed to our being among the first colleges and universities in the State to safely bring students back to campus. This accomplishment also had statewide impact, as Joe provided guidance to other institutions on the particulars of the interface, which ultimately supported the success of their pandemic responses.

Cindy Gennarelli, Director of Early Childhood Education Innovation and Director of the Child Development Center, received the Community Service Award for growing William Paterson’s impact on local schools and our role as a resource for the local community. Cindy worked to expand the University’s Professional Development School Network to include a focus on the particular needs of preschools during a period of statewide preschool expansion. As a result, the network’s Professors-in-residence now work alongside preschool teachers and administrators, helping to ensure the health and safety and academic and social development of New Jersey’s youngest learners. Cindy was also a major force behind our new Child Development Center. She has been involved in its every phase, from conception to build-out and licensing, to ensure that it serves as both a needed resource for local families and an important learning environment for WP students.

William Paterson is fortunate to have such talented faculty and staff employees in every college, office, and department across campus, and I am proud to see these particular members of our campus community recognized for their exceptional work and service to the University and the State of New Jersey.


Richard J. Helldobler, Ph.D.
Office of the President | 973.720.2222 | [email protected]