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2019 Award Recipients
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ACCED-I Honors Industry Excellence

The Association of Collegiate Conference and Events Directors-International (ACCED-I) is pleased to announce 2019 award recipients. The following individuals and institutions were recognized at the Awards & Recognition Luncheon during the 39th Annual Conference in Pittsburgh, PA on March 25, 2019. Congratulations to the nominees and recipients for their achievements.

Jack Thornton Distinguished Service Award

The Jack Thornton Distinguished Service Award recognizes an individual for distinguished service, devotion, and dedication to the collegiate conferencing profession and to ACCED-I. Lisa Salazar, CCEP, Senior Event Coordinator at Lewis University in Romeoville, IL, was recognized for her outstanding service and dedication to ACCED-I.


Please describe the service, achievement and/or outstanding contributions of the nominee 

I first witnessed her passion for the association in 2003 when she was serving as Regional Leader. I learned then what an amazing role model she is for both new and seasoned professionals. She and I chatted about all things in our profession and ACCED-I. The guidance she gave me at the meeting, and her encouragement, inspired me to begin volunteering for ACCED-I. Since that time we have worked together on many projects -- on regional events, on the Hospitality Committee for Louisville, and most recently as members of the board. I have seen first hand how the association and members of the association have benefitted from her diligent efforts. In addition to the many group presentations and educational sessions she has led, she has also served on numerous committees. I learned firsthand that working on a project with Lisa results in being part of something bigger than yourself. She truly helps people develop and achieve outcomes. One of my favorite examples was her work on the Louisville’s Act of Caring in 2010. Loving a good challenge, Lisa took the fundraising to new heights by working with her team to do something different to raise funds for the chosen charity. Lisa and her team had a winning combination of unique ideas, an extremely solid work ethic, and outstanding organizational skills, which resulted in the the auction raising a great amount for Green Hill Therapy. As a core member of the CCEP Action Team for the past 11 years, Lisa has invested a lot of time and energy into our certification. According to Sara Goodrich, East Stroudsburg University, “Lisa Salazar is a very hard working and dedicated individual who puts 110% into everything she does. I totally respect all the feedback she gives to difficult and challenging situations we face as a committee. She always has sound suggestions and she makes it a priority to know many members of the association and to reach out to each one. We all have benefitted from Lisa’s strong support and leadership at ACCED-I.” Lisa also cares deeply about the development and growth of our members who are in the certification process, serving as a mentor in the program, in addition to working to improve the process. In her role on the board, Lisa has been a strong voice for change. Her supportive and collaborative leadership style helped advance ACCED-I’s mission and fostered a great team dynamic. Mary Cranwell, Georgian Court University, a fellow board member said “ Her enthusiasm, professionalism, and passion for the Association continued (on the board). When I served, I personally relied on her critical mind and strategic planning skills, but most importantly for her good counsel and friendship.” Lisa had a strong desire to know the individuals at the board table and to learn from them. Informed by personal experience, and her commitment to Lewis University for almost two decades, Lisa welcomed the challenges and opportunities presented to the board with a great deal of enthusiasm. Members of the board recognized her professional strengths and strong leadership, and elected her to various executive positions during her tenure.  
Please describe why you feel this person (or yourself) deserves this recognition 
I am proud to write this nomination for Lisa Salazar for the ACCED-I Jack Thornton Distinguished Service Award. As a member of ACCED-I for 15-years, Lisa has long demonstrated a strong level of commitment to ACCED-I as an involved member, a loyal and tireless volunteer, and a dedicated leader. She clearly recognizes the impact that ACCED-I has had on her career and has enthusiastically given back to our association and its’ members each year of her involvement. Lisa’s commitment is real. She has recruited and guided many colleagues during her 15 years with ACCED-I and I am lucky to be one of them. She is wise, a career influencer, and is highly respected by her colleagues. I am blessed to know she will continue to remain engaged with our members and ACCED-I for years to come.  
Please detail the past and/or present service the nominee has given to ACCED-I 
Awards & Recognition Committee 2005-2011 Nominations, Election & Leadership Development Committee CCEP Committee 2007-present Mentor for CCEP candidates 2007-present Host of the Region 8 Regional Meeting, 2003 Region 8 Director and DirectorElect, 2003-2005 Frequent Annual Conference Presenter including AC Session of the Year 2008 Hospitality Committee for the Louisville Annual Conference 2010 Chair of the Act of Caring for the Louisville Annual Conference 2010 Board Member and Exec (2010-2018) Chair of Nominations Committee 2018-2020 

Outstanding Individual Achievement Award

The Outstanding Individual Achievement Award was given to Barbara KakirisManager of Marketing & Sales, Summer Programs at Kenyon College in Gambier, OH.  This award recognizes a significant achievement by an individual in the collegiate conference and events field at the institutional level. It may be based on a single program, event, or a more long-term development/process that represents an outstanding milestone in conference and events management.


Please describe the achievement of the nominee
Barbara is a one-woman organization that is supported by six students and a liaison during the summer months and this nimble group coordinates approximately 70 – 80 events in that time. Not only is she responsible for revenue generation, but for extending the college’s educational and mission-related impact over the full calendar year. Prior to returning to Kenyon, Barbara served as NASA’s Conference Director and as Communications Director for Research and Technology. She thought that this experience could be well applied to Kenyon in order to improve policies and streamline processes, which she has accomplished as efficiently as Kenyon culture allows. She formalized contracting, improved invoicing, and advocated for an event management system, which is now utilized. Her success lies in her ability to establish positive working relationships with partner organizations such as Athletics, Maintenance, Safety, Accounting, and AVI Fresh. Her ability to view the big picture, plan, and execute is impressive, but in this particular case, it is more the manner in which she determines to integrate others that makes her effective. This breaking down of silos that exist on campus and involving others in her work is a personal hallmark of hers as well as impetus for this award. Barbara is creative in the ways we earn funding, and smart in the ways we use what we have. In the past six years at Kenyon she has made some impressive accomplishments. She has grown the Summer Programs enterprise in gross income, increased profit margin, gotten fixed costs for services, and leveraged partnerships that help us do business smarter. She’s actually taken the time to assess what it takes in human resources, facilities, and otherwise to do events well for everyone involved. Furthermore, she’s gotten rid of clients who weren’t necessarily the best fit and replaced them with new ones that not only pay more (actually pay us what we’re worth) for our services, but are now part of an Admissions pipeline of students enrolling at Kenyon. This last piece not only means good exposure, but that she has created many revenue streams stemming from her one area of responsibility. I believe that Barbara’s three main tenants make her so successful: (a) overarching strategic abilities and dedication to looking at the big picture, (b) collaborating with other departments and external partners, and (c) helping people identify their best interests so she can show them how Kenyon is the best fit for their needs. 

Please describe why you feel this person (or yourself) deserves this recognition
Barbara has been recognized for her event management expertise and individual contributions to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) with a U.S. Congressional Achievement Award and NASA's Public Service Medal. Kenyon College has bestowed its Distinguished Service Award upon her as well. She's a member of the Protocol and Diplomacy International--Protocol Officers Association, and has received certifications from The Protocol School of Washington, The Brookings Institution, and MIT's Sloan School of Management. It would be fitting that a group of peers recognize her abilities as well.

Describe how individual impacted the collegiate conference & events industry and/or institution
Barbara is one of the most well-known entities in the greater Kenyon community. She has held all roles of alumni engagement/leadership and has such a wide network of supporters and allies as a result. She found the perfect opportunity at Kenyon to wed two things she holds dear—her love of Kenyon and her professional expertise. She led NASA’s conference program for over a decade and employs best practices that we’re lucky to have at the college—and her special imprint of Kenyon DNA, which makes our events so successful. She inherently knows the Kenyon landscape and all of its environs—the students she advises, community boards she chairs, and programs she’s brought to the campus. Her impact has grown because she has made partners of colleagues and students on campus and Knox County community leaders in addition to the parents, alumni, and board of trustees who already respect her and hold her dear. She understands who to involve in what situations and that all things are interrelated, which is what makes her so effective. Barbara has demonstrated some huge institutional improvements, making real, lasting impact for all of us. She’s the only administrator that advises student organizations. She dedicates her time and talent to mentoring the younger generation and ensuring that they’re on their right paths. These examples demonstrate her commitment to being directly involved in the greater good for any community in which she considers herself a member, and that she has a deep understanding of the different layers that create Kenyon. She’s always willing to serve, and that shows in her leadership style. When Barbara is in a room, she’s confident in her knowledge and abilities, but is that person who tries to see others’ viewpoints and learn from them. Once she’s committed to you or a cause, you will never find a more loyal, resourceful, or steady advocate. She’s great at figuring out what’s important and how to make it happen.

Outstanding New Conference and Events Professional Award

The Outstanding New Conference and Events Professional Award recipient is Drew Elisabeth Ard, Event Manager at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, KY.  This award recognizes outstanding work by a newcomer to the collegiate conference and events field.


Please describe the achievement of the nominee 
Drew was hired in December 2017 as full-time event manager in our office, Office of University Events. Three short months later, she was given more responsibility when our other full-time event manager left her position and the assistant director was promoted. Drew rose to the challenge of managing the work load of three positions while still new to the field. She effortlessly executed thousands of events on her own including overseeing the Greek recruitment calendar events. She could have easily become overwhelmed or bitter, but Drew accepted the challenge with a smile and tenacious spirit that she has become known for in our office.  
Please describe why you feel this person (or yourself) deserves this recognition 
Approaching her one-year anniversary on our team, you wouldn’t know Drew Elisabeth Ard is a new professional in collegiate event management. Beginning her journey as an intern and graduate assistant for commencement, Drew quickly demonstrated her value through a positive attitude, a desire to learn, and excellent customer service. When our new event manager was hired, he heard so many wonderful things about Drew during his on-boarding experience that he was so excited to be able to work with her. Drew is not only talented. She is always excited and willing to train and assist others. She is not self-seeking. Rather, she looks to encourage her teammates and remove the stress from her clients when planning and executing their events. This is evident from her popularity with our client base. 
Describe how individual impacted the collegiate conference & events industry and/or institution 
From approving everything from meetings to concerts with thousands of attendees, Drew carries herself like a seasoned professional. In the last year, Drew has managed more than 10,000 bookings. She also contributes ideas on how to improve our university’s event processes. In one example, she worked with our GIS unit to develop an outdoor map that displays all outdoor reservable spaces in a customer friendly format that allows the client to sort by electrical needs, water access, and size. To see her finished product, visit  

Outstanding Institutional Achievement: Single Event Award

Columbus State Community College in Columbus, OH, received the Outstanding Institutional Achievement Award: Single Event. This award recognizes a significant achievement by an institution in the conference and events field for a single event.


Please describe the institutional achievement 
Columbus State Community College launched the first Courageous Conversations series in 2015 to address issues of race and ethnicity. Past events brought together a diverse cross-section of the community to talk about education, health care, and other topics through the lens of race. In 2018, CSCC introduced a new Courageous Conversations series focused on empowering women, Courageous Conversations Women's Vocies. Topics in this series included: "The Courageous Voice of the First Woman to Run for President, Victoria Woodhull", “Follow the Leadership of Black Women”, "Criminal Justice Reform with Orange is the New Black author, Piper Kerman", “Women in Business: Addressing Pay Equity” and “The Silence Breakers", and evening with #MeToo founder and activist Tarana Burke. This series addressed important social issues and although it did not directly relate to academics, the lesson, the discussion, and the support from the college, benefited us all. The most significant institutional achievement is the collaboration from five different departments including, Global Diversity and Inclusion, Counseling Services, President's Office, The Conference Center and Marketing and Communication. Each department accepted a role to help make this event a success. In 2015, this series was attended by a few hundred students, staff and community members. In 2018, attendance grew to over 400 for just one event in the series! This increase in attendance required the Conference Center team to make available "overflow" seating. This increase also required us to revisit the number of counselors on hand.  
Please describe why you feel this institution deserves this recognition 
At a moment when women’s issues have captured national attention, the College invited Central Ohioans to engage in a transformative, intersectional dialogue focused on empowering women. In addition to nationally recognized keynote speakers, Courageous Conversations hosted panels with local leaders, community discussions, and workshops.Not only did our CSCC team work with local media outlets, the team was able to work with other institutions in the community to ensure student and community members felt supported and included in these Courageous Conversations. The collaboration between college departments itself is worthy of an award, lol. Numerous members from 5 different departments worked together to serve the community through our campus conversations. These partnerships help create a more inclusive environment for all involved. 
Describe how this event impacted the industry and/or institution 
This series impacted the intuition by leading by example and demonstrating that we, an academic institution, could not only address academic issues but social ones too. While a lot of the issues discussed were very "hot button" issues, we did not flinch. The college understood the risk by inviting these types of conversations to our campus but never let the risk outweigh the reward. Our institution is better for having this series. Our departments are better for working together. Our community is stronger knowing we care. 
Describe how this event showed a campus and/or community-wide effort 
This event for CSCC was bigger then our campus, bigger than our student body... this series was truly a community event. This event was always free and open to the public. We worked with neighboring institutions, like The Ohio State University, to help promote and encourage students and community members to not only listen to these courageous conversations but to participate and share their own courageous stories. Often times these stories and discussion "triggered" members of our audience, so with support from the college we utilized resources to offer on-site counseling to anyone, student or not, that might need to talk or seek counseling. These professional counselors stood by for each session and participants were encouraged to seek help if needed. While these resources are not always at our disposal, we knew the value of this type of help and could not dismiss the needs of our community while addressing these pressing issues of our time. For our supporting documentation I have included a clip of The Ohio State University web page helping spread the word to raise awareness. not only was this a collaboration between departments at CSCC, we worked with community partners as well.  

Outstanding Institutional Achievement: Long-term Process Award

University of Vermont in Burlington, VT, received the Outstanding Institutional Achievement Award: Long-term Process. This award recognizes a significant achievement by an institution in the conference and events field for a more long-term development/process that represents an outstanding milestone in the institution’s conference and events management.  


Please describe the institutional achievement 
University Event Services and Student Life implemented the use of University Ticket across campus.  
Please describe why you feel this institution deserves this recognition 
Prior to University Tickets, ticketing for on campus events was quite cost prohibitive and mostly provided by off campus organizations (local music venue, theater, etc.) University Tickets has provided an option for student organizations, departments and even external clients to affordably issue tickets both in person and online, collect payment and avoid cash handling (University departments/student groups are no longer able to provide cash transactions for auditing purposes) in a cost-neutral setting. 
Describe how this long-term process impacted the industry and/or institution 
In the fall 2018 semester alone forty events used University Tickets. In addition to ticketed events, through University Tickets student groups and clubs are able to accept dues and payment of trips, and sell merchandise and swag. Commencement Main and College Ceremonies also use University Tickets to manage capacities in our indoor venues. 
Describe how this long-term process showed a campus and/or community-wide effort 
The need for an affordable ticketing service had been felt for a long time. It was made clear something needed to be done when a student organization hosted a free-to-the-public, prominent, feel-good speaker in a too-small-of-space and University Event Services didn't have much recourse to take when it came to ticketing. How could we force a free event to pay event a dollar or two per ticket? After a thorough search by University Event Services and Student Life, University Tickets was the answer. We can now require groups to ticket events, even free ones, at an exceptionally affordable price that allows differentiation between UVM community members and the public, online and in person ticket 'sales' and a landing page that looks and feels like the event. Because this service can be extended to external clients it allows a more encompassing one-stop-shop. Presently University Event Services leases four scanning units which are provide to events at a minimal expense to be able to accurately track attendance at events. If additional scanners are needed University Event Services is able to facilitate this on behalf of student groups, departments or even external clients.  

Outstanding Mentor Award

The Outstanding Mentor Award was given to Christina Patarino, CCEP, Conference Coordinator at the University of Colorado Boulder in Boulder, CO.This award recognizes a member who has given their time and expertise to help other members as one of the following:  a CCEP mentor; a resource in a specific area (i.e., strategic plans, marketing, budgeting, etc.); someone who takes the initiative and extends him or herself to welcome new or potential members to the Association; or someone who promotes involvement in the Association in their region and/or beyond.  


Please describe the mentor relationship you had/have with the nominee 
Ms. Christina has been a phenomenal mentor. I could not have asked for a better pairing. The relationship I have with Ms. Christina is almost one of a mother/daughter as well as a best friend. She is funny, energetic, and smart. She always puts others first! From the moment we have been "paired" together; it truly has been a commitment. It's like a marriage, I know I can count on my mentor in sickness and in health...literally! She never slows down, which is not always a good thing. 
Please describe why you feel this person (or yourself) deserves this recognition 
There is so much I can say about Ms. Patarino but will try to be brief. I think Ms. Christina deserves this award because she is dedicated and shows a vested interest in all those who she helps. As I mentioned before, Ms. Christina is always there for me. Even when she was sick and had health concerns, she still took time to communicate with me one way or another. If she lost her voice, she emailed me; if we did not connect by phone, she reached out by text. She is always smiling when I see her and talks with a smile in person and on the phone. I feel that Ms. Christina always tries to keep her energy up so that her energy will encourage me and keep me motivated. When I joined the CCEP program this past March, she sat down with me and gave me a realistic overview of what to expect. Having a three year timeline for the CCEP track makes it so easy to continue to push completion or deadlines back. But we set a schedule and are working hard to stick to it. We have monthly appointments and check-ups. It is a very rare occasion, that we miss an appointment. And although times get busy for all of us in the events and conferences industry, she still makes a point to give me that gentle nudge to say I need to get on the ball. I know that I can ask Ms Christina any question about anything. She also makes it a point to inquire about my personal life as well just to ensure that I am doing well holistically. Life is stressful especially with a young child and we have not had one conversation where she has not asked about my sweet baby or requested photos. It is truly amazing to me that this one individual (who I never met before this year) feels so confident in me and my ability to do well and succeed in this program, that she has time in her busy week to give me an hour every other week plus random check-ins. It gives me a sense of determination to complete the CCEP partly because I don't want to let her down and all the time she invested in me!  
Describe how individual impacted your work in the industry and/or your institution 
Ms. Christina has taught me to never give up on myself and believe in what I am doing. I set goals for myself, my team, and our department. I see how she has endured so much over time, that I know I/we can do anything! I try to be example for my colleagues in Event and Conference Services. I currently serve as mentor to several students through various academic programs as well as personal mentors to young individuals. Ms. Christina has taught me to live and be the example that she is. Our Event and Conference Services office team dynamic is growing and showing tremendous improvement by small changes that we make to ourselves each day. I have also took the initiative to reach out to our Hospitality and Tourism program here at The University of Southern Mississippi. It was shocking to me to learn that many of the marketing professionals in that department were not aware of what exactly we do in our department. And I had the pleasure to learn more about their program as well. This program has three sectors: Food & Beverage; Hotel and Tourism; and Events. Just from starting the conversation with these professors, we found opportunities to build some partnerships, connect students with various internships, internal office shadowing, connect students with our marketing team to do class marketing projects, liaison this program with our hotel partners, even potentially setting students up for networking and job opportunities. It has also opened up an opportunity to teach a class in the Hospitality and Tourism program which will not only help my professional growth as a professional but serve as credit for my CCEP as well. I want to be the best me I can be. I am less than 1 year into the CCEP program but am on track to complete a good portion of the requirements well ahead of schedule. I cannot thank ACCED-I enough for blessing me with Ms. Christina, she has made a huge impact in my life and I know she will continue to help others the way she has helped me! I hope I can be an impact to others and support my community in the same way as I continue to grow and develop. She is not just my mentor, she is my team's mentor because they see her through me. 

Patrick Perfetto Volunteer of the Year Award

The Patrick Perfetto Volunteer of the Year Award was presented to Michelle Wu, CCEPDirector of Conference Services at Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington, IL. The Patrick Perfetto Volunteer of the Year Award recognizes an ACCED-I member who contributes their time and talents to the Association at any level and/or to ACCED-I headquarters to significantly add value to the Association, its programs and services. The emphasis is on service rather than achievement.


Please describe the volunteer service of the nominee 
Developed and coordinated first time attendee guides at the 2018 Annual Conference 
Please describe why you feel this person (or yourself) deserves this recognition 
Michelle took an idea that has been tried many times for our Annual Conference and successfully implemented the outreach to our first time attendees. Yearly our AC attracts 30% first time attendees. We want to be welcoming. Michelle's work ensured these people had immediate connections. In Minneapolis well over 100 first time attendees requested to be paired with an experience member, a pool of 45. With skill she created the pairings. Just as important she communicated expectations the guides. This program was a huge success. Planners for the 2019 AC are using Michelle's work as a guide to further this outreach. 
Describe how the nominee impacted the work of ACCED-I and/or the industry 
ACCED-I is known for outreach, networking and education. Michelle's work furthered these goals ensuring first time attendees missed nothing at their first conference attendance with us. Our membership in dynamic and ever changing. Michelle's work means these members remember ACCED-I and makes these attendees want to be active members. I've stayed in touch with one of my "guidee" and for the Pittsburg conference he is a second time attendee, a presenter, and enthused about involvement in ACCED-I. Michelle's work is the cornerstone in creating new ACCED-I leaders. 

Session of the Year Award

Robin R. Rathje, Assistant Director, Conference and Event Services at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, CO was awarded the Session of the Year Award based on her presentation at the 38th Annual Conference titled “Little Known Ways to Improve Your Workplace.” This award recognizes a member, or members, for an outstanding professional presentation of a session at the ACCED-I Annual Conference.  The presentation must have occurred in the past calendar year.  

Congratulations to all the award recipients!