Fondren’s Debra Kolah wins Elizabeth Gillis Award

Fondren’s Debra Kolah wins Elizabeth Gillis Award
‘Team Debra’ recognized for incomparable service

BY ARIE WILSON PASSWATERS
Rice News staff

Debra Kolah is but one woman, but you couldn’t tell it by the number of roles she fills.

Describing the reference and collections development librarian’s many accomplishments, Elizabeth Gillis noted that it is hard to picture Kolah as being only one person.

 
   JEFF FITLOW  
Elizabeth Gillis, left, presents Debra Kolah with the 2009 Elizabeth Gillis Award for Exemplary Service. The award was
established in 2000 by the Rice Board of Trustees to recognize
outstanding achievements and service by a staff member in support of
the university’s mission.

 
 
In her own words:

“I am so deeply honored to win this award. I truly am grateful to work every day with dedicated colleagues who collaborate with me and inspire me. An early mentor taught me that we can make a difference, and every day I strive to do that, whether it is being involved with a big project or buying a cup of coffee for a student that wants to talk.”


— Debra Kolah

 

“She’s been so active since joining Rice in 2001 that maybe we should call her ‘Team Debra,'” said Gillis.

This feat, along with her tendency to go above and beyond the call of duty, earned Kolah the 2009 Elizabeth Gillis Award for Exemplary Service. The award was established in 2000 by the Rice Board of Trustees to recognize outstanding achievements and service by a staff member in support of the university’s mission.

”Debra’s sincere dedication, boundless enthusiasm and notable resourcefulness are evident in everything she does,” said Sandi Edwards, head of reference at Fondren Library.

But those who work closely with Kolah describe her as more than just friendly and efficient. Kolah impacts many on the Rice campus through her work, from supporting faculty members’ research and teaching to providing students with classes, research study breaks and orientations.

Kolah is credited as helping advance Fondren Library in both simple and complex ways — from providing better directional signs for the stacks to the improving the library’s catalog. As chair of the Fondren Research Education Committee and also a member of library’s Accessibility Task Force, Kolah addressed not only physical barriers to using the library building, but also virtual challenges to using Fondren’s Web site.

“Thanks to Debra, more students are using the library’s electronic resources — and using them more effectively,” said University Librarian Sara Lowman.
   
Kolah also extends her expertise — and Rice’s reputation — outside the hedges. She works with the Scholarly Communications Group, a collaborative effort of librarians from the Texas Medical Center, to sponsor meetings and symposia on many topics. On the national level, she is actively involved with the New Media Consortium, an association of nearly 300 learning-focused organizations dedicated to the exploration and use of new media and new technologies, and served as a member of the Publications Oversight Committee of the American Physical Society.

Just as her work at Fondren is unmatched, her personal time is spent notably, as she shares much of it reaching out to international students.

She not only works closely with the Office of International Students and Scholars to develop programs tailored for them, but she also takes her involvement personally, mentoring and fostering a culture on campus that welcomes diversity.

Geneva Henry, executive director of the Center for Digital Scholarship, recalled a Fulbright scholar who came from India suffering from a severe case of culture shock. Kolah reached out to this student, taking him under her wing. 

”Debra drove him wherever he needed to go and opened her home and shared many meals with him,” Henry said. “She also helped him meet other members of the Indian community in Houston and introduced him to a local temple where he could participate in religious activities.”

Such professional and personal giving to the Rice community makes Kolah completely worthy of recognition with the Gillis Award, Lowman said.

”She is an enthusiastic librarian and a truly outstanding member of the Rice community,” Lowman said. “She brings a dedicated and professional approach to her work and is unfailingly collegial and generous in sharing her knowledge and perspective.”


Longtime Rice employees recognized for service, dedication

This week 313 Rice faculty and staff were recognized for service milestones ranging from five to 45 years.

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