Meet this week’s Centennial Stars

For two Rice staffers, excellent customer service is a priority

To celebrate the Rice Centennial, this year the university will honor 100 staff members who represent the best of Rice culture. Each week, two Centennial Stars will be recognized for their contributions to excellence, and we’ll introduce them in Rice News.

This week’s Centennial Stars do their jobs extraordinarily well – and both strive to make customer service a priority at Rice. They are Kristal Scheffler, assistant marketing director at the Susanne M. Glasscock School of Continuing Studies, and Prabesh Vijayananda, project manager for Information Technology (IT).

Kristal Scheffler

Scheffler came to Rice in 2005 as a marketing specialist in Continuing Studies and has been lauded for her professionalism and tremendous work ethic.

“Since she joined our staff in 2005, Kristal has embodied the characteristics that this award honors: She has had a consistent positive impact on the Rice culture; she has been active in campus activities outside of her position; and most importantly, she supports the campus culture of civility and caring,” a colleague wrote in a nomination letter.

In 2011, Scheffler was promoted to her current position as assistant marketing director. In this role, she promotes dozens of programs for the school, including personal and professional development, language programs, the Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership, the Master of Liberal Studies program and the Center for College Readiness. Since her hiring in 2005, the demands of the marketing department have grown exponentially, and she has kept up the pace and helped the school succeed with its goals, the letter said.

“Kristal is the consummate professional,” another colleague said. “Whether brainstorming new marketing ideas, coordinating the many aspects of her job or planning an event, she shows creative talent, excellent organizational skills, a knack for predicting the unpredictable and solid capability in every challenge she tackles.”

Sheffler has served on the Staff Advisory, Employee Activities and the Staff Development committees. She is also a member of the TEAMS (Training Enables a Manager’s Success) program, designed to promote and encourage leadership and development.

“She successfully and happily juggled the demands of many campus committees with the ever-growing demands of her job in the Glasscock School,” a colleague wrote. “Her dedication to Rice is clear.”

Prabesh Vijayananda

Vijayananda began his career at Rice as a temporary computer operator in the IT Operations Center in 2002. Within five months he was promoted to a full-time, permanent position in IT. In 2006, he was promoted to IT facilities and project planning specialist, and in 2011, Vijayananda was promoted again to project manager.

“There is no single staff member that I have ever known who is more dedicated to their job,” a colleague wrote in a letter nominating Vijayananda for the award. “His concern is always for the customer and for Rice overall. I hear only positive feedback.”

Vijayananda has meticulously worked on improvements for making the transitions associated with moves and changes easier on everybody involved. He strives to ensure that the customer’s expectations are met and that everyone stays on the same page, the letter said.

“He researches the products we use and pays very close attention to ensure that whatever project we are working on goes forward and never backward,” the colleague wrote. “He strives to keep the ‘Rice’ feel.”

Described as a “very trusted individual who people depend on,” Vijayananda is noted for his attention to detail and excellent communication.

“He cares for the customers,” the letter said. “He goes out of his way where many others would not. He works on a task until the task is fulfilled, versus watching a clock.”

To nominate someone as a Centennial Star, go to For more information, contact Rebecca Millet at

To view previous Centennial Stars, visit

About Arie Passwaters

Arie Wilson Passwaters is editor of Rice New.