A montage of the the 2024 IT Recognition Award winners

Meet the 2024 IT Recognition Awards winners

A seated audience claps for a person at the front of the room.
The 2024 IT Recognition Awards were presented during the hybrid IT Professionals Conference on Thursday, May 30, in the Pyle Center. (Photo by Justin Masuga / Division of Information Technology)

UW–‍Madison IT professionals celebrated the exceptional achievements of their peers at the 2024 UW–‍Madison IT Recognition Awards on May 30, 2024, as part of the IT Professionals Conference. Now in their 5th year, the awards recognize the dedication, innovation and impact of IT staff (watch the awards ceremony recording).

“The IT Recognition Awards celebrate the tremendous talent and dedication of UW’s IT professionals who work tirelessly to advance the university’s mission through technology,” said Lois Brooks, UW–‍Madison’s chief information officer. “Their innovations, leadership and commitment to excellence strengthen our community and shape the future of technology at our university.”

A committee of volunteers selected this year’s honorees from dozens of nominations submitted by their IT community colleagues across the university. The IT Recognition Awards are part of the UW IT Connects initiative, sponsored by the Office of the Chief Information Officer.

Congratulations to all of the 2024 honorees!

Jump to an award:

Note: The honorees’ acceptance remarks have been edited for length and clarity.

Ellen La Luzerne Award for Community Engagement

Mehrnaz Ahmadi Joobaneh, business intelligence developer with the Data, Academic Planning & Institutional Research office

Mehrnaz Ahmadi Joobaneh speaks into a microphone
Mehrnaz Ahmadi Joobaneh

About the winner: Mehrnaz has consistently demonstrated a remarkable dedication to community building and volunteerism within the IT community. She is actively involved in several campus committees and groups and has an unwavering commitment to uplifting underrepresented voices in the technology sector. As a leader within the campus IT community, she is dedicated to building collaborative relationships and seeking positive outcomes while actively creating pathways for others to follow. Her contributions include serving as a current campus representative for the Big Ten Academic Alliance Women+ in Technology, co-leading the UW Women in IT steering committee, and presenting at the UW Women in Leadership Symposium. Mehrnaz was a member of the awards committee and recused herself from scoring applications in this category.

“I’m deeply honored and humbled to accept this award. I worked with Ellen, and she was an incredible person. I’m committed to following in Ellen’s footsteps. I’m also deeply grateful to the IT Awards committee for this recognition and to the IT community for fostering my growth. I would like to dedicate this award to everyone who is striving to make a difference. Your passion inspires me every day.”
— Mehrnaz Ahmadi Joobaneh

About the award: 

  • Recognizes an IT community member for their role as a community builder and active volunteer in professional service to the broader community.
  • Named in honor of Ellen La Luzerne, a former desktop support team member in the Division of Information Technology (DoIT) who passed away in 2023. Ellen was known for her tireless dedication to helping others and her impact on the UW community.

Janet E. Plato Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Award

Rob Kohlhepp, director of Computer-Aided Engineering in the College of Engineering

Rob Kohlhepp speaks into a microphone
Rob Kohlhepp

About the winner: Rob has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to promoting diversity at all levels of the UW IT community through his consistent attendance, support and contributions. As a founding member of UW Women in IT (WIT), Rob has been instrumental in promoting the organization’s mission and organizing various events, including a successful event at Camp Randall featuring UW’s women’s softball coach, Yvette Healy. Rob also served as a featured panelist on the Big Ten Academic Alliance Women+ in Technology salary negotiations panel in March 2023. In his department, Rob is adamant about blinding application materials during the recruitment process to eliminate biases, even though this is not a standard practice.

“WIT has been a community that I’m pretty open to coaching and input from. They have taken full advantage of helping me through the journey of getting to where I am today. Maya Angelou said, ‘When you know better, you do better.’ And over the years, through UW WIT and meeting with people, I’ve tried to incorporate the pieces that I can grab from the community. Blinding applications is one of those things I picked up along the way and said, ‘You know what, this makes sense.’ I’m honored to receive this award named after Janet Plato, who was a personal friend of mine. She led her life in a very open and inclusive way and set a great example for me and for others.”
— Rob Kohlhepp

About the award:

  • Recognizes exemplary leadership displayed by an IT staff member in advancing diversity, equity and inclusion within the IT community.
  • Named in honor of Janet Plato, a former network engineer and developer at UW who passed away in 2016.

Lifetime Achievement Award

Greg Johll, director of Educational Tech Support in the Division of Extension (retired)

Greg Johll speaks into a microphone
Greg Johll

About the winner: Greg has spent the last 30 years in service to the university and the people of Wisconsin through his work with Extension. During his tenure, he guided Extension staff through numerous technological advancements, including the advent of the internet, the transition to email and the creation of a NetID system. He helped Extension leadership and staff navigate major reorganizations and the merger back into UW–‍Madison. Greg’s commitment to a servant leadership model has positioned his staff to be active UW community members. His team played a crucial role in onboarding university employees to Zoom during the pandemic, ensuring a smoother transition for the campus community. Greg’s dedication to and advocacy for Extension’s people and work was an embodiment of the Wisconsin Idea.

“I am humbled to receive this award when I look at the careers and the people in this room. When I look back at my career, technologies have come and gone, but one accomplishment I’m most proud of is the fact that the average tenure on my staff is 17 years. Which is amazing. So when I think about my accomplishments, I can’t take credit. I was just the IT director. It was my staff that did it all. So, as you move forward, focus on the IT, but value the people. Thank you.”
— Greg Johll

About the award: 

  • Recognizes the contributions of a UW community member whose body of work in their entire career has had a significant impact on the success of the university.
  • Acknowledges individuals who have demonstrated evidence of sustained service, made an impact beyond their role, and have been involved in multiple campus groups, projects, and initiatives.

Transformational Achievement Award

Tyler Schultz, director of Shared Services IT in the School of Medicine and Public Health (SMPH)

Tyler Schultz speaks into a microphone
Tyler Schultz

About the winner: Tyler received this award for his exceptional work in transforming the SMPH Shared Services IT department. His efforts included centralizing IT services for the basic science departments, implementing a strategic and inclusive management approach, and elevating IT support from ad hoc assistance to a trusted advisory role for the supported units. Tyler’s leadership and dedication to transforming the IT services within SMPH have greatly improved the department’s efficiency and effectiveness.

“This is truly a team award, recognizing our desktop team, infrastructure team, and A/V team for their hard work and dedication. For me, the most enjoyable part of working together is having fun every day when we come to the office. I really appreciate the team and their efforts. Thank you.”
— Tyler Schultz

About the award:

  • Recognizes an IT community member who has significantly transformed the university through their efforts on a specific major IT project or initiative.
  • Acknowledges individuals who have gone above and beyond to create or incorporate innovative information or technical solutions that were essential to the success of their projects.

Team Achievement Award

Hybrid Meeting Room Team — Brad Graham, Shawn Thiele, Chance Homme and Bill Tishler, Division of Information Technology

Brad Graham, Chance Homme, Shawn Thiele and Bill Tishler accept their award
From left: Brad Graham, Chance Homme, Shawn Thiele and Bill Tishler

About the winners: Brad Graham, Chance Homme, Bill Tishler and Shawn Thiele were honored with the Team Achievement Award for their outstanding work in establishing a campus standard for hybrid meeting rooms. The COVID-19 pandemic shifted how people work together, making effective remote collaboration a necessary part of university life. As employees began returning to campus, the need for effective hybrid meetings became apparent. The Hybrid Meeting Room Team worked collaboratively to create a new campuswide technical solution that addressed the inequities between in-person and remote participants —while also providing an easy, intuitive and consistent experience across meeting rooms. The team’s solution greatly improved the user experience for meeting hosts and created a superior experience for hybrid meetings.

“We would like to thank our supervisors and managers for their leadership and willingness to expand the horizons of our departments. They helped make room for this hybrid room initiative which didn’t exist before. We also want to thank all the distributed IT people and department admins around campus who let us bring this technology into their world and embraced it, helping it become the standard it has become. We would also like to emphasize the importance of the ancillary support that we receive within DoIT, from the firewall team to the Help Desk. All of these tremendous efforts helped us achieve our goals of providing exemplary service and fantastic products for our business partners.”
— Hybrid Meeting Room Team

About the award:

  • Recognizes a team whose collective work to create or incorporate a solution for one or more projects has made a significant impact on the university.
  • Celebrates the power of collaboration and the ability of a team to selflessly work for the betterment of their unit, college or institution while addressing specific pain points and serving as a role model for how an ideal team should function.

Rising Star Award

Amy Diestler, cybersecurity governance, risk and compliance manager in the School of Medicine and Public Health (SMPH)

Amy Diestler accepts her award
Amy Diestler

About the winner: Amy has had a transformational impact on IT security within SMPH by making it accessible and welcoming. Despite the complex nature of IT security, Amy’s willingness to engage with staff and liaison with campus has demonstrated her professionalism and opened doors for potential senior leadership roles in the future. Amy’s commitment to professional growth is evident through her Global Information Assurance Certification (GIAC) Security Leadership Certification and her status as a Certified Information Systems Auditor. Her dedication to making a difference in the IT community has not gone unnoticed, with her nominator stating, “We must support the growth and development of IT staff like Amy to build our IT foundation.”

“I want to thank Dave Lorman, who nominated me and has been a wonderful partner to work with at SMPH. I also want to thank my team. I don’t get anything done without them. They are truly the people who are willing to do the hard work and meet every new challenge. And lastly, I would like to say thank you to all of the IT folks I work with on a regular basis. Cybersecurity is not a bubble, and so it is not possible without all of them. So thank you so much.”
— Amy Diestler

About the award:

  • Recognizes an IT professional who has been with the university for 5 or fewer years and whose record reflects exceptional growth in contribution to the profession.
  • Given to individuals who have demonstrated significant growth in their role or engagement in the larger campus IT community and who show strong evidence of potential for future success and leadership.

Unsung Hero Award (2 honorees)

Paul Miller, director of IT and educational support for the Interdisciplinary Professional Programs (InterPro) in the College of Engineering

Paul Miller accepts his award
Paul Miller

About the winner: Paul has been with the university for nearly 30 years, consistently being the go-to person for IT solutions. His work in developing and improving systems that support noncredit learners is a prime example of his embodiment of the Wisconsin Idea. Paul’s nominators praised his willingness to help, his insight and humor, and his role as a linchpin figure in the noncredit program management on campus. They also highlighted his commitment to empowering departments to handle their own troubleshooting by sharing knowledge and building capacity. Paul ensures sustainable solutions and reduces dependency on central IT support.

“This really means a lot to me. One of the great things about having common systems and tools is that there are so many experts to work with all across campus, which is always wonderful. I tend to say that the people who need me—I know that I can rely on them as much as they rely on me to help get things done. It’s just a wonderful shared experience and a fun community. Thank you.”
— Paul Miller

Jenna Klinner, WiscWeb service coordinator in the Division of Information Technology

Jenna Klinner tearfully accepts her award
Jenna Klinner

About the winner: In the 12 years Jenna has been with the university, her dedication to user research, commitment to creating accessible and user-friendly websites, and tireless efforts in supporting the WiscWeb platform have greatly influenced web experiences across the entire university. Despite the immense pressure and demands of managing a platform with over 1,700 sites, Jenna remains dedicated to service excellence and is hugely supportive of her team and campus users.

“I’m completely overwhelmed to be receiving this award. I’m so honored. I’m not sure it’s real. I’m also unbelievably grateful. My time at UW–‍Madison has been one fantastic learning journey, and I still learn new things every single day, which is honestly really awesome. One of the things that I’ve enjoyed the most is serving all of you. I want to thank everyone on my team, our WiscWeb users, and everyone here today. I especially want to thank the folks who nominated me. Thank you.”
— Jenna Klinner

About the award:

  • Recognizes members of the UW IT community who are always present, performing great deeds and making significant contributions behind the scenes, yet their efforts often receive little or no outward recognition.
  • Unsung heroes are responsive and proactive, making a real difference to their co-workers by designing or implementing excellent technical solutions. They are critical to the functions of their department or unit, and their contributions are essential to the success of the university.

IT Connects Impact Award

Jason Pursian, information security officer in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS)

Jason Pursian accepts his award
Jason Pursian

About the winner: Jason was surprised to receive the 1st ever IT Connects Impact Award in recognition of his outstanding service and dedication to IT Connects and the university as a whole. Jason’s commitment to breaking down silos, promoting cross-campus collaboration, and empowering colleagues through knowledge sharing and professional development has significantly enriched the experience of his peers—embodying the shared values of community, inclusivity and continuous learning.

Jason has served on the IT Connects Executive Steering Committee for several years, advocating for increased budgets and formalizing processes and charters for each IT Connects group. He also served as the executive sponsor for the IT Professionals Conference for 2 years and launched the CommunITea informal networking sessions during the pandemic. Additionally, Jason was instrumental in creating and advocating for the IT Recognition Awards 5 years ago; he took the time and care to name 2 of the awards in honor of our departed colleagues, Janet Plato and Ellen La Luzerne.

“I’ve really enjoyed my time serving with IT Connects, and I’m absolutely humbled to be recognized for the work and the impact that I’ve been able to have on the community. It’s been an incredible time working with all of you—many people in this room, those online, people still here at the university and who have moved on to other places. Thank you to the IT Awards committee for this very incredible honor.”
— Jason Pursian

About the award:

  • Special-purpose award not issued every year.
  • Honors individuals who have made exceptional contributions to fostering a collaborative and supportive community for IT professionals at UW.
  • Recognizes IT Connects volunteers who have gone above and beyond in their service, dedicating their time, ideas and enthusiasm to further the mission of IT Connects.