Apr 22, 2024

Smith and Yusko honored with Distinguished Staff Awards

Janet Smith, assistant director of outreach for the East Asian Studies Center and Amanda Yusko, program manager for the international student team in the Office of International Affairs, are recipients of the 2024 Distinguished Staff Award, the highest honor bestowed upon staff at Ohio State. The annual award recognizes 12 individuals in recognition of their outstanding achievements, service, leadership and dedication to the university.

Recipients are nominated and selected based on their contributions to enhancing the quality of work life, providing outstanding and ongoing excellence in service, developing creative solutions to problems that result in more efficient and effective operations and consistent demonstration of the university’s shared values.

Janet Smith – Advancing East Asian languages and cultures locally and globally

Janet Smith has been a driving force in advancing the East Asian Studies Center’s goal to promote the teaching and learning of East Asian languages and cultures in K-12 classrooms. As assistant director for outreach, Janet’s work to train K-12 teachers across the state on how to successfully bring East Asia into their classrooms is unparalleled. In 2022-23 alone, Janet was involved in 15 different teacher training workshops, attended by 480 K-12 teachers across 32 states. The workshops resulted in producing more than 100 lesson plans and classroom modules that would reach nearly 38,000 students.

“Her ability to connect OSU to the East Asian community both globally and locally absolutely epitomizes the university’s shared values of inclusion and equity, as well as those of diversity and innovation, and the exceptional quality of her work is the very embodiment of the excellence and impact value that is at the heart of everything we do,” said Mitch Lerner, director of the East Asian Studies Center.

Janet began working at Ohio State in October 2001 as executive director of the Japan-America Society of Central Ohio (JASCO), and held the position of assistant director for the Institute of Japan Studies before moving into her current role.

Whether she is completing grant applications, organizing lectures, meeting with teachers over the weekend or cultivating strong relationships with community partners, such as the Columbus Council on World Affairs and JASCO among many others, Janet is consumed with connecting Ohio State to the East Asian community and exposing as many teachers, students and communities as she possibly can to the dynamic East Asian cultures.

“With over 20 years of service and dedication to our organization, she consistently demonstrates passion, excellence, and care – especially through the nurturing of strong and effective partnerships,” wrote one of her nominators. “A true inspiration to myself and others, she is no doubt among our university’s most distinguished staff.”

As part of her many responsibilities she also directs the Midwestern Korean poetry competition every year attracting hundreds of entries; she is the lead organizer of the annual “When East Meets West” symposium that EASC hosts in partnership with Columbus State Community College, drawing hundreds of community members; helped direct the inaugural East Asia Day, which drew 200 high school students from central Ohio to campus for a series of events designed to expose them to East Asian life and society; and she also coordinates important outreach programs to Historically Black Colleges and Universities, through which EASC exchanges faculty speakers and provides other scholarly engagements.

Her devotion to expanding the university’s efforts in the realms of diversity and inclusion is powerful and profound,” Lerner said. “Janet’s efforts to connect Ohio and East Asia have been an important reminder to everyone of the benefits of diversity and international engagement.”

Amanda Yusko – Supporting international students, making an impact in international education

Amanda Yusko stands out as an advocate for international students, a compassionate leader and is a well-respected colleague in the field of international education. In her role as program manager for the Office of International Affairs, she is responsible for managing a team of six immigration coordinators who advise Ohio State’s 5,500+ international student population.

With Ohio State since 2012, Amanda and her team work together to ensure processes are in place to help international students maintain their lawful immigration status to remain in the United States and provide a support system for them during their time on campus.

Actively involved in NAFSA, Amanda has been recognized for her contributions to the international education community as a recipient of the 2023 Leo Dowling Award of Excellence, the 2017 George Hertrich Advocacy Award and the 2008 Dorothy Brickman Award for Outstanding New Professional.

Amanda leads by example encouraging her team to share their knowledge and experience with NAFSA membership by supporting their participation on panels at regional and national conferences. She also has spearheaded cross-campus initiatives through meetings and workshops to increase awareness about international student experiences and the resources they need to succeed.

One of her nominators wrote: “Her dedication and strong leadership serve as an inspiration to those around her to perform at their best.”

During the pandemic, she smoothly led her team through the transition to an online environment. This meant developing a new immigration check-in process (which is required of all new international students), establishing a new scheduling system for advising, revising methods of communication and transitioning from paper to e-forms. Amanda included her team every step of the way by welcoming  their suggestions and ideas, which inspired creativity and drove excitement for developing new ways of communicating with international students.

“She not only constructed a smooth transition but also showed respect by pointing out merits of each member of her team,” wrote one nominator. “She listened to each person’s perspective regardless of their position to create the best process for the team and for international students.”

Amanda is also known as a caring and compassionate team leader. She acknowledges her colleagues’ achievements and celebrates their birthdays by decorating their workspaces and bringing in baked goods. Her door is always open. She listens, is fully engaged with her team and goes above and beyond to create an environment where each team member feels valued and supported.

“Amanda is one of a kind and a joy to work with,” wrote one of her nominators. “She is always there to listen, support, and show appreciation for her team. I am honored to call her my mentor and inspiration.”