Kelly Rhoades
Thursday, March 14, 2019

In late January the EMS Energy Institute offices experienced a small flood that damaged computers, paperwork, and almost displaced administrative assistant Kelly Rhoades from her office. OPP provided large plastic sheets to cover desks overnight to prevent further damage; however, with Rhoades’ ceiling still leaking water, she continued to work under the tarps to coordinate faculty and administrative areas across campus to ensure faculty research proposals were submitted on time. Rhoades was recognized for that level of dedication throughout her 30 years of service at Penn State last December when she was awarded the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences Circle of Excellence Award.

A celebratory luncheon was thrown in Rhoades’ honor by Semih Eser who nominated Rhoades for the Circle of Excellence Award. Eser took the opportunity to thank Rhoades for her 30 years of service and continued assistance to his research group.  

“Kelly and her staff work very hard, and manage to make it look so easy that some of us tend to take them for granted,” Eser said. “I do hope that we all recognize and appreciate the extraordinary support we receive from Kelly's team at the Institute. Gathering for lunch was meant to celebrate this excellent service and express our gratitude.”

Rhoades supports the EMS Energy Institute in a multitude of ways including maintaining research project budgets, training fellow EI staff members, assisting with grant and research applications, and organizing international conferences. Additionally, Rhoades works with new faculty members along with visiting international scholars and post-doctoral students as they begin their work at Penn State. This work often requires visa applications, sponsorship letters, and coordination with departments throughout the University.

Since 2017, Rhoades has processed over 45 visiting scholars and from January 2017 to March 2018, she submitted 104 research proposals for faculty members. She has helped organize and run Phi Kappa Phi, Stripper Well Consortium, Consortium for Premium Products from Coal, Joint Center for Energy Research, Initiative for Sustainable Electric Power Systems, Enhanced Oil Recovery, Gas Storage Consortium, Electric Markets Initiative, Solar Challenge, Agriculture Energy Days, 2013 International Conference on Coal Science & Technology, 12th International Conference on Carbon Dioxide Utilization 2013, and University Coalition for Fossil Energy Research. 

In letters of support for Rhoades’ nomination, one faculty member wrote it was Rhoades’ “level of support that she extended [that] helped convince me that I had made the right decision to move [to Penn State] during those initial few days, when the mind is still wavering.” The faculty member added, “her knowledge about Penn State policies and the available infrastructure to do research here never ceases to amaze me.”

Rhoades joined Penn State in 1988 and has been with the Energy Institute since 1997. During her tenure, she has managed a multitude of daily tasks and the oversight of other EI staff members to ensure EI supports and assists faculty members in their research efforts. Rhoades’ dedication to the faculty and staff at EI has allowed the Institute to run smoothly and produce a myriad consortiums, projects, and conferences even through different directors and staff turnover. That work is often completed on evenings and weekends as events and deadlines require Rhoades to work outside normal business hours. Work that many at the Energy Institute attest is always done with a cheerful disposition.

Outside of work ethic, Rhoades is known throughout EMS for her extensive knowledge of University policies and infrastructure along with her attention to detail. Other EMS faculty and staff members in other departments often ask Rhoades for assistance because of her knowledge, expertise and willingness to help.

“At work, she combines a comprehensive knowledge of University policies, regulations, and procedures with unwavering attention to the wellbeing and success of the staff, faculty, and students alike,” another faculty member wrote in their support letter. “She goes well above and beyond the call of duty to serve the Institute, College, and University.”

All of the faculty that sponsored Rhoades’ nomination agreed that she “has a real passion for seeing members of our community succeed in their roles” which Rhoades demonstrates through her interactions with visiting scholars, students, faculty, and staff members. Rhoades has also served as a mentor to many staff members in the Institute who have earned promotions throughout the University and noted Rhoades’ training as essential to their growth.

“She has created an all-inclusive, all-embracing environment at the Energy Institute, which permeates across all members of the Institute staff, and where everyone is welcome regardless of university position or background,” a faculty member wrote.

The Circle of Excellence Award honors a staff member who motivates and inspires others while fostering excellence in achievements and performance, encourages the growth of others, promotes diversity, provides superior customer service, and is viewed as an outstanding staff in EMS.