University Letter

UND's faculty and staff newsletter

Michaela L. Neal Named UND and ND Student Employee of the Year

Michaela L. Neal

The Office of Human Resources & Payroll Services is pleased to recognize Michaela L. Neal, a STEM Ambassador for the North Dakota Space Grant Consortium (NDSGC), as the 2022 Student Employee of the Year.

This recognition highlights the outstanding students employed part-time at UND. Michaela was selected as this year’s honoree, out of a total of eighteen nominations, by the Student Employee of the Year Committee. Michaela was recognized at the university level and was also chosen as the North Dakota Student Employee of the year by the Midwest Association of Student Employment Administrators (MASEA). MASEA selected Michaela as one of the regional runners-up, and her nomination was reviewed and recognized on the national level.

Nominations are judged by a committee on the 8 National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) Core Competencies:

  • Critical Thinking & Problem Solving
  • Oral & Written Communications
  • Teamwork & Collaboration
  • Digital Technology
  • Leadership
  • Professionalism & Work Ethic
  • Career Management
  • Global & Intercultural Fluency

Michaela’s three nominations detailed how she displayed each of the competencies listed above. All three noted the level of commitment she has shown to the UND and North Dakota Space Grant Consortium.

Tori McIntosh, the NDSGC coordinator, chose to emphasize Michaela’s ability to communicate in her nomination, and how this changed the way some projects were structured and the tools the team used. The deputy directory of the NDSGC, Marissa Saad, shared in her nomination how Michaela created a virtual reality experience which can be used by educators in their classrooms from any location, as well as her contributions to a virtual escape room for students at the North Dakota School for the Blind/Vision Services. She emphasized Michaela’s passion in ensuring all lesson plans and website pages are accessible to community members of all abilities.

“Nearly 40 outstanding students have held STEM Ambassadorships over the lifetime of the program, and I can confidently state that Ms. Neal has excelled as one of our top students. She demonstrates maturity, leadership, and forward-thinking. She constantly brings fresh ideas to the table and invites fellow STEM Ambassadors to join her in these endeavors,” Caitlin Milera, The Director of the NDSGC and Michaela’s third nominator.

Upon being notified of her award, Michaela responded with the following:

“Working as a STEM Ambassador for the North Dakota Space Grant Consortium has been such an enriching opportunity and an absolute blast! I feel so lucky to be part of this dynamic team, exchanging collaborative ideas and pursuing creative projects for STEM outreach. Working remotely from my home state has given me a unique perspective to envision how cutting-edge technology, like virtual reality and gamified learning, can transform our ability to communicate, learn, and experience STEM concepts. Through this job, I feel fortunate to access professional development and support to help me build the technical skills necessary to turn vision into reality.

“This year, my team and I created a web-based virtual reality escape room curriculum for middle school students. The process, from start to finish, has been such a journey. As I reflect on all my experiences so far, and everything to come, I am just awed by all the doors that open with the right combination of collaboration, perseverance, and training. When I gaze into a virtual reality headset or imagine what can be created through game-based online learning tools, I feel as though I am glimpsing the education of the future. It’s an inclusive future that bridges geographic distance and ignites a passion for learning and excelling in STEM, whether in the classroom or beyond.”

Michaela will be presented this award at the 2022 Leadership Awards, held in-person and virtually this year, on April 29. Her name has been added to the Student Employee of the Year plaque and she will be awarded the $500 Student of the Year scholarship, courtesy of the Office of Student Finance.

Please join us in celebrating Michaela’s achievements. We are proud to have her as the UND 2022 Student Employee of the Year.