Jennifer Ballesteros, a member of the Department of Biochemistry and Structural Biology Administrative Team, has been named as the recipient for the 2020 Debbie Canales Yrle Distinguished Service Award.
The award is based on her outstanding performance and willingness to go above and beyond in support of the educational mission of the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and its programs.
Ballesteros served as the discipline coordinator of the Biochemical Mechanisms in Medicine of the IBMS Graduate Program and has recently transitioned to a new role as Grants and Contracts Specialist.
“There are many qualities I admire about Jen but I think first and foremost is her attitude – always a smile and always willing to help. She has a fantastic work ethic, is selfless with her time and pays attention to details, all qualities that make her a highly effective and efficient graduate coordinator,” said Dr. David Libich, assistant professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Structural Biology and director of the Biochemical Mechanisms in Medicine discipline of the IBMS Graduate Program.
He explained that while serving as program coordinator, she helped support the students, attending to their administrative needs even if this meant working on her own time in the evenings and over the weekends.
“I take charge of really getting to know the timeline for each of my students individually so that I provide them proper guidance from matriculation to graduation,” Ballesteros said.
Dr. Libich explained that Jennifer would go above and beyond to ensure that the BMM students were meeting all of the GSBS program milestones which assured their path to their degrees is kept free of administrative obstacles.
“Ms. Ballesteros knows all of her students personally, and each semester prepares a personalized email that details courses offered/required, specific deadlines, the need for them to hold committee meetings,” explained Dr. Libich. “This email also highlights important academic (e.g. qualifying exam) or administrative deadlines (e.g. registrations deadlines) that the individual students need to be aware of for the coming semester. Ms. Ballesteros also interfaces and navigates with the registrar’s office, ensuring IBMS programmatic requirements are being met. This is an example of Ms. Ballesteros not only anticipating the needs of the BMM students but excelling in delivering a level of service that exceeds the performance metrics of her position.”
Jennifer explained that one of her proudest moments as the BMM discipline coordinator was when she saw her first Ph.D. graduation.
“To know my students embarked on a challenging journey to reach a pinnacle moment in their lives leaves me speechless and so proud,” she said. “As their coordinator, I get to be a part of their special day and watch them cross the finish line – it is so gratifying and heartfelt that I feel like a proud mom who has watched them grow into successful professionals that has led to the next stepping stone in their life.”
She explained that one of her favorite aspects of her job was working with the students.
“My students are amazing – each and every one of them. I love when I get to interact one on one with my students because they are all so unique,” she said. “Each one of them has their own story just like we all do and I am always intrigued by what brought them to the science field. To know that they are so young and have the inspiration to make a difference in the world inspires me just by witnessing their progress.”
She explained that as a coordinator, there are lots of aspect to the job that people might not expect.
“Most people think that being a coordinator is all about preparing parties come graduation time and being their cheerleader. While that is the very basic part of what we do, there is so much more that is involved. I for one engage myself with each individual student by studying what’s on paper each semester to ensure they are on the right track. I put a lot of time and effort into thinking about the possible outcomes and preparing each stage throughout their education,” she said. “Being able to guide them through the next step is something I take pride in. They already have a lot of pressure with their experiments, I help with the logistical side of their education to ensure we are both getting them closer to their goals and graduation time is a bittersweet moment.”
Before working with the Department of Biochemistry and Structural Biology, Ballesteros worked in the Department of Developmental Dentistry and was in charge of two undergraduate programs that included preparation of clinical rotations and classes for each concentration. She has been at UT Health San Antonio for a total of 19 years.
“Winning the Debbie Yrle award humbles me to my core and also gives me validation knowing I make the people I interact with happy by just simply doing my job with great quality, a smile on my face, and always putting a little bit of extra. I have always made going above and beyond My mantra in everything I do in life and I always see the positive in every negative situation. I accept each task with a great attitude, dissect it as I go ensuring my work is thorough and efficient, finish them successfully, and hit next. So when you ask me what this award means to me, well I am truly honored to receive it because I now know that people are happy with my work ethic and that my attention to detail is appreciated by many. I also feel that I have achieved a higher level of personal and professional strength by doing things without hesitation, and that my joy of helping others is evident without expecting things in return and just doing what I do. Setting an example for my son that hard work, determination, and being passionate about what you do leads to triumph not only for yourself, but everyone involved. I am a step-up team-player who always encourages people when I feel that they seem overwhelmed by simply telling them, ‘you just have to rock it.’ It’s what I believe in for myself, and setting yourself up for failure is not an option because you are your only limit as to what you can do and achieve in your own life.”
She will receive a certificate of recognition and a $500 check. Her name will also be added to the Debbie Canales Yrle Distinguished Service Award recipient plaque in the Graduate Dean’s Office.
Outside of work, Jennifer loves to cook, ride her bike, hike, draw, listen to music, sing out loud, do yardwork, help fix cars, take walks with her yorkie PrimRose, arts and crafts, and play her violin when she gets a chance.