Faculty members earn Iowa honors

Jennifer Nacin

Two ISU faculty members have been honored for contributing to improved competitiveness and service among Iowa organizations.

Former Engineering Dean James Melsa and Associate Vice President for Facilities Planning and Management Chris Ahoy have been honored by the Iowa Quality Center for their involvement and commitment to Iowa economic development.

Melsa was awarded the Baldrige Award for pioneering the Iowa Recognition Performance Excellence program in 1999. The recognition program evaluates candidate Iowa organizations by applying criteria used by the Baldrige National Quality Program.

The Baldrige program is a national assessment tool that aims to increase competition among businesses.

Both the Baldrige and the recognition programs use examiners to assess organizations that apply for inspection. Organizations apply in order to learn how to better develop themselves and see how they stand in comparison to others.

Melsa said that before 1999, when he worked as an organizational examiner for the Baldrige National Quality Program, he saw a need to take this national organization assessment process and create a smaller-scale program that abided to the same principles and criteria as the national program.

Evaluation criteria for performance excellence include leadership, strategic planning, customer and market focus, measurement, analysis and knowledge management, human resource focus, process management and business results.

He said he saw a need in Iowa for a program that would share knowledge and educate organizations on the importance of competition and the desire to continuously advance.

Gary Nesteby, executive director of the Iowa Quality Center, said the recognition program offers legitimate feedback indicating areas of strength and opportunities for growth, and this gives clear indications that these criteria work to improve organizations’ performance.

Nesteby said the recognition program that is run through the Iowa Quality Center is a way for these organizations to put themselves on a path to continuous improvement.

“There is a need for organizations that are already here to sustain themselves and to continuously improve,” Nesteby said.

“And, in order to do that, they may need resources or the ability to assess themselves to see just how good they really are.”

Michael Langridge, program director for the recognition program, said the goal of the Iowa Recognition Performance Excellence program is to increase competition and level of success for Iowa businesses and organizations. He said participating organizations can be for-profit or non-profit.

He said they can also be involved in education, health care and service.

Melsa retired last year. Langridge said he thought the best way to honor Melsa for his contributions to the economic development of the state was to give him the Baldrige Award.

“Since he retired, we recognized his efforts for establishing this program in Iowa,” Langridge said. “His leadership made it possible.”

Melsa said working with the Baldrige and recognition programs have been very rewarding.

“Of course I was very pleased by the award, because I feel that this is an exceptional group, and I was honored receiving an award from them,” Melsa said.

Ahoy received the 2004 Iowa Recognition Performance Excellence Examiner Commitment Award from the Iowa Quality Center, which recognized his leadership within program. Ahoy is recognized for being the member who provided the largest number of recognition program examiners from any one institution. He has provided eight of the 50 program examiners this year, Langridge said.

Examiners assess the candidate organizations and provide helpful feedback according to the recognition program criteria for organizations that wish to continually improve.

Ahoy could not be reached for comment.