Staff Spotlights, 2017-18
Each month, the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences shares a few tributes to staff and how their efforts make a difference across our many departments, programs and centers.
Mark Sheaves, communications strategist, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences
In the past year, the College’s social media accounts have been chock-full of compelling student and alumni stories. That’s all thanks to Mark, who manages digital content for the College, including the blog and accounts on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. He oversees the Hawks to Watch young alumni spotlight, featuring the interesting career paths of College grads with a new featured profile each month and a takeover on Instagram that shows a day in their life. He also routinely reaches out to students who are doing incredible work on campus and shines a light on their efforts through blog profiles and social media takeovers. And he’s collaborated with several departments this year to showcase their classes or special events on social media platforms. Mark creates a spirit of celebration in the College’s digital presence, truly showcasing the diversity and impact of the liberal arts and sciences, says Kristi Henderson, director of communications.
Christian Beer, media, outreach, recruitment and events coordinator, School of Languages, Literatures & Cultures
A polyglot and multitasker-extraordinaire, Christian has found resources to create a staff of well-trained student hourlies who make a lot of creative stuff happen for the SLLC, says Marc Greenberg, director of the school. Christian’s efforts can be seen in recruitment, fundraising, and events, to publicity and visibility for the school on a local, regional and national scale. He is overseeing the school’s first graduation ceremony this spring and was responsible for launching the school’s annual convocation in the fall. He seeks to partner with other units on campus regularly, such as a Valentine’s Day event this year where international students and staff were on hand to translate greetings on cards in a variety of languages.
Sarah Greenwood, office manager, School of Languages, Literatures & Cultures
Though at night she is a New York Times bestselling author, Sarah during the day oversees the operations of the SLLC, from budget to scheduling. Highly intelligent and competent, says Marc Greenberg, director of the school, she finds creative ways to navigate KU’s policies and procedures to the glory and benefit of the school. As for her publishing career, Sarah wrote “All the Ugly and Wonderful Things” under the name Bryn Greenwood, published in 2016. The novel made the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists, and received second place in Goodreads Best Fiction of 2016.
Jan Emerson, administrative associate, Department of Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies
Jan Emerson has had four different chairs in the past four years, transitioning from one regular chair to two different interim chairs to the current chair, hired via an outside search (meaning he had much to learn about how KU operated). That the department has continued to run as smoothly as it has, growing our enrollments and our Ph.D. program all the while, is due, in no small part, to Jan, says department chair Nick Syrett. Jan is the institutional memory of the department and is constantly planning ahead; she knows what the chair and faculty need before they know what they need. Never seeking fanfare or attention, Jan keeps this feminist ship afloat.
Alex Folsom, web communications coordinator, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences
Alex Folsom started nearly two years ago as the College’s first web communications coordinator with a big project right away: redesign and relaunch the College’s website. Within his first year, he tackled the project expertly and worked closely with several KU and College teams to get the project done, which ultimately resulted in launching four new websites last fall: college.ku.edu, collegedean.ku.edu, coga.ku.edu and collegeadvising.ku.edu. He has since expanded his projects to working with departments across the College and its schools to consult on their websites and offer support. He is a great collaborator and team member, says Kristi Henderson, director of communications. He approaches projects and challenges with thoughtful suggestions and calm troubleshooting, all in a quick turnaround.
Katherine Pryor, director, University Theatre
Katherine Pryor models exceptional staff leadership and engagement, says Nicole Hodges Persley, past chair of theatre and associate dean for diversity, equity & inclusion. She has worked tirelessly for almost 30 years at KU to serve faculty, staff and students by pursuing goals of excellence that resulted in an engaged and inclusive experience in the department throughout her tenure. She has also been an integral part of the forthcoming merger between theatre and dance. Michelle Heffner Hayes, interim chair of theatre and chair of dance, says Kathy is a combination of impresario, accountant and advocate. She is actively involved in the KU and greater Lawrence community, where she contributes to important conversations on trans and non-binary gender identification and advocacy. She serves as the department’s Student Senate representative, a Social Justice Fellow with Office of Multicultural Affairs and is an active mediator in issues of diversity, equity and inclusion. She is the recipient of the Phoenix Arts Award from the City of Lawrence, the Kennedy Center Gold Medallion for Theatre Education Award and the Outstanding Female Staff Member Award from the Emily Taylor Center for Women & Gender Equity. She was recently the only staff member on campus to be nominated and inducted into Phi Kappa Phi.
Morgan Swartzlander, assistant director, College Office of Graduate Affairs
Morgan has led a highly successful expansion of COGA’s professional graduate advising staff in the College. COGA graduate advisors now serve 25 programs across the humanities, social sciences, international and interdisciplinary studies, and the arts. Just as significantly, says COGA director Kristine Latta, is that Morgan often goes above and beyond by offering training to department graduate support staff to ensure that they receive some of the same professional development opportunities available to COGA advisors. She does all of this while serving as departments’ key resource on graduate policy, managing the graduate Progress to Degree System for the College, and overseeing all degree verifications for College graduate degrees and certificates.
Cynthia Cowan, administrative associate, Department of Molecular Biosciences
Cynthia is new to the Department of Molecular Biosciences and has jumped right in to handle a variety of demanding tasks. Among her responsibilities is managing the transition between departing and arriving faculty. She is working above and beyond to clear out the laboratory of a retired faculty member and help a new faculty member settle into the department, all the while assisting in two departmental searches for new faculty, facilitating the departmental P&T process, and managing/scheduling an external review (among many other things). All the more impressive, said chair Susan Egan, is that this has all been taken on in her first six months on the job, and has been handled with exceptional independence, accuracy and a consistent smile.
Joel Sauerwein, graduate coordinator, Department of Physics & Astronomy
When the Department of Physics & Astronomy’s office staff dropped from three to two, Joel stepped in to manage the extra workload. The staff departure coincided with the start of the enrollment period, so Joel developed a secure webform through which students could request permissions for various physics and astronomy classes. This allowed the remaining staff and a student helper to address student requests instead of having only one person handle the workload. According to chair Hume Feldman, all together, Joel contributes a great deal to the smooth operation of the office and helps make the office a welcoming, easy going and yet efficient place where students, staff and faculty can both hang out and find solutions to their problems and concerns.
Rhonda Cook, administrative associate, Department of Spanish & Portuguese
Rhonda Cook is the heart of the Department of Spanish & Portuguese, says chair Santa Arias. Rhonda has worked in the department since 2006, left in 2013, and returned in May 2017. When she returned, the department had changed significantly in staff, faculty and procedures. She stepped in seamlessly, supporting the administration of the department and serving as a great partner in a mission to improve the service to students and faculty and the work environment in general. Arias says Rhonda sets a model of collegiality, teamwork and inclusiveness for others to follow.
Roxie Lytle, administrative associate, Department of African & African-American Studies
In her first year working with the Department of African & African-American Studies, Roxie Lytle has quickly become a key member of the team. She has organized the annual Marwa Lecture; helped to manage the department through two lecturer searches, as well as a major search for a languages coordinator; hired two new student employees; lent oversight to a major renovation of the department's graduate seminar room (including technological upgrades); reorganized office assignments of lecturers and graduate students; and served an administrative liaison role between both AAAS and the Kansas African Studies Center, and AAAS and the School of Languages, Literatures & Cultures. All the while, she has provided critical assistance to chair Clarence Lang and the directors of the Langston Hughes Center and the Institute of Haitian Studies, which are both affiliates within the department. Lang said to cap it all, she is a joy to have in the office, as she expertly serves the needs of a diverse faculty and student body and builds a great rapport with all those in the AAAS community.
Jessica Chilcoat, financial analyst, Shared Service Center
Jessica Chilcoat took over the responsibilities as the primary financial contact for the Department of Germanic Languages & Literatures and Department of French, Francophone & Italian Studies in June from a staff member who was leaving. Jessica worked tirelessly over the summer through a backlog of tasks, ensuring the departments’ financial affairs were in good order before a new academic year began. Her high level of service continued through the academic year, meeting with chairs monthly and addressing needs proactively and quickly. Her nominators, chairs Nina Vyatkina and Bruce Hayes, appreciate Jessica’s dedication and focus, as well as her calm and friendly attitude.
One of our graduates may not have crossed the stage, literally, without the efforts of Heidi Hulse, an assistant director in the College Advising & Student Services office. She has worked with a student throughout his time at KU through many ups and downs, academically and personally. When he reached the milestone of graduation, it was an exciting moment for both Heidi and the student. However, a few days before the ceremony, his mother’s car broke down and it appeared neither he nor his mother would be able to attend. When Heidi learned about this obstacle, she drove to Kansas City that day to pick them up and drive them to the ceremony, ensuring the celebration would go on.
In sociology, graduate advisor Corinne Butler stepped in to help the department manage its external review process after the departure of the office manager. She had little previous experience with organizing such a visit, but was a natural at organizing a smooth visit, which was a tremendous help to sociology chair Bill Staples and College Dean’s Office executive assistant Amanda Burghart.
In geology, geography and atmospheric sciences, and environmental studies, office manager Ramia Whitecotton has handled additional tasks as they search for replacements for an experienced staff member. At the same time, she’s been organizing several details as faculty and offices plan for their move into Slawson and Ritchie halls in the Earth, Energy & Environment Center. The department chairs, Jen Roberts, Nate Brunsell and David Fowle, expressed gratitude not only for Ramia’s efficiency in handling new and ongoing duties, but for doing so in a professional manner.
In the Shared Service Center, our colleagues made a long-awaited switch to the university’s new financial system, Oracle Cloud. Staff in the SSC worked tirelessly in anticipation to prepare for the transition, training on the new system and redeveloping workflows, which can feel almost like learning a new job. Now that the system is in place, they have continued to work diligently to smooth out kinks and provide a high level of service. Although any new system or process will run into bumps, I am pleased to note that issues have been minor and many are excited about the possibilities for the new system. This is all thanks to the preparation and persistence of SSC staff.
In Jewish studies, a major symposium came together thanks to the efforts of program assistant Carla Aspenberg. She organized the “Jews in the Midwest” conference featuring four speakers from outside campus, as well as KU. She has also assisted the transition of a new director of undergraduate studies and managed other duties amid staff changes. And following the conference in November, she quickly switched gears to organizing a new, unexpected faculty hire in the department. Director John Younger said that without Carla, “Jewish studies would be dead in the water.”
Across the College, departments took part in a reimagined College majors fair as part of a new recruiting event, Crimson & Blue Day. Several staff created recruitment materials, prepared hands-on demonstrations and created an engaging and energized experience for the hundreds of high school students who visited departments’ tables during the event. The event organizers for the College Dean’s Office worked incredibly hard to organize all the details, coordinate with departments, arrange speakers and provide resources to departments and the students visiting. I am especially thankful for the efforts of Heather Anderson (School of the Arts and recruitment marketing and communications strategist), Samantha Montague (associate director of outreach and College Online programs) and Josh DeBoer (recruitment coordinator) for taking the lead on organizing this major event.