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Spotlight on Staff

Monday, December 18, 2017

More often than not, when things run smoothly in our departments and across the College, our success can be attributed largely to the work of staff. They are the stage managers behind the scenes, making sure we hit our marks and put our best face forward.

A couple of weeks ago, the Dean’s Office reached out to our administrative staff, as well as chairs and directors, seeking nominations for staff who deserve a shout-out for all they do across the College and in our partner units, such as the Shared Service Center and Information Technology. The response was incredible!

Whether it was stepping in to handle additional duties for a department in transition, launching major events or systems, or guiding colleagues and students to success, the impact of staff can be seen across the College in myriad ways. I am sharing a few of these staff salutes here and will continue to share them throughout next semester.

Just a little more than a week ago, the College celebrated the graduation of hundreds of undergraduates at our Winter Recognition Ceremony. It’s a ceremony that is made possible through tremendous effort by staff like Kemi Obadare (office manager in College Advising & Student Services), our graduation advisors, and everyone in CASS.

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.

For many departments, the fall semester was a moment of transition, whether it was staff departures, new leadership in departments or implementing new systems. Chairs, directors and staff were eager to acknowledge colleagues who helped keep the trains running on time amid change.

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 external review preparation, 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.

The fall semester is busy for a variety of reasons, one of the most frequent of which is events. Staff organize major conferences, guest lecturer visits, recruiting events and so much more.

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.

These spotlights are just a small representation of the leadership, expertise and professionalism that staff demonstrate every day. They play key roles in nearly every function of the College. I am grateful for everything staff do for the College and look forward to continuing to highlight their efforts throughout next semester.

Thank you for a wonderful fall semester and best wishes for a restorative break!