Every year the University of Iowa Staff Council has the pleasure to honor fellow staff from all across the UI campus who have gone above and beyond to make the University of Iowa the great institution it is today. The University of Iowa Staff Council presents awards each year to honor these deserving staff member. These awards are the Board of Regents Staff Excellence Award, David J Skorton Award, University of Iowa Outstanding Staff Award and the Richard E Gibson Award.
This year we are pleased to announce the winners of the 2020 staff awards as well as showcase all the nominees who throughout the year have made the entire UI community a better place to work, live, and be a part of. Congratulations to all the winners and nominees this year and thank you for all that you do each day for the University of Iowa. Go Hawks!
Click on the name below to learn about the nominee or move down to read about all the nominees.
Jacquie Albrecht, Communication Studies
Heidi Arbisi-Helm, Graduate College
Mishelle Eckland, College of Law
Kyle Hughes, Admissions
Curtis Iburg, Dentistry
Kelby Scandrett, Periodontics
Elizabeth Lara, Graduate College
Julie Nealson, Microbiology and Immunology
Angie Robertson, Microbiology and Immunology
Sara Sullivan, Office of the Registrar
Kimberly Swanson, UIHC - Procurement Services
Jalal Tirgardoun, Food and Nutrition Services
Randhall Yeates, UI Pharmaceuticals
Nominees for the Board of Regents Staff Excellence Award
Assistant Director, Communications & Marketing, Admissions
The Division of Enrollment Management and Office of Admissions is charged with recruiting and enrolling the best and brightest students from across the State of Iowa, throughout the country and around the world. COVID-19 put an abrupt end to these in-person activities during one of the busiest times of the year just as high school seniors and transfer students were making their college decision and high school juniors were planning to visit campus for the first time.
Kyle Hughes went to work immediately on identifying technological solutions to replace in-person visit programs with virtual opportunities that were easy to use and accessible to both prospective students and staff. He quickly set up a training program to get Admissions and Financial Aid staff proficient in various technology tools to enable virtual outreach. His efforts allowed virtual appointments with staff the day after campus was officially closed. I can assure you that without Kyle’s leadership and effort there may have been many students that would have lost their connection to the University of Iowa. His thoughtful, patient demeanor and tireless efforts will play a major role in enrolling the fall of 2020 freshman class. I would hate to think of where we would be without his vision, and for that, we all owe Kyle a great debt of gratitude.
Educational Support Services Director, Graduate College
Liz goes above and beyond by not only forming collaborations with student organizations across campus but also by acting as a trusted mentor, ally, and advocate for traditionally marginalized communities on the University campus. Liz spends her days meeting students where they are: in the classroom, on the Pentacrest, at the Afro House, and in many other safe spaces across the University campus and Iowa City. Liz regularly attends student organization meetings, encourages one-on-one check-ins with students, and uses her network, resources, and experiences as a woman of color who attended a Historically white Institution (HWI) to help facilitate the success of students that are traditionally marginalized, devalued, and erased. Liz brings many exceptional qualities to the University including an infectious laugh, lighthearted personality, and warm disposition, but it is her genuine passion for inclusion and institutional efforts to facilitate equity that makes her an outstanding leader on campus. It is the work of allies, advocates, and administrators, like Liz, that foster a space that allows students to comfortably hone their talents and explore future careers.
Associate Registrar, Office of the Registrar
Sara’s thoughtfulness extends into her leadership style. “Good enough” is not good enough for Sara, and she is unafraid to say so. This by no means happens with ire or negativity, but with clear-eyed determination to give the people with whom she works the opportunity to live up to her expectations. Sara knows that people have the skills and capacity to achieve more, and devotes her time and her focus to helping them do so. Much of her energy goes beyond her regular job duties to help her team and campus partners figure out what is blocking them from realizing a project or from making changes to procedure that will benefit students. In my experience working by her side on multiple initiatives that bring together partners across campus, Sara’s high expectations push the group as a whole not to settle, but to strive. Her approach provides her coworkers with an example of leading in a compassionate way that still maintains the highest of standards. As a new professional, I make a concerted effort to observe Sara in meetings and at functions; her behavior is a master class in leading from wherever you are. Sara treats each person with whom she interacts as a leader, regardless of their title or tenure, and expects others to do the same.
Director of Business Development, UI Pharmaceuticals
The most significant responsibility Randy assumed during this time was oversight and management of the new sterile manufacturing facility which was part of the new College of Pharmacy construction project. The new sterile manufacturing facility is a collaboration/investment by UIP and The University of Iowa. The construction project was at a critical juncture and it was imperative that further delays were not incurred. Excluded from the project to date, Randy needed to step into this role quickly and efficiently. Randy's main task was to get the project back on track after numerous delays of the project. Randy's leadership, ability to work within a diverse work group and decision-making skills allowed that project to not only move forward but gain momentum!
Nominee for the David J. Skorton Award for Staff Excellence in Service
Clinic Care/Specialty Services Supervisor, Periodontics
Mr. Scandrett is a superstar. He has everything that anyone would look for in the ideal employee: the talent, the drive, the values and the commitment. His role is essential for the regular functioning of the Department of Periodontics. But beyond his regular activities, he has emerged in these hard times as a leader and has proven to be one of the strongest assets at the College of Dentistry. Kelby has the intelligence, leadership, compassion and motivation to do well in any chosen endeavor. We as a college, are blessed that he has discovered the challenges offered by a career here at the College of Dentistry. I can say no more than to state that in these days and times I have found people like Kelby to be a rare commodity. He possesses integrity as an inherent natural trait is an integrity which cannot be taught, and which effortlessly defines his overall persona.
Nominees for the University of Iowa Outstanding Staff Award
Departmental Administrator, Communication Studies
Life in the Communication Studies and Cinematic Arts departments would not be the same without Jac Albrecht. Her enthusiasm, organizational skills, compassion, and devotion to pushing these departments to higher levels of excellence makes her stand out from the rest of the pack. First, Jac has a limitless amount of energy when it comes to supporting the faculty, graduate students, undergrad majors, and other staff, which creates a positive reverberating effect that inspires others throughout the department. This, combined with the efficiency created by her organizational skills, raises Jac’s game to the next level.
Director of Academic Affairs, Graduate College
One of Heidi’s strengths is her ability to foster strong partnerships across campus. Heidi played an instrumental role in nurturing the development of the Undergrad-to-Grad (U2G) programs across campus. Under Heidi’s outstanding leadership, the Academic Affairs Office helps shape the development of new U2G programs, helps coordinate the rules and policies, and the graduation analysis. After the initial programs were established on campus, Heidi facilitated getting crucial information from the initial student cohorts via surveys to help inform programmatic improvements that has led to the rapid expansion in the number of these programs across campus. As of Spring 2020, there are now ~200 students enrolled in the U2G programs across campus. These programs help to facilitate the recruitment and retention of our most talented undergraduates to stay and conduct graduate studies at the University of Iowa. Heidi has clearly gone above and beyond to enhance the quality of graduate education on our campus. Her leadership style is collaborative and inclusive. Heidi is not afraid to put in the work, having difficult conversations when necessary, convening campus partners, and ensuring everyone has a chance to be heard and provide input. Although this takes time and is not always easy, the end product is worth it. The University of Iowa is fortunate to have Heidi as a valued member of our campus community.
Administrative Services Coordinator, College of Law
Through her role in the clinic as primary administrative assistant, Mishelle handles all legal filings and matters for almost thirty clinical law students and 6 clinical professor-attorneys. Mishelle’s prompt, professional management enables students and faculty to provide pro bono legal service to dozens of clients, clients who might otherwise go without representation. In addition to administrative tasks, Mishelle is also a mentor, educator, and beacon of clinic morale. As a mentor and educator in her own right, Mishelle trains students in the practice of law while personifying professionalism in the field. Beyond this, she is a leader, enhancing clinic morale with her unfailing positivity. It is this positivity that fosters the “clinic family” environment of support that encourages students to do their best work.
Manager Sterilization Services, Dentistry
Mr. Iburg has become an integral member of the College of Dentistry’s COVID-19 clinical response team, enthusiastically taking on extra duties during this time. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is critical to dentistry and Mr. Iburg has played a pivotal role by becoming an official N95 mask tester, developed and organized health screening at University Employee Health Clinic for all faculty and staff allowing them to be fitted for N95 masks as well as meet vaccination requirements. He has also been key in researching and procuring PPE for our faculty and staff. Without his efforts, the College of Dentistry would not be seeing emergency patients who require procedures with aerosols. He is an outstanding employee who is passionate about his work and is respected by faculty, staff, students, and patients. In all his work, he exemplifies the highest professional ethics and standards and goes above and beyond for the College of Dentistry and the University of Iowa. We, as a community are fortunate to have Mr. Iburg as part of our team.
Administrative Services Coordinator, Microbiology and Immunology
Julie takes initiative to solve problems. We get close to 300 applicants each year for the NSF-funded 10-week summer program Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) in Microbiology that provides 8 undergraduates from around the country with research experience and professional development activities. Sifting through applications can be overwhelming, especially because we don’t want to overlook any diamonds in the rough. Julie worked with IT to put our applications into a searchable database and now we can sort applications based on a variety of criteria, like research interest, GPA, and whether the applicant is first generation or a minority. The REU students love Julie! Julie works closely with accepted students to arrange travel and housing. By the time the students arrive on campus, they see her as their friend and ally. As a consequence, Julie is usually the first to get wind of issues like roommate conflicts, which allows us to solve small problems before they become big problems. Julie also keeps in touch with the students once the summer is over. This is important because NSF asks us to track student outcomes for six years. Thanks to Julie, we were still in contact with 47 of the 48 participants from the previous six summers.
Departmental Administrator, College of Medicine, Microbiology and Immunology
Angie has made remarkable contributions to the university as a role model in achieving and exceeding our core values. She is innovative, collaborative, accountable, and respectful to achieve excellence in her busy daily work to promote the quality of the whole Department. Her job performance exceeds any expectations of the university core values and sets a great example for all staff in the Department. She possesses unique ability, strong integrity and the highest standard of professionalism to accomplish outstanding work. As an example of Angie’s critical contributions to research administration, she has been selected four times to receive the Carver College of Medicine Exceptional Performance Award in 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2019.
Supply Chain Specialist, UIHC - Procurement Services
Kim developed and has maintained a real-time Tableau dashboard for personal protective equipment inventories. This has been enormously helpful during the COVID-19 pandemic as PPE shortages have been one of the most problematic issues. The dashboard is reviewed by Senior Leadership at our COVID-19 Hospital Incident Command Center meetings and has guided many critical decisions regarding PPE deployment and utilization at UIHC, as well as defining the need for searching for new sources of supplies. Without this dashboard, it would be impossible to make rational decisions. Kim continues to improve the dashboard. It now not only gives current inventories of every item, but how quickly each item is being used, and where the usage is occurring.
Nominee for the Richard E Gibson Merit Staff Award in Service to the University of Iowa
Food Service Supervisor, Food and Nutrition Services
Jalal Tirgardoun is the Supervisor for the Marketplace dining room area. He always has positive attitudes throughout the day, no matter what happens. When an employee has a big problem or a dead end, he would say, ‘how can I help’ and ‘let’s see how we can fix this’. Tirgardoun is not like any other Supervisor we have been working with, because he will always guide us (the employees) and help us figure out what to do at work. He is open to all ideas and receives them with passion. That’s why we know as the employees that we love our job and we like to come to work and we want to do our best job while we’re at work.