Tuesday, November 9, 2021

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 members. These awards are the Board of Regents Staff Excellence Award, David J Skorton Award, University of Iowa Outstanding Staff Award, the Richard E Gibson Award and the new Staff Award for Distinguished Leadership in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

We are pleased to announce the winners of the 2021 staff awards (Board of Regents winners will be announced separately) 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

Caroline Allen, Ophthalmology

Paula Balkenende, University Libraries

Chelsea Burk, Registrar

Collins Byrd, College of Law

Sara Clark, College of Law

Crystal Hardinger, Marketing and Communications, UIHC

Kunjal Harwani, College of Education

Shonda Monette, Department of Chemistry

Talinda Pettigrew, Student Life

Elizabeth Savelkoul, Graduate College

Brinda Shetty, Biology

Sophie Switzer, College of Public Health

Lindsay Vella, African American Studies, Classics, Division of Interdisciplinary Programs

Yashwant Prakash Vyas, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Kellie Waechter, College of Pharmacy

Marue White, College of Dentistry

Nominees for the University of Iowa Outstanding Staff Award

Jacquie Albrecht 

Departmental Administrator, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Jackie Albrecht

Albrecht is an administrative services administrator that supports four units: School of Journalism and Mass Communication (SJMC), Communication Studies, Cinematic Arts, and the CLAS Production Unit. She is the building coordinator for the Adler Journalism Building (AJB) and the Becker Communication Studies Building (BCSB). In August 2020, at the height of the pandemic, she gained the role of Administrator for SJMC. She effectively made this transition while improve functionality and advancing SJMC’s interests. Jac creates a positive reverberating effect that inspires others throughout the departments she is a part of. Her intelligence, enthusiasm, and devotion to pushing these units to higher levels of excellence makes her stand out. Additionally, her commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion—coupled with a deep empathy—makes the University a better place for the students, faculty, and staff connected to the units that she helps lead. No one has brought the degree of strategic planning to the table like Jac has. Thanks to her, the departments she supports have a clear infrastructure that reduces the uncertainty and surprises that previously arose when blindsided by important deadlines, which means we can focus more on students.

Chelsea Burk 

Director, Registrar

Chelsea Burk

Dr. Burk has dedicated her time, talents, and inspiring energy to the University of Iowa; she is currently the Director of Iowa Veteran Education, Transition, and Support (IVETS) and previously served as a Program Coordinator for the department as well. Her innovative creation of two new programs, Veteran Peer Advising (formerly Veteran Peer Advising) and the Veteran Innovation Series is not only impressive but has filled a critical need for our campus. Chelsea’s development, leadership, and guidance of these programs have helped dozens of students every semester and possibly hundreds of students since their inception. I truly cannot emphasize enough how important and impactful Chelsea’s innovative program creations have been for the VMC community and the University of Iowa. In addition to the Veteran Peer Advising (formerly Veteran Peer Advising) and the Veteran Innovation Series, she has performed countless other actions that far exceed the expectations of her job responsibilities. One of the students she works with shares, “Dr. Burk is the most influential, innovative member of the University of Iowa community that I have ever worked with. I genuinely believe that her dedication to students, innovation, and service underscores her strong sense of character and moral integrity.”

Sara Clark

Administrative Services Coordinator, College of Law

Sara Clark

Sara holds the position of Administrative Services Coordinator for the Innovation, Business & Law Center and Exam Coordinator for the College of Law. In law school, students’ grades for any given course can hinge entirely on one exam. Sara’s position ensures that each exam period proceeds with little to no interruption. The position that she holds requires clear communication and attention to detail. During the pandemic, she has navigated new waters and adapted every part of the exam process for remote delivery. When Covid-19 started and coursework was moved to an online platform, testing also had to be reviewed. Sara analyzed various contingencies and planned for a variety of “what if” scenarios. She took the time to help everyone understand what is and isn’t possible under these circumstances. She was available to meet and respond to all faculty, staff, and student questions. Her expertise with exam systems such as Examplify and ExamMonitor was relied on heavily. Sara additionally conquered new tasks and challenges, which included reviewing over 500 flagged video proctoring instances to ensure that exams were conducted securely and in accordance with the recommendations of the American Bar Association. The integrity that she brought to her position helped strengthen the strict criteria that is set forth by the ABA. Sara put numerous extra hours in to keep everyone updated on all processes including exam accommodations and scheduling conflict resolutions. She engaged with many students to prepare their laptops with correctly installed software before the first exam day. Sara’s educational background includes a Master of Arts in Teaching in English and Secondary Education from the University of Iowa and membership in Phi Beta Kappa. Sara has been a great asset to the College of Law, and we would have been lost without her initiative and foresight.

Crystal Hardinger

Communications Manager, Marketing and Communications - UIHC

Crystal Hardinger

Crystal Hardinger, whether via Zoom, cell phone, Skype, or IM, makes time to answer questions, provide feedback, and offer direction for the internal communications team. She has offered weekly one-on-one meetings, attended daily editorial meetings, and reviewed all projects and stories. All these are wonderful accomplishments for a manager. Following are some examples of Crystal’s leadership during the pandemic and her first two years at UI Health Care: She helped rehaul The Loop and Noon News; wrote and edited feature stories that align with strategic corporate goals; led the creation of the COVID-19 and safety hubs on The Loop for staff to organize the large amounts of information for our employees; doubled the size of our internal communications team, with additional responsibilities of managing our group; helped create a series of staff appreciation videos and livestream employee forums; served as project manager for dozens of events, recognitions, and survey campaigns; and with all this, still the list is incomplete. Crystal seeks no attention for herself; her only goal is to professionally represent our department and UI Health Care.

Kunjal Harwani

Administrative Services Administrator, College of Education

Kunjal has served at the UI since 2010 and in the College of Education (COE) since 2013, during which time she has demonstrated extraordinary contributions to the college and university. Kunjal’s current job title is Administrative Services Administrator and serves three COE Departments: Psychological and Quantitative Foundations (P & Q), Teaching and Learning, and Rehabilitation and Counselor Education. In her capacity, she meets weekly with the departmental DEOs to review general fund, instruction, grant, foundation, and operational accounts; discuss financial issues and projections; and advise financial strategies. We rely on Kunjal to help us understand and manage these large and complex budgets, Which she does in a way that is kind and clear, helping us make very important decisions that impact faculty, staff, and students. She is forward thinking and bold, yet calculating and careful with her suggestions, which has resulted in faculty and graduate students always feeling supported in their research and teaching endeavors.

Shonda Monette

Departmental Administrator of Undergraduate Instruction, Department of Chemistry

Shonda Monette

Shonda currently is the Administrator of Undergraduate Instruction for the Department of Chemistry, and also serves as an Adjunct Instructor. Ms. Monette directs the full spectrum of laboratory and lecture courses which range from Principles of Chemistry I/II, Organic Laboratory and more advanced labs and lectures, and serves well over 3000 students per year. Ms. Monette not only oversees teaching assistants and her support staff, but she acts as an interface with undergraduate students, graduate students, faculty, staff, and upper administration. During the past year with COVID-19 making severe impacts on trying to accommodate students and working with lab courses, Ms. Monette offered and managed virtual laboratory courses. She was instrumental in helping with decisions in terms of assessing how to not only instruct students to understand and execute a lab during a pandemic, but to also keep our students safe. She was persistently at the front lines helping to lead the decision-making process of timings of courses to purchases of personal protective equipment. Ms. Monette is able to adapt and be flexible, and still meet the health and safety requirements for our students during this pandemic. Ms. Monette has a calm demeanor and helps to quell the fears of our undergrad and grad students. She manages her team with great expertise and is highly revered by her students, and peers. She strives every day to provide an exceptional experience for all.

Elizabeth Savelkoul

Educational Support Services Specialist, Graduate College

Elizabeth is a Graduate Career and Fellowships advisor for STEM students in the University of Iowa Graduate College. Since starting at the Graduate College in 2014, she has provided outstanding service to students, staff, and faculty at Iowa and has made a significant impact on student wellbeing and achievement. Elizabeth is a committed student advocate and support professional. Students seek her feedback on a wide variety of materials related to national fellowships and job applications, for which she provides high level specialist support. She teaches workshops on finding funding in graduate school, writing funding applications, and preparing for careers across the sciences. For each workshop, Elizabeth develops original content and activities that engage students with the details of complex fellowships opportunities. She’s ushered hundreds of students through the fellowships process. Elizabeth has gone far and beyond in her commitment as an advocate for improving the diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging of graduate students and postdocs on campus.

Lindsay Vella

Administrative Services Manager - African American Studies, Classics, Division of Interdisciplinary Programs

lindsay vella

Lindsay is the Departmental Administrator for African American Studies, Classics, and the Division of Interdisciplinary Programs. Lindsay has a B.A. in English and Creative Writing from the University of Michigan and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from the University of Iowa. For her departments, she oversees course management, serves as graduate program coordinator, supervises staff, TAs, and student employees, assists in budget development and monitors accounts and expenditures, facilitates strategic planning efforts, coordinates promotion and review processes, not to mention all of the other small things that programs need to succeed. This year, Lindsay has worked to expand outreach efforts through creating Facebook and Instagram accounts for African American Studies, creating promotional material for events, and converting visiting lectures into publicly-available Zoom lectures. What once would have had 30 people in a lecture, now is and can be viewed by hundreds of students, scholars, and others around the world. This effort helped turn the local Homerathon (a 24-hr annual reading of Homer’s Iliad or Odyssey) into an international, collaborative online event. She was also instrumental in establishing and overseeing a performance evaluation system for teaching assistants within the department of Classics, which has increased accountability for both parties, encouraging faculty and graduate students alike to take a more critical look at their pedagogy. She also helped graduate students feel more appreciated for the effort that they devote to their teaching. She has excellent technological and communication skills, problem-solving skills, and organization and time management. She strives to meet deadlines and always has a positive attitude. Her hard work, optimistic attitude and leadership brings unity to her departments.

Yashwant Prakash Vyas

Assistant Director Diversity Resources, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

yashwant vyas

Yashwant is the Assistant Director of Diversity Resources/PAD1, Prov-Diversity Equity and Inclusion. He is always rising to meet challenges, and uses skillsets that often take years to develop, using them to champion equity and inclusion. Yashwant has chaired the Catalyst Seed Grant Award Committee. He has also served on the Strategic Planning Committee for the Division of Diversity, Equity, and inclusion. Yashwant also has been instrumental in developing and leading BUILD workshops. When he conducts the BUILD sessions, he does it in a way that makes everyone feels included through all of the helpful information and supportive dialog he provides. He is a proven leader. While serving as the Assistant Director of Diversity Resources, Yashwant also assisted with the University of Iowa’s TRIO Upward Bound with the summer program. He was not only an instructor, but a Career coach who works with and advising High School Seniors with regard to career paths. Yashwant has also served as an active member on the Staff council as well as in a variety of other service roles.

Kellie Waechter

Administrative Services Specialist, College of Pharmacy

kellie waechter

Kellie is an Administrative Services Specialist in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Experimental Therapeutics (PSET), College of Pharmacy. She routinely goes above and beyond what is normally expected. Kellie received her B.A. in Marketing from the University of Northern Iowa in 2006 and was recruited to the College of Pharmacy in June 2010. She was immediately tasked with a large list of duties, including monitoring activities for one of the Divisional accounts, processing appointments for Divisional students and employees, assist with faculty searches and seminar visits, taking minutes for Departmental and Divisional meetings, reconciling P-Cards and processing tuition and scholarship payments for students. Kellie takes care of all these items with efficiency and effectiveness, which requires an extraordinary level of resolve. She has been able to maintain these duties with proficiency and add to the list during a time of administrative change. The pandemic did not make matters any easier. Kellie went above and beyond to help ease the administrative burden, and for this, she is truly a lifesaver for me and the Department. She took on many “projects” (short- and long term) that needed to be accomplished in a timely manner, including and to name a few: 1) determine faculty teaching loads (professional, graduate, undergraduate), which required searching syllabi and creating spreadsheets; 2) reconcile a Divisional account that had not been treated with proper accounting and budgeting for almost 2 years; 3) help monitor and detect unreasonable spending on the extensive list of MFKs held in the Department. With all these responsibilities and projects, Kellie has demonstrated “ownership”, that is, a commitment to completing tasks and resolving issues that are unique to the current circumstances (i.e., administrative change) and beyond her assigned list of duties.

Nominees for the Richard E. Gibson Merit Staff Award for Innovation and Excellence in Customer Service

Paula Balkenende

Library Assistant IV, University Libraries

Paula balkanende

Paula is a continuous source of strength and positivity. As various campus services closed during COVID, it was solely thanks to Paula that the Special Collections and Archives was able to remain open to serve the community, as she was the primary means of day-to-day support for those working in the Special Collections and Archives. Paula served as our primary front desk staff member when other staff were unable to, and in doing so ensured our doors remained open for patron use. She helped ensure safety measures were in place for our public service initiatives, and assisted patrons with their various needs. Without her, I believe we would have had to keep our doors closed. Through her herculean efforts throughout the pandemic, the doors of the Reading Room also remained open. Paula made it possible for people to be in there by overseeing the Reading Room during appointments that were arranged so that our workers could be in the room at the same time. She contributed to an environment that boosted morale for numerous teams, while continuously supporting research, students, class visits and colleagues across campus.

Marue White

Secretary III, College of Dentistry

marue white

Marue is a bountiful blessing. She is respectful & understanding, meeting current students in crisis & prospective students often in vulnerable places. She nurtures. She advocates. She serves wholeheartedly. Marue is on the forefront of both external & internal relations for the University of Iowa community. She exudes hospitality, warmth, & kindness. Light & life is the definition of Marue in the work place. She notices & actively encourages others. She rushes to fill in gaps & meet needs. Though significantly overqualified for some of the tasks that she takes on, she does them with joy. Marue brings a humble, servant leadership to the College. Our office is a place of peace because of Marue. She is friendly, courteous, considerate, & entirely cooperative. Marue is a high caliber colleague who puts service first and is always willing to help the office where needed regardless of whether or not those needs are directly related to her job assignments. She has strong interpersonal skills, is dependable and willing to go out of her comfort zone in order to meet the needs of our stakeholders. She has a collaborative spirit that has served our college well.

Nominees for the Staff Award for Distinguished Leadership in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Caroline Allen

Librarian, Ophthalmology

caroline allen

Caroline was nominated for the Leadership in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Award in recognition of her outstanding leadership and tireless efforts in addressing and raising awareness of DEI issues across campus. As a librarian in the C.S. O'Brien Library, Caroline spearheaded a discussion group that addresses issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion, through thoughtful dialogue. She is a published author in the Journal of Hospital Librarianship, of an article titled "Creating Space for Change: An Ophthalmology Department's Response to Black Lives Matter Protests". The article showcased her efforts of creating meaningful discussion within the department during the Black Lives Matter protests that took place throughout the Summer of 2020. Her quick wit, attention to detail, and loyalty to the University and Ophthalmology department have endeared her to her colleagues. Caroline has served as a co-chair for DEI committee of the Midwest and Midcontinental Medical Library Association's Annual Conference, and as a chair for the DEI committee of the Midwest Medical Library Association. Caroline Allen has played an essential and energetic role in the efforts of increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion at UIHC. With her charismatic attitude, she hopes to continue her efforts of diversity not only at UIHC, but in the community as well.

Collins Byrd

Assistant Dean Enrollment Management, College of Law

collins byrd

Collins Byrd has demonstrated a sustained commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion over the course of almost four decades of admissions work at five highly selective institutions (Dartmouth College, 1979-1982, Northwestern University Graduate School of Management, 1987-1989, William Mitchell College of Law, 1990-1997, University of Minnesota Law School, 1997-2005, and University of Iowa College of Law, 2005-2021).

From the start of recruiting season until the first week of Orientation, Collins tirelessly recruits the best and brightest students to Iowa Law. He presents at recruiting events, builds relationships with prelaw advisors, meets with admitted students and their families, and everything in between. One of his most notable achievements this year was bringing in the most diverse class in Iowa Law’s 155-year history. The class that joined us in August 2020 had the highest percentage of students from historically underrepresented backgrounds and women. To accomplish this task takes an enormous amount of focus, dedication, and determination. It also takes the type of leadership that Collins Byrd embodies. Collins is a mentor to many other admissions officers across the country and annually provides wisdom and guidance to aspiring lawyers. He is dedicated to helping those from historically underrepresented backgrounds find a future in law and he works closely with the Bridge to Law program, programs at HBCUs, and other admissions programs that provide support for first generation law students. While his steady commitment to enrollment management plays a starring role in his contributions to diversity, he supports larger efforts at the College of Law, including being active in the Iowa Law Antiracism Action Committee. All of which will bring long-term change to the University of Iowa, the College of Law, and the legal profession.

Talinda Pettigrew

Senior Human Resources Director, Division of Student Life

talinda pettigrew

Talinda’s strong commitment to mentoring the diverse faculty, staff, and students of The University of Iowa is well-known. She provides invaluable experiences and guidance to UI Athletics, volunteering her time to UI student-athletes of color by serving as a Diversity Programming Committee Member, participating as a focus group member, making multiple panelist appearances, engaging in the Hawks2Professionals program, and hosting Hawkeye P.A.C.E. (Professional and Career Exposure). For many years, Talinda has been a part of the Student-Athlete Academic Services Multicultural Focus Group (MFG) program as a mentor for students who face struggles with racial identity. In the university’s professional sphere, she spearheads diversity recruitment initiatives by providing consultations and developing recruitment services, growing diversity talent pipelines, and developing and administering processes that help colleges and divisions effectively attract, engage, and recruit diverse and high-performing candidates. Talinda provides support and mentorship to her colleagues all across the UI as well. She truly creates an inclusive and welcoming culture. Talinda is actively involved in expanding her knowledge and skills through continued professional development, participating in the BUILD, Safe Zone, Crucial Conversations, and ELEVATE Leadership Development courses. The University of Iowa is a more equitable and inclusive institution because of Talinda’s passion and dedication. Her efforts were recognized with the 2019 University Human Resources Impact Award for contributions to diversity, equity, and inclusion and the 2020 Diversity Catalyst Award (for Diversity Practitioner). Her colleagues know without a doubt that Talinda will be a champion for DEI in every leadership role that she holds.

Brinda Shetty

Associate Director, Biology

brinda shetty

Brinda manages several programs serving underrepresented STEM majors across campus. Students in these programs are from varied racial and ethnic backgrounds, academic abilities, socio-economic status, and gender identities. Brinda promotes a safe, equitable, respectful environment for all involved. This past year, Brinda sat on the Mentoring@Iowa Website Creation committee charged by the Provost's Office with creating a website that highlights opportunities for UI students to be mentored or to serve as mentors. The team was a collaboration between various organizations across campus including Student Life, Academic Support and Retention, ICRU, Center for Advancement, and the Graduate College. Brinda is a tremendous student advocate, and consistently looked to as a partner, and a campus resource for underserved and underrepresented students in research. She is constantly engaged in conversations with students both in and outside of the classroom. Her positivity and openness make students feel comfortable in their interactions, and they know they can turn to her for advice or referrals when a problem arises. Brinda is a wonderful collaborator for ICRU and within the University. Brinda not only excels at making underserved students feel like they belong, but she makes faculty and staff who mentor these students feel like they are part of something special. Brinda brings together a wealth of skills to broaden the pool of undergraduate researchers. It is a pleasure for us to have her as a colleague we can rely on for our students.

Sophie Switzer

Assistant Director, College of Public Health

Sophie Switzer

Sophie was nominated for the Leadership in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Award in recognition of her tremendous support to international students in the UI the College of Public Health. Sophie has been a driving force behind the creation of the Public Health International Student Advisory Board (PHISAB) and has worked tirelessly towards establishing it as a strong organization. She has not only participated in the College of Public Health DEI initiatives but has spear-headed a College-wide program in Global Health. During her time as the leader of Global Health, the College has increased the number of students who have participated in international experiences (Pre-COVID-19). Sophie also helped create and run the annual Global Health Case Competition, which brings together students and faculty from across the University, incorporating a global perspective in the classroom through a curricular review and international research partnerships. She has developed a culture within the College of Public Health which seeks to increase the awareness and experience of a global perspective. She has also been instrumental in creating a more inclusive environment for our current and future international students.