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2021 Provost’s Unit Awards for Excellence Announced

Holladay Hall

The Office of the Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost has recognized six outstanding staff members as recipients of the 2021 Provost’s Unit Awards for Excellence.

The University Awards for Excellence represent NC State’s highest honor for non-faculty members. Each nominee demonstrated excellence in one of the following areas: customer service, efficiency and innovation, human relations, outstanding state government service, public service, heroism, and the spirit of North Carolina.

The following text includes excerpts from nomination materials.

This year’s recipients of the Provost’s Unit Awards for Excellence are:

  • Christopher Beeson, instructional technologist, Academic Technology Innovation, NC State DELTA
  • Customer Service

Christopher BeesonAs part of DELTA’s Instructional Technology Training Team, Christopher is responsible for teaching a variety of workshops and providing consultations for faculty and staff. Christopher regularly stays afterwards to work with faculty to ensure they have solved their issues. He encouraged DELTA to offer more Open Labs, which allow for instructors to receive drop-in support at their most stressful times, typically the beginning and end of the semester. He recognizes how important 1-on-1 attention is for faculty when they are working to solve their teaching challenges.

Christopher’s work with the DELTA’s Course Quality (CQ) Program exemplifies his ability to work collaboratively with faculty to improve their courses. Christopher has also played a primary role in cross- team collaboration between DELTA’s Instructional Technologists and Instructional Designers. His expertise within both fields has provided invaluable insight and contributions to the development of the new CQ Program. He has been a part of the program since its inception and the program would not be where it is today without his contributions.

  • Todd Buker, associate producer, Academic Technology Innovation, NC State DELTA
  • Outstanding State Government Service

Todd BukerTodd Buker is an extraordinary instructional media creator whose pure passion for excellence motivates his work. His dedication to the faculty, an extraordinary work ethic, and calm under pressure translate into powerful instructional media that helps students succeed. Todd is the media visionary behind the Wicked Problems, Wolfpack Solutions course. Todd’s work regularly goes beyond expectation. After working with Todd this past year on the Wicked Problems course, Distinguished Professor Rob Dunn wrote, “Todd not only makes the university look better, but also, simply, makes the university better.” Jane Lubischer added, “I want to keep working with Todd at every opportunity, which is the highest praise I can offer.” Todd innovates with new technology, and is passionate about diversity both in his creations and in how he works.”

Todd Buker has been with NC State for more than eight years and in that time he has made a tremendous impact on the faculty and the students. His primary responsibilities include designing and creating highly effective media pieces (primarily video) that faculty use in their online and distance education courses. His work is innovative, always polished, targeted precisely at the need, and he consistently exceeds expectations.

  • Dan Deter, associate director, Systems Support, NC State DELTA
  • Efficiency and Innovation

Dan DeterDan Deter is the model example of the typical system administrator; he toils behind the scenes keeping the systems running smoothly and the end-user never knows he is there. As a matter of fact, if you do not know he’s there, he’s doing his best work! In DELTA, he shows his passion to ensure the delivery of reliable enterprise learning technologies to users. As associate director of Systems Support, Dan is critical in DELTA’s service delivery. He approaches efficiency from the standpoint of making it easier for individuals to do their jobs correctly and repeatedly, resulting in delivering a better service to users (faculty, staff, and students).

Over the last several years Dan has taken on numerous recurring responsibilities and projects that have enhanced the efficiency of DELTA’s technology services. A few of these were primarily his work while most involved his encouraging and collaborating with various members of his six-person team. As co-lead of DELTA’s Disaster Recovery/Business Continuity Plan efforts, with a focus on the IT aspects, he has looked at areas of risk and addressed them through multiple efforts. One of the biggest risks is the care and feeding of unique “things.” This could be a special server setup, or a specific skill set or knowledge that only one employee has. For server setup, he has pushed the team to use configuration management tools for consistent server and application deployments. While it takes some time to initially set up these tools, afterward one can install new servers more reliably and quickly. To address unique people and knowledge, Dan established regular cross-training efforts within the system support team. This not only helps in an emergency situation when that one team member is not available, it also makes normal operations more efficient because now two or more team members can help each other with these previously unique items. In support of both aspects, Dan has pushed the team to document their procedures and processes. This helps with discovering more of those unique things and assists with cross-training now that written material available for others to reference. Finally, it makes offboarding and onboarding new employees easier.

  • Nicole Robelo, program assistant, Office for Institutional Equity and Diversity
  • Customer Service

Nicole RobeloNicole has been an extraordinary example of devotion to duty far and above the normal requirements of her position this past year. Just about the time that the university closed on-campus operations, the Inclusive Excellence and Strategic Practice (IESP) unit of OIED had one of its three professional staff take a different job, leaving the unit short-handed. Then, in August 2020, the second professional staffer retired. This left the unit extremely short-handed, just as the demand for diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) work exploded overnight after the killing of George Floyd last summer. While Nicole’s position as administrative support for the IESP unit had already been a busy one, this demand on the unit was overwhelming. In addition, during this time, NC State put in a requirement for DEI training for all faculty, staff and students, which the IESP unit was tasked with rolling out to over 40,000 students and over 9,500 employees on a new online platform. Nicole stepped in immediately far beyond the outlines of her job description at the time. She didn’t hesitate for a second, as her values and dedication and professionalism came through for what the times demanded. Almost overnight she had to teach herself how to interface with the new platform, roll-out training to three segments of the NC State population, and answer hundreds of emails to help everyone know how to navigate to the new online training. 

Nicole is a hard-working, dedicated early career professional, and she stepped up in a time of true need. On top of that, Nicole is in the middle of a graduate program, so in addition to the demands of the job, she is also striving to complete a masters degree in public administration. Nicole is so deserving of recognition for excellence due to her complete dedication to her work, to the work of OIED and to the betterment of all faculty, staff and students at NC State. She has truly gone above and beyond to work tirelessly behind the scenes to make the program work, as well as being the go-to customer service contact for the hundreds of parts of rolling out this university-wide program. All of this was done while the unit was short-staffed, and without Nicole, this would not have been possible. She is a great colleague to every person in OIED, is a delight to work with and alongside, and is completely dedicated to making this a success. She has a bright future here at NC State, and she is so very deserving of this recognition.

  • Michael Shurer, assistant director for SEVIS compliance, Office of Global Engagement
  • Efficiency and Innovation

Michael ShurerMike has been with the Office of International Services since July 2010, and has progressed from a temporary employee to assistant director for Student and Exchange Visitor Information System Compliance during his tenure. Since June 2020, the Office of Global Engagement has moved 50 percent of operations onto the new system Sunapsis, and expects to complete the transition within a year of the initial implementation of  the system.

The impact on efficiency for the office cannot be overstated. Now, because of Mike’s recognition that a new approach was needed, many hours of research to select a third party-software, and hard work to implement it, the office now has a system that works well for the office’s needs. International Employment will be joining Sunapsis by the end of the fiscal year, which will result in increased efficiency for another campus unit. With lnternational Employment on board, the office will be able to offer academic departments that wish to sponsor an incoming hire for a visa a single point of access for immigration sponsorship, with trackable lists including expiration dates and progress of certain steps of the process. lt will allow Export Control and Sponsored Programs and Regulatory Compliance Services (SPARCS) to conduct their analysis through Sunapsis, with single data entry from sponsoring departments. Mike’s work has facilitated all of those groups coming together to improve processes and enhance efficiencies.

Because of Mike, the office is able to leverage the new system to better track and report changes and decrease the time students must wait to receive critical and timely immigration benefits. His creative problem-solving abilities and technical expertise allow the office to tap into the robustness the system can offer. 

  • Davina Thrash, business officer, Institute for Emerging Issues
  • Human Relations

Davina ThrashDavina has gone above and beyond in many “big” ways over the past year, but it is her conscious attention to all the “little” things that has been most meaningful to me and the Institute for Emerging Issues (IEI) team. Early on it was check-in texts and emails with suggestions for music to listen to. Then postcards. Toward the end of 2020, she took it up a level. In October, then in November and again in December, every member of IEI’s 18-person team got a socially distanced “appreciation” gift from Davina (sometimes with the help of her daughter) hand-delivered by Davina to their door, followed by a short socially-distanced check in visit.

There is no job description anywhere requiring any of these activities of a Human Resources Officer. And during COVID-19, Davina is facing some of the same challenges we all are, managing family crises, frustrations and the angst of the pandemic. Rather than turning inward, she has turned out. She sees herself as “head cheerleader” and “chief encourager” for Team IEI, and she has been just that, and more. Her work has been truly outstanding!

The six award winners will receive an engraved plaque, while certificates of recognition of nomination will be given to the other nine nominees:

  • Grace Kavanagh, passport services assistant, Office of Global Engagement
  • Paula Cook, passport services manager, Office of Global Engagement
  • Adrienne Davis, associate director, Campus Community Centers and Bias Impact Response Team, Office for Institutional Equity and Diversity
  • Carmen Dunn, executive event manager, McKimmon Conference and Training Center
  • Belen Gebremichael, college liaison, the Graduate School
  • Rich Gurnsey, lead multimedia designer, Academic Technology Innovation, NC State DELTA
  • Katie Homar, director of academic and engineering writing support, the Graduate School
  • Haley Huie, director of experiential learning, NC State Entrepreneurship, Office of Academic Outreach and Entrepreneurship
  • Jill Zalewski, assistant director, Goodnight Scholars Program, Enrollment Management and Services

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