LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas has announced the April and May Employees of the Month. They are as follows:
Name: Nick Carswell
Title: Radio program coordinator, Kansas Audio-Reader
Nick Carswell is responsible for is responsible for the development, planning, production and presentation of Audio-Reader's radio reading and information services. He coordinates activities of staff and volunteers engaged in preparation of programs across all platforms (radio, digital and telephone-reader). He schedules every broadcast day and ensures that the 24/7 service is always running and available to its listeners. Carswell directly supervises the Audio-Reader volunteer coordinator, the weekend reading coordinator, the telephone-reader coordinator and several student announcers.
With recent budget cuts, Audio-Reader has had to implement major organizational restructuring. Carswell has served as an amazing innovator for these changes and has created numerous efficiencies that will allow Audio-Reader to continue to provide its full range of services on a significantly reduced budget. He is a musician and has engaged the local music community to support Audio-Reader. Carswell personally put on numerous musical performances to raise money for the organization, and he and his band, Carswell & Hope, have played for Audio-Reader benefit concerts at local venues for free and even donated their tips to Audio-Reader. Carswell has created partnerships with local organizations, such as the Lawrence Public Library, to help support Audio-Reader with it resources, publicity and facilities.
Additionally, Carswell recently added coordinator volunteering to his responsibilities. He coordinates subs and reschedules more than 400 volunteers. He is also very tech-savvy and has used his knowledge and experience to create administrative efficiencies that save staff valuable time. He finds new tools for scheduling/programming and communicating with volunteers. Due to his creativity and critical thinking skills, Audio-Reader has been able to continue to provide all of its services with about half of the staff. I don't think that Audio-Reader would be able to continue on in its current capacity without the contributions of Carswell. He is passionate about this service and his role in supporting it.
As Audio-Reader has sustained continuing cuts, Carswell takes on additional duties and makes it all work. He wears many different hats and successfully completes all of the tasks associated with each role.
Name: Kierstin McMichael
Title: Administrative associate, Office of Diversity & Equity
Kierstin McMichael is responsible for event planning, website and social media management for the Office of Diversity & Equity, and her efforts consistently exceed her role and the expectations of her department.
One example is her effort in growing the community lunches that take place once a semester on campus. Through McMichael’s efforts, the Office of Diversity & Equity provides free Ramen Bowl lunches to students. She has worked with administrators to provide food to students who struggle with this issue.
Another example is her work on the Martin Luther King Jr. Day program. It has traditionally taken place on the legal holiday, when there are few people on campus. McMichael began asking questions about how to increase participation, and ultimately she proposed that the event take place the first day of classes when more people could participate. McMichael has taken the idea and ran with planning the event almost entirely on her own.
McMichael also has great ideas that keep the office moving forward. For instance, after sitting in on a meeting with the director of the Lawrence Public Library, she suggested creating an internship program for students to gain work experience and learn more about the library. She has taken the lead with the project by attending library meetings, creating job descriptions and setting training expectations.
McMichael has also contributed by volunteering to sit on search committees and taking on extra assignments, and she is willing to come in early or stay late.
McMichael stands out due to her ability to apply critical thinking skills to her work. She receives a task and will not only make sure it is completed efficiently, she will also suggest improvements or provide a different person's perspective to a situation to make sure that all feel included. She is creative and innovative and brings these skills to the office every day. Additionally, she frequently anticipates the needs of her co-workers. In the same manner, she is very perceptive and often is able to communicate different peoples' perspectives, backgrounds and needs.
Name: Maria Isabel Alcazar
Title: International program specialist, Study Abroad
Maria Isabel Alcazar works with study abroad students and group programs onsite in Costa Rica, providing input into program design and curriculum, coordinating logistics, liaising with partner institutions, working with host families and advising students on matters related to classes, safety, cultural differences, living with a host family and other issues. During her tenure at KU, she has developed many KU faculty-led programs and supported thousands of student participants in the Grupo de Kansas in Costa Rica.
For the past several months, she has also worked on recruiting Costa Rican students to study at KU. Five Costa Ricans have applied to KU this semester as a direct result of her efforts, and the Office of Study Abroad anticipates more to come in the years ahead. Alcazar as worked diligently in contacting college advisers, organizing visits and meeting with Costa Rican students and parents about opportunities at KU. Beyond Costa Rica’s borders, she participated in a recruitment tour in Latin America, visiting seven countries in just 13 days.
This past year KU and the University of Costa Rica celebrated 60 years of their partnership. The celebrations took place in Costa Rica, and Alcazar was an essential liaison in the extensive planning process. She connected with Costa Rican alumni of KU, welcoming visitors and making sure presentations and logistics took place.
Costa Rican host families and American students have commented on how wonderful it is to interact with her as she is always ready to help if needed. One study abroad student in Costa Rica said, "Isa’s hugs are a beautiful gift when we are far away from loved ones and we need to know that someone really cares about us."
Alcazar ensures that San Jose, Costa Rica, is home away from home for students. She is loving, caring, thoughtful, boundlessly enthusiastic and generous with her time.
Another student said, “When you are with her – you get the sense that to her – the world revolves around you – but she is that way with everyone. When I think of Isa, I think of her smile, the sparkle in her eyes, her warmth and her capacity as a professional to get everything right, and to be proactive.”
Name: Tiffany Learned
Title: Programming and first-year experience coordinator, International Support Services
Tiffany Learned creates events for new and current international students to attend throughout orientation and the academic year. She works in orientation to foster relationships with students through the International Leadership Team, and she creates and runs events such as International Coffee Hour, Global Brunch and the International Jayhawk Festival as well as activities during International Education Week,
One individual had the following to say about Learned: “As a former international student of six years at KU and now an international member of staff, it occurred to me that my experience at KU would not have been the same without Tiffany. She is the member of staff who creates a friendship with you as a student. If an emergency arises outside of office hours, Tiffany will be there. She is an invaluable resource to the international community.”
Learned develops student-centered programming and takes risks. She does not let money or precedence block great ideas, and she isn't afraid to stand up for what she thinks is right. If someone asks her to help a student or step up to develop a program to enhance the international awareness of our campus, she always says yes. Learned created the International Women's Association as she saw the need for international women, particularly those from Muslim backgrounds, to get together and create a safe space for one another to bond over their experiences.
As another example, Learned was contacted by KU Housing about the possibility of international trivia for students. That program didn't exist, so she created Global Quest Trivia Challenge. In its inaugural year, she had over 28 teams sign up to participate, and she flawlessly organized the event. KU Housing called her the following week and asked for her list of programs for the spring.
Learned’s personal strength is that she is ferociously dedicated to creating safe and inclusive spaces where international students and marginalized students can flourish. She has the ability to interact with students from all kinds of backgrounds and make all feel welcome at KU.
As one employee said of Learned, “She’s hilarious and fun even when she’s planning revolutionary change. The world, and KU, needs more people like her – change makers and innovators who keep you smiling and make you work hard, but who will be there in a moment’s notice if you need help.”