University honors September, October Employees of the Month

Fri, 11/22/2019

LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas has announced the September and October 2019 Employees of the Month. 

Each month, two staff members are selected from nominations received by the Employee Recognition Committee. Winners of the Employee of the Month awards  receive the following:

  • A surprise visit from the provost or his designee
  • A certificate of award
  • Their biography and photo featured through KU Today
  • A $750 gross monetary award.

You can nominate an employee for this award by completing and submitting the online Employee of the Month nomination form or by completing the paper Employee of the Month nomination form and returning it to HRM by email or fax to 785-864-5790. More information is available here.

Recent honorees are as follows:


Name: Dana Adkins-Heljeson
Title: Research lead programmer for the Kansas Geological Survey

What that means: One of Dana Adkins-Heljeson’s primary responsibilities is the KGS website, which serves as the “virtual front door” to the survey. He has been working on the website since 1995 when it first became operational. The KGS website exposes terabytes of geological, geophysical and geographic data to visitors and users of the site, and he takes great care to ensure its usability, functionality and availability. 

Notable: Adkins-Heljeson is all about customer service, and he puts tremendous effort into assembling and presenting KGS information for public consumption. His focus on the website has always been to give patrons everything they need in an easy and intuitive format, and he is quick to assist walk-in patrons or to answer the phone, treating people with utmost respect and courtesy, and delivering outstanding customer service with intelligence and insight.

“From my perspective, Dana is indispensable. He is the ‘man behind the curtain,’ the wizard who keeps our website in order as he continually adds data, adapts programs and improves access to data for users,” one of Adkins-Heljeson’s colleagues said.

Adkins-Heljeson also developed and maintained many of the interactive tools and applications that have made the KGS website so popular with researchers, educators, reporters and the public. He collaborates with scientists and support staff to ensure data, reports, maps and other content are efficiently archived and made available on the website. This application development requires advanced programming skills and knowledge of relational database systems. 

While Adkins-Heljeson is a seasoned technical pro, not all of his time is spent building applications and web pages. He also quietly handles many day-to-day operations at the KGS: Providing technical services for meetings and conferences; providing data and statistics to staff, researchers and industry on demand; manning the booth at conferences and trade shows; printing posters for staff presentations; tweeting the KGS news; changing printer cartridges; moving tables; and even keeping the American flag adjusted to the correct height.

As he also possesses a great deal of knowledge of the Kansas oil and gas industry, Adkins-Heljeson assists the operations of the KGS Data Library by helping to train new student employees, creating data ingestion applications and scanning analog data records. He will often work beside students, mentoring and guiding them through the complexities and nuances of the databases, website, and the industries and people KGS serves. He has mentored many of the professional staff at the KGS as well throughout the years, including how to present geologic information to the public.

Adkins-Heljeson has scanned hundreds of thousands of state documents for archival purposes and for web presentation. He goes out of his way to assist KU geology and petroleum engineering students, graduate students from anywhere in the world and KU staff and faculty. Adkins-Heljeson truly cares about the work he does, how it represents KGS and the people who work here.

Name: James Sigley
Title: Radiology technologist and radiology supervisor for Watkins Health Services

What that means: James (Jim) Sigley provides leadership for the radiology department and is responsible for organizing and assigning all work in the department. He performs a variety of diagnostic radiographic procedures used for organ, bone or tissue studies in accordance with physicians' referrals. The work includes critiquing images for diagnostic qualities, assisting the ordering providers in reviewing the studies and maintaining related records. He also assists WHS administration in building maintenance and materials management functions for all departments.

Notable: Sigley is a positive presence in WHS, which affects every department in the building. His willingness to assist with any task makes him a real asset to WHS and the university. Sigley has the strength of engaging people well and a unique ability to serve in any capacity. He sees no job as being "below" him. His willingness to help inspires others to do the same, and he exhibits a strong work ethic.

“Jim is not only our radiology expert, he is our go-to person, our jack-of-all-trades, a resource for all sorts of unusual requests and projects,” one WHS employee said. “If you are wondering how much a Rhino Rocket costs, ask Jim. If you want to know where to find a large, three-ring binder for a project, ask Jim. If you need help finding out why your office has a weird smell and is freezing cold, ask Jim. If you need a volunteer judge for your dip competition, ask Jim. He will paint a wall or hang a bin or bulletin board upon the wall for you. And that is all in addition to the excellent patient care he provides both within WHS and out on campus.”

WHS recently had its HVAC replaced. Few people in the entire WHS organization showed as much dedication as Sigley did during the yearlong process. He helped move furniture and equipment, and he participated in every move in all the phases of the project. Sigley is known for being meticulous, having excellent attention to detail and taking pride in the WHS building. But what he did during HVAC took those qualities and contributions to another level.

Sigley is here and there and everywhere, caring for patients at WHS, trekking over to the athletics department when needed and working long days to attend sporting events as the on-call radiology technologist.

Sigley is always pleasant, friendly, approachable and helpful. He gets along well with everyone and is genuinely kind and easy to talk to. He goes out of his way to be warm and welcoming to everyone who walks by the radiology department. 


Name: Sandra Bush
Title: Administrative associate in Counseling and Psychological Services

What that means: Sandra (Sandy) Bush serves as the receptionist for the Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) Clinical Service. She is responsible for answering multiple phone lines, scheduling appointments, taking messages and greeting walk-in clients. Other responsibilities include filing, preparation of charts and documents, data entry and general word processing. As the first point of contact many people have with CAPS, she has an effect on their first impression and overall experience of the office. Like any busy office, the pace can get hectic and requires the ability to multitask. Regardless of what the day brings, Bush can be counted on to treat clients of CAPS with courtesy and kindness while also having an added therapeutic presence about her.

Notable: CAPS is a counseling center for students, and by the nature of the work of the center, KU employees work with people daily who are in distress or concerned about someone in distress. Bush is unwaveringly supportive and compassionate in all her interactions with students, and she helps them feel comfortable at a time that can be anxiety-provoking. She is constantly thinking creatively about improving the department’s workflow and effectiveness, and she is always ready for additional responsibility and new projects. Bush possesses the excellent communication skills and the compassion essential to someone in her position. In addition, Bush is patient, organized, efficient, reliable, professional, respectful and a team player.

“The best way to fully appreciate Sandy's contribution to this agency, however, is to stand near her desk in order to observe and listen while she is working,” one CAPS psychologist said. “Her equanimity is impressive.” 

CAPS has frequently received feedback from clients about the positive influence of their initial contact with Bush. She has a wonderful ability for connection without ever being intrusive or overbearing.

Bush is a consistent positive presence for the visitors to CAPS, and she provides the same support to her co-workers.

“I personally intentionally walk by her desk, even though it is not the only way to get to my office, when I come to work every day to see her and say hello because her presence is so stabilizing. I often go talk to her after I have had a tough session because her energy is always refreshing,” one colleague said.

“Our job is to support the therapists,” another co-worker said. “If we support them and keep things running smoothly, they can focus on clients and give the best possible care." 

Bush lives this every day by being a go-to resource for the office. Providing support, sometimes unasked, to the therapists in the office makes their jobs easier.

Regardless of the task at hand, Bush meets the challenges while maintaining a calm and attuned presence for CAPS clients. 

Name: Laura McCorkill
Title: Administrative associate, School of Music

What that means: Laura McCorkill is responsible for scheduling, providing rehearsal times, and typing and producing the programs for over 300 concerts a year.  She coordinates the massive schedule for these concerts, which are held in multiple locations. McCorkill is given little room for error in her job. It's amazing how consistently and efficiently she keeps track of the more than 300 performances each year that occur at the School of Music. She routinely alerts faculty and students to issues that may arise when booking recitals, and she graciously reschedules them when conflicts occur.

Notable: McCorkill manages an office staff of student hourly workers. Student workers provide assistance with keys, printing and receptionist-type duties. McCorkill has gone above and beyond with these students — she has given them an identity in the school (student ambassadors), and she has regular meetings with them about ways to provide better service for the school. As a result of her mentoring, they all approach their jobs as professionals and are proud to be serving the school. McCorkill's office is frequently the "face of the school," and the impression that she creates herself and with her staff is always very favorable.

McCorkill has done amazing work to foster a sense of community at the School of Music. She brings to the office and the music school humor, purpose and compassion while doing her many duties. McCorkill has developed fundraising projects, including the sale of school swag including T-shirts, polo shirts and water bottles. She also initiated a unique way to honor faculty and staff members who are admired or appreciated, which is to send inflated unicorns to be displayed outside the person’s office as mark of appreciation. This colorful practice created quite a buzz when she first began this new and fun opportunity to pay tribute to others.

Employees in the School of Music had a lot to say about McCorkill, describing her as a “gem” and “an incredible colleague who volunteers to step outside her area of responsibilities and offer assistance, advice and a sympathetic ear when needed."

“Laura’s deep connection to KU and her prior experience as a middle school choir teacher are priceless. She relates to the students in a special way,” one colleague said. Others noted that McCorkill always puts the students' interests first.

Regardless of the atmosphere or the task she is positive, kind and respectful. These characteristics are noteworthy with changing budgets, changing systems and challenging responsibilities, yet McCorkill is consistently stable in what she presents to her co­-workers — someone who will get things done, be creative in her approach and be lovely to work with. McCorkill is the heart and soul of the KU School of Music, and many people see her as such.

Photos credit: Haines Eason, Office of the Provost.

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