University announces fall 2018 Employees of the Month

Tue, 02/12/2019

LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas has announced the fall Employees of the Month for the Lawrence campus. Think you know an outstanding staffer who deserves recognition? Employee of the Month nomination forms can be found here.

August Employees of the Month

Name: Jessica Chilcoat

Jessica Chilcoat is a financial analyst in the College & Professional Schools (CPS) Shared Service Center (SSC). She began this position in May 2017 after transferring from the Campus Operations and Administration (CAO) SSC and immediately took on the responsibility for transaction level as well as reporting level support for departments with a very high level of need.

When Chilcoat began her position in the CPS SSC, she stepped into a high-tension situation and immediately began working to improve it. She spent long hours reviewing activities from the previous year, unraveling them and making needed corrections, and presented information to the departments so that they were aware of their state of accounts. Chilcoat stayed on top of new requests while they emerged, all while learning her new position. Chilcoat established a regular meeting and reporting schedule for the departments she supports and followed up on requests quickly. She now participates in departmental meetings and has materials prepared to make sure chairs understand necessary financial information.

Chilcoat worked very hard to build trust and relationships with these departments. The departments regard her as their “go-to” person for all financial questions, and they describe her work ethic as “impeccable,” “proactive” and “methodical.” Because of Chilcoat’s hard work, there is a firm foundation of trust between the SSC and the departments.

In addition to the support Chilcoat provides to her departments, she supports co-workers within the CPS SSC who are in an accounting role. Chilcoat is extremely knowledgeable on KU rules, funding, budgeting and reporting. Chilcoat has helped develop over 60 reporting templates in Oracle Analytics Cloud to help out the SSC, and she has even done this for departments and centers that do not have a financial analyst. Her co-workers report that Chilcoat is always in a great mood and makes everyone around her feel good about themselves. She is always willing to stop what she's doing to help others in a very positive way. She not only answers questions but helps the accountants on her team to understand the answers. She definitely goes above and beyond the expectations of her position.

Patti Wiggins

Prior to her retirement in fall 2018, Patti Wiggins worked for Campus Dining in the Jay Break at Joseph R. Pearson Hall. In that role, she oversaw the shop, running the register, checking food, sales, pouring drinks, making coffee, etc.  Wiggins was skillful and efficient, but what really made her stand out was the service she provided to her customers.

Quotes from her customers best describe Wiggins:

  • “Patti is one of the first people I had the pleasure of meeting here at KU. I'm new to the Lawrence area, so my supervisor suggested I try the Jay Break downstairs if I needed coffee or a sandwich. Patti is someone you will remember. I mentioned meeting her when I came back upstairs to my office and how she completely and totally brightened my day — and everyone said they love her.”
  • “She is the perfect gauge/barometer of what a person needs. She will talk or be a sympathetic ear. She can sense when someone is in a hurry and will work with haste — but she never forgets to smile… She just has a demeanor that brightens everyone's day.”
  • “Patti will engage people when they come to the Jay Break. She makes suggestions, jokes and conversation. When I met her, she recognized I was new, and after talking a few minutes — she came around the corner and gave me a ‘Welcome to KU’ hug. She gave suggestions of where to go, what to try and asked me questions about my job — and then remembered everything I'd said a few weeks later. Her mind is cast-iron. She can ask a follow-up question weeks after an initial conversation. She remembers everyone — students, staff, and faculty.”
  • “Everyone who meets her describes her as the ‘sweetest’ and ‘nicest’ person you will ever meet. And the superlatives don't even come close to describing the spot of sunshine she can bring to the most dour of days. She's not just incredible at her job — she's truly a good person.”

Since her retirement, Wiggins noted that she truly loves and misses KU and the many people she helped in her time here.


September Employees of the Month

Name: Keah Cunningham

Keah Cunningham is the assistant director of the Ermal Garinger Academic Resource Center. In her time in the unit, she has managed four computer labs, helped plan the construction of two active learning classrooms, designed websites for six NEH grant projects and two award-winning foreign language textbooks. She excels at solving the myriad issues that arise in supporting faculty research and teaching. This might range from creating video clips for presentations to editing images for publication, creating websites for professional organizations and providing instruction in the use of educational technology.

Multiple faculty members wrote to the Recognition Committee describing how grateful they were for Cunningham’s assistance:

  •  “She is excellent at her job. She deals gracefully with complicated problems and never ceases to be knowledgeable, pleasant and helpful.”
  •  “Her support has been crucial for several of the teaching and research projects I oversee. Without her expertise and knowledge, these projects would have collapsed and failed.”
  • “She is a model worker who inspires graduate students to achieve their goals and to discover fruitful ways to deploy materials on web platforms.”
  •  “Her thinking always focuses on the human dimension, not the technical background. She articulates her position without confusing her colleagues and provides leadership when needed on a project’s development. She is aware of the mission of the university and is able to support that mission superbly.”

As an example of Cunningham’s dedication, she has been working on an online Russian textbook although she has never studied the language. To help her work with the content, she took it upon herself to learn the Cyrillic alphabet and eventually got so good at looking at Russian text that she was able to spot mistakes that the authors had missed.

Cunningham does whatever is needed to make the unit run effectively, working late and on weekends when needed. In addition to her work to support faculty research and projects, she frequently provides technical consultation and training for graduate students so that they can maintain websites and materials that she has helped to develop. Her work at KU, which began in 2006 when she was a student, has been consistently characterized by excellence.  

Thomas Shorock

Thomas (Tom) Shorock is a technology coordinator in Information Technology. In that role, he is responsible for running all technology applications for the KU Libraries, including investigating and developing new applications. Shorock's primary duties are focused around library services. He and his small team have a mountain of duties to keep the libraries running smoothly and efficiently.

Shorock’s efforts to implement automated deployment tools and containerize applications for KU Libraries has been above and beyond expectations, making his team’s work more efficient, repeatable and reliable. Shorock is a conscientious, personable and reliable team member. He is helping to build the first-ever web-mapping server for KU Libraries, which will host an online interactive map to include modern base maps with a substantial collection of Kansas historical maps. The server will also make the historical maps available for use in desktop GIS software where users can combine them with other GIS data and maps.

Even with all the time these duties take, Shorock never hesitates to help others at KU. There are countless tasks Shorock has voluntarily taken on top of his primary job duties to support and keep KU Libraries running efficiently. As some examples, Shorock set up the CMS environment needed for the Spencer Museum of Art website redesign and is creating a solution to improve the reliability and maintainability of the KU CMS.

Shorock is one of those rare individuals who can do a thousand different things and do them all extremely well. His technical knowledge knows no bounds. Shorock has set up a number of tools to make development easier and more productive for others in IT.

He has been described as highly knowledgeable about information technology yet is very approachable and willing to teach others what he knows.

Every individual who works with Shorock comes away a better person. Shorock is an excellent teacher and a colleague you can always depend on. Those who work with him describe him as a genius-level developer and administrator who uses his talents to enhance the quality of technology and work life at KU.


October Employees of the Month

Laura Gagliano

Laura Gagliano is a licensed architect and project manager in Facilities Planning & Development (FPD). Her primary role is to serve as KU’s owner-representative and project manager on her assigned capital improvement projects, guiding and managing the work by the architects, engineers and contractors who KU hires for facility projects, to advise KU client groups and to advocate for their interests and those of KU as a whole.

Gagliano addresses every project, task and team member with a smile and a good-natured, solutions-oriented approach for getting things done effectively and efficiently. She's a good listener but also a good communicator, and she is always willing to offer creative ideas, advice or an opinion. When a firm hand or candid feedback is required, she can do that, too, in a positive, constructive manner.

Gagliano has long-standing relationships with several KU client groups, most notably with KU Student Housing and Watkins Health Services, both of whom continue to ask for her to serve on their projects. Housing projects have very tight construction time frames and critical completion dates that must be met before the start of each fall semester. Gagliano has successfully managed numerous Student Housing projects over the past eight years, all of them completed on time and within budget. Gagliano has also managed a number of other difficult and demanding projects, ranging from the Simons Bioscience Research building addition and renovation, the Spencer Museum of Art and Spencer Research Library renovations, and numerous smaller projects that are equally important to their client groups.

One of her longtime clients says Gagliano "is courteous and friendly to our partners and represents KU well. As a project manager, she knows when to be firm and when flexibility is needed. I enjoy working with her and have requested her on several projects."

Another longtime client describes Gagliano as "mellow but efficient. She appears easygoing but definitely gets the job done." Another client says that "without her continuous help, construction would have been much more difficult. She is essential for the success of our project."

One client summed it up by saying, "Gagliano is the kind of architect who adopts a project wholeheartedly, exercises exquisite judgment, management and scheduling, and delivers a completed end-product which meets the highest expectations."

Rita Riley

Rita Riley is the undergraduate adviser for the School of Music. She is responsible for advising School of Music undergraduates regarding their class enrollment and schedules, disseminating useful emails, making catalog changes and advising on policy. She actively participates in the School of Music's recruiting process.

As the director of Undergraduate Student Services in the music school, Riley is the sole academic adviser for many undergraduate music majors. However, she is also the undergraduate admissions coordinator and certifies graduation for undergraduates. On top of this hefty workload, Riley goes above and beyond with her invaluable assistance during recruitment and auditions, as well as new student orientations and the School of Music recognition ceremony in May. She is a fantastic co-worker, constantly offering to pick up the slack for workflows that are not hers, baking treats for practically any occasion, showing up with a positive attitude every day, providing outstanding customer service to students, dropping what she is doing at any moment to assist students, even going so far as to walk schedule change forms up to Strong Hall on students' behalf.

Riley is knowledgeable about all aspects of KU, from governance to admissions to enrollment to registrar matters. She has provided guidance on catalog updates and generating reports for the dean and NASM, the School of Music's accreditors. Riley works with a very diverse student body and exhibits a tremendous sensitivity to their varied needs. She is always the first to know when a student is in crisis or needs additional support.

Riley has the ideal mix of professional and personal qualities. Her ongoing commitment to the School of Music and its students speak persuasively for itself. “Without Rita,” one employee said, “the school simply would cease to function. All of us here in Murphy, especially our students, admire Rita and are deeply grateful for her enduring presence among us.” Riley’s supervisor made the following statement, “Some people work to live, while others live to work. Riley genuinely lives to work for the students with a dedication that I have not seen in my prior vocations. She is immensely kind and helpful and deserves recognition in my opinion, not just for the quantity but for the quality of service she has provided over the years.”


November Employees of the Month

Pam Lerow

Pam Lerow is an administrative assistant in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, reporting to the digital initiatives coordinator. She is an expert at digital publishing and digital/print layout design. Lerow has put together the digital design and layout for the publications of faculty and staff from different schools, departments and organizations in the College — English, the University Honors Program, history and most departments in the School of Languages, Literatures & Cultures, to name a few. She is able to manage a diverse workload while keeping a positive attitude and always being able to help some student or faculty member who needs last-minute assistance.

There are several examples of publications that she has produced, one example is the London Review. Lerow is essential to this annual student publication. The London Review is a study abroad program in London, and the students make the book after they return. Lerow is the conduit through which faculty, staff, and students collaborate on the publication. She takes the work of approximately 25 students per publication and helps make the varying pieces consumable by readers. While doing this, she also works with faculty from the Department of English and the Honors Program to make sure that the content is approved and ready for publication. The students create the theme, select and edit articles, select visual work, and then Lerow works to make it all come together through digital design.

Lerow has helped hundreds of KU scholars in publishing articles and books. The work that she completes is seldom attributed to her, with the primary authors getting the credit and praise for the publication, but without her efforts, many of the publications would suffer in quality.

Lerow is described as patient and attentive with students. Many students will check with her regularly to see how articles look in the publication, and she works with them to help realize their vision. Students love Lerow and enjoy working with her.

Faculty members also love and rely on Lerow. As one employee said, “She is outstanding in every way. Latin American Theatre Review would not be able to function without her … she is an invaluable asset to KU.”

Doug Rendall

Doug Rendall is the custodial supervisor at the Lied Center. In that role, he manages custodial staff and complex scheduling to make sure that the building is always clean and ready for the next event. Rendall knows so much about the inner workings of the Lied Center that he instantly knows when a minor failure in one system may cause a chain reaction, resulting in a major failure in another system. He spots trouble early and takes steps to fix things before they cause problems.

Rendall is always willing to take on new projects and assist with anything that needs to be done. He knows his staff's strengths and weaknesses and is able to assign his custodial staff to projects based on their strengths. His willingness to get any job done filters down to his staff. They, too, are always ready to help with tasks and keep the building running, clean and beautiful. As the supervisor, Rendall could just do paperwork in his office and leave active custodial work to his team, but he can often be seen pitching in to yield a mop, locate broken seats in the auditorium and assist visitors – especially school groups, so they leave with a positive impression of the Lied Center.

He and his wife volunteered to create a garden in the front circle to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Lied Center. They transformed a large patch of grass in the middle of the circle drive in front of the Lied Center to a showcase garden of over 600 drought-tolerant native plants that also attract monarch butterflies. Rendall and his wife volunteered to design the garden, obtain the plants – many from their home garden — prepare the soil, plant the flowers and keep them watered through the dry, hot Kansas summer. The results are spectacular, and the garden draws in a wide variety of butterflies, bees and hummingbirds.

Co-workers describe Rendall as a cheerful man with a “can do” attitude; one who can resolve any problem that arises and can prevent minor problems from becoming major ones. For some attendees, the Lied Center is their first experience at KU, and Rendall and his staff work very hard to make sure that the impression of the Lied Center and KU is a positive one.


December Employees of the Month

Jessica Black-Magnussen

Jessica Black-Magnussen is the associate director for project development in the Life Span Institute, where she works to develop and submit grants and other funding proposals. In that role, her support of faculty and staff at LSI is critical to the success of the KU research community. Black-Magnussen is the go-to person for helping investigators navigate through federal requests for applications, and she is the keeper of analytics and metrics at LSI. Her ability to problem-solve goes above and beyond her daily duties – she tackles problems, finds solutions and manages multiple demands with grace, often late at night or on weekends.

Black-Magnussen is described by her nominees as having an “intense dedication” to her work and to the success of the KU investigators affiliated with LSI. She exhibits an incredible work ethic, working around the clock to ensure that all proposal information is accurate, complete and submitted on time. Supporting researchers in building grant applications, ensuring compliance with all proposal requirements and managing other project-related demands is time-consuming and stressful, particularly with strict deadlines. At the same time, Black-Magnussen is unflappable in her support and availability to researchers and meeting the demands of her position.

Black-Magnussen supervises employees who have the utmost respect for her, and her leadership style allows her team to openly communicate and grow in their skill level and competence. She has created a solid and dependable team by simply living the example of how she thinks the team should work and execute their duties. She creates a feeling of a team in all of her interactions, creates a highly positive culture and is central to the success in funding and project development.

Black-Magnussen also supports emerging researchers to work through challenges of their first budgets and grant proposals. She is always willing to work with staff and researchers to generate solutions and yield significant benefits for the university. Black-Magnussen is the person people work with when they first walk in the door of LSI. And, once people work with her (or the staff she supervises) they never want to work with anyone else. In many ways, Black-Magnussen is the face of LSI.

Frances Lyons

As the assistant dean of student services for the School of Journalism, Frances Lyons supervises two advisers, the recruitment & outreach coordinator and the career coordinator. Further, she organizes the scholarship selection distribution and application, is the journalism school’s scheduling officer, serves on the dean’s advisory group and advises undergraduate students. Lyons does it all.

An employee who works closely with Lyons said, “I have the privilege and honor of seeing how much she does and how well she does it. The school relies on Frances in ways that it doesn’t perceive because she does her job so efficiently and thoughtfully.” Lyons is continually thinking of innovative ideas on how to help and improve the school.

Another colleague of Lyons said, “I consider Frances the school’s conscience.” Lyons makes sure decisions benefit students and ensures that the journalism school aligns with university policy and develops curriculum programs by the letter of those policies. She always has the best interests of the students in mind.

Lyons’ exceptional methodology and decency are best exemplified by the devotion of her advisees. Her students are as committed to Lyons as she is to them. People will wait to see Lyons specifically because of her ability to connect with students, to actively listen and to help them process what is going well and what is not makes them feel connected to the journalism school and the institution. There are several examples of Lyons dropping what she is doing to meet with a student in distress or take prospective students and their family on a school tour. These small, daily activities make all the difference. It is not only that Lyons immediately jumps to the needs of the students but that she has created a culture in the advising/recruiting office of the journalism school where all do the same.

Lyons is organized, accommodating, considerate, pleasant and insightful. She is knowledgeable, shows leadership, accepts responsibility, and goes above and beyond her required duties on a daily basis. She quietly and tirelessly improves the lives of students, faculty and staff. Lyons doesn’t save the day once in a while. She saves the day several times every day.

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