University announces summer 2019 Employees of the Month

Fri, 10/04/2019

LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas has announced the June, July and August 2019 Employees of the Month. They are as follows:


Name: Clint Johnston

Title: Painter senior, Facilities Services

What that means: Clint Johnston runs the spray booth in the paint shop, and he works across campus on paint jobs and remodels. Johnston has been a painter for the university for almost 15 years. He has developed many relationships across campus in that time and has become an expert on the buildings across campus.

Notable: Johnston does more than he is asked to do and offers help and assistance when others may not. Johnston will visit with customers across campus after completing a job to make sure they are happy and pleased with the work. Many describe Johnston as a “go-getter,” and some across campus refer to him as “Mr. Paint.” 

Because of Johnston’s experience, knowledge and patience, almost all of the other painters come to Johnston for advice. He has taken on a leadership role with his team. Johnston frequently serves as a mentor to new painters, providing advice and assistance when needed. 

When Johnston’s supervisor is busy, Johnston will complete estimates for the paint shop. He is so knowledgeable that he will also review the estimates his supervisor compiles to advise if the supervisor has allowed for enough time and materials to complete the project. If his supervisor’s workload is heavy, Johnston will assist to get the job done. 

Johnston’s supervisor said, “Clint is a helper in so many ways. I can rely on Clint to step up to any challenges. He can see when I am getting overwhelmed and will step in and help take over some of my duties in planning and organizing work for the other painters.” 

Johnston always gets projects done in a timely manner. He is always the first one in the shop at the beginning of the day, brewing coffee and unlocking for the rest of the crew, and he’s the last to leave at the end of the day. 

Name: Cathy Schwabauer

Title: Director of Engineering Career Services

What that means: Cathy Schwabauer supervises employees, oversees programs and services led by staff, offers individual career advising to hundreds of School of Engineering students; facilitates career-related workshops, classroom and student group career presentations; organizes and maintains the career resource library; coordinates efforts with other career centers at KU; and benchmarks services and programs with external entities.

Notable: Schwabauer helps out in the evenings and on weekends, has trained two new people this year and comes in outside of office hours to migrate data for big projects so that it doesn't interfere with day-to-day operations. She is great with the students, and a lot of alumni pop in the say "hi" when they come back to campus.

Schwabauer is adept at seeing the big picture while still keeping track of the minute details of any situation. As the director of a division with new staff, she is not only charged with her own duties but with getting the new staff members up to speed and sharing with the institutional knowledge that she possesses. She takes time to ensure her employees understand not only the task at hand but the background and reasons the handling of situations.

Schwabauer has worked for the engineering school for almost 20 years. She knows a lot about the operation of the center and cares a lot about her employees and KU students. Those who Schwabauer supervise appreciate her mentorship and leadership. Schwabauer is cognizant of each of the workloads of her employees, and she works hard to run a fair and equitable office where everyone works hard to meet goals. One employee said Schwabauer is open to letting staff pursue their individual interests within the positions they hold, such as professional development opportunities or involvement in organizations – the employee said that “by saying yes, she has not only made me a more satisfied employee, but big picture…my involvement means a positive impact for the department and students we serve.”

Schwabauer regularly navigates interactions with hundreds of employers, students, faculty, staff and other university colleagues. In each instance, she makes each person she is working with feel as though they are the most important person to her.


Name: Nicholas Haxton

Title: Executive sous chef, South Dining Commons

What that means: Nicholas (“Chef Nick”) Haxton is responsible for overseeing all of the culinary and production aspects of the unit operation. In the time that Haxton has been in this position he has repeatedly and consistently demonstrated outstanding dependability, reliability, dedication and devotion to the unit operation, the staff, services and students.

Notable: Haxton is well-respected and appreciated by co-workers, employees and students alike. He is a pleasure and joy to work for and with. He is consistently and sincerely interested in and committed to the continual improvement of recipes, menu items and service in addition to continual improvement of the staff and their skills and abilities. Haxton is always more than willing to step in and help out in any area, station or situation.

In November 2018, South Dining Commons hosted the Thanksgiving Dinner meal, the biggest and busiest meal of the year. Throughout the week Haxton calmly went about his business taking care of making staff work assignments, making sure that everything was being done at the appropriate time and place and in the appropriate manner. Haxton chose to see to the thawing, panning and cooking of the twenty 20-pound turkeys at another location. It was no surprise when the meal went very well. Many compliments were received from the 900-plus people that enjoyed the meal.

Haxton's role is to lead the kitchen staff in the daily production of food for South Dining Commons and the students who dine there. Haxton has to lead and train staff, develop recipes, ensure accurate production techniques and record-keeping, and oversee food safety programs. He is great about teaching and training of everyone around him. He constantly maintains a positive and upbeat attitude and helps to spread that attitude among others. Haxton teaches, trains and shares not only culinary skills but also a food-loving and/or a culinary mindset and an appreciation for the craft. He tirelessly promotes and encourages growth and development among staff, students and guests. Haxton is asked to share with several parts of the community, giving culinary presentations at some and most recently presenting "Math Used in Real Life" to Lawrence schoolchildren.

Haxton is a pleasure and joy to work for and with. He is consistently and sincerely interested in and committed to the continual improvement of recipes, menu items and service in addition to continual improvement of staff and their skills and abilities.

Name: Ally Smith

Title: Office manager, Lindley Hall Welcome Center

What that means: Ally Smith oversees the duties of five staff members and a couple of student employees. She supports two chairs and one director, and she serves three departments: Geography/Atmospheric Science, Geology and Environmental Studies.  

Notable: In order to serve so many people, Smith has to be a team player. She is sure to loop everyone in on changes and policy updates to ensure that communication is not lost and tasks and projects continue moving forward. She is also proactive in thinking weeks ahead on projects and getting everyone on the same page. She's one of the most reliable people in the departments served, and those who work with her attest they would be lost without her.

Smith is efficient, organized and always does an excellent job. A great example of this was her chairing and running three searches for the Lindley Welcome Center staff between November and March. She thoroughly vetted all candidates, ran timely interviews and has reassembled an amazing staff in record time.

When she began her role, Smith came in and spent time talking to each of the staff members about their concerns. She has worked hard to gain their trust but also be the leader that they need. She is learning how to better serve the SSC, faculty, graduate students and staff, then brings this knowledge to the dean's office during staff advisory board meetings. Smith is a fantastic leader. She knows how to delegate and ask for help, and she leads by example. She will never ask someone to do something unless she herself is willing to do it. She takes pride in where she works and it shows.

Because her staff serves multiple units, she has to be aware of three different timelines, cultures, wants and needs. She must balance the demands of the departments she supports with protecting her staff from overwork, which can happen when so many people are expecting service and support. Smith strikes this balance beautifully. She is respected by faculty and students, but she is also a wonderful manager who has her staff's best interests at heart. One of the chairs she supports said, “I cannot imagine a more professional manager or more compassionate boss.”


Name: Claudia Bode

Title: Education program coordinator, Center for Environmentally Beneficial Catalysis (CEBC)

What that means: Claudia Bode works to promote safety, inclusion and professional development opportunities not only for students and visiting scholars, but also staff and faculty with the CEBC. Beyond this, she works across departments with scientists, engineers and educators at KU and partner institutions to promote sustainability and communicate CEBC science research to broader audiences.

Notable: Bode helps secure funding vital to the operation of the CEBC and support for students, staff and teachers from across the state. She was awarded two sizable grants for bringing in undergraduate researchers and Kansas high school science teachers for summer research opportunities. Her efforts are truly serving the people of Kansas. Beyond her typical job duties, you can often find her organizing social and professional development events focused around science communication or serving to connect the physically separate center to the campus at large.

Yearly, Bode organizes and executes outreach activities to bring CEBC science to students at local elementary schools, but in the recent past she has worked to broaden the effect at the chemistry carnival (collaborating with other departments) and even out to more distant communities, including those in Johnson County. Bode has coordinated partnerships between the chemistry department and area high schools. Bode is passionately devoted to furthering the public understanding of science and to promoting STEM as a career choice for those groups currently poorly represented in the scientific and engineering communities. Of course, she labors hard with her official duties, winning NSF grants and managing programs to bring teachers to the CEBC for summer internships, but she also works tirelessly to make science fun and inclusive. Thanks to her leadership, the CEBC's education and outreach programs are regarded highly not only on the KU campus but also nationally.

One of the best things and qualities that Bode has is her contagious enthusiasm and approachability that CEBC students, researchers, staff and faculty seek her advice in a diversity of topics, from helping crafting posters, presentations, educational outreach programs for federal proposals, educational and STEM outreach programs, and more. Bode is not only great at her job, inspiring students to work in a safe and sustainable manner, but she strives to bring different opportunities to the CEBC research unit far from campus. Beyond this she is an energetic, caring and fun person to work with.

Name: Nathan Fortner

Title: Building complex manager, School of Engineering

What that means: Nathan Fortner has a large responsibility as the manager of seven buildings: Eaton Hall; Learned Hall; LEEP2; M2SEC; Spahr Library; the Structural Testing and Student Projects Facility; and the Hill Research and Development Center. In his role, Fortner supports all of the engineering stakeholders and support units. These include faculty, staff, students, department chairs, research centers, recruiting, outreach, career services, KU housekeeping, Facility Services, Facility Planning and Design, Public Safety, Environmental Health and Safety, the fire marshal and many vendors. He also handles deliveries, manages the card-access system, manages the keys for the complex and handles any building-related issues that arise.

Notable: Fortner is a great team member. He is always polite, calm and ready to work to solve problems so the people of engineering can work more safely and effectively. He anticipates issues and seeks to address them early before they affect the engineering community. He is proactive in learning new skills. For example, Fortner has mastered CS-Gold, the security software that manages card access to the complex, so that he can interact with Public Safety directly without the assistance of the Technical Service Center. He has also learned many aspects a software package engineering uses to house an interactive map and database for the engineering complex. 

Fortner routinely reaches out to faculty and staff in engineering to see if they need help. He is very responsive to the Fire Marshal, EHS, Public Safety and many others, and he answers their questions on staff's behalf. He has engaged in cleaning, snow and ice clearing, and repair work, which are not part of his job responsibilities, but he wants to ensure that engineering buildings are cleaner and safer. Whenever there is a maintenance problem, major or minor, Fortner is on it. He determines the cause of the problem, ensures that corrective action is taken and follows up on the success of the project. Fortner is highly professional yet careful and caring in the approach he takes with students, staff and faculty. 

To provide an example of his detail-oriented level of support, for 15 years there was a glass partition mounted on a Corian shelf in an office within engineering separating the office and a reception area. Last year it was decided to take the glass partition down to open up the office more. The glass sat in a frame that was held in by screws drilled into the Corian. After the glass and frame were removed, there were scratches and holes visible on the Corian top. Fortner went to Walgreens and bought two shades of gray nail polish to cover up the marks. 

Fortner's very presence makes the School of Engineering a better place.

Images: Photos taken by Haines Eason, Office of the Provost.

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