University announces spring 2020 Employees of the Month

Thu, 07/02/2020

LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas has announced the spring 2020 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 her designee
  • A certificate of award
  • A biography and photo featured through KU Today
  • A $750 gross monetary award.

Nominate an employee for this award by completing and submitting the online or 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.

Some job descriptions below may note on-campus responsibilities or in-person tasks that have since changed or been suspended during the COVID-19 pandemic.

February 2020

Ben Duran 

Ben Duran serves as an IT support technician for the Kansas Law Enforcement Training Center. In that role, Duran is responsible for providing technical support for the center’s employees and students. He serves as the first point of contact to help troubleshoot issues with hardware, software or printer issues. 

Duran consistently goes above and beyond while providing stellar customer service. He often walks around campus to check with each employee to ensure that they are not experiencing any technical issues and will follow up to confirm those solutions are still working. He is also always ready to lend a hand, such as helping new instructors use the classroom technology, or showing staff new and innovate ways to use technology. Another way he assists the staff of the Law Enforcement Training Center is by expanding his own knowledge and skills, such as learning new programs to better support the technological infrastructure across the campus. He is known both within and outside of his department as being an IT professional who provides quick and friendly service while being capable of explaining the issue in an understandable way, even to those with less technological expertise. A co-worker said, “I know when I have any IT issue and Ben assists, I am in great hands and he will get the job done.”

Additionally, the Law Enforcement Training Center IT department consists of only three staff members, meaning that Duran travels all over the campus to help those who require his assistance and expertise. Many of the center’s instructors, students and staff trust in Duran to help them keep everything up and running. Those who work with Duran describe him as reliable, resourceful and committed to helping others. 

Gary Mohr 

Gary Mohr serves as a project manager-engineer in KU’s Office of Facilities Planning & Development. In that role, Mohr is responsible for many phases of a project, such as determining the budget and scope of a project, managing the consulting architects, engineers and contractors, and coordinating with campus stakeholders to ensure the project is completed on schedule. He communicates with consultants, contractors, internal staff and state agencies to provide KU with the needed improvements. He is also mindful of the impact construction and completion of a project will have on the student body, faculty and staff.

Mohr routinely delivers large and complicated projects on time and under budget. Some examples of his expertise and management skills can be seen with the Jayhawk Boulevard and Memorial Drive reconstruction projects. Many of Mohr’s projects take place over the summer months and must be completed before the start of the fall semester. Mohr works closely with various departments that have summer programming to avoid disrupting a variety of summer events on campus, such as Orientation.

Other projects Mohr has worked on include the reconstruction of Lot 54; the Earth, Energy, & Environment Center; Dyche Hall improvements; the Victory Eagle relocation and many high-visibility campus projects. His work has won various awards for sustainability, water conservation and construction quality.

Mohr is a true team player. Several colleagues commented that his organization, humor, creativity and diligence are all what help him succeed.

Mohr also goes above and beyond to ensure successful completion of projects in various ways, such as being present for an early morning concrete pour or providing an update after a weekend of heavy rain. 

 “It takes a special person to manage the issues brought forth from the end users, stakeholders, consultants, contractors and the general public,” a colleague said. “Gary does with an even hand, sense of humor, and focus on the end result.”  


Kate Burns 

Kate Burns serves as a Title IX investigator in the Office of Institutional Opportunity & Access (IOA). Burns investigates Title IX and equal employment opportunity complaints within the university, and she coordinates and facilitates trainings on a variety of sensitive subjects. As a Title IX investigator, she is responsible for addressing harassment, discrimination and sexual assault complaints that affect members of the campus community. She has educational conversations with staff, students and faculty on both sides of received complaints and treats everyone with dignity and respect.

Burns is dedicated to her work with the IOA. Burns has effectively coordinated events that train students, staff and faculty on institutional policy and expectations relating to IOA. Each training she coordinates is specifically designed for each unit, and Burns has presented to over 600 people. These trainings are instrumental in making sure all of the campus community knows how the IOA office functions to support safety at KU. She has facilitated trainings of new employees to her department, and she serves as a role model for the newer staff in the office. One co-worker said, “Her experience in the field makes her a go-to contact for any questions those in the department might have, and her ability to gather information in a sensitive and thorough way is incredible.” 

Burns is not intimidated by even the most challenging of situations and will often spend hours researching individual identities, experiences, law and policy interpretation to get the most thorough view of each case. She is consistently dedicated to learning more about how to be more inclusive in her work. She often offers late night or third-shift trainings, travels to the Edwards Campus or works with translators and interpreters to ensure everyone has a chance to be included. 

 Burns is also great at maintaining morale in an office that handles difficult subject matter by sending out congratulatory emails, keeping her co-workers motivated and just generally being a friendly and warm individual. She also often organizes socials and celebrations for her office. A coworker said, “You can trust Kate to handle anything and you can trust her to help you out if you need it, too.”

Robert Wiseman 

Robert Wiseman serves as a custodian in Facilities Services. He has worked for KU since 2016 and is responsible for maintaining a clean and safe environment for the students, staff and faculty of Murphy Hall. Just a few of Wiseman’s responsibilities are stocking restrooms, classrooms and offices; stripping and waxing floors; extracting carpets; and snow and ice removal. 

Wiseman consistently goes above and beyond expectations and is known for making Murphy Hall sparkle. While he is constantly busy, he is always willing to help escort a lost student to their destination or praise a colleague. He is known not only for keeping the facility shining but also for greeting everyone he sees with a smile. Wiseman also takes responsibility for Murphy Hall by quickly reporting issues such as burnt-out light bulbs, leaking sinks or any other problems to his supervisor to ensure the building is functioning as smoothly as possible. Murphy Hall often has higher traffic during certain dates, such as hosting official visit days or auditions, and Wiseman makes sure there is extra coverage to ensure that all guests and prospective students get an excellent impression of the building, and ultimately, KU. Regarding his enthusiasm, a co-worker said, “Robert wants students and faculty to feel a sense of pride about their building, their department, and in a greater sense, their community.”

Because of his knowledge and skills in his line of work, he often serves as an informal mentor for newer custodial staff. Examples of his insight include scheduling office cleaning and offering advice and assistance to newer staff who are not accustomed to working around staff and students. Once, when a co-worker was having a recurrent parking issue Wiseman reached out to Parking & Transit without being prompted in hopes of resolving the ticket the co-worker had received. Another time when a change in schedules meant the Military Science building custodian would no longer be coming in at 6 a.m., Wiseman volunteered to walk over and unlock the entire building himself at the start of each day. As one co-worker noted, “Robert is selfless, thoughtful, intelligent and a shining example of the Jayhawk community.” 


Aron Muci 

Aron Muci is the assistant director for the Center for Latin American & Caribbean Studies (CLACS). He first started with CLACS as a communications assistant in 2016 and has held titles such as education program specialist and coordinator before being becoming the assistant director. Some of Muci’s responsibilities include outreach and events programming for the center, administration of the U.S. Department of Education Title VI Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) Fellowship Program, overseeing all communications from the center and assigning duties to the undergraduate student assistants that work closely with him. 

Muci is consistently praised by colleagues for his dedication to the center and its mission. One example of this is how Muci has been building strong partnerships with a variety of different student and community organizations, community colleges and K-12 schools to better serve the center. Muci has even reached out to schools that previously had no relationship with the center, such as schools in Topeka and Wichita. A few examples of events he has coordinated include bringing a World Languages Day to Wichita schools, a Latinx literature day at KU for Shawnee Mission School District students and a Spanish Immersion Day for Topeka Public Schools educators. A co-worker said, “Aron finds the time to be passionate, supportive and excited for every project and event that is put on by the center.”

Muci has also manifested significant leadership in diversity, equity and inclusion efforts within his department. He has been instrumental in developing  training for KU staff about how to support undocumented student populations. Additionally, Muci was heavily involved in assisting the center with applying for the U.S. Department of Education Title VI grant. Muci went consistently above and beyond for his expected duties on this grant, which was awarded last fall and will amount to approximately $1.7 million over the next four years for center activities and students. As one colleague noted, “Aron’s professional ethics, attention to issues of inclusivity and sense of responsibility continues to define his contributions to the center and large number of departments and faculty it includes.” 

Yulissa Ford 

Yulissa Ford is a baker within the commissary unit of KU Dining. Her primary duties involve baking orders that come in, cleaning and maintaining the bakery, and organizing material to ensure smooth operation of the bakery. Ford has also been an employee of the Commissary Bakery since it first became a unit, which means she is often the go-to person for problems or questions. She is very dedicated to her work and providing the best quality of goods to customers. Because of her experience within the bakery, she is able to notice inventory and ordering issues and call attention to them far enough in advance. A co-worker said, “One of the most commonly uttered phrases is “Yulissa, you saved us.”

Ford goes above and beyond to help her co-workers and her department. One example of this is when a customer noted that a completed cake had a few flaws upon delivery. Just hours before the event, Ford went on-site and replaced the sugar transfer and repiped the lower cake border to match what the customer wanted. Ford did all of this in under an hour, and the customer was very pleased with Ford’s improvements to the cake. 

Ford also has great leadership skill and has provided her department extra support when a manager was not available. Ford possesses an extensive knowledge of the products the bakery produces. If there is a question someone has about a recipe, she is the one they ask. She has also taken the initiative to learn more about the bakery’s database system so she can further assist in printing paperwork, reviewing recipes, looking at upcoming menus, check product information and many other tasks that help her better assist her co-workers and department.

“Yulissa is an amazing person to work with,” one co-worker said. “She has knowledge, skills, and a calm reassurance that radiates to other co-workers. She is a great person I look forward to saying hello to each and every day.” 


Samantha Raines 

At the time of her nomination, Samantha Raines was an office manager with the School of Languages, Literatures & Cultures (SLLC). She serves multiple departments: East Asian Languages & Cultures; French, Francophone & Italian Studies; Germanic Languages & Literatures; Slavic Languages & Literatures; and the Critical Languages Consortium. She also oversees staff members, works with the department chairs and is responsible for hiring and cultivating staff, financial management and scheduling. Additionally, Raines assists with activities that support KU’s academic mission, such as class scheduling, curriculum support and helping with non-business needs such as event planning and strategizing. 

Raines is well-known in her unit and those she supports for her organization and leadership skills. When Raines started her position as office manager in 2018, the department had just begun a reorganization and configuration among staff and public offices. A colleague said, “Her service to us is dedicated, cheerful, and effective, she is really at the heart of our operations.” Another project Raines took on her own initiative was producing and hanging departmental signs on the second floor of Wescoe Hall. This was a much-needed project, as it alleviated confusion and provided for visitors. Another project she developed is an organized, efficient new strategy to track majors and minors. These are just a few examples of the various tasks Raines takes on to better assist her departments.

Raines is also recognized for consistently going above and beyond her job duties and expectations. A colleague said, “Samantha thinks not just about processes and is a very effective planner, but she also analyzes others’ personality types in an effort to accommodate their needs effectively.” Raines is the go-to person for questions not only within her unit and staff, but also with the departments and chairs she assists. Those she works with compliment her on organization, work ethic, efficiency, responsiveness and positivity.

Judy Tomei 

Judy Tomei is a benefits specialist within Human Resource Management. Her responsibilities include administering benefits programs for KU, maintaining and updating benefits records, entering data to various databases to ensure timely coverage and deductions, and assisting in interpreting various statutes, regulations, policies and procedures that pertain to benefits programs. Additionally, she also counsels employees regarding a variety of benefits programs, including medical, prescriptions, dental and vision insurance, life insurance, flexible spending and health savings accounts, and mandatory and voluntary retirement plans.

Tomei’s dedication to KU can be seen in her work ethic and constant support of the HRM Benefits team. In early 2019, Tomei was the only employee in her office and therefore the only employee working directly to support KU employees with their benefits needs. This means Tomei paid extra attention to detail as she entered each hire and termination letter for every effected employee at the second busiest time of the academic year for the department. She did all the tasks on her own until new Benefits team members were hired, at which point Tomei became the go-to person for all the complex questions and situations faced in the department. An often-heard phrase in the hallways of Carruth is, “If you need to know something about benefits at KU, you ask Judy Tomei.” Her colleagues recognize her as an expert in her field and for her ability to lend support and guidance graciously to anyone who may need her assistance. 

Tomei adds tremendous value to the unit and department and is a repository of vast knowledge and information. She is known for always being the first to take on a new process or procedure, to not shy away from any extra project and is always willing to help no matter what issue arises. A colleague said, “Judy’s knowledge, compassion, and work ethic are outstanding and make her an invaluable resource for Benefits, Human Resource Management and KU as she impacts employees and their families daily and has for decades.” 

The photo of Gary Mohr was taken by Haines Eason, Office of the Provost.

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