LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas has announced and honored several Employees of the Month who have made outstanding contributions to the Lawrence and Edwards campus communities.
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 responsibilities or in-person tasks that have changed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Recent honorees are featured below.
Name: Brock Babcock
Title: Recording engineer, School of Music
Brock Babcock’s job duties include producing digital recordings for all School of Music student, faculty and visiting artist concerts and recitals, as well as providing audiovisual support and other sound reinforcement services to ensure the successful delivery of performances. He and his student staff support all performances in Swarthout Recital Hall and record ensemble performances in the Lied Center of Kansas. He has also consulted and worked cooperatively with stakeholders to update sound and video technology at the Campanile, Bales Organ Recital Hall and the Robert Baustian Theatre in Murphy Hall.
With over 300 performances a year within the School of Music, Babcock’s job is extremely complicated. He works with colleagues to develop systems that allow him and his staff to meet the many responsibilities that fall to them. Since March 2020, Babcock immediately pivoted recital livestreaming from an additional service to standard operating for all School of Music performances. This allowed student and faculty performances to proceed with a small or virtual audience. Babcock worked with staff to develop procedures for cleaning Swarthout Recital Hall between performances in accordance with Protect KU. Additionally, Babcock pivoted immediately from recording live ensemble performances on the actual performance date to pre-recording and adding titles, credits and other post-production elements and working alongside the Lied Center of Kansas staff to facilitate the broadcast.
Those who work with Babcock describe him as professional, passionate, hardworking, enthusiastic, positive and a great team player. A colleague said, “Brock treats everyone as a professional and does his best to produce high-quality video and audio recordings for his clients. Brock is always cheerful and shares a great sense of humor, especially at high-stress moments. Brock is literally one-of-a-kind within the School of Music.”
Name: Carla Ramirez
Title: Facility manager, Office of Research
As facility manager, Carla Ramirez is responsible for the operations of the Shankel Structural Biology Center (SBC). Ramirez has over 20 years of service with KU. She ensures SBC is clean, safe and functional. A few of her duties include acting as a liaison between the researchers in the building and Facilities Services (or external contractors, as required), coordinating with the custodial staff, working with IT to keep the conference rooms operational and coordinating the delivery/pickup of packages.
Ramirez frequently goes above and beyond to ensure the safety and functionality of the SBC. She is proactive in working with other university agencies to solve problems such as card access and door locks, and she always informs building occupants about campuswide notices and utility issues. When there are issues in the building, Ramirez is the first person who gladly comes into work to ensure everything is OK. One example of her dedication is when she came into work very early on a Sunday morning to triage flood damage caused by a frozen pipe. A colleague said, “Mrs. Ramirez’s initiative and grit set her apart from her peers.”
Additionally, she is vital to the esprit de corps in the Structural Biology Center. She organizes social events for the building and serves on several committees on campus. She has also served on Staff Senate and helped organized the Walk Talk Jayhawk program. A colleague said, “Carla works tirelessly to ensure that her facility, the Shankel Structural Biology Center, is safe, up to date and accessible for the researchers in the building. She is caring and conscientious and takes initiative.”
Name: Bailee Myers
Title: Marketing & events coordinator,KU Memorial Unions
Bailee Myers is also the program adviser for Student Union Activities (SUA), The Big Event at KU and KJHK 90.7 FM. She serves as the connection between the KU Memorial Unions' marketing initiatives and student programs. Recently she has also taken on the program coordinator role for Jayhawk Esports. Myers is known for her boundless positive enthusiasm. Despite long hours and often physically demanding events, she is often the first to arrive and last to leave, all with a smile on her face. Myers' incredible work ethic is a result of her dedication to student success.
In fall 2020, Myers was instrumental in ensuring that safe, socially distanced student events still occurred on campus. She worked with SUA to have a weekly activity on Friday nights – such as bingo, dance parties and movie screenings. In addition to supporting leadership opportunities within the student groups she works with, Myers is very invested in the holistic student. She is a calming and supportive listener who believes in helping students find the correct resources for support. She keeps herself and her office approachable so that all areas and students feel comfortable bringing ideas and issues to her. Myers is also involved with many opportunities on campus, and within her profession, she is an active member in many national student affairs associations and serves on the KU Student Affairs Professional Development team. A colleague said, “Bailee is a true team player. We can trust Bailee with any project and know that she will take it seriously, put in a quality effort and ask the needed questions in order to complete her work.”
Name: Keesa Shrader
Title: Administrative associate and assignments specialist, KU Student Housing
Keesa Shrader’s primary responsibilities include customer service (phone, email, in-person), administrative support, occupancy verification, data management, supervision of student office assistants and management of occupancy information for on-campus residents. She is dedicated, diligent, trustworthy and is frequently sought out by colleagues, campus partners and students because she is dependable and willing to assist and takes accountability for her work.
Shrader enjoys being part of a team, and she thrives in environments where she can work with and interact with others. Her efforts were instrumental in supporting Student Housing’s success throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. As Student Housing coordinated students to move out, each day Shrader personally ensured each student had the building card access they needed to enter the building and their room to help reduce the contact and interaction residents needed to have with staff. During the months of March, April, May and June, Shrader did this each day coordinating access for thousands of students. While she works in the occupancy and administrative portion of the department, she is very aware and connected with the other units of the department. When she noticed there were gaps in information between the occupancy and facilities portions of the department, Shrader developed a calendar with important dates and information. To complete this calendar, she met with numerous groups to understand their information and dates, then combined all the details into one place.
A co-worker said, “Keesa is personable and works to make the office environment as enjoyable as possible. Keesa will never say no to an idea or request for assistance. She is constantly helping and supporting others and not asking for any recognition in return. Ask any employee in the department who they would call if they had a question or needed help – Keesa’s name will always be on the list.”
Name: Annie McBride
Title: Program manager for for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging
Annie McBride provides administrative and budgetary support to the vice provost's office as well as eight different faculty and staff councils, the Campus Equity Implementation Committee and the provost's new DEI Advisory Council.
McBride routinely exceeds the expectations of her position by volunteering her time and expertise. On campus, she has been a longtime instructor for Leadership Studies 202 and recently helped the program develop a land acknowledgement and syllabus statement of inclusivity. Off campus, she has led SafeZone trainings for local educators at Bishop Seabury Academy and co-sponsored a LGBTQIA+ youth group through a partnership with the Lawrence Public Library.
McBride supervises staff and student workers with a clear commitment to their professional growth and continued development. She is active in DEIB's effort to provide education and professional development, facilitating workshops on campus as well as in the community on a range of topics including microaggressions, sexual assault prevention and sexuality and gender diversity.
She has led or helped coordinate numerous high-profile events, including the statewide Michael Tilford Conference on Diversity and Multiculturalism that garnered historically high attendance and a recognition of Indigenous Peoples’ Day with U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids in 2019.
McBride’s contributions to numerous other initiatives in the office, with broad campus influence, has also been tremendous. A colleague said, “Annie's capacity for understanding different points of view helps her establish relationships with people characterized by mutual regard and the appropriate mix of challenge and support for learning. Her aptitude for prioritizing what matters most is further essential in an office where the unexpected is always possible and is often driven by the time-sensitive needs of others.”
Name: Whitney Onasch
Title: Research development specialist, Institute for Policy & Social Research
Whitney Onasch provides research development support for social sciences faculty and students across the Lawrence campus. Her responsibilities include conducting funding searches, proposal development strategy, drafting and editing text and graphics, coordination of all proposal elements, compliance checks, grants management, and outreach and training presentations for investigators and students under tight deadlines. Onasch also does purchasing, budget reports, travel arrangements and other post-award functions on a number of projects.
Onasch is known for her dedication and expertise in research development as well as her adaptability and willingness to go above and beyond. A colleague said, “Whitney is one who has never missed an opportunity to make another person feel valued in the process of working and leading projects. She steps up to make the most of opportunities for all who are participating in the process, while keeping her eye on the prize — the project outcomes.”
The pandemic created unique challenges for IPSR, and Onasch went above and beyond to ensure completion. Onasch has led the IPSR Doctoral Fellows Program for the past three years, providing a community and professional development and mentoring opportunities for doctoral students. Onasch manages all tasks, including the nomination and student selection process, scheduling, coordinating and co-hosting educational modules, and refining the program concept for each successive year. While Onasch regularly performs tasks and service above and beyond the expectations of her position, this year, when faced with the pandemic, she took it upon herself to revamp the entire program from the nomination process to scheduling to course delivery, teaching herself new technology and methods while still juggling her research development portfolio with many complex proposals due each month plus her post-award and other administrative duties. This took great care, skill and time management, and the students and faculty involved appreciated her kindness, competence and professional demeanor as well as the excellent support.
Name: Alex Terwilliger
Title: Associate director for student services, KU Edwards Campus
Alex Terwilliger has been with KU since 2016. His job duties include the vision, management and implementation of numerous functions conducted through the KU Edwards Welcome & Success Center, including the supervision of five full-time employees and 10 student employees. Some of his responsibilities include coordination of student-facing services for KUEC, management of all inbound and outbound communications (phone, email, text and chat) with all prospective and current KUEC students, registration support for KU Lifelong & Professional Education, and leadership of student life programming such as New Student Orientation.
As a supervisor, Terwilliger must work with many different departments and stakeholders to ensure students are thriving as they accomplish their academic goals, as well as ensuring the stakeholders, staff and faculty are working effortlessly as a team behind the scenes. Terwilliger always handles relationships with open and honest communication. A colleague said, “His continual guidance and support challenges us to give our 100%, because we know he is doing nothing less. Alex makes sure the KU Edwards Campus Student Services department is the most efficient, successful and cohesive operation possible.”
Terwilliger is committed to making the student experience better each and every day. One example of his dedication occurred when campus officially closed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and Terwilliger personally drove around the Kansas City metro area to hand-deliver students’ diplomas. One of the most influential cases of Terwilliger’s proactive approach can be seen in KUEC Fall 2020 enrollment. Terwilliger knew there would be the potential for enrollment to see a massive decline. He immediately started implementing strategies with his team to connect with current prospective students. KUEC delivered one of the biggest increases in enrollment that has been seen in three years with a 12.1% student credit hour increase over fall 2019. This would not have been possible without Terwilliger’s ability to use data to see the big picture, to implement best practices in outreach and student engagement, and to motivate staff to do their best, even in adverse and ever-changing circumstances.
Name: Ramia Whitecotton
Title: Facility manager, Department of Geology
Ramia Whitecotton oversees operations for the Earth, Energy & Environment Center and Slawson, Ritchie and Lindley halls. Whitecotton establishes rules and policies for the facility, coordinates staff and scheduling needs, schedules maintenance on vehicles and buildings, and problem-solves to ensure facilities are operational for research, teaching and outreach.
Whitecotton is known for her excellent leadership and communication skills, problem-solving abilities and dedication to the university. With her role as facility manager, Whitecotton interacts with a variety of faculty, staff and graduate students. She assists faculty with any questions or concerns, helps graduate students get the resources needed to complete thesis and dissertation research, and manages the staff in a highly effective manner that motivates them to do their jobs while still building morale and comradery. The Earth, Energy & Environment Center is a large facility, with classrooms, labs and spaces used for educational and donor meetings, and Whitecotton keeps everything running smoothly. When labs needed to reopen after being shut down as a result of COVID-19, Whitecotton worked hard to help develop safe policies from scratch. Whitecotton is very organized, provides excellent customer service and is a strong communicator.
Whitecotton always takes responsibility for what needs to be done and is a leader within her unit. She is organized, readily available and answers any questions that come up, and she empowers her staff to be successful. When an unexpected staffing challenge occurred, Whitecotton stepped up to the plate to take on the office manager role and supervisory duties to help her department succeed. As facility manager, she has also been on the front lines ensuring other staff and faculty experience a safe return to campus. Whitecotton is a strong advocate for women in geosciences and often volunteers to help facilitate events or learning opportunities for women in science. A co-worker said, “Ramia's sense of humor, passion for KU and unwavering willingness to pitch in make her an outstanding colleague.”
Name: Owen Mallonee
Title: HVAC technician senior with Facilities Services
Owen Mallonee is responsible for the installation and maintenance of air-conditioning, electrical and electronic control equipment as well as the installation and maintenance of pneumatic, electronic and mechanical devices. Mallonee has over 20 years of service with KU and has a deep understanding of the equipment on campus. He also frequently steps into electrical wiring, pump and liquid flow, and other trades to help resolve issues efficiently.
Mallonee goes above and beyond to ensure the job gets done and customers are satisfied. Mallonee takes the time to fully understand the issue, create an actionable plan and sees the plan to completion. After the job is complete, he follows up with the customer to not only communicate that the project has been completed, but he takes the time to explain how the equipment works and what he did to make the repair. He is compassionate about the work he does behind the scenes to keep students, staff and faculty comfortable in their perspective class and work environments.
Mallonee is the go-to team member for most campus systems as he has extensive experience and knowledge from his continued research on the newest technologies, trends and trainings. He shares this knowledge with other people in his shop to help strengthen the HVAC team. He leads by example and has a positive attitude and dedication to his work. A co-worker said, “Owen has the experience working on KU mechanical equipment, the knowledge needed to do the work and the dedication required to get the job done.”
Name: Dr. Pavika Saripalli
Title: Physician and chief of staff, Watkins Health Services
Dr. Pavika Saripalli oversees all of the medical and nursing staff at Watkins Health Services. She ensures policies and procedures are up to date, handles staff schedules, gives interviews with local journalists, and coordinates and advocates for student health on campus. Saripalli is the lead medical officer for the Lawrence campus and in that role has helped shape KU’s response to COVID-19 with her campus colleagues.
Saripalli leads with respect, empathy, compassion and dignity. A colleague said, “Pavika is crucial to the operation of this building and the processes we have in place for our students and the operation of the university during this pandemic.” As she serves as the go-to medical staff for any questions on campus, she has become a community leader during the pandemic. She follows up with patients with test results and isolation guidelines, and she answers questions from students, employees, parents and other units within KU. Saripalli does all of these things and more with a positive attitude and treats everyone’s ideas with respect.
Saripalli is extremely dedicated to both her patients and her team at Watkins Health Services. She has reorganized the way the clinic works to improve patient care and has implemented telemedicine to further address the needs of students during the pandemic. Saripalli is an exceptional team player, because she not only leads medical and nursing staff, but she also takes part in patient care alongside her staff. Saripalli steps in to fill other Watkins Health Services roles when staffing is low, such as front door COVID-19 screener, taking vital signs of her own patients, filling in for other medical providers who are absent, and collecting and delivering her own lab specimens. A colleague said, “Dr. Saripalli always takes extra time to follow up with patients who have more questions. She works with both staff and patients with patience, understanding, and always has a positive attitude.”
Name: Lori Shiflett
Title: Nurse practitioner, Watkins Health Services
Lori Shiflett provides medical care for University of Kansas students and sees KU employees in an urgent care setting within the Faculty/Staff clinic. She provides excellent customer service and consistently follows up with her patients to ensure they are improving or to develop a new plan of care if not. Shiflett is known for her dedication to her job. She often volunteers for additional responsibilities beyond her job duties, such as updating protocols, completing meeting minutes and working on a team to schedule work assignments each semester.
“Lori is hard-working, patient-centered and education-minded. She looks for ways to take Watkins forward and bring new processes to the clinic,” one co-worker said.
Shiflett has a passion for student and employee safety. When the COVID-19 pandemic came to the area, Shiflett quickly developed plans to rethink Watkins Health Services' workflow in ways that protected patients and staff as much as possible. Although this was not her job, she took initiative to investigate what was being done at other institutions and how Watkins Health Services could implement these procedures to uphold safety while still focusing on high-quality care. Shiflett helped developed a plan for COVID-19 screening, both in-person and over the phone. She also volunteered to spend most of her time on the front lines with COVID-19 testing and examining potentially infectious patients.
Shiflett is also known for her selflessness and dedication to her patients and staff. Those who work with her describe Shiflett as kind, a great listener and a true example of leadership skills. Shiflett is involved with several different groups within Watkins Health Services where she is committed to making Watkins a great and safe place to work. Shiflett is always striving for improvement and stays informed with the latest medical advances to provide the best care to her patients. Another colleague said, “Lori's work is invaluable and crucial to our team approach to providing health care at Watkins.”
Name: Gary Vancil
Title: General maintenance repair technician, Department of Health, Sport & Exercise Sciences (retired)
Gary Vancil is responsible for general maintenance of Joseph R. Pearson Hall and Robinson Center. His job requires specialized knowledge in electricity, plumbing, welding and carpentry as well as specific knowledge of design, maintenance and repair of sports equipment, lockers, sports fields and sport ball courts.
Vancil is well-known for his dedication and ability to consistently go above and beyond what is expected.
“Gary keeps our aging swimming pools (built in 1967 and 1981) up and running. He often comes in on weekends to check the pools and deal with problems. His efforts are essential not only to the faculty, staff and students who use our pools but also to the KU swimming and diving team,” one colleague said.
Vancil is solely responsible for the upkeep and operation of not only the pool, but also the highly used gymnasiums, fitness center, and numerous classrooms and laboratories. On many occasions, Vancil has been able to salvage and fix devices that are extremely expensive and difficult to replace. Several times, ongoing research projects have been critically saved by his expertise.
When the COVID-19 pandemic began, Vancil took on extra responsibilities and tasks without hesitation. Prior to the return of students to campus, Vancil worked with all faculty and staff in getting the new necessary classroom and office protections. Even after adding additional unexpected duties, Vancil has been kind and thoughtfully and fully participates in the weekly staff Zoom meetings to keep everyone informed of what is happening within their work spaces. A co-worker commented on Vancil's dedication: “Gary is the hardest worker I have ever worked with. He works exceptionally hard and produces the highest level of effort in everything he completes. Gary personifies the very best of our department."