University announces winter Employees of the Month

LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas has announced the November and December 2019 and January 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.

Recent honorees are as follows:


Name: Andrew Hodgson

Title: Program coordinator, Hall Center for the Humanities

Andrew Hodgson
Andrew Hodgson

What that means: Since joining the Hall Center team in 2015, Andrew Hodgson has held several roles during major transitions and played a pivotal role in a challenging period for the center. As program coordinator, Hodgson led both scholarly and public programs, including design, event management, communications and database maintenance. Hodgson has taken on multiple new projects in the past year such as Haunting Humanities, the Hall Center’s new Video Smash competition and the new Final Fridays Humanities in the Wild. For each project, Hodgson has brought imagination, creativity and engagement in his many roles, from event manager to audio-visual tech, to ensure the project’s success. 

The Hall Center for Humanities’ mission is to engage the university and the wider community, and Hodgson is known by his colleagues as someone who works hard to improve the work of the center to achieve this mission. Hodgson is always looking for ways to support faculty, staff and guests. He stands out as someone who has a deep sense of commitment and dedication to the Hall Center team. Hodgson showcases strengths in his work such as quiet perseverance, humility, direct communication and honesty.

Notable: Several colleagues mentioned Hodgson’s support for the Walter Mosely event, which took place on an inclement weather day in February 2019.

“That event, which was originally scheduled to be at the Kansas Memorial Union, may not have been possible without Andrew’s persistent efforts,” one co-worker said. “The Hall Center shifted the location due to the KU closure and lack of staff at the Union and swiftly sent notification of the place change. The sidewalks to the Hall Center were cleared, and the entire event went off very well based on the overflow capacity crowd, the discussion following the talk and my own appreciation of it. It turned out to be a wonderful evening that brought the audience and the speaker together in a strong sense of community.

“Later, I learned that Andrew was the key person who made this event happen under very difficult circumstances,” Hodgson’s colleague said. “He came to the Hall Center early that afternoon to shovel snow off all the walks, set up the conference hall and space for the overflow crowd to view the talk via live video. At the event, he was in a suit, welcoming everyone with a warm smiling face as if he had made no effort behind the scene.”

An event like this demonstrates Hodgson’s great pride in his work for the Hall Center, KU and the community.

Name: Kira Edison Monet

Title: Administrative assistant, Department of Applied Behavioral Science

Kira Edison Monet
Kira Edison Monet

What that means: Kira Edison Monet has a unique position as 50% of her duties entail administrative support for the Edna A. Hill Child Development Center and the other 50% involve working in the applied behavioral science department’s front office, serving as an assistant and project manager. Despite having to juggle two roles, she excels in both.

In her role in ABS, Monet manages the department chair’s schedule, serves as backup for reception and is known as the “technology guru.” Monet’s colleagues depend on her excellent organization skills to manage projects for the department. When Monet is assigned a task, her co-workers and supervisor have complete trust that it will be done well and on time. She is trusted to interact with community partners in a professional manner, handle sensitive situations with care, maintain confidentiality and be a supportive colleague. Monet has taken the lead on many components of the department’s accreditation self-study report. As this work is detailed and tedious, Monet is relied on and required to have knowledge of standards that are complex and not easily understood.

“Kira has surpassed my expectations and is essentially my right-hand person with these tasks,” one colleague said. “I could not complete them without her involvement and gentle prompting.”

Notable: With the child development center, Monet has been instrumental in researching and working with the center staff on policy regulation changes to ensure everything is done properly. She maintains all of the center’s staff paperwork. Her assistance has been invaluable. In managing that paperwork, she is challenged to organize documents for 40 practicum students and staff each semester. During her time as an administrative assistant, she has created new organizational systems, which have led to increased accuracy and efficiency of monitoring this paperwork. Additionally, as new requirements have been implemented by the state, Monet has not only trained herself but also assisted in training staff members to ensure everyone is up to date on these changes.

With her position being split among two units, this often results in greater responsibilities, Monet handles these expectations with grace, poise and professionalism.

“No matter what tasks are delegated to Monet, she completes them with a smile. She is my go-to person in the department for many tasks and is someone upon whom I can rely,” one of Monet’s colleagues said. “Other faculty and staff feel similarly. Monet is an all-around excellent employee and a wonderful KU ambassador.”


Name: Hyewon Park

Title: Research aide, Higuchi Biosciences Center

Hyewon Park
Hyewon Park

What that means: Hyewon Park splits her time between Dr. Mizuki Azuma and Dr. Yoshiaki Azuma’s labs at Higuchi Biosciences Center. In these labs, Park performs biomedical experiments, including preparation of a critical re-agent, and performs essays using cultured cells and in vitro enzyme reactions. With this, Park also maintains the laboratory chemicals and supplies. She provides a supportive role with the graduate students’ projects by providing advice in experimental technique and in discussion of the results. Her supervisor describes her as “a great team player”. She has played a vital role in her assistance with the technical training of the graduate students. She is a teacher, mentor, leader and a discussion partner to the graduate students, and she has made efforts to promote a team environment that has been a positive influence on the labs. In her discussions with students, she is known to provide insightful comments for the interpretation of the results, as well asmfuture direction for research.

Notable: For two years, Azuma’s team has tried to acquire a novel genome engineering method to create cell lines whose genomic DNA is modified for their research goal. Working closely with a student employee, Park overcame technical difficulties of the method, and the lab was able to start creating the cell lines with that technology. Since establishing this method, Park has created more than 30 genome edited cell lines. Establishing cell lines can take up to a month; therefore, the efficiency Park had to achieve to accomplish this is outstanding. Even under time restrictions, Park has been able to publish six papers since July 2012, and for two of these papers, she is the first author. She understands the projects she is tasked with and manages her time efficiently and accurately.

Park’s supervisor describes her as “one of the hardest-working individuals I have ever seen. She is meticulous and thorough, thus the reproducibility of her experimental skill is exceptional. Because her work quality is high, and because she works hard, she accomplishes high productivity which is represented by her publication record.”

Park’s participation in and quality of work reaches beyond the expectation of a research assistant, and she plays a vital role in the research at Higuchi Bioscience Center and the university as a whole.

Name: Shaunna Price

Title: Department manager, Department of Special Education

Shaunna Price
Shaunna Price

What that means: Due to her notable efficiency, Shaunna Price now manages duties once handled by multiple employees. She provides support to the department chair as well as to students, staff and faculty. She manages the course scheduling for the department, maintains departmental records and is responsible for external communications for the department, including social media. Price is also the informal social committee for the department, organizing get-togethers for faculty, staff and students, and she reaches out to online instructors to ensure they feel a part of the special education community. On top of this, she continues to take on new responsibilities with enthusiasm.

Price is a source of knowledge and expertise that students staff and faculty rely on for the department’s daily operations. A colleague describes her as “the glue that holds our department together.” While working full-time in her position, Price was also able to complete her undergraduate degree and has begun working toward her graduate degree. She has shown a great commitment to learning and growing as a professional.

Notable: Many of Price’s colleagues recall multiple instances of Price going above and beyond to take on additional responsibilities to make the department a community. Whether it is ensuring birthday cards are sent or leftover food from a department event given to students, Price creates and sustains relationships.

“Any time members of our community here at KU, whether faculty, students or staff, have had a personal crisis, Price has always stepped up and organized supports including phone trees, food delivery and even scheduling volunteers to ‘sit’ with a family member while the individual gets some time to attend to other tasks,” one faculty member said. “Similarly, when any of our community have something to celebrate, Shaunna is always checking to ensure that the word gets out so we can all celebrate together."

Beyond her position description, Price has strived to ensure that students with visual impairments who need of accessible documents for their classes are provided the material in a timely fashion. To do so, Price has assisted the Academic Achievement & Access Center in converting documents to an accessible format. She has also held training for faculty and doctoral students on the basics of creating accessible content material, ensured that the mandated redesign of the department’s website follows the applicable accessibility guidelines and advocated that KU templates are published in an accessible format.

A special education faculty member described Price as “pro-active in anticipating changes, innovations or just routine tasks that are coming down the pike for the department. When these situations occur she develops a plan to alert those involved with the tasks and provided tips, strategies and reminders as needed to get the task completed.”


Name: Kelly Draffen

Title: Operations specialist, KU Student Housing

Kelly Draffen
Kelly Draffen

What that means: As the first point of contact for the operations team, Kelly Draffen manages requests from Facilities Services, Johnson Controls and a host of other internal and external partners. She schedules meetings between housing personnel and Facilities Services, communicates to residents regarding routine, emergency maintenance or custodial tasks, and she responds to phone calls and emails about issues in various buildings. A co-worker described Draffen as “an invaluable member of our team who can always be counted on to do what she says she will.”

Draffen is also the go-to person for many questions related to Student Housing’s buildings and projects, and she goes to great lengths to address concerns and create solutions. Recently, Student Housing underwent reorganization and changes in staff. Throughout this, Draffen was quick to offer to take on new responsibilities and maintained a positive force for her colleagues. A co-worker said, “Kelly always does her work with a smile and a laugh. Her positive outlook is infectious and helps make the department a great place to work.”

In her role, Draffen is the contact for students and their parents who may be dealing with challenges related to their living situations. Draffen has been known to take care of challenges with ease by explaining the facts and following up with solutions using her positive attitude and excellent interpersonal skills. One co-worker noted how Draffen is always professional and has an excellent demeanor that fosters positive interaction, communication and teamwork.

Notable: In addition to her daily job duties, Draffen documents Student Housing’s processes and procedures to assist the department in more effectively managing problems that may arise. Draffen provides clearer communication both within the department and with campus partners, and she has created new processes that allow the entire department to function and communicate more efficiently.  

“Kelly has demonstrated a lot of initiative to ensure that the needs of our student residents are met, despite some new challenges,” one co-worker said. “She is extremely important to the success of our team and department, and with her help, our team has implemented a number of processes that have helped streamline our communications and priorities with students, staff and our partners in facility services.”

Draffen’s colleagues recognized her for her commitment to the university and her helpful and positive attitude. Many of those who work with her comment on her infectious laugh, which they can hear throughout the office most days. Her supervisor said, “Simply put, she is the glue that holds the operations team in housing together and allows us to serve our residents the best way possible.”

Name: Linda Place

Title: Research technician, Center for Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets

Linda Place
Linda Place

What that means: Linda Place performs soldering, assembly, testing and repairs of a wide range of printed circuit boards, radar components and systems including chassis wiring for the Center for Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets. She is also responsible for training the graduate and undergraduate students in the soldering and assembly of radar modules and associate components.

“Linda works and communicates exceptionally well with students, faculty and staff at CReSIS, and she is a wonderful person to have around the center,” one faculty member said. “She provides excellent training to new graduate students and continually works with students to keep improving their electronic assembly skills. From my vantage point, the students adore her.”

Notable: When Place first began at CReSIS, she took the initiative to improve the workflow of the labs and transformed them with her creativity and clever solutions. In her management of the radar assembly laboratory, she monitors and orders all of the lab equipment and supplies. The director of CReSIS at that time said, “These labs are an example of how much difference one positive person can make to the center.”

The CReSIS team is required to collaborate on projects that have strict deadlines. Place offers support and knowledge to the team to ensure those deadlines are met. Her proficiency and experience have led her colleagues to come to her for advice and assistance.

“Her tenacity and aplomb, especially in demanding situations, always helps in the successful completion of projects,” a graduate student said. “Moreover, she is a wonderful teacher who is eager to share her wealth of knowledge. She is very patient, cheerful and has a calm demeanor.”

An example of how Place’s prowess has helped CReSIS is that she was crucial in assembling a radar system for data collection in the extremely harsh conditions of central Antarctica. A faculty member reflected on Place’s work, noting that “this radar system did not have a single problem during a month of data collection in this challenging environment, a remarkable achievement that has contributed to scientific advancement.”  

Place also succeeds in working collaboratively both within her department and externally as she both serves as a mentor for students and junior staff members, and she has previously worked on projects assisting Japan and Norway to find the oldest ice in Antarctica.

“With her experience, Linda brings a refined approach to the table and possesses unique problem-solving skills,” a graduate student said. “She creates a great learning atmosphere for all students at the research center. Linda is an indispensable part of the CReSIS hardware team.”

Photos courtesy of Haines Eason, Office of the Provost.