University announces spring 2024 Employees of the Month

LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas has announced Employees of the Month for January, February and March 2024. These staff members have made outstanding contributions to the KU Lawrence community.

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 featured in 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.

January 2024

Name: Ray Buffalomeat

Title: Network technician, KU Information Technology

Ray Buffalomeat has been employed by the university for over 21 years. He works on installation, repair and maintenance of KU Information Technology systems along with participating in the implementation of new systems and upgrades.

Ray Buffalomeat
Ray Buffalomeat

Buffalomeat worked with a colleague to migrate campus security cameras to a new network, saving the university money from hiring an outside vendor to move the more than 700 devices on the system. He suggested the camera migration project as a Jayhawks Rising initiative and has been the driving force behind it. Buffalomeat has had a very busy schedule while working on the project but continues to respond to regular maintenance ticket requests and other parts of his workload, such as the monitoring and upkeep of all the UPS (uninterrupted power supply) units across campus for the KU IT network.

Buffalomeat enjoys learning new skills and is known to keep abreast of new developments relating to the networking field and skills required to do his job. He is persistent in finding the source of a problem and working until he finds a solution. He works well on his own and can be counted on to get the task done, and he is also said to be a great teammate. Buffalomeat is patient and willing to answer questions, and his knowledge sharing helps empower his peers. His colleague and nominator wrote, “Ray is an excellent employee that I feel lucky to get to work alongside, and he deserves recognition for his dedication and tireless effort.”

Name: Scott Williams

Title: Information Technology support technician

Scott Williams
Scott Williams

Scott Williams has worked for KU Information Technology for about six years. He works with faculty, staff and students in the School of Pharmacy, supporting computer systems and application software, managing all IT requests, and repairing and replacing technology as needed. Williams is known as a go-to source for support as he is always ready and eager to serve, and he is willing to help troubleshoot any technological issues with a friendly and kind demeanor. Williams has an ever cheerful attitude and willingness to give the best customer service possible.

Numerous examples were provided by Williams’ peers as to his exceptional work ethic. He is known to be very responsive, diligent, efficient and skillful, and he will either work until a solution is found or will follow up with a problem while keeping everyone informed of his progress. He has been known to stay late for technological support for special events, even helping to set up and take down tables and chairs. He provides great classroom assistance and has stayed available during lectures in case something goes wrong. Williams also makes sure iPads are working properly for students before exams, saving faculty time and effort. During the stressful times of the pandemic, he worked to make sure remote connections were set up properly and has also been available for assistance and guidance over the phone. He has also provided aid to visitors to the School of Pharmacy, from helping with overhead projectors to ensuring proper access is available.

Williams’ colleagues have much praise to share about him. One peer wrote that Scott “…is the silent glue that keeps the Pharmacy Building running smoothly and everyone happy!” Another wrote, “He makes anything with IT-related issues not seem so bad. He can make you laugh, too! And who doesn’t need a good laugh, especially when your Outlook calendar is not cooperating or your camera isn’t working for Zoom? I do not know of a more deserving person for Employee of the Month than Scott Williams.”

February 2024

Name: Donna Burruss

Title: Grant coordinator, Life Span Institute (retired)

Donna Burruss
Donna Burruss

Donna Burruss was with KU nearly 19 years before her retirement in March. She most recently oversaw the process of generating grant proposals at the Life Span Institute, including tracking numerous documents in various stages of revision and ensuring tasks were completed for the proposals and rules followed. Her nominator wrote that Burruss has been the lead grant coordinator for every successful National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant the Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) has received on the Lawrence campus, with each of these grants bringing in $5-11 million to KU and driving research growth.

Burruss is known to be very proactive in her work and the ultimate team player. As her peer said, “Donna’s official title … doesn’t really capture what she does. She is more like mission control for a rocket launch.” Her supervisor said that she “…is an amazing asset to the Life Span’s Pre-Award Team, who is always quick to pick up other team members’ projects when they are out or just need help. She came to the team with a wealth of knowledge and experience, and we are lucky to have her!”

Name: Max Jiang

Title: Digital media specialist, School of Engineering

Max Jiang
Max Jiang

Xizhi “Max” Jiang originally worked for KU for two years as a graduate teaching assistant and graduate research assistant, and he has spent the past two years in his current position. Jiang is responsible for producing videos for recruitment, research, outreach and features, and other topics for the School of Engineering. He is said to be highly creative and has produced videos that have led to an engineering research group winning national competitions. He is also pursuing a master’s degree while working full-time for KU.

Recently, Jiang produced two 20-minute videos for a proposal submission to the National Science Foundation. This proposal would be worth millions of dollars to KU. Jiang was able to come up with finished videos in only a month and a half. The first video featured deans from KU and each of the five partner institutions in the Environmental Applied Refrigerant Technology Hub (EARTH) Center, and the second video highlighted facilities and research strengths from KU and each partner institution. Jiang’s supervisor wrote, “Max hit deadlines to have drafts of each story ready for all partners to review and provide feedback. That led to another round of frenzied revisions, last-minute changes – and many late nights – to ensure the project stayed on track. Max handled all this with aplomb and completed both videos in time for the event. The result was two excellent videos – one that showcased the full research capabilities of each institution – and another that provided strong narrative support from the deans at each partner institution. Each video was well received at the event. This is a massive undertaking at any time – even for just one 20-minute video with months of lead time. But to have a deadline of six weeks for two 20-minute videos that involve six institutions is extremely challenging.”

Jiang’s dedication to completing projects and doing so with the highest quality is what made him stand out and be selected as an Employee of the Month. His supervisor also said of him, “He went above and beyond to exceed expectations and ensure all deadlines were hit. A truly superhuman effort.”

March 2024 

Name: Rachel Saalweachter

Title: Research contract officer, Office of Research, Contract Negotiations

Rachel Saalweachter
Rachel Saalweachter

Rachel Saalweachter has worked for KU for almost 16 years, with almost 12 years at the Office of Research, starting in the grant specialist position and later moving into her current position. Saalweachter is the first point of contact for items that come to the office for review and handling, negotiating agreements, performing administrative duties, supervising student hourly employees, and keeping the office functioning smoothly and efficiently. 

Saalweachter is known to be the “go-to” person in her office and the center of the communications hub in monitoring group inboxes. She is said to be cheerful and patient, extremely detailed, organized, calm under pressure, and strives to quickly resolve any issue or conflict that arises from researchers and research departments on campus. Researchers will even reach out to her if their query does not pertain to contract negotiations as they know she is responsive and competent in her direction to the right resources. As her colleague wrote, “Rachel has an extensive institutional history, which she uses every day. She is insightful, organized and incredibly diplomatic. Her interactions with a host of researchers, cross-departmental staff and outside parties are filled with respect, curiosity and genuine caring. Her ability to multitask is second to none. Even with all her experience, she asks questions and is ready to learn and adapt.”

The running joke in the Office of Research is to think, “WWRD? (What Would Rachel Do?)” when tricky questions or circumstances arise. A peer describes her as “…a quiet, grounded leader in the midst of chaos at times. She often goes above and beyond her normal job responsibilities to support her colleagues through her cordial and thoughtful interactions with others. She’s never afraid to tackle complex issues and try to figure out solutions.”

Name: Allayne Thornton

Title: Administrative associate, Department of History

Allayne Thornton
Allayne Thornton

Allayne Thornton has been working for the university for a little over two years now. She is responsible for the department’s marketing and works with other history department staff and faculty to develop campaign ideas to market and draw greater interest in departmental activities. Thornton takes the initiative to organize and execute community building efforts in the department, planning events that include staff and faculty luncheons, opportunities for graduate students to have coffee meet-and-greets with faculty members, and even works to create more accessibility for undergraduate students.

Thornton is said to be an exceptional colleague and truly cares about the people in the history department. She has been known to locate resources on campus to help students with their everyday needs, such as clothing for job interviews and food pantry access to nutritious foods, and she amplifies messages of encouragement and support for students in the department’s digital communications. Additionally, she has worked with faculty and other staff members to create unique campaigns and promotions for the department such as donations for students, fundraising, afterschool events for KU’s History Student Association and establishing a rapport with alumni. Thornton’s co-worker said she “brings laughter and joy to our working environment, and she makes everyone feel welcome and cared for. And she does all of this while executing the more conventional parts of her job to perfection. She makes the history department a pleasant place to work.”

Thornton’s nominator spoke of the many ways she truly shines in her role. “She has spearheaded an initiative to refurbish an open office to have a department library space so that graduate students have open access to books they might need for classes. Additionally, she has organized faculty to help graduate students prepare for mock presentations. That’s not all. At the beginning of the semester, she helps lost undergraduate students find their classroom throughout Wescoe Hall. Wescoe Hall is a maze, so on the first day of classes, she prints out arrows to outline a walkable path to 3139 and 3140 when she can’t walk students herself. Beyond that, she continues to leave notes of encouragement for our grad students, and during finals, reminds our undergrads and grad students that they can succeed in their educational journey.”