Five UNC Charlotte staff members were honored with the Employee of the Year award during the annual Staff Recognition Luncheon held Wednesday, March 22, in the Popp Martin Student Union. Each employee was recognized in one of five categories: devotion to duty, innovation, community and public service, safety and heroism, or outstanding human relations.
Gary Edwards, grounds construction crew supervisor in facilities management, was honored for his devotion to duty during a 30-year career at the University. Known around campus for his calm demeanor, great organizational skills and professionalism, Edwards frequently comes in early or stays late to ensure a job is completed on time. Among the many projects that have benefited from his dedication were the 2016 year-end road repairs. According to his supervisor Joe Cochran, Edwards is “known as ‘the person’ that all departments seek out when they need assistance … Many do not know how pervasive his presence is. It ranges from repairing roadways to repairing sewer lines, basic necessities that many do not think about ... He does all of this with a smile and a positive attitude.’”
Leading the University’s effort for digitalized solutions for academic catalog and curriculum management earned Leslie Zenk, associate provost for Academic Affairs, the award in innovation. She led an advisory and implementation system that brought Acalog and Curriculog to UNC Charlotte. These systems “improved timeliness of review for course and curriculum changes, eliminated paper and improved the transparency of the approval process,” wrote Provost Joan Lorden. However, it wasn’t just the project that earned Zenk praise among her colleagues across campus. Her commitment to communicate with stakeholders throughout the process earned high marks, too. “The implementation of Acalog and Curriculog made a big impact on the University, but Leslie’s innovative leadership made an even bigger impact on her peers on the advisory and implementation team,” added Lorden.
Thousands of visitors enjoy the content on Inside UNC Charlotte each week, learning more about University news, events and people. Behind the scenes, making it all work, is its editor, Phillip Brown, assistant director for internal communication in University Communications. Since transforming the former weekly Campus News into its current digital form in 2012, Brown has used the publication to build bridges with “colleagues across campus to provide them with easy access to the most effective channel on which to share their stories and to help bring campus together in the process,” wrote Stephen Ward, executive director of University Communications. Brown’s desire to bring the campus together extends beyond his editorial duties. He participates in every New Employee Orientation session not only to familiarize new employees with his office but also to celebrate the stories and people on campus. “All of (Phillip’s) work affects campus human relations, because it is the work that best informs our campus community of developments at the University,” added Ward.
“Goddess of community service” is a suggested title change for Tamara Johnson, research associate for academic planning and analysis in Academic Affairs. From chairing the 49er Democracy Experience to battling the challenge of food insecurity, Johnson devotes much of her time to serving others. She has led such civic efforts as the Jamil Niner Student Pantry, the Food Recycling Program, Stop Hunger Now and the Student Community Garden. She also led the effort to design and implement a Bonner Leaders Program on campus, which enrolled its first class in fall 2016. This program places work-study-eligible students in nonprofit agencies during their time at UNC Charlotte and develops leadership skills through community service. “(Tamara) genuinely cares about the community, including the community of students at UNC Charlotte,” wrote Provost Lorden. “Her passion and commitment … has contributed significantly to the University’s mission to serve the community.”
Brent Offenberger, a master plumber in facilities management, was expecting a quiet day of fishing while on vacation in Newport News, Virginia, this past June. He was on a boat with his teenage son and father-in-law when a U.S. Navy MH-60S helicopter came crashing down in front of them. Offenberger and his family immediately sprang into action, bringing their boat alongside the downed aircraft and helping the three uninjured passengers aboard. This act of heroism mirrors the kindness Offenberger’s colleagues see daily. “Brent has always shown care and concern and is often seen helping his fellow employees with their health and personal issues,” wrote his nominators, Charles Kraus, Zone 7 supervisor, and Lee Snodgrass, director of facilities operations.
This year’s recipients were among 25 nominated by colleagues and supervisors for the award. A committee led by Human Resources and comprising representatives from across campus selected the winners.
Staff members who achieved five-year anniversaries of service with the state were also recognized during the luncheon. This year, 298 employees were honored for a combined 3,405 years of service.
Photo (left to right): Brent Offenberger, Leslie Zenk, Gary Edwards, Phillip Brown, Tamara Johnson and Chancellor Philip L. Dubois