What does devotion to duty in the UNC Charlotte community look like in action?
It requires unselfish service that goes far and above normal requirements, contributing significantly to the University community. For Mindy Sides-Walsh, director of Leadership and Community Engagement, it means dedicating time to her students and team through extraordinary leadership, earning her the Employee of the Year Award in the Devotion to Duty category.
Throughout her years of service to the University, Sides-Walsh has provided a broad range of student leadership programs serving new students and advanced student leaders in developing their skills and future paths. Some of the most crucial work she and her team perform includes serving students on campus who live with food insecurity issues.
During the past year, students faced unique challenges and obstacles brought about by the pandemic, and Sides-Walsh and her team stepped in with a solution. Karen Shaffer, assistant vice chancellor for Student Affairs, noted on Sides-Walsh’s nomination form, “Mindy made it possible for students, who might otherwise have gone hungry or not had things we take for granted such as toothpaste, to meet basic needs so that they had a chance at being successful in their academic pursuits.”
Under Sides-Walsh’s leadership, her team acted quickly to support an increased number of students impacted by the pandemic with food insecurity. This increase came at a time when Jamil Niner Student Pantry operations needed innovative alterations to manage COVID-19 risks, changing from a shopping model to a pickup model similar to grocery stores. She and her team developed a form for pantry clients to complete with requests for specific types of foods and supplies.
Sides-Walsh and her team also faced food shortage issues. Food items, especially those with long shelf lives and key to the food pantry, were limited in production, distribution and at point of sale. This required that the pantry team and a few additional volunteers go across Charlotte and the surrounding area to purchase items such as rice and canned soup, beans and more, and only two of each item could be purchased per store. Each person was navigating personal protective gear, one-way aisles, distancing and cleaning protocols for themselves and the items they were purchasing for the pantry clients.
“She led these efforts because they were needed for our students and our campus community and because she is devoted to the UNC Charlotte community.” wrote Shaffer “Every day, Mindy will continue to ensure that students have what they need to be successful — whether it be a package of crackers, a toothbrush, a session on how to effectively lead a team or an opportunity to support the greater Charlotte community.”
Unlike transitioning to online classes and leadership programs, the pantry couldn’t be supported fully virtually, so Sides-Walsh spent two days a week staffing the pantry in addition to shopping for pantry supplies. While she implemented the numerous operational changes at the pantry, she continued to offer most of the Leadership and Community Engagement Office’s programs and services in-person. On top of that, she continued to run two leadership programs, supervise both permanent and temporary staff and navigate teaching multiple staff members from across Student Engagement.
Sides-Walsh and the other Employee of the Year recipients were acknowledged at a virtual Employee of the Year awards ceremony and Staff Recognition event on April 23, 2021. If you missed the live event, you can watch a recording of it here.