LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas recognized its Employees of the Year and presented the Team of the Year Awards on May 9 in the Kansas Union. Chancellor Douglas A. Girod and Interim Provost Carl Lejuez were present at the ceremony to honor employees with five, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50 and 55 years of service as well as to recognize the two Employees of the Year and the Team of the Year.
The winners are as follows:
SWIFT Education Center Product Development Team
The work of the 2018 Team of the Year has a positive effect on the education of schoolchildren around the world. The SWIFT Education Center provides states, districts and schools with a framework of practices, tools and processes that schools can use to transform themselves into an integrated education system that can meet the needs of all students. Many schools “silo” resources into student categories such as special education, gifted and English language learning. These silos can prevent access to resources for students who don’t fit neatly into a specific category. SWIFT teaches schools how to reallocate resources such as facilities, staff and funding to ensure students get what they need when they need it.
To accomplish this mission, SWIFT’s six-member team has created and produced countless resources, including assessment tools, training materials, guides, articles, blogs, podcasts, videos, webinars and newsletters. To add to the quantity of work team members create, the quality is extremely high and is relevant and useful in educational settings. The team is effective because of the members’ varied backgrounds in the fields of education, art and design, publishing and business management.
These free resources are available on the well-designed SWIFT website, which serves as a one-stop shop for resources and best practices and providing support to educators so that the student experience can be improved. To quote its website, this team is part of a “group of people who are passionate about transforming public education so that all students are welcomed and included.” Transforming public education is a monumental task, made possible through the sharing of resources like this team has done.
Team members are Kari Woods, Allyson Satter, Dan Pollitt, Rory Harms, Jamie Bezdek and Jessica Meisenheimer.
Staff Employee of the Year Winner
Ola Faucher is the ultimate professional. She is collegial, helpful, resourceful, responsive and a kind soul. At the University of Kansas, she has become an institution.
Faucher has served KU for more than 45 years and has been a powerful force in bringing KU and human resources into the 21st century. To provide some perspective, Faucher made the argument years ago to administration for why cabling was needed, underground, across campus to allow for the university’s first hard-wired technology – an online human resource and payroll system. Today, cable runs all over campus, allowing for online systems and university technology to function. Faucher has been a leading part of every endeavor to bring KU's human resource functions up to speed with the technology we have today.
Faucher has been leading the way and setting best practices for human resources in higher education. Leaders from within the Big 12, the Ivy League and other university systems across the country have been known to visit the KU campus to learn from Faucher or seek advice on best practices and initiatives, such as an online HR and payroll system, separation from civil service, equitable and competitive pay through the market study and benefits eligibility for postdoctoral researchers, to name a few. She has set the standard in many HR initiatives not only at KU but in higher education.
Faucher’s perseverance is notable as well with the recent Tobacco Free KU effort that will be effective this July. The initiative began in 2013 after results from a student and staff survey. Since 2013, there have been many changes in student and university leadership supporting the initiative, but one of the constants was Faucher. Her consistency and resolve to complete an endeavor, knowing it was what students and staff wanted, is a prime example of her driving force – the good of the university and the employees who work here.
As an employee with more than 45 years of service, Faucher’s insight and historical knowledge are invaluable. When changes occur at the state or federal level, and those changes affect KU employees, KU HR has to react to make sure that university policies and processes are compliant. Faucher is proactive when these changes occur, making sure HR is preparing for the changes. At times, these state or federal decisions are unpopular among KU employees. Faucher is the first to lead a meeting or a town hall to answer questions, hear feedback, concerns or the personal effects of such changes.
Despite Faucher’s involvement in many programs and her oversight of significant HR functions, she always makes time to meet personally with any employee. Many staff and faculty have come to know her in their careers at the university, and she is often someone who employees turn to when they have questions or concerns.
She is skilled in her field, balanced in her approach – always considering immediate and long-term implications, detail-oriented and a model of leadership to which to aspire. Regardless of the circumstances, Faucher is willing to listen, answer questions and provide guidance. She is a textbook example of putting the “human” in Human Resources.
Staff Employee of the Year Winner
Leslie O’Neil tackles all of the complications and logistics of her department so that music can happen. Imagine a KU football game — how does it start? With members of KU Bands running down the stairs of the stadium. O’Neil probably issued the uniforms worn by all, replaced misplaced music moments before for one and handed out snacks to a few grumbling students afterward. Imagine a KU basketball game away from home — what do you hear? KU Bands playing the fight song. O’Neil probably arranged the travel, hotel and meals for each of those band members, arranged for a forgotten instrument to be delivered for one and provided first aid to another with a skinned knee.
O’Neil is the unofficial nurse, mom, recruiter, counselor, helper and solver of problems big and small for KU Bands. She is amazing, efficient, kind, thoughtful, proactive, generous and is invaluable to the success of a very successful band program. O’Neil gives KU Bands volumes of support by holding the team together, boosting others to succeed in their own careers, and she gives guidance and support to many students who knock unexpectedly on her door.
O’Neil knows the needs of the department so well that Band Director Paul Popiel said, “On most projects I need, she hands it to me completed 10 minutes before I think of asking her to start.” O’Neil serves as the office manager, director of five budgets, and she is an event coordinator. The KU Bands perform more than 60 times a year in a wide variety of performances. There are many hidden logistics with running a band program, including food, travel, uniforms, instruments and housing. O’Neil makes sure all of this is taken care of. No matter the venue, from the Lied Center, the Kauffman Center in Kansas City, Carnegie Hall in New York or the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., O’Neil takes care of it all.
A band builds community, makes events special, brings joy to others and gives students a shared experience. O’Neil is able to create that connection of community with students, faculty, staff, alumni, donors and visiting guest artists. O’Neil makes moments, large and small, special for students in the band.