Employee of the Year recipients honored at staff recognition event

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Eight employees were honored with the Employee of the Year Award during the 2021 virtual Staff Recognition event held on Friday, April 23. Four employees were recognized in the categories of devotion to duty, outstanding human relations, community and public service and safety and heroism. A team of four employees was selected in the category of innovation. 

In a year unlike any other, these employees have demonstrated hard work, resilience in the face of unprecedented challenges, and dedication to the campus community and beyond.

“This is a terrific group of employees," said Chancellor Sharon L. Gaber. “I am inspired by their passion for the work they do, by their creativity and finding new ways to do it, by their willingness to go above and beyond the call, and most of all, by their love for this University and community.”

Each winner was introduced by a colleague or supervisor who nominated them for the award. 

Mindy Sides-Walsh, director of Leadership & Community Engagement, is the 2021 Employee of the Year in the category Devotion to Duty. Karen Shaffer, assistant vice chancellor for student affairs, commended Sides-Walsh’s work over the last year ensuring the increased number of students impacted with food insecurity during the pandemic had the food and support they needed.

The Return to Campus Kit Group team is the winner for Innovation. Team members are Katharina Findlater, Horace Lytch, Rachel Skipworth and Rick Torres from the Division of Business Affairs. Rich Steele, associate vice chancellor for business services, cited their work assembling and distributing 35,000 return-to-campus kits to UNC Charlotte faculty, staff and students. “Their innovative approach to solving this intricate puzzle makes them all incredibly deserving of this award,” said Steele.

In the Human Relations category, Krista Collins, learning and development manager for Facilities Management (FM), is the recipient. Charleata Neal, FM director of human resources, described Collins as a talented and selfless person who is innovative and a role model when it comes to building an inclusive environment and serving others. 

Angie Williams, business services coordinator in the English Department, is the recipient for Community and Public Service. Chair of the English Department Paula Eckard spoke of Williams’ dedication to children’s literacy and her volunteer work with the Charlotte Mecklenburg Public Library, the Center City Literary Festival and the annual Seuss-A-Thon event at a local bookstore.  

In the category of safety and heroism, Chris Gonyar, director of emergency management, is this year’s recipient. Christy Jackson, senior director of reputation management and communications, spoke of the tireless work of Gonyar and his team overseeing UNC Charlotte’s response to COVID-19. “There is no doubt that Niner Nation is safer, more prepared and simply better because of the work he and his team do every single day, for all of us,” said Jackson.

This year’s recipients were among the 40 staff members nominated by colleagues and supervisors for the award. A committee led by Human Resources, with representatives from across campus, selected the winners.

Staff members who achieved milestone anniversaries, ranging from 5 to 35 years of service with the state were also recognized during the event. 

“I totaled up the years of service provided by this group collectively, and it came up to a staggering 3,835 combined years of service,” said Chancellor Gaber. “That’s a lot of institutional knowledge and history right there, and UNC Charlotte is better for it.”