Although we could not celebrate them in person this year, four UNC Charlotte staff members were named 2020 Employee of the Year. A recipient was recognized in each of these categories: Community and Public Service, Innovation, Safety and Heroism, and Devotion to Duty.
No one is more dedicated to the preservation of wildlife than Diana Hill, internal auditor in the Division of Institutional Integrity, who was honored in the category of community and public service. Outside of her work at UNC Charlotte, she spends her time volunteering with the Carolina Waterfowl Rescue (CWR), a nonprofit wildlife rescue organization that provides sanctuary, rescue and rehabilitation for wildlife, farmed and exotic animals. Most recently, when Australia was suffering from deadly wildfires, Hill coordinated with CWR and international groups and led a local effort to create and ship homemade nests to support Australian conservation efforts. Described by her nominators as “the ultimate public servant,” her “empathetic, service-oriented approach to her work is reflective of her selfless approach to the humans and animals entrusted to her care.”
Implementing numerous new systems that greatly enhance the student and staff experience at UNC Charlotte has earned Angelica Watts, technology support analyst in the 49er Card Office, the award for innovation. Over the last year, Watts pioneered a mobile ordering program on campus, featuring 29 dining retail locations including 12 national brands and 8 private brands, implementing the largest mobile ordering college campus program industry-wide, all in one easy-to-use app. Another major project Watts undertook this last year was developing a new method to verify eligibility and track participation when distributing graduation regalia. Previously, this process was done manually, and involved multiple staff between two departments and endless spreadsheets. According to nominator Melissa Battle, “this new approach has greatly improved the student experience and this understanding has eliminated the guesswork and errors with the previous process.”
Chief of Police and Public Safety Jeff Baker was recognized in the category of safety and heroism not only for his impact on campus safety since becoming Chief over a decade ago, but for also his actions following the tragic shooting on April 30, 2019. In her letter nominating Baker, Dean of Students Christine Reed Davis wrote, “I can think of no other staff member this year more deserving of recognition for courage, outstanding judgement and heroism than Jeff Baker.” She described Baker’s focus on community-oriented policing, increasing the number of campus officers, acquiring a Mobile Command Unit and developing a campus SWAT team to respond to incidents. On April 30, Baker was the third officer on the scene and helped coordinate the efforts of CMPD, SWAT and fire units, while providing ongoing information to the Emergency Operations and Chancellor’s Cabinet, and, later, addressing the news media. He accomplished these duties, Davis wrote, “with a sense of calm resolve and quiet determination shown by only the bravest heros.”
If you aren’t familiar with Christy Jackson, director of communications for business affairs, you surely are familiar with her work, as she has written or facilitated every NinerNotice sent by the University. In addition to her daily work managing the communications for the Division of Business Affairs, she is responsible for crisis communications. She was honored in the category of devotion to duty because, as one nominator wrote, she “is so devoted to her duty, that on the University’s worst day, she managed to calm the classroom of students she was teaching and the almost 30,000 other students, faculty, staff and visitors.” On April 30, Jackson was teaching an undergraduate public relations writing class. After the campus community received the first active shooter NinerAlert, Jackson sprung into action, sending additional NinerAlerts to keep the campus community informed while also keeping her students calm. Hours after the incident, she coordinated all communications among the Chancellor and University leadership. In the weeks and months since that day, she assumed the role of lead communicator for all things April 30 and has been “a cornerstone of the recovery efforts,” according to one supporter. She is equally as devoted to her team and her colleagues. Whenever she is acknowledged for her work, she always gives recognition to her team or the people working around her. However, her team will be the first to say that because of her work, UNC Charlotte is stronger today.
This year’s recipients were among 20 nominated by colleagues and supervisors for the Employee of the Year award. Once UNC Charlotte returns to normal operations, all nominees and winners will be honored appropriately. A committee led by the Human Resources Department and comprising representatives from across campus selected the recipients.
Story: Caitlin Mauk
Photo above, left to right: Jeff Baker, Angelica Watts, Diana Hill and Christy Jackson.