This year’s staff and president’s award winners will be honored at a virtual event, Staff Recognition: Going the Distance While Socially Distant, presented by DATCU. The event, scheduled from 2 to 3 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 11, includes the presentation of the awards, a Q&A with President Smatresk and the chance to win some great door prizes.
Those being recognized at the event are:
Rising Star Award
Briana Pratt-Taylor, Police Services
Briana, a dispatcher, has worked at UNT for nearly two years and has already proven to be a dedicated member of the UNT Police Department by being a great team player and dispatcher. She frequently covers shifts on her days off to accommodate other’s emergencies and she calmly handles many difficult and frightening calls. She is quick and efficient, sending help to the scene as fast as possible while providing reassurance to the caller. She was selected to represent the department at the Commission on Accreditation of Law Enforcement Agencies Conference, and she volunteers at numerous events. She’s also requested additional training to progress through the state certifications and advance her career, as she is always working to rise and succeed. Briana is a great role model and leader, who always has a positive attitude and a motivation to help her co-workers and the entire UNT community. When she’s not working, she can frequently be spotted participating in UNT activities.
UNT Spirit Award
Stephanie McDonald, Administrative Services
As UNT’s policy director in the Division of Finance and Administration, Stephanie has complex and extensive responsibilities — but she also has a positive mindset and a willingness to volunteer for duties beyond her job. She is skilled at collaborating across divisions and recruiting volunteers for activities that embody the spirit of UNTs mission. In less than two weeks, she organized the giveaways, volunteers, T-shirts and plan for the fall 2019 Radical Friendliness Initiative — coordinating more than 100 faculty and staff volunteers from nine divisions to answer questions and welcome students to UNT during the first days of class. Stephanie was a key volunteer for spring 2019 commencement ceremonies, spending hours helping shuttle guests with mobility challenges safely to and from their vehicles. She also worked with seven departments to coordinate the move-in and occupant needs for the Support and Services Building. The building is an impressive example of collaboration due in large part to Stephanie’s work.
Kris Muller, University Brand Strategy and Communications
Kris is known as a ray of sunshine within the Division of University Brand Strategy and Communications, going out of her way to give out compliments and put a smile on everyone’s face. She is a department favorite for collaborations and team projects because she approaches every task with enthusiasm and excitement. Despite working at UNT for only a few years, she has risen to a position of leadership as associate director of news. She wears her UNT spirit loud and proud and is focused on sharing UNT’s positive stories with media outlets. In the fall, Kris was the driving force behind national news coverage about Kathy and Emma Earhart, mother-daughter duo who enrolled together at UNT to study biology and who both aspire to attend medical school. Thanks to Kris’ hard work, UNT and the Earharts were featured on CBS This Morning, The Kelley Clarkson Show, Inside Edition, Good Morning America and Southern Living, among many others. Kris has never met anyone who isn’t an immediate friend.
Customer Service Award
Molly Collins, Enrollment Management, formerly at UNT at Frisco
Every single course that has been offered by UNT at Frisco since fall 2018 has included a special touch from Molly. She is known for her willingness to go above and beyond the scope of her responsibilities to help all colleagues and students with all types of issues. This was demonstrated when two academic buildings flooded at UNT at Frisco. As soon as she learned of the situation, Molly began relocating affected classes to make sure students and faculty were impacted as little as possible. Whenever the Frisco team is in need of assistance, she is there to help. When Frisco launched its three-year cohort program, a few classes weren’t scheduled as requested and Molly took time away from her family vacation to solve the problem quickly. Her aptitude, dedication and generosity of spirit are highly appreciated by her colleagues, and countless customers have had their problems swiftly solved, thanks to Molly
Janet Thompson, College of Education, formerly of the College of Information
Faculty in the College of Information know Janet, a senior research analyst, as someone who understands UNT grant agency policies and protocols so well that she makes them clear to faculty who may not always understand or agree with them. She is an outstanding supporter of the faculty, especially junior faculty, who are completing extramural funding proposals. During the spring-summer grant-writing marathon, Janet was seen as a cheerleader and coach, helping faculty determine where to submit grants, reading through proposal drafts and providing help with supplemental documentation. She established a weekly opportunity for assistant professors applying for the NSF CAREER Award to help them work on their grant proposals and interact with each other. And her desire to help faculty led her to develop and distribute a monthly research newsletter to provide important, timely information. As one nominator wrote, “Janet is a proactive, encouraging colleague who makes me feel the impossible is possible.”
Erik Trevino, Facilities
With a caring, customer-driven approach, Erik personifies the mission of the UNT Facilities Department. The appearance of the grounds is one of the most noticeable customer services on campus, and with his assistance, UNT’s visuals are memorable and welcoming. He has helped his staff view their work with a ‘customer’s eye,’ and he makes the customer experience a priority in all of his decisions. Over the past three years, under Erik’s leadership as grounds manager, his team has improved campus curb appeal, and compliments abound. Erik also does much more, assisting Student Affairs in engaging students during the Big Event and Make a Difference Day, and supporting the We Mean Green fund as an advisor and at special events like Texas Arbor Day. He always puts the UNT family first. Erik also was instrumental in the process to have a bench dedicated in the memory of a UNT student, working closely with the family to ensure the finished memorial met all their expectations.
Student Success Award
James Davenport, Student Veteran Services
Jim is extremely dedicated to helping veterans navigate college. In 2017, he began giving personalized tours to veterans, providing them with lunch and walking prospective students through campus. He ensures they connect with someone in their college and stops by Admissions to make sure they have what they need to enroll. He has given tours to more than 300 people, and he has a yield rate on enrolling students of about 95 percent. According to many of our student veterans, Jim — thanks to his swift responses and generous guidance — is the sole reason they decided to come to UNT. He also has helped create several partnerships across campus to support veterans, including a $1,000 scholarship from Risk Management. Jim is dedicated to making a difference in the lives of student veterans, going out of his way to support them in all ways that he can. He even helps them find employment beyond college by working with a network of businesses to recruit veterans after they graduate.
Raylon Dukes, Facilities
As a supervisor in the UNT Facilities Auxiliary Maintenance department, Raylon exemplifies UNT’s caring attitude, doing all he can to help students achieve their full potential. Under his leadership, as many as 30 student workers at a time have grown both as employees and as individuals. And they are not just workers but "mentees." While the use of student workers in the maintenance group has been sporadic in the past, Raylon has increased and solidified student involvement in every aspect of UNT’s residential facilities maintenance. Last summer, he partnered student workers with full-time employees to fulfill residence hall maintenance requests, paint rooms at Santa Fe Hall and use the Facilities maintenance software to track work orders. He provided extra training as needed and helped these students develop skills like managing work-life balance and meeting job expectations that, when combined with their education, will help them later in life. He also helped them realize their value as team members by including them in all group functions and trainings.
Creating UNiTy Award
Enedelia Sauceda, Counseling and Testing
Described by a nominator as “a champion,” Enedelia is a valued member of the Division of Student Affairs. She has helped to create an environment of inclusion and emotional safety for underrepresented populations at UNT. As a psychologist and a liaison for the Multicultural Center and the Pride Alliance, she helps multicultural, LGBTQ+ and other students feel respected on campus. She also leads UNT’s Inclusion, Diversity, Ethnicity Access (IDEA) committee, a team of staff members who consistently learn about diverse experiences and understand how to engage in difficult dialogues. She puts our students first and is routinely called upon across campus to consult on issues related to social advocacy and multicultural discussions. Enedelia is passionate in what she does, with a big heart for social justice, service, advocacy and community engagement. She is kind and hard-working and is seen as an inspiration and role model to those around her. Her goal is that all students can say, “I have a place I can be me without fear.”
Ramona Washington, Police Services
Ramona, a lieutenant in the UNT Police Department, has gone out of her way to provide outstanding service to the department by increasing the force’s diversity as a member of the recruitment team. She has served on the hiring selection committee to make sure the value of diversity is not lost in the logistics of the hiring process, and, thanks to her efforts, 62 percent of the new police officers hired are women and ethnic minorities. She has made several connections with principals and teachers in the DFW area so she can give presentations on law enforcement. She is an adjunct professor at NCTC and UNT, teaching “Police Systems and Practices” and “Criminal Investigations.” She also teaches bias and diversity training for the UNT Police Department as well as a “Bridging the Gap” class. She has helped shine a light on the importance of diversity here at UNT, going out of her way to connect young women and ethnic minorities with law enforcement careers. Thanks to her approachability and acceptance for anyone, UNT students from all walks of life seek out her advice and support.
Excellence in Leadership Award
Danny Armitage, Student Affairs Auxiliary Services
Danny has gone above and beyond to make big improvements to the UNT campus as associate vice president for auxiliary services. He contributed to the development and construction of Joe Greene Hall, the UNT Welcome Center and the DSA Food Pantry/Suit-Up Program spaces in Crumley Hall. He also has been involved with the development of Eagle Landing, UNT’s first free-standing dining hall, which will open this fall. He is focused on implementing service-minded facilities for our students and the entire UNT community. When making decisions, he always asks, “How will this impact our students?” and “Is this best for our students?” Danny is a phenomenal leader. He not only pushes others to work as a team, but he sets an example every day through his work. He maintains an open-door policy and views service delivery as something that should be improved upon each day. He faces challenges head-on, finding creative solutions and efficiently getting tasks done. He is a valuable and dedicated UNT leader.
President’s Special Recognition Award
Rosie Ridgway, Student Success
As coordinator for withdrawal intervention in the UNT Dean of Students Office, Rosie is deeply committed to the welfare of UNT students and focuses on doing everything she can to support retention. Her role as coordinator of the UNT Food Panty for the past several years is only one way she supports our students, working tirelessly to secure donations and thus ensuring their basic needs are met. Rosie has gone out of her way to connect with other departments across campus to raise awareness for the Food Pantry. She also has created connections with outside nonprofit donors, forming positive relationships in the North Texas region that benefit the Food Pantry and the university. She keeps the needs of our students her main priority, and her selfless work reveals her genuine compassion and concern for them. Rosie is always exceeding what is expected of her and we are grateful to have her on our team.
Bob Rogers Service and Community Engagement Award
Joey Saxon, Student Financial Services
As the associate vice president for Student Financial Services, Joey has gone above and beyond for the students here at UNT, never losing sight of our purpose and mission: to support our students in all ways that we can. He has graciously helped many who are having financial struggles receive the guidance and support they need to stay enrolled and embark on their journey toward a degree, responding swiftly and answering any question they may have. His dedication to helping UNT students is the foundation of the Start Green, Stay Green initiative that has continued to help students in need of financial support. Thanks to Joey, countless students have the opportunity to attend our university. He has always displayed a great attitude, helping to bring the UNT community together through acts of kindness and selflessness. He is hard-working and passionate, and he’s seen as a supportive figure and role model by all who know him.
Steve Miller Outstanding Employee Award
Randy Brooks, Housing and Residence Life
Randy has not only been an outstanding employee and hard worker as the administrative coordinator for business operations in Housing and Residence Life, but he also is a great friend to all of his co-workers. He is a consummate professional, is always seen with a smile on his face and completes his tasks diligently without complaint. He has repeatedly gone out of his way to help others around the office, exceeding expectations and making everyone feel comfortable and heard. When on a call with a customer in need of service, Randy is kind and treats every problem with the same urgency, helping the customer to the best of his ability. Most everyone he interacts with, whether a colleague or student, instantly feels supported. He does an exceptional job and is a reminder to his team that taking pride in your work and doing your best doesn’t only make you happy, it makes the whole team happy.
Rachel Grimes, Regional Campuses Student Services, formerly of the Student Money Management Center
Ten years ago, Rachel was hired for the newly created position of assistant director of financial readiness for the Student Money Management Center, and she continues to demonstrate outstanding initiative while positively impacting students, partners and colleagues. Under Rachel’s leadership, student engagement with the center increased 2,800% in her first year on the job, and today it serves more than 11,000 annually. She worked closely with a peer mentor to create and facilitate the department’s first curriculum-based program – Financial Intelligence Training – and has developed subsequent courses over the years. She has gone out of her way to make connections with more than 100 other UNT departments as well as community organizations. She leads an annual outreach training calendar that includes nearly 200 workshops and events in Denton and Frisco. Rachel never hesitates to help and serve others. Over the years, she has demonstrated a phenomenal amount of passion and dedication to her job, as well as UNT.
Randena Hulstrand, University Brand Strategy and Communications
Randena is a collaborator-in-chief and known for partnering with other divisions to execute communications for high-profile events including the annual Wingspan Gala and UNT’s 125th anniversary celebrations. Her ability to collaborate with many different constituencies, while keeping her unfailingly professional and caring attitude, is one of her greatest strengths. While employees in other roles may work more directly with students, Randena impacts their lives in a behind-the-scenes – but equally critical – way. As senior associate director for communications and publications in the Division of University Brand Strategy and Communications, she ensures that student successes are trumpeted in our university publications. She also increases the visibility of faculty, staff and alumni, assigning engaging stories that feature their caring, creativity and resilience. Through her leadership of the North Texan and other publications, from planning to printing, she has supported and publicized key UNT initiatives and does an excellent job of shining a light on our impressive UNT community.
Robert Pearson, Facilities
Rob has done an exceptional job as personnel and leasing manager for UNT Facilities. He constantly seeks solutions and focuses on collaboration and communication to complete projects supporting UNT’s goals, always with educational programming for students in mind. He manages off-site facilities and ensures UNT is efficient with its money and potential revenue. He doubled Woodhill Square’s revenues to more than $1.5 million annually in commercial tenant rent and has secured more than $400,000 in commercial leases at Inspire Park in Frisco. Rob also partners with UNT System Human Resources, the Office of Equal Opportunity and staff services teams to support personnel activities for the Facilities team’s 350 workers. He has helped coordinate midnight training sessions for night staff, establish the Facilities Fitness program with Recreational Sports, and prepare staff workshops on financial management. His problem solving has helped countless institutes and staff on the path to success, and he has, of course, graciously helped UNT manage money efficiently.