April 15, 2022
2022 President's Award of Excellence for Unclassified Professionals winners
Submitted by Human Capital Services
Five Kansas State University employees have been selected for the 2022 President's Award of Excellence for Unclassified Professionals.
The awards foster excellence in the workplace by rewarding and recognizing unclassified professional staff members who achieve excellence and/or make exemplary contributions to the mission and values of K-State. Please join Human Capital Services in congratulating the award recipients, who each receive $1,000 for their contributions to the K-State community.
• Travis Balthazor, UAS flight operations manager, Salina unmanned aircraft systems, in the Leadership Award category.
• George Widenor, director of marketing and business analysis, K-State Global Campus, in the Team Building, Group Activity and Service to the University Award category.
• Laura Schwartz, project/program coordinator, curriculum and instruction department, College of Education, in the Productivity, Creativity and Innovation Award category.
• Joel Sanneman, research associate, anatomy and physiology department, College of Veterinary Medicine, in the Distinguished Accomplishment Award category.
• Megan Miller, student success coordinator, Graduate School, in the Belonging Award category.
Balthazor joined K-State as a member of the unmanned Aircraft systems staff in the Applied Aviation Research Center more than seven years ago and has become a respected leader. Earlier this year, Balthazor served as principal investigator on a Federal Aviation Administration-sponsored research project. As a part-time faculty member, he teaches five different UAS courses, all of which he developed. He has also been instrumental in contributing to curriculum changes to ensure K-State's UAS degree remains relevant to the industry. His teacher evaluation scores are consistently noteworthy. At the Applied Aviation Research Center, a part of the FAA's UAS Research Center of Excellence, Balthazor applies his subject matter expertise to many FAA-funded grants. His leadership is critical to navigating a complex mire of regulatory considerations while conducting research to assist the FAA's UAS rule-making efforts. Balthazor, under a contractual agreement, consults with the Kansas Department of Transportation's aviation branch, which is part of the FAA's BEYOND program. The program is a partnership initiative where state, tribal or local government agencies work with the FAA to promote the integration of UAS into the national airspace system. Balthazor developed standardized training courses for the aviation branch's cadre of UAS pilots. He also assists with writing KDOT requests for FAA approval to conduct advanced UAS operations, which help raise the national level of prominence of Kansas as a leader in UAS technologies. Balthazor also is a leader in several corporate-sponsored research projects, including Evergy, Enel Green Energy, Nebraska Department of Transportation and others and developed several noncredit courses to serve multiple industries.
As the director of marketing for K-State Global Campus, Widenor has distinguished himself as a leader. He has built a high-performing team that has reached new heights in operational excellence and service to the university. He also has leveraged his expertise in support of institutional efforts such as the academic program review and revitalization initiative, as well as coordinating efforts across all four K-State campuses with his marketing colleagues. His leadership led to a redesigned and rebranded the K-State Online website. He worked with staff and stakeholders to build consensus and follow best practices. The new website delivers information in a way that engages prospective students. The redesign has resulted in increased web traffic, growing to more than 800,000 visitors in fiscal year 21 and on track to surpass a million visitors in fiscal year 22. Another example of Widenor's service to the university is his contributions to the academic program review and revitalization efforts. He stepped into the initiative after the departure of a Global Campus staff member who had been serving on the team. He quickly began making a positive impact that brought new and valuable perspectives to the team's work. In a world where more and more levels of digital marketing is occurring, it is essential that all four of K-State's campuses coordinate efforts to ensure effective marketing that enhances outcomes. Widenor actively participates in these coordination meetings and he brings his expertise and that of his team to the group. Widenor has a collaborative approach to the university's work and seeks greater levels of synergy among teams to arrive at one voice university strategies. If Global Campus has expertise that can support the efforts of the other campuses, Widenor will share those insights.
In addition to performing her job at an exemplary level, Schwartz approaches every day looking for creative ways to increase her productivity, using creativity and innovation. Before her most recent promotion, she streamlined the process to order office supplies, including everything from purple K-State lanyards to brains for biology labs. She stressed university policies while she registered faculty for conferences and travel, then turned around and reconciled their travel and credit card payments. She worked with faculty and staff to submit their paperwork in an accurate and timely manner with kind words and a smile. Despite COVID, Schwartz came to campus to train new office assistants in summer 2021 so they would be ready for the new school year. Her new responsibilities as a coordinator in the Office of Field Experiences to ensure that the department's hundreds of placements in schools all over the world go smoothly. Schwartz is the friendly first contact for students and school districts during practicums and student teaching experiences. She keeps track of such requirements as background checks, enrollment, placement, program completion and Kansas licensure. Her cheerful, can-do attitude has helped place hundreds of teacher education students worldwide. She developed a system for tracking the memorandums of agreement, signatures and the electronic cataloging of the agreements for future placements. She also has developed a system for paying all the hundreds of cooperating teachers and districts for their supervision of teacher education students in a timely manner.
For more than 15 years, Sanneman has enhanced research campuswide through his outstanding performance as manager of the K-State College of Veterinary Medicine's Confocal Microscopy Facility. The impact of the facility is evident in recent usership data. In 2019, the facility served more than 100 users from 16 different university departments in five colleges, totaling more than 5,700 hours of total use. Confocal images were featured in 36 publications in 2017-2019. Sanneman is responsible for user training, maintenance and scheduling of the equipment, troubleshooting and upgrades. He routinely stays late and comes in early to assist users. If a user has an unusual sample or problem, he considers how he can modify settings or equipment to help meet the user's needs. He evaluates each user's project aims and helps them get the best images possible. Sanneman is dedicated to serving others. One example is the way he frequently assists colleagues with duties outside his job description. He often helps with equipment in his department's other core labs. Last fall, he transitioned two heavily used thermocyclers in the Molecular Core Lab to new computers and helped troubleshoot equipment in the NICKS core lab. Sanneman routinely moves large liquid nitrogen tanks from the loading dock to a multi-user lab. Another example of his service to others is in teaching. Even though teaching is not in his official job description, Sanneman is one of the instructors for the AP839 Biomedical Lab Methods course in the college's one-year master's program. He spent hours preparing lectures, demonstrations and laboratory activities involving several different types of microscopy for this course in both 2021 semesters. His teaching benefits these pre-professional students as they prepare for future science careers. Last fall, he agreed to take on management of the Flow Cytometry core lab after the previous lab manager left the university. Sanneman spent countless hours being trained on the equipment in this lab, organizing the lab to improve efficiency and assisting users. He is currently working to improve equipment functionality and increase usership. His willingness to expand his duties and skills benefits researchers from across K-State by providing expertise and access to this valuable equipment.
As a graduate student success coordinator, Miller is responsible for leading, managing and coordinating events, activities and initiatives that contribute to creating and establishing a feeling of being welcomed, valued and belonging among K-State students. Through her work with the Graduate Ambassadors, the Graduate Student Council, the Graduate School's awards and fellowships programs, the Graduate Council Student Affairs Committee, and by serving on university-level committees such as the JED Campus Initiative and Academic Advising and Retention Group, Miller has been instrumental in ensuring graduate students feel welcome and valued at K-State. She was instrumental in initiating the ambassador program to provide prospective students answers to questions about K-State and Manhattan. In selecting graduate students to serve as ambassadors, Miller looks for students who represent diversity in majors, degree programs, interests, cultures and personal backgrounds and experiences. This program influences the applicants' decision to apply to K-State and provides a contact who can respond to inquiries as they transition to the university. The expansion of representatives to the Graduate Student Council is another example of assuring that graduate students feel they have a voice. The inclusion of a diversity advocate, LGBTQIA advocate, military-affiliated student affairs, parent and guardian advocate, and Global Campus representative have provided the Graduate Student Council opportunities to hear the voices of all students. Through a collaborative effort between the Office of Institutional Research and members of the Graduate School team, Miller took the lead in developing a graduate student milestones dashboard. This is an innovative, data-driven approach to understanding student success during the student's academic life cycle. She helped design and lead the production of milestone reports, which are now becoming the basis of a coordinated collaboration between the Graduate School and the graduate programs. Miller's strong communication skills, her attention to detail, strong interest in the well-being, academic and professional development of graduate students, and her broad knowledge of the Graduate School and university operations and functions are instrumental in building a strong graduate culture that makes all student feel that they are part of, belong to, the great K-State family.