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K-State Today

April 19, 2023

K-State University Support Staff Award of Excellence winners announced

Submitted by Human Capital Services

The K-State University Support Staff Award of Excellence recognizes exemplary performance and contributions of staff members who consistently excel in their positions and demonstrate integrity and a strong commitment to the mission and values of K-State.

Kansas State University is recognizing four university support staff professionals for their job performance with the university's 2023 University Support Staff Award of Excellence.

Recipients are:

  • Arlene Jacobson, accountant I, biological and agricultural engineering department, in the Office and Clerical category.
  • Deborah Erickson, custodial specialist, Division of Facilities, in the Service and Maintenance/Skilled Crafts category.
  • Andy Thurlow, machinist, physics department, in the Technical and Professional category.
  • Mary Oborny, office specialist IV, kinesiology department, in the Belonging Category. 

Jacobson has been a member of the biological and agricultural engineering department professional staff for more than 40 years, during which time she has been consistently performing her job duties at the level that consistently and substantially exceeded the expectations of the position. Owing to her friendly personality, she has become the welcoming face of the department. While the department has experienced many changes in office staff during the past five years, including promotions, retirements and departures, Jacobson has become the only staff member remaining in the main office to provide the continuity in handling departmental business. As such, she has had to take on new job responsibilities and learn to be fully proficient in them. More than one time, Jacobson had to juggle the responsibilities of two to three positions to meet the needs of the department, and she has been fulfilling these duties with complete success. Jacobson's outstanding performance has demonstrated her strong ability and willingness to work positively, respectfully and effectively with faculty and staff and graduate students at all levels. She has significantly improved customer service quality and has increased student satisfaction in their area, demonstrates ability and willingness to manage changes in work priorities, procedures, and organization. Her accomplishments extend well beyond her direct job responsibilities, which inspire excellence in others and greatly impact the success and well-being of our students, staff and faculty.

Erickson has consistently performed above and beyond her duties by caring for the facilities in which we work and making sure that the spaces are comfortable and functional. Her main assignment is Leasure Hall, a 115-year-old building that has undergone radical changes since it was initially built. The ornate details in the building pose a challenge in upkeep. Erickson takes pride in doing what she can to make this building shine, from polishing the woodwork weekly, to stripping and waxing the floors each semester. She has also been conscientious of the functionality of the building. Erickson is not only a hard worker, but she also fosters a warm and collegial environment by checking in frequently with staff in the building to ensure that everyone's needs are getting met. As evidence of her strong work ethic, Erickson has adopted extra responsibilities, such as assisting with the English building and cleaning the bathrooms in Burt Hall. She consistently pitches in, including covering flood clean-up, an often difficult and messy task. Despite accepting additional responsibilities, Erickson maintains high standards in all tasks. Erickson always leaves a space in better condition than she found it, ensuring that the facilities meet the expectations of a top-tier university. Erickson is integral to the building running day-to-day. She works hard to make sure spaces are not merely cleaned to the minimum standard, but that we have spaces to teach, students have places to learn, and that we all have offices to work in where we are able to thrive. 

Thurlow runs the professional instrument shop in the physics department. He designs and builds state-of-the-art equipment to further the research efforts both in the physics department and for the campus as a whole. The capabilities Thurlow brings to the instrument shop greatly enhance the opportunities of research groups over what they could do if they had to use "off the shelf" equipment. Even more importantly, Thurlow's consulting on engineering and machining capabilities makes possible some designs that we simply could not get from outside custom builders. Thurlow has been able to consistently upgrade the equipment in the instrument shop and make operations there more efficient. He works well with people from all departments and backgrounds who need help from his shop. Part of Thurlow's job is the thankless task of maintaining the staff/student machine shop. This is a separate facility in the physics department that is available for use by anyone in the department who has received sufficient training. Not only did Thurlow take on the additional job of training prospective users, but he had to ramp up his activity in maintaining the staff/student shop facility itself. He has been upgrading the tooling in the student shop to expand the quality and range of what can be built there. He has also initiated development of new training policies and programs for users of the shop. Thurlow's consistent and reliable performance over the past several years and his new initiatives in the past year make him a worthy nominee. He continues to work with the department to market his shop's services to the entire campus and beyond. And, of utmost importance, he has maintained a perfect safety record. 

As the sole member of the office staff for the kinesiology department, Oborny routinely wears many hats reflecting a wide and diverse collection of job responsibilities. These include department accountant, personnel manager, office manager, coordinator of department activities, and often the first person of contact, to name a few. Consistently and genuinely, each person who comes to the department office, whether administrator, faculty, graduate or undergraduate student, or parent on a student visit, is met with a smile and "How can I help you?" Oborny is clearly a meaningful example of making everyone who visits the department office feel a valued part of the K-State family. Each day she brings in a positive attitude, willingness to help, and works to make a connection to everyone she engages with. She constantly and consistently goes above and beyond her duties and does it all with a positive attitude and smile on her face. Oborny directly interacts with members of the campus and outside community through the department's LIFE fitness program. She is incredible in her communication and problem-solving with each individual and is particularly skilled in managing problems so that all those involved are satisfied with the outcome and feel valued. Throughout her multiple roles for K-State over the past year, Oborny has consistently and conscientiously done all that she can to help staff, faculty and students not only feel like they belong but also that they matter and are valued.

Please join Human Capital Services in congratulating the 2023 award recipients. All award winners receive $1,000 for their contributions to the K-State community.

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