The recipients are Kenlyn Bialas, office manager for ACCESS; Lincoln Fox, chief instructional media systems engineer in the Department of Media Services; Brenda Jones, office manager for the Department of Literacy Education in the College of Education; and Kelly Stewart, office manager for the Department of Operations Management and Information Systems in the College of Business.
Nearly 1,650 employees make up the Civil Service staff. Each year, four are selected by a committee of their peers to receive the award of plaques and $1,500. They will be honored at a Thursday, May 3, banquet.
Here is a closer look at the recipients.
Office manager, ACCESS
How often do NIU students mention an office manager as they say goodbye?
If it’s Kenlyn Bialas, the answer is “all the time.”
“Her professional and pleasant way of working with people, regardless of how challenging the situation, is impressive,” ACCESS Director Shevawn Eaton says. “Kenlyn makes a great impression on all who work with her. Even students at the CHANCE senior luncheon would mention her in their speeches, speaking of her kindness and her smile.”
That never surprised Leroy Mitchell, her longtime boss at CHANCE.
“One of the many great things I loved and respected about Kenlyn was her love for our students,” says Mitchell, who’s now retired. “Even though CHANCE students came from a very different world that Kenlyn was used to, she loved them.”
Bialis joined ACCESS in 2001 after several years working with CHANCE.
She adapted so well into her new position that the Office of the Provost asked her to help train new office managers and secretaries in forms, procedures and processes.
For the 30 student Supplemental Instruction leaders in ACCESS, she is a support system who books rooms for them, relays information to their supervisor and makes sure they comply with mandated ethics training and signing of timesheets.
“The students do things for her because of the way she works with them – with kindness and care,” Eaton says, “which I believe is a reflection of the way she treats them.”
Outside work, she volunteers with 4-H, Indian Creek FFA and by riding horses in parades.
Chief instructional media systems engineer, Department of Media Services
As NIU’s emphasis on technology-aided learning has risen dramatically during recent years, so has the expertise of Lincoln Fox.
Fox “has become the driving force in design, installment and user-friendly functionality of these increasingly complex and sophisticated systems,” says Frederick Schwantes, vice provost for Special Projects.
“When the university needed an on-site expert to vet the ideas, translate the lingo and put into actual operation the input of our faculty and administrators about their vision of high-tech Cole Hall classrooms during their discussions with outside media consultants, it was Linc Fox to whom we turned,” Schwantes adds, “and, without exaggeration, he made it happen.”
In support of the Provost-sponsored Smart Classroom Initiative, Fox and his four technicians handle 113 rooms in 20 buildings as well as more than 60 mediated classrooms.
Fox also researches, learns and implements new ways to make the mediated classrooms easier to use for the faculty; among those helpful discoveries were computerized control boxes that also dramatically reduce troubleshooting time because they provide remote access to Fox and his crew.
Last year, Fox completed coursework and projects to become a Crestron-certified programmer, a skill critical to sustaining and growing NIU’s smart classrooms. Several departments across campus, including Intercollegiate Athletics, want to share such technology.
He also earned a “University Friends of CAAR” award for installing and training users of closed-captioning devices that assist students with hearing impairments.
Outside of work, he volunteers his audio-technical skills to his church, local musicians and the Sycamore Pumpkin Fest parade.
Office manager, Department of Literacy Education
When Laurie Elish-Piper was asked to become interim chair of the Department of Literacy Education, she had an immediate question: “Will Brenda Jones stay on to support me and the department during this time of transition?”
“It was only when I had Brenda’s reassurance that she would remain in her position that I agreed to serve,” Elish-Piper says. “Now, on a daily basis, I am amazed at her dedication, work ethic, commitment and good nature.”
Jones handles all budget, hiring, travel and personnel paperwork and procedures for the department, which recently added several new professors, staff and classrooms thanks to a reorganization within the College of Education.
Her work with part-time instructors sometimes includes staying late to unlock classrooms for new hires and even giving them her home telephone number if they have questions or need help.
When the Literacy Clinic moved to Sycamore Road in 2008, Jones took care of all purchase orders and work orders. She also helped to pack, move and unpack boxes to ensure the clinic was ready to reopen on time.
“The only reason the tutoring rooms were furnished, the technology was connected and operational, the instructional materials were sorted and shelved, the pictures were hung and I had to key to unlock the door was because of Brenda Jones,” Elish-Piper says. “She is truly the unsung hero behind the Literacy Clinic.”
Outside work, she has volunteered at Rochelle’s Brooks Learning Center, serves on the Creston Planning Commission and coaches her granddaughter’s soccer and softball teams.
Office manager, Department of Operations Management and Information Systems
Questions in the Department of Operations Management and Information Systems are usually short-lived: Kelly Stewart will know the answer.
“Right when I set foot in our department almost 12 years ago, it was clear what an asset Kelly was to our unit,” says Charles Downing, a Presidential Teaching Professor in OMIS. “Whenever I asked my new colleagues a tough question, they would invariably say, ‘Go ask Kelly.’ After hearing that about 10 times, I began just going to Kelly first. She was then, and continues to be, the knowledge base of our department.”
Student in OMIS quickly learn that lesson as well.
“Kelly is always happy to help students and happy to support their organizations, causes and needs,” department chair Chang Liu says. “She has volunteered to help faculty advisers to handle membership applications and software checking-in and check-out. She helps order pizza and makes sure pizza delivery arrived.”
That commitment extends to Move-In Day each August, the subsequent College of Business “Hot Dog Day” and even with serving food in the college’s alumni tent at Homecoming. She helps organize open house activities, OMIS T-shirt Tuesdays, and “Meet the Firm Night” and “Meet the Faculty Night” events.
Sometimes, colleagues say, Stewart supplies the answers before being asked. During a recent faculty candidate search, she approached the committee chair with ideas to improve the process through technology.
Outside work, her community service includes collecting food for local pantries and helping to raise money for the American Cancer Society through Relay for Life.