Operating Staff announces Outstanding Service Award recipients

Logo of the Operating Staff CouncilFour members of NIU’s Operating Staff have been chosen to receive the Outstanding Service Award for 2015.

The recipients are Chris Atherton, administrative assistant, Office of the Provost;  Margaret Berg, office manager, Department of Accountancy; Pat Erickson, office administrator, Office of the University Council; and Kathy Zuidema, employer relations specialist, Career Services.

Each year, four employees from NIU’s nearly 1,650 Civil Service staff are selected by a committee of their peers. Award winners each receive a plaque and $1,500 award. They will be honored Thursday, May 14, at a banquet.

Here’s more about this year’s recipients.

Chris Atherton
Chris Atherton

Chris Atherton
Administrative assistant, Office of the Provost

Chris Atherton rolls with the punches. When things change in the workplace and job responsibilities evolve, she not only adapts, she thrives.

“Those of us that have the pleasure to work with her know how extraordinary she is,” said Celeste Latham, associate vice president for Human Resource Services. “She is organized, focused and is one of the most amazing people who anticipates needs and plans ahead. Above all, she is a friend and a colleague that people can rely on.”

Lisa Freeman said when she took on the role of interim executive vice president and provost in October, 2013, Atherton helped her “to hit the ground running.”

“She took on additional responsibilities without being asked to ensure that the Provost Office continued to run smoothly,” said Freeman, executive vice president and provost. “She has been able to affect change, because she is a trusted colleague and collaborator within the Provost Office and across campus.”

Colleagues praise her for her dedication, professionalism and strong work ethic. Her numerous contributions are not limited to her department, but expand to the university as a whole. She works well with employees of every level at the university, from students to senior administrators.

Away from work, she is actively involved in the community, as a volunteer for the American Cancer Society Relay For Life of DeKalb County and the DeKalb affiliate of Habitat for Humanity. She also serves on DeKalb’s planning and zoning commission.

“Since she arrived at NIU, her care and concern for students, faculty, staff and the community has been evident,” Freeman said.

Margaret Berg
Margaret Berg

Margaret Berg
Office manager, Department of Accountancy

Margaret Berg is always there to lend a hand – and because of her extensive knowledge of the university, the office manager in the Department of Accountancy does a lot of lending.

“Margaret is a resource to others in the college, willingly sharing her knowledge and wisdom,” said Jim Young, NIU Accountancy Department chair and Crowe Horwath Professor. “She is always willing to pursue new tasks, many self-motivated by seeing a need and working to find a solution.”

Berg joined NIU in 1987 and is conversant in human resources, accounting, budgeting and scheduling issues. Her knowledge of the university, organizational skills and commitment to excellence helps the Department of Accountancy maintain its reputation.

“Margaret goes above and beyond expectations,” said Rebecca Shortridge, professor and assistant chair in the Department of Accountancy. “She is everything an administrator could hope for; she is dependable, efficient, caring and always sees a task through to completion.”

Berg is known as a team player and respected by faculty and students.

“Her attitude is always, always, ‘How can I help you?’ ” said Chang Liu, professor and chair in the Department of Operations Management and Information Systems. “Whether she is helping me solve a problem, helping a faculty member jump administrative hurdles across campus, or dealing with a student who comes into the office looking to register for a course, she is respectful and always willing to help.”

She’s an active member of the College of Business Staff Council, where she serves as a mentor to other staff members. In addition, she is involved in giving back to the community through events such as Relay for Life and the NIU food drive.

Pat Erickson
Pat Erickson

Pat Erickson
Office administrator, Office of the University Council      

Pat Erickson has been described as “exceptional” and the “consummate professional.”

For this office administrator, it’s all in a day’s work.

“Pat brings a level of professionalism, dedication and creativity to this position that is unprecedented,” said Alan Rosenbaum, former executive secretary of the University Council and president of the Faculty Senate. “One of the complications of her position is that there is no routine assignment; instead, there are a multitude of activities that are spread across the year, each of which must be tracked and initiated at the proper time.”

Erickson handles the complications with ease, and does so with a smile.

“Her moral compass, good sense of humor, wise perspective and cordiality have made her well respected by all who have the chance to interact with her,” said Professor William Pitney, current executive secretary of the University Council and president of the Faculty Senate. “She is a joy to work with.”

Her dedication to her work and to NIU is impressive, and so is her commitment to the community. She is an active member of her church and has been a volunteer for Meals on Wheels for more than a decade.

“Pat is fully engaged in her job,” Pitney said, “within the university and within the community.”

Kathy Zuidema
Kathy Zuidema

Kathy Zuidema
Employer relations specialist, Career Services

Kathy Zuidema is a champion for NIU students.

The Career Services employer relations specialist consistently exhibits an “impassioned level of concern” for students, and not just for those who visit Career Services.

In March 2014, Zuidema founded the Huskies Student Food Pantry after realizing that many NIU students who don’t have a meal plan and don’t qualify for food assistance programs go hungry. Since opening, the pantry has served more than 1,000 NIU students.

“Kathy is the type of employee that everyone wants, not just because she is dependable, timely and hard working, but because she is always in a continuous improvement mindset,” said Cindy Henderson, executive director of Career Services.

Colleagues laud her for her altruism, professionalism, enthusiasm, and consistent student-centered approach.

“Kathy is the kind of colleague you want to serve as a model for an inclusive community,” said Brandon Lagana, director of strategic planning and analysis at Career Services. “She cares deeply about the department, division and NIU; she conducts her work in ways which uplift the spirit of all of those around her; and she is open to new ideas, suggestions for improvement and embraces change.”

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