Four outstanding employees have been recognized for their contributions to NIU beyond a narrow reading of their job descriptions.
The Operating Staff Council named Jonie Barshinger, Robert Botts, Angie Flannery and Ellen Hamrick as recipients of the 2021 Operating Staff Outstanding Service Award.
Recipients are chosen for demonstrating outstanding service and making significant contributions to NIU and their communities.
Each will be honored at a virtual ceremony on April 15 from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Meet the 2021 winners!
Known for her great patience and helpful attitude, Jonie Barshinger’s move to the Graduate School came at a fortuitous time.
The administrative assistant to Dean Brad Bond took on that role in August 2019, just a few months before the team evacuated Adams Hall for Williston Hall on two weeks’ notice.
Moving into temporary quarters there, Barshinger quickly packed up for another short-lived space and, soon, a third (and permanent) destination.
And, in between those two final shifts, something else happened: COVID-19. For Barshinger, the pandemic’s disruptions meant early mornings and late nights to keep pace with the challenges of working out of boxes in momentary locations.
“Everyone on campus has been strained to the hilt over the past year,” Bond says, “but I can’t think of anyone who has confronted those stressors while being moved four times, learning a new job and excelling at the job while ensuring that the Graduate School continues to provide a high level of service in an efficient, effective and collegial manner.”
Barshinger had spent most of her 29 years at NIU in the Department of Philosophy, where she started in 1994.
It was there that she proved herself “an invaluable asset” who “went above and beyond the call of duty,” even coming to the aid of students who needed information on majors and minors when the academic advisor was out.
“Never did I see her pass up an opportunity to be more than completely helpful to a student who came in with an inquiry,” retired Chair David J. Buller says. “She had complete knowledge of the undergraduate catalog, not only concerning the programs in Philosophy but concerning general university requirements.”
Outside of NIU, Barshinger is active with her local farm bureau, food pantry, Lions Club and the Indian Creek High School Sports Boosters.
Innovative. Reliable. Positive. A team player. An exceptional leader. A wealth of knowledge. The go-to person.
NIU Associate Bursar Robert Botts is all of these and more in providing better service for students and staff; his creations include something that nearly every prospective Huskie has accessed online: the NIU Planning and Cost Estimator.
“He saw the need for a more transparent and user-friendly guide to assist students and families with understanding cost and tuition and fees,” Bursar Miesha Daley says. “This has not only been helpful with marketing and recruiting students to NIU, but it has also allowed faculty and staff across campus to better advise and counsel students.”
Botts consistently explores ways to leverage technology to streamline operations, whether it’s enhanced functionality that allows students to manage payments and refunds electronically or emails to families to explain financial accounts and planning.
That expertise gained over 16 years at NIU proved invaluable last spring.
“During the early period of COVID-19, when the university had to swiftly shift many of its operations, Bob played an integral part in quickly and efficiently working to serve the needs of our students,” Daley says. “He worked closely with departments across campus to adjust charges on student accounts, and provided key data to senior leadership, which assisted with identifying our high-need students.”
As those eligible students received relief funds, colleagues of Botts recognized his spirit of caring in the process.
Says Shyree Sanan, associate vice president of Administration and Finance: “He possesses great people skills and compassion that show in his service to NIU students and their families, who oftentimes are in a difficult financial position and need guidance.”
Off campus, Botts volunteers with his church, the Children’s Community Theatre, a food pantry and a Christmas Shop where children can “buy” donated gifts for relatives free of charge.
Consider the words of students in describing Angie Flannery, their academic advisor in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
So patient. So calming. So helpful. Kindness and energy. A pillar of stability. The real hero. A blessing.
Or this: “She always made me feel like I was the most important person when I was talking to her.” Or this: “Outside of my own mother, Angie is one of the best ladies I’ve ever met.”
“We are frequently in awe of her ability to discuss sensitive matters with students. It feels as though her sole mission in life is to listen and help everyone she encounters,” says Steven L. Estes, the college’s director of Academic Advising.
Flannery’s service goes beyond students.
“Angie has the courage to ask difficult questions, and takes the time to offer creative suggestions when challenged. In doing so, she gives a voice to all advisors,” Estes says, adding that Flannery “freely gives of her after-hours time to serve as a sounding board to brainstorm solutions to complex problems with fellow advisors.”
Meanwhile, says Wesley Swingley, interim chair and associate professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, administrators appreciate her: Flannery works to support incoming leadership and staff in their new roles.
“Her depth of knowledge with the institutional processes and common student issues and concerns has proven invaluable in easing the transition,” Swingley says, “and not leaving students in the lurch.”
Beyond Zulauf Hall, Flannery is a member of the Presidential Commission on Persons with Disabilities, served on the 2020 Tutoring Advisory Committee, participated in a Themed Learning Community as an instructor and taught UNIV 101.
Off campus, the 19-year NIU employee serves on the NICU Family Advisory Council at Rockford’s Javon Bea Hospital-Riverside and is a parent-educator for the Loves Park-based Superhero Center for Autism.
When Ellen Hamrick became budget administrator in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, she had big shoes to fill.
“Ms. Hamrick threw herself into the position,” says Judy Ledgerwood, professor of Anthropology and acting dean then.
“She is meticulous with budgets, and immediately grasped the range and complexity of finances of the college. Within a very short time, she not only had a handle of the finances but was making recommendations on how to handle the tight budget situation,” Ledgerwood adds. “She was a great support during my time as dean, always prepared and professional, always cheerful and supportive of those around her.”
Colleagues across campus echo that, calling the 12-year employee an ambitious, intelligent and accomplished professional with a “remarkable patience and admirable tact” who “loves people, works hard and always tries to lift the spirits of those around her.”
Her sensitivity and compassion have helped to resolve personnel issues, while she always is ready to provide resources to new colleagues and cover for others on leave.
“I have always found her dependable, efficient and unfailingly punctual,” says Mandy Kreitzer, director of Finance and Resource Planning for the College of Health and Human Sciences. “I have never worked with a person who gives as much attention to detail as she does.”
Kreitzer remembers working with Hamrick to complete the university’s financial reporting package for the controller’s office; during that time, Hamrick also spent countless late hours supporting her college in budget development.
That enriches efficiency, Kreitzer says: “She has been exceptional at helping myself and other colleagues and staff navigate information so that they can understand, and then help the next person. It really is a domino impact that is outside of any job description.”
Off work, Hamrick volunteers at Serenity Hospice and Home in Oregon.