Chancellor’s 2013 Employee of the Year Award recognizes staff excellence

January 9, 2014

The annual Chancellor’s Employee of the Year Award is presented to University of Colorado Boulder staff in recognition of and appreciation for exceptional job performance and distinguished contributions to the campus community. The 2013 winners are George “Barney” Ballinger, Larry Drees, Dave Kalahar, Jennifer Law and Martha Shernick.

CU-Boulder is filled with hard-working and passionate individuals, and these five exemplarily employees display the best the university has to offer. CU-Boulder’s national and international reputation as a top-notch research institution is evidence of an accomplished staff and student body.

Each employee displays outstanding performance, inspired leadership, extraordinary service to the campus and community and exceptional interpersonal skills. These employees embody this criteria day in and day out, regardless of who, if anyone, is watching. They have spent hours working in the office after all others have left, often on weekends and holidays.

The award winners will be celebrated on Faculty and Staff Appreciation Night with a special recognition during halftime at the Jan. 10 Women’s Basketball game.

George “Barney” Ballinger

Director of Parent Relations and Director of Veteran Services

George “Barney” Ballinger is the director of both parent relations and veteran services. He served for more than 27 years in the United States Air Force before bravely embracing a new set of troops - the parents and families of CU’s 30,000 students.

Ballinger is known by many as the “parent’s parent.” Families often describe him as a lifeline, a fountain of encouragement and guidance. He coined the catchphrase: “That’s a tough problem, what are you going to do about it?” which he uses to help parents help their students navigate through college. He also takes his own advice wholeheartedly, as his entire job is one tough problem after another, and he always knows exactly what he’s going to do about it.

Three years ago, he took on the daunting task of converting the CU Parents Association Board of Directors to a Parents Council. The Parents Council was successfully launched this year. Thanks in large part to Ballinger's efforts, parent volunteerism has spiked, and parent giving has increased by over 50 percent.

Ballinger also built an office and advocacy center for CU’s increasing number of veterans and active military. He’s a leader on the campus in advocating, organizing and coordinating support services for student veterans. The new G.I. Bill and the wind down of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan means an increasing numbers of student veterans, and Ballinger supports them as they transition from the military to the higher education environment.

Larry Drees

Buff OneCard Program Director and Assistant Director of Housing and Dining Services IT

Larry Drees is the Buff OneCard program director and assistant director of housing and dining services IT, and oversees the IT support desk and the access services groups. He managed and implemented a project to wire residence hall rooms with a high-speed infrastructure that was a key factor in CU’s impressive rank as the 28th most wired campus in 2000.

He often goes out of his way to help departments across the board and serve on committees of all kinds. He balances all his service with his day-today duties, which include leading an IT support team responsible for over 600 housing and dining services employees and their 150 laptops, as well as 100 plus mobile devices.

Drees' service to the university goes far beyond high-speed networks and IT support teams. For 27 years, he has been committed to improving and supporting the security of CU-Boulder students by working with room keys and Buff Cards. In 2006 he oversaw the transition from one card system to another, and this year, he implemented new smart-card technology. Part of this implementation included converting resident hall room locks - 5,300 of them. His dedication to the students sparked innovative changes and precautionary developments with locking and video monitoring.

He also is an unsung hero for CU’s financial well-being. He chaired an initiative to improve the campus banking partnership, which resulted in a 10-year $5.2 million revenue contract for campus banking services. This nearly doubled the previous agreement’s revenues and provided better services for the campus community.

Dave Kalahar

TAM Program Advisor

Dave Kalahar is the adviser and logistics coordinator for CU’s Technological Arts and Media Program. He is the sole adviser for this quickly growing program, which began with only 200 students in 2006 and now is home to nearly 700 students with some of the most diverse majors and backgrounds on campus.

Kalahar takes the time and energy to form relationships with all the students. His colleagues describe him as the heart of TAM. He is the face students see as they enter the program, he’s the attentive listener for any and all problems they encounter - educational or otherwise - and he’s the hand they shake as they walk across the stage during graduation.

Aaron Bach, a former TAM student, thought of Kalahar as a friend and mentor. In his senior year, Bach said he often stopped by Kalahar's office to talk about everything from post-graduation plans to childhood experiences, even their shared love for the Detroit Red Wings. 

While Kalahar is known by many as a friend and mentor, he has also earned a title as the go-to chef in TAM. On his own time and money, he cooks up pots of chili and batches of his famous meatballs for each student registration open house. It’s things like the bowls of chili and quick email responses that make a difference.

Jennifer Law

Manager of Operations for the Department of Integrative Physiology

Jennifer Law is the manager of operations for the integrative physiology department, however, jack-of-all-trades may be a more appropriate title. She started with the department in 2000 as an accounting technician and worked with payroll and finance. Since then, she’s had her hand on a little bit of everything: numerous budget operations, faculty recruitment and hiring, new employee training, among other projects.

In any project, be it financial, logistical, or personal, Law handles situations with grace. For instance, she played a vital role in the recent reorganization of the integrative physiology department. New faculty from evolutionary, population, and organismic biology were transferred into integrative physiology, and she made the transition seamless. In recent years, the department grew from 800 students to over 2,000, and Law managed this unprecedented growth and kept the entire department running smoothly, even through difficult financial times.

She has a way of making sure everything works out. Whether it’s by creating purchasing mechanisms to save the university an average of 15 percent per year, or sifting through piles of paperwork to find funding for post-docs and faculty, Law has an unbelievable dedication to the research in her department.

Martha Shernick

Sewall Residence Hall Program Coordinator

Martha Shernick is the program coordinator for the Sewall Residential Academic Program. The job of a program coordinator includes organizing new-student orientations, balancing student and faculty schedules, and organizing events, trips and conferences.

Shernick takes her title to a whole new level. She isn’t merely an administrator; she’s become a sort of parent - a mother - to 400 nervous, new students. Her impact on the students at Sewall has been so profound, she remains a significant figure in their lives, even years after they move out. Alaina Metivier, a former Sewall student, still hangs a thank you card from Shernick on her bedroom wall. As a freshman, Metivier helped clean up a Sewall movie night, and Shernick surprised her the next morning with a gift basket full of homemade cookies and a personal thank you note.

Shernick is committed to the staff and faculty members teaching at Sewall as well, going above and beyond, both inside and outside the classroom. When a teacher ran into difficulties with transporting students to a Denver museum for a field trip, she took the initiative and got training to allow her to drive the students to Denver.

Her remarkable ability to connect with the Sewall community doesn’t stop with the students and staff. She also reached out to dining hall and custodial members. She enrolled in Spanish classes to better communicate with the Spanish-speaking custodial members and worked personally with immigrant staff to help them study for citizenship tests. On her own dime, she bought a “citizenship cake” for staff members who gained citizenship.

Photo: Left to right: Chancellor Philip P. DiStefano, Jennifer Law, Martha Shernick, Larry Drees, George ‘Barney’ Ballinger. Not pictured Dave Kalahar.

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