Published: Nov. 7, 2016

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 remarkable contributions to the campus community. Recipients of this distinguished award join a rich heritage of past awardees who display outstanding performance, inspired leadership, extraordinary service to the campus and community and exceptional interpersonal skills.

CU Boulder is filled with passionate and dedicated individuals who, day in and day out, define what it means to be extraordinary; and the 2016 recipients embody this ethos, regardless of who, if anyone, is watching. Congratulations to the 2016 award recipients: Sheryl Koutsis, Amy Lavens and Jennifer McDuffie. 

The award recipients will be honored at a private reception with Chancellor Philip P. DiStefano and guests.

Sheryl Koutsis - Employee of the Year 2016Sheryl Koutsis
Koutsis is the advising unit manager for the Environmental Design Program (ENVD). Over the past ten years she has envisioned, developed and led programs and services that support and impact the success of CU-Boulder students.

Described as “a cultural force in shaping the academic and social experience of students, staff, and faculty,” Koutsis has led efforts to develop the Designers Without Boundaries scholarship community and worked in collaboration with a team of faculty and staff colleagues in launching the CU LEAD Symposium to engage a greater number of underrepresented students. As an “advocate, leader and a pioneer” in contributing to the campus mission of inclusive excellence, she is a co-principal investigator on an Implementation of Multicultural Perspectives and Approaches in Research and Teaching (IMPART) fellowship to study ways of incorporating underrepresented perspectives in design education.

Koutsis formed the Peer Mentor Program (PMP) in the Environmental Design (ENVD) department, which offers incoming students the opportunity to be paired with an upper-class mentor. Mentors are also offered the opportunity to become internationally-certified through tracking interaction time spent with their mentee(s) and attending the Mentorship and Leadership class created and taught by Koutsis for the last several years.

Koutsis is regarded as an innovative and supportive leader who is dedicated to creating a holistic learning environment that supports all students and specifically the unique needs of first-generation, low-income and underrepresented students.

Amy Lavens - Employee of the Year 2016Amy Lavens
Lavens is assistant dean for Finance and Operations in the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS). Her dedication and leadership has provided what is described as a cohesive infrastructure for faculty and staff in support of the college’s teaching and learning, research and student success missions.

Described as “fully dedicated to advancing the academic mission,” Lavens has led numerous efforts within CAS that resulted in more effective and efficient use of resources. Notably, through her expertise and innovation, she has collaborated with the Office of Information Technology and Department of Human Resources to identify and determine better ways to deploy cross-functional resources.

Lavens has been on the forefront of leading the CAS through several large projects, including the new campus budget system and the ELEVATE HCM/FIN upgrade project. In collaboration with the Arts and Sciences Council Budget committee, she worked to institute the new budget system in a way that fully supported the academic mission of the college. She is regarded as a strong advocate for PeopleSoft HCM users within the college by playing a key role in identifying and addressing system concerns and working across campus to support and guide stabilization efforts.

Lavens is regarded as an exceptional leader who places a high priority on collaboration, partnerships and innovation.

Jennifer McDuffie - Employee of the Year 2016Jennifer McDuffie
McDuffie is the director of New Student and Family Programs. Her exceptional leadership and ability to drive collaboration across campus has reduced barriers to attending CU, earned national recognition for CU Boulder’s online orientation program and has laid the foundation for new partnerships on campus. 

Described as leading a "transformation of the way many departments on campus now work together and share knowledge,” McDuffie has taken the new-student onboarding vision to the next level. She has managed a re-creation of the orientation experience using new technologies, collaborated with Housing and Dining Services and the Volunteer Resource Center to design an extremely successful move-in process and experience and most recently hosted 9,000 new and transfer students at over 200 events during the 2016 Fall Welcome.

In the past year, the New Student Welcome office and Parent & Family Program combined to become New Student and Family Programs under McDuffie’s leadership. In this time, she has developed a newsletter, website and other materials for parents and families. She has led the utilization of technology for families to chat online to get questions answered or call to get “live” assistance, a feature that has received high praise from CU Boulder families.

McDuffie is praised for her ability to bring individuals together to make every first-year student’s experience a good one. She is consistently described as being warm, cheerful and never hesitant to go out of her way to help others.