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Division of Academic and Student Affairs Recognizes 2021 Awards for Excellence Recipients

Five division employees have received one of the university’s highest honors for their outstanding work in the past year.

Outside of Talley Student Union at night Play Video

The Division of Academic and Student Affairs is pleased to announce its 2021 Awards for Excellence recipients. The awardees were recognized in a virtual ceremony on April 28.

The NC State University Award for Excellence is the most prestigious honor awarded to non-faculty staff members to recognize meritorious accomplishments beyond one’s typical job responsibilities. Up to 50 employees (32 SHRA and 18 non-faculty EHRA) are selected as college/unit awardees across NC State. These awardees are then submitted to a University Award for Excellence selection committee to determine 12 university-level winners. As a reward, winners of college/unit awards are granted 8 hours of time off and a $250 cash award provided by the college/unit. University-level winners are granted an additional 8 hours of time off and a $1,000 cash award provided by the university.

This year’s winners from the Division of Academic and Student Affairs were:

Rebekah Dunstan, rural outreach coordinator for Rural Works!

Rebekah Dunstan, Rural Works!

During the fall semester, Rebekah Dunstan joined a team of volunteers conducting “well check” calls for students in quarantine and isolation housing. Later in the year, she took on a lead role in organizing volunteer well check callers. When students and staff returned in the spring semester, she was ready with a volunteer caller orientation, updated documentation for callers, and an updated call tracking process. Dunstan did all of this in addition to her position as the rural outreach coordinator, and made sure well check efforts continued each day — even on weekends. Without her efforts, NC State would not have had a pulse on how students were doing in quarantine and isolation. Dunstan’s team made sure that students had a contact and — more importantly — an advocate.

“In her role as a caller, Rebekah was an empathetic, encouraging and friendly voice on the phone,” said Samantha Rich, director of DASA Assessment. “She would perform the basic daily check-in, but she would also engage with students and talk to them about how their classes were going and what shows they were watching on Netflix. These friendly calls helped ensure that students who were in quarantine and isolation housing felt seen and cared for during a difficult time. When volunteer callers encountered challenging situations, Rebekah would offer to handle those situations herself.”

Vivian Lee, administrative support specialist for the NC State Counseling Center

Vivian Lee
Vivian Lee, Counseling Center

As the administrative support specialist for the Counseling Center, Vivian Lee was an essential part of the center’s success this past year. In March 2020, COVID-19 deeply impacted how staff provided services to students in a whole new way. Lee was a vital part of the team in quickly allocating the laptop resources the center had on hand, getting loaners from DASA Tech and helping to identify additional resources. Another truly vital service that she researched and deployed was a messaging client so the staff could communicate effectively and quickly with each other. Lee’s ability to take the initiative, train herself on new information and ideas and maintain good humor and a warm presence allowed the center’s operations to flourish.

“Without a hint of hyperbole, I can say that Vivian was an essential part of our system’s success in this past year,” said Richard Tyler-Walker, associate director of the Counseling Center. “Her ability to take initiative, train herself on new information and ideas and communicate this to others, and maintain good humor and a warm presence allowed the operations of the center to flourish.”

Jeannifer Sandoval, visitor services and security coordinator for the Gregg Museum of Art and Design

Jennifer Sandoval
Jeannifer Sandoval, Gregg Museum of Art and Design

As the visitor services and security coordinator for the Gregg Museum of Art and Design, Jeannifer Sandoval provides a friendly, welcoming environment, but one that feels secure as well as comfortable. That commitment to customer service is greatly appreciated by the students and the general public who visit the museum. Additionally, thanks to Sandoval’s detailed plan, the Gregg led all the university museums in the state in reopening to the public safely. That plan covered everything from protocols for announcing the reopening, sanitization, signage, staffing, a new timed ticket system, installation of plexiglass barriers, and much more. 

“It was not only a major undertaking and completely self-initiated — she had been at it for weeks before telling anyone — but what is more, it worked,” said Roger Manley, director and curator of the Gregg. “As the person most responsible for creating that environment in the midst of a very difficult situation, Jeannifer richly deserves the recognition that an NC State Award for Excellence would bring. She is an incredible asset to the university as a whole, and a very dedicated employee for whom service is a top goal.”

Ben Strunk, assistant director of sports programs for NC State Wellness and Recreation

Ben Strunk in a white shirt and red tie
Ben Strunk, Wellness and Recreation

Strunk was nominated by Justine Hollingshead, assistant vice chancellor for the Division of Academic and Student Affairs, for his volunteer efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic. His outstanding contributions allowed NC State to test over 20,000 students, faculty and staff for the university’s return to campus efforts, and now almost 12,000 people a week. Strunk was among the first staff to volunteer for campus COVID-19 testing during the fall 2020 semester, and took on an even larger role in coordinating volunteers for weekly surveillance testing during the spring 2021 semester. 

“Ben emerged in January as a ray of hope that we could actually get through our return to campus testing endeavor,” Hollinsghead wrote in her nomination letter. “He took on working with a couple of other staff to coordinate the volunteers at all of our testing sites. Many days he was the first person I saw in the morning and was always the last person to leave. I was concerned that he was working quite a bit outside of the traditional workday, and in true Ben fashion he told me not to worry and that there were things that needed to get done. It was a herculean team effort, but Ben was truly a servant leader in the organized chaos.”

Matt Vorys, appliance shop supervisor for Housing Facilities

Matt Vorys
Matt Vorys, University Housing Facilities

Throughout his 17 years working for the university, Matt Vorys has consistently demonstrated outstanding service to University Housing, NC State and his community as a whole. He has been described as tireless, diligent and thorough, and has a strong understanding of the impact facilities have on the lives of student residents. One example from his nomination was his response to a call about a hot water outage in Wolf Village apartments that came in around midnight during the 2020 winter break. The outage turned out to be a community-wide issue, and once corrected, he visited all eight buildings in the complex and followed up with residents that hot water had been restored.

“On several occasions, Matt has responded to emergencies after hours and acted as the main point of communication to Housing and the residents impacted,” said Scott Wallace, senior regional facilities manager. “Oftentimes, these incidents involve other entities such as the Facilities Division, Housekeeping, Utilities, or outside contractors. Matt ensures that the work these groups are doing is being communicated to all, and he does not leave campus until the work is complete.”

Other Nominees for Awards for Excellence

  • Michael Auchter, Arts Development
  • Colin Beamer, Student Leadership and Engagement
  • Jordan Brothers Cao, the Gregg Museum
  • Michael Coombes, New Student Programs (unintentionally omitted from the End of Year Celebration video)
  • Erica Cutchins, University Housing
  • Bradley Davis, Student Conduct
  • Frances De Los Santos, TRIO Programs
  • Lisa Dolan, Student Health Services
  • Doug Flowers, DASA Tech
  • Silas George, Wellness and Recreation
  • Amy Johnson, Student Health Services
  • Matt Johnson, Facilities
  • Kelly Laraway, Career Development Center
  • Susannah Lawrence, Exploratory Studies
  • Zach Mehlenbacker, Wellness and Recreation
  • Katrina Pawvluk, University Housing
  • John Resnick-Kahle, Exploratory Studies
  • Loi Tran, Exploratory Studies
  • Jessica White, Student Conduct
  • Vickie Youngblood, University College