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Dunstan, Strunk Earn Awards for Excellence at University Level

Rebekah Dunstan and Ben Strunk have received NC State’s highest honor for non-faculty employees.

Ben Strunk and Rebekah Dunstan
Ben Strunk and Rebekah Dunstan

Each year, NC State University and the State of North Carolina present Awards for Excellence. This year, Division of Academic and Student Affairs team members Rebekah Dunstan, rural outreach coordinator in the Career Development Center, and Ben Strunk, assistant director of sports programs for Wellness and Recreation, have received the honor at the university level in recognition of their stellar contributions to their teams, the division, and the university community. This award is the most prestigious honor bestowed upon non-faculty employees. University level winners were recognized at a ceremony on Friday, June 11.

Watch the ceremony here:

Just a Call Away: Rebekah Dunstan Provides Friendly Support for Students in Isolation and Quarantine Housing

Rebekah Dunstan wearing a black dress and sitting with her arms crossed
Rebekah Dunstan (photo by Becky Kirkland)

Dunstan joined the Division of Academic and Student Affairs as rural outreach coordinator in spring 2018. She directs Rural Works!, which connects NC State students to rural counties across North Carolina through summer internships. She started working for NC State in 2013, and prior to her current role she worked in the University Sustainability Office, where she spent five years designing and leading sustainability-focused, high impact student experiences.

Dunstan was nominated primarily for her work during the COVID-19 pandemic this past year. 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 conducted well check calls each day — even on weekends. 

“It is a huge honor and I am incredibly grateful for my peers that took the time to nominate me,” Dunstan said. “I had the opportunity to work with and get to know some really incredible volunteers from other DASA units as well as some from the academic colleges. The well check calls would not have been possible without the volunteers. These volunteers made calls throughout the day in addition to their normal work and on the weekends.”

Dunstan also stayed busy with her “normal” workload. Despite everything going virtual this year, she worked with just as many — if not more — students and employers to set up summer internships.

“I believe in pitching in and helping out whenever I can,” she said. “During a crisis, or in this case a pandemic, it became very apparent that we all had a role in getting students back on campus, so I wanted to do whatever I could to help the semester be a success. I am highly organized and empathetic, so the opportunity to coordinate volunteers and make calls to students in quarantine and isolation was the perfect use of my skills.”

Samantha Rich, director of DASA Assessment, nominated Dunstan for the award and praised her as an advocate for students.

“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.”

Ben Strunk Leads the Pack in Campus COVID-19 Testing Efforts

Ben Strunk in a suit, holding a COVID-19 test kit
Ben Strunk (photo by Becky Kirkland)

As the assistant director of sports programs, Strunk leads the Intramural Sports and Club Sports programs for NC State Wellness and Recreation. He joined NC State in 2014, after serving as a competitive sports graduate assistant at the University of Florida Department of Recreational Sports. 

Strunk was nominated by Justine Hollingshead, assistant vice chancellor for the Division of Academic and Student Affairs, for his work in volunteering and leading COVID-19 testing 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 at one point almost 12,000 people a week. Strunk was also 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,” Hollingshead said. “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.”

For Strunk, the achievement was a team effort, and he credited his supervisors and Hollingshead for their support.

“This award is a recognition of the 200-plus NC State students and staff that volunteered their time to help support the COVID-19 testing efforts on campus during the spring semester,” he said. “I was fortunate to work with so many wonderful people throughout the semester, and I’m proud of the impact our work had on ensuring an in-person experience was available for NC State students.”