June 22, 2011

Spring ProStaff Award winners: Barker, Hunt, Kenney, Zuchowski

News and Information

Recipients of the Professional Staff Association's spring ProStaff award: (from left) Paul Zuchowski, Corinne Hunt, Kristine Kenney and Ellen Barker.

Corinne Hunt, Paul Zuchowski, Ellen Barker and Kristine Kenney have been named the recipients of the ProStaff Award given by the Professional Staff Association.

Hunt is the scientific operations manager for the Center for Clinical and Epidemiological Research, Zuchowski is the associate director for student activities and union facilities, Barker is assistant to the director of the FAA Center of Excellence and Kenney is the University landscape architect. The award was created to recognize and promote work done by UW professional staff.

Hunt is one of those people who found her niche while still a student — only five years ago. She was majoring in public health and heard about an hourly job at the center from her epidemiology professor. From there she became a research study coordinator and then a research manager before assuming her current position, which focuses on the UW Twin Registry. The registry received a “Grand Opportunity” grant under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in 2009.

“We had received a favorable review but didnt know for sure we were funded until the day before the funding was made available,” Hunt said. “We tried to prep as much as possible, but until we knew that we were truly funded, we couldnt take any actual steps. So we had very little notice to ramp up and get going.”

A view of the HUB in mid-remodel. Paul Zuchowski, a spring PSO award winner, serves as the primary link among students, contractors, architects and campus departments.

Mary Levin

A view of the HUB in mid-remodel. Paul Zuchowski, a spring PSO award winner, serves as the primary link among students, contractors, architects and campus departments.

Hunts nominator for the award, Eric Strachan, acting assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral science, wrote, “While this could have been a period of chaos and uncertainty, Corinne hired dozens of new staff members and ensured they were properly trained; promoted existing individual contributors into new supervisory roles to handle the new workload; worked with administrative staff to ensure we are spending the right money on the right things at the right rate; negotiated timelines and deliverables with an outside state agency (the Department of Licensing); and acted as an invaluable adviser to the investigators who received the award. …[she] has done an extraordinary job in turning the pie-in-the-sky GO Grant into an on-the-ground reality.”

Apparently, shes enjoyed doing it. “I love the people I work with,” she said. “We encourage an atmosphere where everybody has a voice, regardless of hierarchy, so its great to share ideas and work with people. I love crunching data. I love working with the budget. I love to see a project grow from start to finish and all the progress that gets made in between. It allows me to have my hands in a lot of different pots, which is fun.”

A play area at the West Campus Childcare Center got redesigned by Kristine Kenney during renovations to the nearby Ethnic Cultural Center.

Mary Levin

A play area at the West Campus Childcare Center got redesigned by Kristine Kenney during renovations to the nearby Ethnic Cultural Center.

Hunt said she was “stunned into silence” when the award was announced at a staff meeting, and that though shes honored and proud to receive it, “its really an award for everyone who works on this team, because theyre the ones that made me look so good.”

Zuchowski also found his lifes work as a student, at the “other UW” in Wisconsin. While serving as student body president, he sat on the governing board for the student union there, and that led to his becoming the facilitys assistant operations manager for eight years. He left that job to come to this UW in 1984 and has been here ever since.

“I like to call myself a steward,” Zuchowski said. “My job is to make the union building as available and as functional as possible to meet the needs of people who want to use it.”

Many of those people are, of course, students, and Zuchowski wins high praise from his nominator (who wished to remain anonymous) for his work with them. “Paul is a firm believer in not immediately solving problems for students, but in guiding them towards solutions for their inquiries,” the nominator wrote.

Zuchowski explains it this way: “If some students come to me with a program, I dont say, ‘Weve done this before. This is what works and what doesnt work. Borrowing from the Socratic method, I ask questions, I make suggestions. The program may not be new to me, but its new to those students.”

What he wants most of all for the students is that they have a positive experience. “Thats part of what were about as a student union. We try to help people have successes,” Zuchowski said. “Sometimes that means figuring out what went wrong with an event and trying again.”

Right now, Zuchowski is spending two years in a construction trailer on the site of what will be a practically new HUB.

“Since 2005, the HUB staff have served as stewards of the students’ vision for a student union that will better serve future generations of students,” Zuchowskis nominator wrote. “It’s an awe-inspiring project and one that the campus community can be proud of. And Paul has served and is serving as the primary conduit between student leaders, contractors, architects, and campus departments. If it weren’t for his diligence and amazingly strong work ethic, this project would not be where it is today.”

Where it is, is on track for completion in the fall of 2012. Zuchowski will be starting his 28th year of service by then.

“Two things have kept me here,” he said. “One is my staff. You can have titles and positions, but its the people you work with that determine the quality of your life. And I have been blessed. The second thing is the students.  The great thing about working at a university is, every year we have a new group of people coming in with enthusiasm and ideas. It keeps you young. I get to work with all sorts of people, and thats the great joy of my job.”

Barker has been at the University for almost as long as Zuchowski, but unlike him, her 22 years have been spent at several different jobs requiring a variety of skills. She started as the event planner for the 1989 capital campaign, and later worked for Engineering Professional Programs and for the Washington Technology Center. She has a masters degree in library science and worked as a librarian in her early career.

But for the last six years — ever since its inception — she has been at the FAA Center of Excellence for Composites, housed in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, where she is th
e only staff member and does a little of everything.

“With minimal direction and within two months, Ellen created a website, grew a mailing list from zero to almost 1,300, and planned and executed a high-level event with academic, industry and government representatives,” wrote Center Director Mark Tuttle, who nominated her for the award. “She brings a wealth of skills and ideas that enhance her effectiveness in this position, one that requires many disparate talents — grant/budget management, event planning, web development, report preparation, and something extra — graphic design.”

“I like being able to do different kinds of tasks,” Barker said. “And here, my skill set is totally well matched to the job. I get to use all the organizational and communication skills that Ive been honing for years.”

She must be good at it, because Tuttle wrote that he has been on sabbatical and mostly out of state for six months, but “Ellen seamlessly carried on the centers activities, as she has an excellent relationship with constituents and requires little supervision.”

Barker has also been active with the PSO, serving on the board for two years and handling events, the newsletter and website.

“I never would have predicted I would be anywhere for 22 years,” she said of her UW career. “But I like to keep learning, and I like to help others. I really love my job and the people I work with.”

Kenney likes to help people do things too. In fact, she won the award for “making childrens dreams come true — literally,” her nominator said. As university landscape architect, Kenney is called upon to help plan the exterior portions of new construction and renovation, but that doesnt generally include a playground.

The exception was when she was called in on a project with the West Campus Childcare Center. The center backs up onto the Ethnic Cultural Center, which was going through a design process for a new building.

“The impact to the childcare centers play area started getting into the discussion,” Kenney said, “so I was brought in to look at how we can improve their area.”

Kenney met with center teachers and parents. “You could see her mind working as she tweaked the plans to maximize space and FUN!” wrote Julia Neely, director of the center

Because funds were limited, the center sponsored a parent work party, at which they cleared out overgrown areas and created a nature trail for the kids. “Kristine went to great efforts to reuse free or low cost materials and even volunteered her time to lead the parent work party,” Neely wrote. “That saved several thousands of dollars on labor. Even more remarkable was that she directed the work party with her 8 month old, Harry, on her hip!”

Kenney called it a great project. “Being a new mom, the whole concept of designing for kids of that age was a lot of fun. Ive done work on elementary school playgrounds before, but nothing for toddlers and preschoolers.”

Kenney has been at the UW for five years, after working at private firms in Boston and Seattle.

“I like the diversity at the University,” she said. “Its fascinating to learn in greater depth what actually happens here as I work with departments on their projects. Basically, I think of myself as an advocate for beauty on our grounds.”

The four staffers are the second group to win the award; three were honored at the end of fall quarter. Winners receive recognition and treats at a department staff meeting, a letter to their supervisor and a personalized gift. The PSO plans to give out awards twice a year.