WE CARE Rounds of Applause Create Culture of Recognition, Unify Faculty and Staff

WE CARE Rounds of Applause winners, back row, from left: Stephen Burgin, William McComas, Michele Kilmer, Stacy Stuart, Tom Bennett, Amanda Sullivan, Tresa Jones and Kay Brusca; middle row: Shannon Magsam, Bonnie King, Brandi Maples, Sheri Deaton, Danielle Acurio and Jessica Danley; and front row: Brittany Packard and Eric Sarquist.
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WE CARE Rounds of Applause winners, back row, from left: Stephen Burgin, William McComas, Michele Kilmer, Stacy Stuart, Tom Bennett, Amanda Sullivan, Tresa Jones and Kay Brusca; middle row: Shannon Magsam, Bonnie King, Brandi Maples, Sheri Deaton, Danielle Acurio and Jessica Danley; and front row: Brittany Packard and Eric Sarquist.

WE CARE Round of Applause recipients say these little awards are having a big impact on the College of Education and Health Professions' culture.

"It's unifying," said Michele Kilmer, an assistant professor in the college's Eleanor Mann School of Nursing who was recognized for her efforts to establish and direct the Access for Autism program on campus. "In the workplace, that can be rare. It's great to support and appreciate one another. We're the caring college. It's good to have an avenue to care for each other."

Brittany Packard, an administrative specialist in the college's Razorback Educator Development Hub who received a Round of Applause for her "genuine care" for students and collaborative character, said the awards are a great morale booster. "I'm a former teacher, and I think they're the perfect positive reinforcement — like in the classroom. I also think they're cute, and I like the play on words."

Kilmer, Packard and 19 other faculty and staff members who were "caught caring" this semester received a commemorative WE CARE Round of Applause keepsake. Two faculty members, William McComas and Stephen Burgin, even won Rounds of Applause after being nominated by a colleague outside the College of Education and Health Professions. A Fulbright College professor nominated them for helping a graduate student navigate a complex situation.

This week, recipients were recognized at a breakfast, organized by Dean Kate Mamiseishvili's office.

The college's faculty and staff are encouraged to nominate colleagues for this award at any time to recognize "those who go above and beyond their job requirements and demonstrate extraordinary care for their colleagues, students, or community."

Nominations started rolling in this fall, after the college launched its WE CARE strategic plan. One of the plan's three priorities is to foster a caring culture, and a goal under that priority is to cultivate a culture of recognition, inclusion, engagement and well-being in the college. Recipients receive a letter from the dean, the WE CARE keepsake and a spotlight in the dean's monthly round-up email.

Mamiseishvili said the initial idea for the awards emerged last winter when faculty and staff members in the college were taking care of several job candidates who were on campus during a snowstorm, even driving them to and from the airport in dangerous conditions. While there are often awards for research and academic achievements, the Rounds of Applause were imagined as a way to notice someone who goes out of their way to display kindness and care, she said.

Bonnie King, a teaching assistant professor who won a Round of Applause for her efforts as the inaugural Professional Development Schools program coordinator for childhood education, said she's thrilled the college now has a formal way to recognize one another for acts of care.

"It's a great way to bring us together in the college. I think it's empowering and encouraging," added Stacy Stuart, assistant dean for research and grants administration who received an award for strengthening ties between her office and faculty.

The college's computer support specialist, Eric Sarquist, was nominated by the Boyer Center for Student Services for his careful assistance with the advising center's technology needs and onboarding new staff. Sarquist said he's grateful for the award and feels honored to be among the first to receive one. He noted that the college is full of caring colleagues, and he expects to see many more Rounds of Applause adorning desks in the future. "The faculty and staff in our health and education programs are all very dedicated people who go above and beyond," he said.

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