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KU honors employees, team of the year

Monday, May 18, 2015

LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas recognized its Employees of the Year and presented the 2014-2015 Team Award earlier this month in the Kansas Union. Chancellor Bernadette Gray Little and Jeffrey S. Vitter, provost and executive vice chancellor, were present at the ceremony to honor employees.

The winners are as follows:

Staff Employee of the Year

Gail Trottier

One of KU’s Employees of the Year is a devoted artist in her own right, known for outstanding organizational skills in a field that requires adaptability and tenacity. 

Gail Trottier began more than 15 years ago with the Theatre Department in the Costume Shop.  Upon her arrival she brought with her years of experience working in professional theatres, and KU was fortunate to gain someone with her background. In her time with KU she has worked on numerous productions, including operas, plays and musicals. Constructing costumes for these productions requires making patterns, cutting, draping and fitting all in order to bring costumes from concept to reality for stage production all under time-sensitive deadlines.

An example of her work includes building costumes for KU’s larger productions, such as the musical “Into the Woods,” then the opera “La Boheme,” then moving directly on to a highly complicated show such as “The 39 Steps,” in which two characters needed to quick-change while playing 20 characters. Trottier’s exceptional skill and creativity are blended with a delightful sense of humor and a consistently professional work ethic. 

There is a large teaching function associated with Trottier’s position, and student workers assist in preparation and proper maintenance of costumes. She makes sure that work assignments flow smoothly through the shop while teaching students critical skills for the profession. As a result, many of these students have been successful in finding jobs in the costume production field upon leaving KU.

In addition to her dedication to her craft, as well as her service to the faculty, staff and students of the Theatre Department, this employee also demonstrated her commitment to the KU community by creating, on her own initiative, informative displays touting the newly formed School of the Arts. 

Trottier has wonderful talent, creativity and personal attributes that make her a special colleague and exceptional staff member. Through her contributions, she has touched and enriched the lives of many students, performers and patrons of the theatre.

Staff Employee of the Year Winner

Kim Nixon

KU’s second Employee of the Year is someone who is instrumental in celebrating the success of those around her but does not seek the spotlight for herself.  She is someone who truly cares for her staff, her customers and the students that work with her. 

Kim Nixon started working at KU in 2007 and has worked as the front-of-house manager for the Impromptu Café since the restaurant opened. She is responsible for the daily oversight of employees as well as working with and serving customers. She handles all of the daily tasks of the restaurant to keep it up and running. Employing current KU students as servers, Nixon creates a “family” atmosphere,” aiding her servers in the acquisition of marketable food service skills as well as aiding their personal growth. Almost all of her former employees stay in touch with her, often making it a point to stop by and see her when they are in town, some even traveling internationally to make the trip.

Nixon knows her regular customers by name, emailing them when their favorite dish is offered as the special and greeting them personally with their preferred beverage. Nixon manages the Impromptu Café Facebook page and is known for inserting her wit and personality along with updates to keep customers informed of the specials and excited about stopping by. 

Nixon does many things to show her staff and co-workers she cares about them. She is known for her original song parodies and haikus to mark special occasions. When her female employees graduate, they receive a tiara to wear during their final shifts. Birthdays, anniversaries and other milestones are celebrated by Nixon, creating a culture of fun for everyone with whom she comes into contact.

Nixon’s co-workers are effusive in their praise for her, describing her customer service as “magnificent” and her attitude on the job as friendly and welcoming. In an area traditionally marked with definite boundaries between front-of-house and kitchen staff, this employee is known for not allowing the usual battles to occur. She bridges the gap between the two areas when she “dons her clown pants” to help in the kitchen after her regular shift ends. Nixon makes an extra effort every day to make her customers and her employees feel special and valued. 


2014-2015 Team Honorable Mention

Daisy Hill Move-In Day of August 2014

Approximately 2,100 students were due to move into the Daisy Hill residence halls around a massive construction site in August 2014. Planning began six months in advance to develop a new approach to moving into those residence halls.  The team comprised KU Student Housing, KU Parking and Transit, KU Public Safety and the Vice Provost of Student Affairs Office, all with the understanding that for the new students and their parents, they only had one chance to make a first impression. Everyone’s expertise was necessary. In a nine-hour period, more than 1,400 students moved into the Daisy Hill residence halls in temperatures over 101 degrees with the assistance of 250 cases of bottled water, 10 golf carts, more than 400 student volunteers and more than 250 staff members involved. Staff, administrators and parents offered positive feedback. 


2014-2015 Team Award

Applied Behavioral Science

The winning team will receive a certificate of congratulations and lunch with the provost. Team members are as follows:

  • Andrea Noltner, office manager
  • Anne Hamilton, office specialist
  • Kelly Spavin, office specialist

The winning team is small, but the tremendous amount of work they accomplished, their attention to detail and the passion to their project were anything but small. The team planned, prepared and hosted a 50th anniversary celebration of the human development and applied behavioral science graduate programs along with a reunion for all of their master’s and doctoral graduates, past faculty members and senior staff members. The celebration took place Oct. 24-26, 2014, and was packed with events, including a social lasting until 1 a.m. Noltner lead the project, Spavin constructed the website and developed lists of graduates, and Hamilton managed event details, including seeking out caterers and photographers. To compile the alumni information, the three spent countless hours gathering data for almost two years, consulting various resources: The KU Alumni Association, KU Endowment, faculty outlook contacts, rolodexes, dusty boxes hidden in forgotten corners of storage closets, Enroll & Pay, spreadsheets created by former staff members, graduation lists, Google and emails from other alumni and friends of the department. They shared the list of alumni they were able to develop, with the alumni association and KU Endowment so that they and the department can now raise funds more effectively across a much larger number of potential donors.

The team contacted almost 1,200 alumni and hosted almost 200 of them on campus and in Lawrence for the celebration. Attendees indicated how impressed they were with how seamlessly the event was planned, how much they enjoyed attending, and how welcome they felt coming back to campus for the weekend. 

One participant said, “Thank you and your staff for setting the occasion for a great experience. I met and talked with students that I had not seen for 25 or 30 years. The program was fascinating and educational.” Another said, “It was a grand event and a marvelous memory you put together.  I came away with renewed appreciation for our roots, gratitude for our relationships, and I am excited about our department and its future.”