Celebrating outstanding staff
Chris Cheeseman, Vice-provost and associate vice-president human resources
It never fails. Every year at the Staff Recognition Awards I get choked up when the various award recipients cross the stage. Some of these people have been with the University of Alberta for 35 or 40 years, and it’s clear they are touched by the ceremony. Their friends and family are there in the audience and can see that the university cares about its employees but also how much employees care about the institution where they have spent so much of their lives.
It’s impossible to miss the heartfelt support from the audience members who hoot, holler and cheer when their friends and colleagues are recognized. And because it is a confidential nomination process, it always comes as a delightful surprise to the recipients when they are named.
There are two elements to the awards ceremony. We recognize, first of all, employees who have put in years of service to the university, those who have found the right fit in their professional lives and call the U of A home. At the same time, we recognize exceptional administrative professional officers (APOs), librarians, faculty service officers (FSOs) and support staff who exemplify the qualities we most cherish in our employees — leadership, dedication, passion for the university’s mission and a genuine desire to collaborate.
These people are not hard to identify. The challenge is to choose among the nominees, and in fact this year we gave out multiple awards because the quality was so high the committee had a really difficult time choosing.
All of this adds up to a profoundly moving experience. These people have given of themselves to the institution far beyond what is expected. After all, our institution is people; we don’t make widgets, we train minds and create ideas. And everyone — faculty, students and staff — contributes to that in one way or another. It’s all about research, teaching, education and learning. Everything we do is about people; they are at the core of our reason for being.
So, in a sense, every staff member is celebrated at the awards ceremony. The award winners are exemplary, yes, but they are also standard-bearers. They represent those qualities we know all our employees share. It is an opportunity to collectively celebrate a truly gifted community of people, all of whom have a stake in making the U of A one of the best universities anywhere.