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Friday 20 November 2020 10:45am

staff awards megan coleman
Megan Coleman, of Microbiology and Immunology, winner of the Vice-Chancellor's Award, with Vice-Chancellor Harlene Hayne.

The annual University of Otago Staff Awards took place on 20 November, with an expanded list of awards to mark a truly remarkable year.

Opening the awards Vice-Chancellor Professor Harlene Hayne, noted that every year the University of Otago Staff Awards were an important part of the calendar but this year they were “particularly important” given the way in which our professional staff really stepped up to meet the challenges of COVID-19.

“All of our staff across the University have gone above and beyond the call of duty during 2020,” Professor Hayne says.

“However, the professional staff we are here to celebrate this evening have been truly, truly exceptional.”

Four awards for Exceptional Performance by Professional Staff were awarded, as well as two awards for Excellence in Health, Safety and Well-Being, and for the first-time the Award for Sustainable Practice by Staff. On top of that one staff member was awarded the Vice-Chancellor's Award, being recognised by the panel for their truly exceptional work during 2020.

Chief Operating Officer Stephen Willis, who chaired the selection panel for the awards, echoed these sentiments.

“This year staff across our campuses went amazingly above and beyond… we want to officially acknowledge the many ways you play a vital part in bringing to life our University's vision of having an international reputation for excellence.”

As part of the award ceremony each recipient was read an excerpt of their nomination form.

The award winners were:

Vice-Chancellor's Award

Megan Coleman, Microbiology and Immunology

Awards for Exceptional Performance by Professional Staff

Cate Bardwell, Library

Communications Office


Health, Safety and Well-Being Award (Team)

U-OWLS (UOW Leisure and Sport)

Health, Safety and Well-Being Award (Individual)

Jenine Upritchard, Sir John Walsh Research Institute

Award for Sustainable Practice by Staff (Team)

University Union Food and Retail Outlets

Vice-Chancellor's Award

Winner: Megan Coleman, Microbiology and Immunology

Nominators: Professor Greg Cook; Associate Professor Michelle McConnell

In 2013 the University got its first containment laboratory with physical containment level 3 status for working with the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis. At this time Megan was the Compliance Manager for the Department of Microbiology and Immunology and the oversight of this lab was handed to her. She wrote the operating manual for the laboratory (Ministry for Primary Industries approved), all the standard operating procedures, and also trained all those who have worked in this facility. This was an entirely new position for the University and Megan has led the development of all the procedures associated with using the facility.

In March this year Megan took on additional responsibilities with the PC3 lab as researchers had to grow clinical samples of SARS-COV-2 in order to prepare standards for Southern Community Labs as part of New Zealand's COVID-19 response. In a very tight time-frame Megan helped write the standard operating procedures for working with this virus, oversaw the refresher training of the scientist working with the material and buddied him in the laboratory throughout the entire lockdown period. Megan's leadership here was exceptional.

During her 20 years at the University, Megan has contributed to a large number of working parties due to her extensive knowledge of compliance requirements associated with biological, chemical and radioactive substances. She is the main support person for the Biological Compliance Officer (BCO) and takes part in the high level meetings associated with MPI audits and engages MPI auditors as required. In addition, she is assisting the BCO with the audits of the Eccles Building as it is being completed prior to MPI registration.

The service Megan gave during lockdown and continues to give now with the research being undertaken in the PC3 lab has benefited the wider community and will continue to do so as the researchers work on drug and vaccine development.

staff awards kate bardwell
Cate Bardwell, Acting University Librarian, won an Award for Exceptional Performance by Professional Staff.

Award for Exceptional Performance by Professional Staff

Cate Bardwell, Library

Nominators; Kate Thompson; Paula Hasler

Cate has demonstrated outstanding leadership and humanity throughout this most challenging of years. As Associate University Librarian, Information Services, Cate provided strong support for the University Librarian, standing in for him on University Committees, particularly those involving research. She also took a major role in coordinating and preparing for the QAU Library Review by completing a successful Self Review in advance.

Taking on the Acting University Librarian role has allowed Cate to demonstrate her excellent leader and communication skills.

This was tested during March when COVID-19 Lockdown required a strong response to ensure essential library services continued to operate, both research and the teaching and learning needs of students' studying online

Cate has continued in the Acting role for far longer than was expected. Th, closed borders mean the new University Librarian (from Durham) can't yet get here.

This has been tough, and Cate's resilience has been quite remarkable. Her energy and commitment has not wavered. And library staff spirits are kept high while ensuring that students and academic staff continue to receive the services they need.

As we know, the Library, as a service to the University, cannot be overstated. Cate, as Acting University Librarian, 'kept it going' during lockdown with speedy and sound decision making, kindness, and positivity.

Staff awards comms
Some of the Communications Office team who won an Award for Exceptional Performance by Professional Staff.

Award for Exceptional Performance by Professional Staff

Winner: Communications Office

Nominators: Professor Helen Nicholson; Andrew Ferguson

The Communications Office is a key contributor to the University community. It serves as a bridge to enable staff, students, alumni and the community we live in to share stories, information and successes, both internally and to the wider public.

The University had an exceptionally good year in the media. A primary factor in this result is the work of the communications teams working with media to promote positive stories about research, alumni and awards and university life (particularly about students and the good the University does),

Outstanding innovations by the team include: PVC emails; Otago@Home Alumni Email; Otago Insights; Ayesha Verrall live streams and “The Yellow email” (used initially for COVID-19 messaging and now a permanent addition)

In the past year, the Communications team has gone above and beyond in two emergencies — the death of Sophia Crestani and of course the COVID-19 pandemic.

The COVID-19 website has been the primary communications vehicle in providing timely and accurate information to all members of the University community and is seen as a single source of truth at a time when a vast array of information (and mis-information) is circulating.

The launch of Pūtea Tautoko Student Relief Fund fund was carried out by appealing to all alumni and friends. The first hour after the communications went out $12,000 was raised, and within a week it was nearing $100,000.

During lockdown, the Southern District Health Board (SDHB) reached out to our Communications team for help as their own team was becoming overloaded.

For a month, a member of the University's team was seconded to the SDHB to assist. Another example of the good the University does.

staff awards econferencing
The eConferencing team won the Award for Exceptional Performance by Professional Staff.

Award for Exceptional Performance by Professional Staff

Winner: eConferencing team

Nominators: Ashley Symes; Associate Professor Eileen McKinlay

The eConferencing team has a culture of holding and displaying these staff values:

• Manaakitaka/Respect: the eConferencing team routinely enquire about users' needs of and respects these by customising each project. The team translates technicalities into real-speak language that doesn't intimidate. They are unfailingly courteous.

• Pono/Integrity: the team is dependable; they do what they say they will do and always on time.

• Māhirahira/Curiosity: the eConferencing team are willing to investigate best solutions to meet user needs, rather than adopting a 'this is the way we do it' attitude. They do test-runs so videoconferencing goes smoothly, and will often suggest improvements which are not apparent to presenters and other users.

• Whakawhanaungataka/Community: this team is accessible and equitable in the service they provide. For example, they went out of their way, preparing and delivering Interprofessional Education (IPE) webinars, to assist all our presenters – including those in rural locations and community organisations - to feel confident with videoconferencing/webinar technology.

Responding to COVID-19, the eConferencing team guided hundreds (if not thousands) of staff and students to move teaching and learning online: this was carried out with excellence and empathy at a very stressful time.

Health, Safety and Well-Being Award (Team) via Zoom

Winner: U-OWLS (University of Otago, Wellington Leisure and Sport)

Nominators: Jane Anderson; Philip Kane

The U-Owls social club consists of a diverse group of Professional and Academic staff and students, which helps people from different backgrounds get to know each other and share experiences.

The club's wide appeal is the variety of activities people can get involved in Here are some examples: mushroom picking at lunchtime, a dragon boat racing team, weekend walks, yoga, crafts, poi making workshops, knitting, badminton, monthly after work catch ups, SPCA animal visits, bake sales for fundraisers and Pink Shirt Day in support of the Mental Health Foundation, among many other events.

The team leaders, Shan Valiyara and Olivia Phillipson (Olivia is currently on maternity leave) do a fantastic job with the rest of their team that includes Sophie Petelaud, Libby McGuire, Fab Facchini, Marama Cole and Elle Pritchard.

In addition to the invitations, Fab Facchini, a senior technician in IT who is part of the group, also invites everyone in person and encourages them to trial the activities while he is moving around the campus assisting with IT tasks.

Rose from Finance is proactive in asking anyone to join the weekly badminton group, which has been running for ten years and is now encompassed under the U-Owl umbrella also.

We believe the all-inclusive nature of this group, teamed with the many physical activities it provides needs to be recognised as a contributor to both mental and physical wellbeing on the Wellington Campus.

staff awards jenine upritchard
Jenine Upritchard, from the Sir John Walsh Research Institute, was awarded the Health, Safety and Well-Being Award (Individual).

Health, Safety and Well-Being Award (Individual)

Winner: Jenine Upritchard, Sir John Walsh Research Institute

Nominators: Professor Richard Cannon; Professor Mike Morgan

Jenine has been responsible for the Health and Safety planning and implementation for the Faculty of Dentistry Clinical Services Building, the Auckland Dental clinic and the refurbished Walsh Building. She is also Sector Manager, ensuring health safety and compliance for the Faculty of Dentistry Transitional and Containment Facility.

Jenine played a vital role in planning for emergency evacuation of patients from the Clinical Services Building project, including bedbound patients from surgical theatres; fire evacuation plans; chemical storage; placement of first aid equipment including automatic external defibrillators (AEDs).

One challenge that she has addressed is sharps injuries. Jenine has developed 'sharps kits' for the Dental clinics that enable the effective handling of sharps incidents.

We know that Jenine is an excellent performer because of the low rates of incidents reported through Vault, despite her continual encouragement of staff and students to report incidents. In addition, the recent ACC audit was very encouraging, with commendation for health and safety.

Jenine was involved in the planning for the Auckland dental clinic building and she played a major role in the design of the research laboratories in the refurbished Walsh building. She does a fantastic job maintaining health, safety and compliance in seven separate buildings across the Dunedin campus

Staff awards union
Some of the University Union Food and Retail Outlets Team won the Award for Sustainable Practice by Staff (Team).

Award for Sustainable Practice by Staff (Team)

Winner: University Union Food and Retail Outlets Team

Nominators: Stewart Hibbert; Jo Donaldson

Not only this team saved over 100,000 paper cups from going to landfill, and reduced the amount of plastic they use they have created a culture of sustainability within the University community.

This has been achieved with their cup borrowing systems, and talking to customers around waste and recycling. This has encouraged people to really make positive sustainable choices.

Operations Manager Martin Jones has been actively pursuing a low carbon future for the University, by pushing for change to come from the ground level up; encouraging and supporting his outlet supervisors to initiate change, and to create a culture of sustainability in their community.

He has orchestrated the removal of disposable cups and the installation of the Reverse Vending Machine, encouraged every outlet supervisor to sign up to Green Your Scene, and integrates sustainability into staff meetings and annual Performance and Development Reviews.

The University Union outlets have been striving for sustainable change and have definitely made their impact.

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