Among the notable recipients of the Professional Staff Awards was Trade Services Operations Manager Russ Linwood who was awarded the Vice Chancellor's Award.
The recent challenges presented by COVID-19 have impacted the way most people go about their work, something noted in the recent University of Otago Staff Awards.
The plan for 2021 was to combine the previously separate teaching award events, research awards and professional awards into one evening of celebration of staff. Whilst the event was reduced to only the recipients of these awards to ensure Alert Level 2 guidelines were met, it was no less special.
Among the notable recipients of the Professional Staff Awards was Trade Services Operations Manager Russ Linwood who was awarded the Vice Chancellor's Award. If any staff member can attest to how COVID-19 has produced new challenges in the way we work, it's Russ.
Russ Linwood – 2021 Professional Staff Award/Vice Chancellor's Award
Russ is coming up on 20 years service working for the University plus another eight prior where he worked closely with the University.
“In 1994 I came here as an apprentice and now my current role is as Operations Manager for Trade Services. I'm responsible for all the trade groups and making sure we have all the right people in the right places to get the job done.”
Originally an electrician, Russ's roles at the University have varied over the years. He started in his current role in 2020 as COVID-19 was changing the world as we know it. The challenges presented as a result have seen Russ and the team achieve a lot in just under two years.
“It's been a whirlwind with taking the operational lead for the trade services group and being involved with different leadership teams. I think one of the biggest challenges in recent times has been making sure mental health of staff is prioritised and our safety is up to standard. The Trade Services team are who ensure the University can physically operate at all Alert Levels.”
Absolutely blown away to be the 2021 recipient of the Vice Chancellors Award, Russ shares the credit for this success, which is the highest award at the event for professional staff.
“I don't think it has sunk in yet. It means that the work we are doing has been recognised and is meaningful. It's not just my award, I see it as the team's award. You're not a leader unless others want to follow you.”
This year has been full of successes and challenges for Russ and the team, but there is one particular part of his job which he enjoys most.
“I manage the apprentice scheme within the Trade Services group. One of the more satisfying parts of my role is seeing apprentices achieving. Seeing them succeed as well as being part of a team which has meaningful, recognised output is really rewarding. No day is the same. Within fifteen minutes of arriving at work your day might be changed entirely from what you had planned. That's what I love about the job.”
David Hood – 2021 Professional Staff Award
IT Training and Development Adviser David Hood was one of this year's Professional Staff Award recipients and says the past 18 months have drastically changed the work he and his team do.
“Recently I've found myself saying 'there is change happening in the world which affects how the entire University works, I think we can help.' We urgently needed to prioritise what we are doing so that we can help the whole University. With staff going home due to lockdowns, losing access to buildings, online teaching and exams there's been a lot of work from our team to provide support.”
David has worked at the University for almost 30 years and says while the work has changed, what he loves about the work hasn't.
“I enjoy that this work unequivocally helps people. We provide a pathway for them to be able to do new things but also more importantly, a big part of what we are doing these days is getting people working together. There isn't a lot of point in being the only person who can work with software so I help to bridge that gap.
“I also want to acknowledge that I work in a place where I can go 'the world has changed and so we need to' and be heard.
“It was a bit of a surprise. You don't know you've been nominated for these kinds of things. It's a nice thing to have happen,” he says.
Next on the cards for David is looking at how the University can operate as the world continues to change with people working from home and learning online.
Chris Smith – 2021 Professional Staff Award
Curator of the W.D. Trotter Anatomy Museum Chris Smith credits this award to the wider University community and was stunned to discover he had won it.
“It was a complete surprise. I had taken leave for the school holidays and completely switched off. I was checking my emails just before returning to work when I saw the email. I thought they had confused me with someone else.
“The reason I get to do so many things in my job is thanks to the work of those around me. It truly is an award which goes to a massive group of people rather than just me. There are so many people at the University who contribute to this, from teaching staff to the mailroom, they all play a role in the work I do and the service I provide.”
Chris studied Physical Education at the University of Otago before going on to train as a secondary school teacher. After a few years of teaching, he took on his role at the University and has enjoyed combining many of his passions with his job.
“We are really privileged to have an amazing resource which is almost 150 years old. It holds heritage value which is becoming increasingly important for telling our story. But primarily the museum is a comprehensive collection of material to learn from, a hands-on teaching resource used by thousands of students and staff every year.
“An important aspect of my role is making sure we have the right teaching resources in the right place at the right time. We shuffle things from here to the lab spaces, provide materials to the Hunter Centre and Hospital teaching spaces among others. Our team thrives on trying to find or create the best possible resources and learning opportunities for our students.”
“I believe strongly in education and very much active education, which has been a challenge in recent times. I also believe in our connection and responsibility to our community locally, nationally and internationally.”
Carol Dunstone – 2021 Professional Staff Award
Anatomy Department Technical Manager Carol Dunstone has been at the University for more than 16 years and considers herself to be a 'Jack of all trades.'
“I have a bunch of teams covering everything from teaching to building maintenance. It's a big role and I'm kind of the go-to person on the team as I've been around for a while.”
Carol completed her Masters in Zoology at the Otago and went on to have a varied career before returning to the University in her current role.
“I did supermarket management for a few years and then went on to work in construction as a manager for PlaceMakers Southland. I've always been the kind of person who likes to take on challenges and get things done.
“The good thing about this role is that it is so varied. It keeps things interesting. I know a little about everything the department does and can find a way to make it work in the University environment and in ever-changing times. The workload can be huge. We are one of the largest departments, providing resources to more than 160 staff and 100 postgraduate students, across nine buildings. No two days are the same.”
Carol was very appreciative to be a recipient of one of this year's Professional Staff Awards.
“It's humbling. I tend to be someone who doesn't seek any public praise, I try to stay out of the spotlight. I see my job as behind the scenes. Over the last three to five years the work has been really challenging, it's like finding your way in a new world or starting the role over. Many people wouldn't know what I get up to in a day so it's nice to be recognised.”
Procurement Office – 2021 Sustainable Practice Award
The Procurement Office is responsible for supporting the University's sourcing activity and this year were recognised for the work they do to encourage sustainable practise. Procurement Manager Stephen Hall says he is incredibly proud of his team who were excited to receive it.
“It's good recognition of what we are trying to do today. This is recognition of the effort put in over a number of years by the team.
“On the whole this award is about what the University is trying to achieve in the sustainability area and how our job is to help them achieve that. One of our biggest projects has been changing how we print. Across the University we have reduced the amount of printing through the 'follow me print' feature. We have also reduced the number of physical printers we have on campus without compromising the ability of staff to access their printing on demand in a secure manner. This has led to a significant reduction in overall print cost and a reduction in printer paper consumed.”
It's been a big year for the Procurement team who have been working with suppliers to the University to ensure purchases are sustainable and ethically sourced where possible.
“When staff visit our supplier's sites and choose items to purchase we have worked with our suppliers to make more ethical suggestions for purchasing and encourage thoughtful buying. We are also working with Property Services and the Sustainability Office on a vehicle policy for University owned vehicles which will make greater use of having electric vehicles and how we might better manage the vehicles already on our campus.
“We were surprised to win this award. We knew we were doing good things but we were still pleasantly surprised to achieve this level of recognition. The team work very hard and have achieved the Green Your Scene Kowhai Award two years running.”
Next year the Procurement Office plans to continue working in the electrical vehicle space, working with Property Services to realise a more sustainably managed cleaning service across our campuses and evaluating how milk can be obtained more sustainably at the University.