Spotlight on our Staff

Staff in the College of Arts and Sciences are critical to our ability to achieve success in our departments and across the college. On behalf of the college, Dean Theresa Lee honored staff with awards for academic, financial, and technical support, as well as for teamwork in spring 2022.

Molly Green, administrative specialist II in the Department of Geography, received the academic support award. Green joined the department in July 2019 to help with the graduate program. She assists students from the application process through their academic career in the program. 

“Being able to help students is one of my favorite parts of working for UT and working with faculty and other staff is my other favorite part,” said Green, who also appreciates the opportunities UT affords staff to sharpen their skillsets. 

As noted by her nominator: “Consistently, Molly is praised by our unit for her friendly and supportive demeanor, her patience with highly detailed and time-consuming tasks, and the way she has bravely maintained a constant presence in the geography main office during the two years of the pandemic.”

 “This honor was a very pleasant surprise to me – I have long known I am valued in my department, but it means a lot to receive recognition at such a level,” Green said. “I put my heart and soul into my work and it feels wonderful to be recognized for my contributions to UT and the UT Department of Geography.”

Shelley Gentry, accounting coordinator for the School of Art, received one of the two financial support awards. 

Gentry joined the UT community on her son’s second birthday – 28 years ago. The last 10 and half years, she has been the accounting coordinator for the School of Art. Gentry helps faculty, staff, and students navigate the systems, policies, and procedures on campus, which she finds fulfilling and rewarding. 

“UT has always been a great place to work because of its many benefits and the support I’ve received from leadership,” Gentry said. 

As noted by her nominator: “Gentry consistently works forward proactively, anticipates complicated situations, and alerts departmental leadership of potential problems or concerns. She is a model for other staff: always punctual, calm, clear in communications, cool under pressure, and professional in demeanor.” 

“This award represents many who have worked endlessly the past few years through the epidemic to support their departments, units, and programs,” Gentry said. “There are many who were not nominated, but are as deserving, so I feel very humbled to receive the award.”

Mike Roach, business manager in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, received one of the two financial support awards. 

Roach joined UT 15 years ago as the business manager for the Department of Physics and Astronomy where he is responsible for not only the department’s finances, but a diverse portfolio of research grants from multiple sources.  He enjoys both the people and the culture of UT and the department. 

“Everyone in physics is valued,” Roach said. “There is a mutual respect regardless of position and we have a good time at work.” 

The physics and astronomy department has a very high volume of annual research expenditures, which Roach manages with skill and experience, as noted by his nominator. “Mike is an invaluable partner in designing and executing finance plans for personnel support and hardware acquisitions.” 

According to Roach, quality financial support of faculty and department leadership is his main goal. 

“It is really nice that the faculty took the time to let me know my efforts are appreciated.”

Brad Gardner, senior IT technologist II in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, received the technical support award. 

Like his colleague Mike Roach, Gardner has worked in the physics and astronomy department his entire UT career, but for twice as long. 

“I felt like I was just a kid when I started,” jokes Gardner, who began his career at UT 32 years ago. 

He appreciates the diverse group of people he has the opportunity to work with – from faculty to students – and finds that the history and culture of the different nationalities and US regions make the department an interesting place to work. 

“Interactions between the faculty, staff, and students here is second to none,” Gardner said. “However, along with this diverse group of people come some very unique technical problems, which keep me on my toes. Every day is different here and I do love a challenge.” 

As noted by his nominator: “Reliable IT is essential to the function of any department, but it is especially important for physics. Everything revolves around efficient number-crunching, from small-scale student labs to large supercomputer projects. Brad goes above and beyond and is essential to the smooth running of all aspects of the department.” 

Knowing he made enough of an impact on members of the department to even be nominated is an honor for Gardner. 

“It gives me a great sense of appreciation,” he said. “Being the actual recipient is just the icing on the cake.”

The award for teamwork went to Susan McMillan and the production staff for the Clarence Brown Theatre, which includes Patrick Lanczki, Liz Aaron, Phyllis Belanger, Melissa Caldwell-Weddig, Jillie Eves, Christy Fogarty, Jason Fogarty, Sarah Gaboda, Travis Gaboda, George Hairston, Kyle Hooks, Jon Mohrman, Mike Ponder, Kyle Schellinger, Amber Williams, and Jerry Winkle. 

McMillian is in her eighth year as the production manager for the Clarence Brown Theatre. She has a background in both professional and academic theatre work, so joining UT was a natural fit. 

“I love working in a setting that combines both academic and professional theatre,” she said. “The CBT’s mission is about this exact thing – the best way to train new theatre artists is to have them work side-by-side with professionals.” 

The pandemic hit the theatre world hard. Many closed and several theatres are still struggling to reopen or stay open. McMillian credits her team for their work from day one. 

“Without hesitation, we pivoted to do what was needed for our students, the department, and UT,” McMillian said. “Masks were made. Theaters were offered for larger classes for social distancing. The team jumped in to learn new skills in order to produce virtually instead of in person so that students could continue to have acting and tech opportunities.” 

The challenges, however, did not end when the theatre reopened for live performances. As noted by their nominator: “Our production team, to an individual, has been bound and determined to bring back the art with the new normal looming, daily, safely, and sustainably. In spite of the monumental task in front of them, building three shows almost simultaneously, while keeping the safety protocols in place to prevent super-spreader events, they’ve done so tirelessly, willingly, happily, and professionally.” 

It took collaboration, extra time and efforts, and a willingness on all parts to produce live theatre again, which is one of the many reasons this year’s recipient of the teamwork award is the CBT production staff. 

“We are so very appreciative of our leadership team for recognizing the continued dedication and hard work of our team and for nominating us,” McMillian said. “And we are so very appreciative to the College of Arts and Sciences for recognizing us and honoring us with this award!”

Dean Lee honored the recipients of the 2022 College of Arts and Sciences staff awards during the Spring Fling event Tuesday, April 26 at 4 p.m. 

Staff Awards