LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 21, 2021) — Ashley White, a University of Kentucky student employee of the Department of Physiology in the UK College of Medicine, is the recipient of the 2021 Student Employee of the Year award from UK Human Resources.
White, a junior majoring in biology, was one of 10 finalists chosen for the award. White’s initial job tasks included ordering supplies and managing lab inventory for programs focused on heart failure, but when a large project came in regarding COVID-19 testing, she stepped out of her comfort zone to help the team and make a great impact on our community.
The first step was to process 12,000 nasal swabs that had been procured across UK, said her nominating supervisor, Kenneth S. Campbell.
“Only two employees on campus knew how to use the tracking software that managed the biobank inventory,” Campbell said. “Ashley had learned about the software through her work on the cardiac bank and was identified as someone who could potentially help as a third set of hands. She worked tirelessly over the summer to handle specimens, label tubes and distribute samples. It was a heart-warming team effort in challenging times, and we are glad to report that samples managed by the team proved pivotal to the development of a field-deployable PCR testing system that was just approved by the FDA.”
Out of 50 applicants for this year’s Student Employee of the Year award, White was identified as the top candidate based on her outstanding commitment to her work, her dedication to maintaining her grades and the greater impact she was able to make.
“Though much less experienced than other members of the team, Ashley quickly earned a reputation as a careful and reliable worker,” Campbell said. “She also has excellent people skills and a positive can-do attitude.”
After her work with the initial swabs, White was transferred to work as a clinical coordinator during the Johnson & Johnson vaccine trials.
While maintaining a 3.9 GPA and attending every lab meeting, White also spent at least 25 hours per week enrolling patients into the trial. She was one of few undergraduates involved in the project.
“This past year has been a battle for everyone, and as I learned about the amazing work the other nominees were doing as well, I was grateful to be selected,” White said. “Here at UK, I always believe the goal is to strive for excellence, and to be honored as Student Employee of the Year, I can say that my efforts are on track. In my personal pursuits, I will look to this honor as a continued challenge to be better.”
When asked what advice she’d give to other student workers, White said, “Challenge yourself within your job duties. Go beyond the expectations set by those who may have worked in your place before you. Don’t be afraid to discuss with your mentor about new projects for you to lead and new opportunities to expand your abilities.”
During a year when we all faced struggles, White led by example through the role she played in the university’s history-making research. Campbell concluded, “She is a superb student, an extremely compassionate individual, and one of the heroes who has achieved and excelled despite the pandemic.”
Human Resources congratulates all the finalists:
Nicholas Elling, Presentation U - Teaching, Learning and Academic Innovation
Nominated by Dr. Jill Abney
“Nicholas Elling is one of those employees who makes our center better through his creativity, problem-solving, and dedication. He has a knack for knowing what needs to happen to keep a tutoring center running and he does those tasks with no questions asked.”
Anna Garlock, Visitor Center, Undergraduate Admission
Nominated by Grace Johnson
“Anna went above and beyond to create a training experience that was meaningful and effective, and I was and am so thankful for her initiative! Anna gave an enormous amount of time to take on a number of additional duties that are normally performed by a full-time professional staff member, all while handling an academically rigorous year in her final semesters at UK on top of learning to navigate college life in a pandemic.”
Lexi Goettke, Residence Life
Nominated by Marc Presley
“Lexi stepped up to create a schedule based on the availability of each RA to make sure that residents were delivered fresh meals in a timely fashion according to breakfast, lunch and dinner time slots. If it were not for Lexi's commitment to the role from the start of the semester until now, then University Flats would not have had the successes that it has had during a pandemic year.”
Claire Hillbrecht, Department of Forestry and Natural Resources
Nominated by Mary Arthur
“Claire personifies professionalism and reliability in every way, at times even modeling these traits for the rest of our team. In the year that Claire has worked with the Urban Forest Initiative, she has become a highly valued colleague who often leads us, with her clear-eyed vision, maturity far beyond her years, ability to articulate ideas and challenges, and willingness to roll up her sleeves and find solutions.”
Sabrina Jacobs, UK Ag Equine Programs – College of Agriculture, Food and Environment
Nominated by Holly Wiemers
“I am not exaggerating to say that we would not have provided the services to our students and our industry stakeholders this year without her help. She has been a visionary creator for our program and her impact will be felt by this program for years to come.”
Jacob Lewis, College of Pharmacy
Nominated by Kristie Colon
“In my years of experience working in research, Jacob's knowledge and level of communication is unparalleled. He has an unwavering commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion which permeates everything he does, from coordinating photo shoots and interviewing alumni to creating vaccine education materials specifically for indigenous people in Kentucky.”
Alexis Taylor, First-Year Experience, Enrollment Management
Nominated by Nancy Stephens
“While we are still in the process of hiring a new staff member, Allie has taken on the work of a full-time professional while only working 10-15 hours a week, tutoring at The Study four hours a week, and taking 17 credit hours in a pre-med track. The incoming students who arrive on campus this fall won't know Allie personally, but they will have been positively impacted by her work without even knowing it.”
Natalie Vincent, Transformative Learning, The Study
Nominated by Christie Maier
“In the midst of this pandemic, Natalie adapted quickly to convert in-person Supplemental Instruction (SI) Sessions into an engaging and interactive virtual learning environment that would hold true to the values of group learning and the development of independent learners. Natalie continues to be a tremendous leader not only in the SI program, but as a role model for students and a resource for students to find academic support, friendship and fun during an unparalleled time of challenge and disconnect.”
Morgan Waldner, Department of Agricultural Economics
Nominated by Barry J. Barnett
“She is reliable, trustworthy, responsible, invariably positive and enthusiastic. She goes above and beyond whenever she is asked to do something, but even more impressive is the fact that, in many cases, she takes on responsibilities
The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion four years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers." We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for five straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.