Student News

Student Employee of the Year Named During Appreciation Week

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Photo of Henry Smith.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (April 21, 2022) — Henry Smith, a University of Kentucky student employee in the UK Department of Plant Pathology, is the recipient of the 2022 Student Employee of the Year award from UK Human Resources. 

Smith, a senior majoring in Agricultural and Medical Biotechnology, was one of 10 finalists chosen for the award. His initial role as a temporary technical paraprofessional in hemp pathology was to assist with lab tasks, working with fungal cultures and diseased plant material, as needed.

Nicole Gauthier, Smith’s nominating supervisor, said she now describes him as a plant pathologist because he can do it all.

“He can work on a variety of tasks from pathogenicity testing in the greenhouse to DNA sequencing and sequence editing,” Gauthier said. “In fact, he works alongside graduate students and postdocs on independent projects, ranging from experimental design to execution to analysis.”

Smith also currently mentors two undergraduate students, preparing them for lab and field studies. 

 “I am honored to be named UK’s student employee of the year. I would like to thank my amazing supervisor Nicole Gauthier and all of my co-workers who have helped me over the past few years,” said Smith, who plans to pursue graduate studies and a career in plant pathology. “My job here at UK has helped me learn so much about the career I wish to pursue and gain valuable experience I will always remember. I love having a job where I can see the direct impact of my work on people. I look forward to continuing my research and work for the farmers of Kentucky.”

Gauthier said Smith stepped up this spring, spending hours in the greenhouse, often between classes when he had little time, building a motorized blackout curtain. It helps create artificial short-day conditions.

“Henry Smith is a team player,” she said. “If there is a dilemma or a challenging situation, Henry is the first to step up and find solutions. Whether lab or field, whether dirty work or exciting challenges, Henry knows the ‘why’ behind his job. He is here to serve the farmers of Kentucky in whatever capacity necessary.”

UK HR Student Employment organized last week’s Student Employee Appreciation Week. Hundreds of UK student employees turned out to events during the week. 

“We planned these special events to say thank you to our student employees who play a crucial role in the success of our institution,” said Sadie Barton, Employment Consultant Senior for HR Student Employment. “The meaningful experiences student employees gain here at the University of Kentucky will be the foundation of their future careers. It is important they know their hard work and dedication is truly appreciated. It is a special week, and I am excited to see how it grows in the upcoming years.”

Human Resources congratulates all the finalists: 

Nicholas Elling, Presentation U - Teaching, Learning and Academic Innovation

Nominated by Jill Abney

“Nicholas Elling is one of those employees who make 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.”

Victoria Ballengee, UK College of Arts and Sciences Dean’s Office

Nominated by Camille Harmon 

“Victoria Ballengee doesn't settle for anything but success. As a full-time student, she balances coursework while working 20 hours a week. No matter what stress she may be under, she always comes into the office with a smile on her face. Victoria has always stepped up and taken initiative. The front office in the College of Arts and Sciences would be lost without her. We have grown to depend on her efficiency, reliability and optimism. She is a valued team member.”

Jordan Bernard, Transformative Learning

Nominated by Christie Maier

“Jordan’s caring, compassionate and supportive supervisory style stands out as a great strength. She is able to foster meaningful and trusting relationships with those she supervises as well as the team of student program coordinators. Jordan is always the first person to volunteer to support a co-worker's project, pick up a shift or stay late to provide feedback to a tutor. Going above and beyond is just how she approaches her work! Her creativity and drive have left a lasting mark on The Study’s peer tutoring program.”

Bridget Anne Bolt, UK Department of Entomology 

Nominated by Xuguo Zhou 

“Besides her passion for research, I find Bridget to possess numerous positive personal traits as well, which include a combination of patience, attention to details, enthusiasm, motivation, dedication and leadership. In summary, Bridget is a student who has well-defined career goals and will work hard to attain them. Although she only worked for me for about seven months, Bridget is the best student employee I had over the years.”

Mackenzie Berry, UK Department of Animal and Food Sciences

Nominated by Joao Costa

“Mackenzie’s drive and dedication toward dairy research are terrific and exceed the efforts shown by any students we have ever worked with. Mackenzie’s actions have consistently shown her love and commitment to dairy research. She has been extremely prolific in receiving awards for her exceptional work.”

Quincy Caroline Picaro, Department of Landscape Architecture, UK College of Arts and Sciences. 

Nominated by Carolina Segura Bell

“Quincy has consistently demonstrated professionalism and reliability from smaller tasks to greater responsibilities. Quincy has gone above and beyond by continually coming up with more and improved ways to complete her assigned tasks. She has participated and contributed with the success of all planning sessions, research, data collection, presentations, workshops and documentation. Quincy is always on time for the weekly meetings, ready to share her progress and enthusiastic about her research.”

Samuel Kayse, Grounds and Garage, UK Facilities Management 

Nominated by Joshua Borgemenke 

“He provided service to the university during special events that provided safety for the community. He has made accommodations to his schedule and personal life that were very much in support of our department and the university. Samuel is a courteous, dedicated employee who has accepted a role within the university that is short on prestige and long on difficult work. Samuel deserves recognition for his dedication and reliability as a student and a worker.”

Madison Shely, Clinical and Translational Science Unit-Vaccine Research Unit, UK College of Medicine 

Nominated by Dr. Richard Greenberg

“She worked 20 hours a week for the vaccine research projects and maintained excellence in her student learning, so much so that she was accepted to all her graduate programs. Her management of a huge supply operation was exceptional and vital. Her computer program that incorporated the needs of the clinic staff dealing with over 1,000 subjects was also vital to the success of the research trials. Lastly, what constantly amazes me is her energy, enthusiasm and reliability. Her capabilities and character far exceed any expectations one would have for a college undergraduate.”

Benjamin Parke VanHook, UK Department of Plant and Soil Sciences

Nominated by Tara Valentine

“Ben has been an essential member of our team for the past few years. His background knowledge and passion for farming have been a huge asset. I actually started after Ben did, and he made my transition into this new position very easy. It allowed us to complete a very successful field season in my first season here in 2020, even during a pandemic. He was a pleasure to work with all around. His kindness and compassion toward others is very apparent. He has a passion for the work we are doing and always asked such inquisitive questions that even helped me make some great improvements in the program in just two short years.”

Courtney Zinsmeister, Transformative Learning

Nominated by Christie Maier

“Courtney is one of the most driven and dedicated student program coordinators I have had the pleasure to work with. In her role as a supervisor, she is able to form meaningful relationships with tutors and mentor them as students, employees and emerging adults. Courtney has also shined as a project manager, taking on significantly larger-scale marketing projects than would normally be expected of a student employee. Courtney’s contributions have made a demonstrable impact on The Study’s ability to connect with our primary audience, UK students, and encourage them to utilize services to earn higher grades and be retained at the institution.”

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.