The UF College of Public Health and Health Professions recognized Sharla Alexander and Caronne Rush as the 2016 PHHP Employees of the Year at the annual staff and faculty appreciation dinner held Dec. 1.
As a human resources assistant in the department of speech, language, and hearing sciences, Alexander is often one of the first people with whom newcomers interact and she makes everyone feel special, her co-workers said.
“She is welcoming and warm with everyone, from international students to new faculty, and goes out of her way to make sure everything they need to get started with the department is taken care of,” a colleague wrote.
Over the past year, the department has undergone several staff changes and Alexander was instrumental in ensuring the department continued to run smoothly, a nominator said.
“Throughout the transition of these positions, Sharla was, and continues to be, more than willing to step up and help in any way needed,” the nominator wrote. “Her knowledge of not only fiscal processes but also her historical knowledge of the administrative functions are what has kept us all going over this past year.”
Colleagues praised Alexander’s work ethic, empathy, helpful nature and cheerful attitude.
“There has not been a single person I’ve met who doesn’t have wonderful things to say about Sharla,” a co-worker wrote. “She always seems to know the answer, and if she doesn’t, there is no doubt in my mind that she will do everything in her power to get the information to you. There have been a few times that I have personally needed her expertise and even if she was swamped, she would take as much time as needed to help me through my issue.”
Caronne Rush, an academic coordinator and administrative assistant to the chair in the department of environmental and global health, is considered an “irreplaceable” member of the EGH-PHHP family, nominators said.
Rush has taken a leading role in a number of initiatives that have improved department functions and communications. These include redesigning the process for graduate application reviews; updating the department website and promotional materials; traveling with a group of One Health certificate students to Kenya and providing all administrative support for the trip; creating a “Monday Morning Minute” update email for employees and students; establishing an EGH student council; and planning a number of events designed to enhance the sense of community within the department.
“She has done wonders to bring people together and allow them to feel a part of the EGH family,” a colleague wrote. “Students feel like they now have a home within their program that goes beyond the ‘once a semester’ meeting with their advisor. Caronne has spearheaded these efforts and has done so with passion and care.”
Rush serves as the primary interface with the department’s more than 50 graduate students, helping them navigate the many day-to-day issues that affect students.
“If she notices that a new student may be struggling to adjust, she reaches out to them to find out how she can make their life easier,” a student wrote. “When students stop by her office, she pauses whatever she is working on to answer questions, help solve a problem or just to chat and make students feel valued.”