Faculty, students, staff and structures — it takes many moving parts to make a university run smoothly. Two of them, in particular, made a significant impact this year, which hasn't gone unnoticed.
Director of Financial Aid Courtney Thompson-Ballard and Assistant Dean of Students for Campus and Residential Life Jonathan Rink were recognized as the 2020 Lenoir-Rhyne University Jeff Norris Staff Employees of the Year.
Candidates are nominated by their peers and a vote is held by the presidential cabinet with the winner announced at the annual awards convocation. This is the first year there have been co-winners.
"Courtney has a deep knowledge of the financial aid field, and she is unwaveringly professional and always responsive when someone needs help or just her expert opinion. She's great," said LR Provost Dr. Gary Johnson. "Jonathan is always wonderful to work with, but he has been invaluable these last six months or so in helping us and our students deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. He's put in extremely long hours, has had to be more flexible in his planning than probably anyone else at LR and is, in my opinion, a big reason why we've been as successful as we have this semester in keeping our students here with us on campus."
A lifelong Bear, Thompson-Ballard earned her Bachelor of Arts in communications in 2004, and she earned her Master of Arts in counseling in 2010 both from Lenoir-Rhyne.
Between her time as a student and as a staff member, she's been with the university for 22 years working primarily with students and their families to make higher education affordable, while answering questions and helping with the admission process.
"It's always nice to know that your hard work and dedication is noticed and appreciated by your colleagues," Thompson-Ballard said. "I think the recognition was even more special at this time with all of us working so hard during the pandemic to keep our students safe and able to continue their education."
Rink is an alumnus of The Graduate School at Lenoir-Rhyne after completing the clinical mental health counseling program in 2011.
A former residence director of Fritz-Conrad, Rink now supervises residence life, fraternities and sororities, student orientation, campus activities and organizations, intramurals and student conduct.
"The recognition is nice, but the fact my colleagues thought I was deserving of the award means the world to me," he said. "There are so many hard-working staff members on this campus and there is no way I could do my job without their support.
"I have thoroughly enjoyed working in student life at LR under the leadership of Dr. Katie Fisher. She has given me the freedom to grow as a professional, and I have had so many unique experiences because of that freedom. In no way, shape or form could I be the professional I am today without Dr. Fisher."