During University Classified Staff Council’s annual workshop on Friday, July 14, eight UTHealth Houston employees received the council’s Staff Recognition Spotlight Award for outstanding work performance and consistently going above and beyond.
The award recognizes classified staff members from the university’s Behavioral Sciences Campus, central administration, and each school who illustrate caring, commitment, integrity, and knowledge. This year’s winners, who were nominated by colleagues from across campus, are Carolyn Aguirca-Parker, Joycelyn Carraway-Jacko, Faith Harper, Chelsea Overstreet, Deborah Parker, Jorge Pau, Joe Perez, and Louise Pilares.
“Each one of us knows a staff member who always goes above and beyond to get the job done and help others,” said Trudy Ludwig, FY23 chair of University Classified Staff Council. “This is our way of thanking those who exemplify a commitment to making a positive impact at UTHealth Houston through professionalism and teamwork.”
Carolyn Agurcia-Parker, DrPH, is a senior coordinator for special programs at MD Anderson Cancer Center UTHealth Houston Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. She was nominated by Cheryl Spitzenberger, program manager for Operations, Diversity, and Student Affairs, and Raquel Salinas, PhD, director of Student Affairs and Development.
“Dr. Parker truly cares for others, including her co-workers and the students she serves,” Salinas wrote in her nomination. “She consistently goes above and beyond to make sure that those around her are supported and have the resources they need to succeed. A particular example of Carolyn’s caring nature is when she reached out to the Career Development Office regarding a student who was struggling to find appropriate clothing for job interviews. Carolyn recognized that this was a significant barrier to the student’s success, and she took it upon herself to find a solution. Her advocacy for the student inspired the Career Development Office to establish a relationship with Dress for Success, a nonprofit organization that provides professional clothing to individuals in need. Additionally, Carolyn has been instrumental in setting up wellness events for our students. She recognizes the importance of caring for oneself in order to succeed academically and professionally, and she has taken it upon herself to make sure that our students have access to resources that support their well-being.”
Joycelyn Carraway-Jacko is administrative coordinator at UTHealth Houston School of Public Health in Dallas. She was nominated by Marlyn Allicock, PhD, assistant professor at the school.
“I have come to know Joycelyn as a giver. She would often cook a breakfast spread for the faculty and staff to enjoy. She has organized several baby showers (including my own), office holiday parties, and other events with meticulous detail and attention. I have often called her our own ‘Martha Stewart,’” Allicock wrote in her nomination. “It is these events that serve to build morale and a sense of belonging to our campus that can go unnoticed but really is the glue that holds a campus together. Because she is the longest-standing admin in our department, Joycelyn has historical, institutional knowledge about our campus. Another faculty recently introduced her to a fellow faculty visitor, and he described her as ‘the go-to for everything person!’”
Faith Harper is manager of university communications in the Office of Public Affairs. Harper was nominated by Monica Guidry, LCSW, ACSW, associate vice president of the Office of Employee Assistance and Well-being Programs, and Scott Patlovich, DrPH, assistant vice president of Environmental Health and Safety.
“Faith is always a text, email, Microsoft Teams chat, or phone call away,” Patlovich wrote in his nomination. “She understands and respects our staff’s time and space, and doesn’t overburden us ever, but she is wise and nimble enough to know when to contact us, including after hours. She is a great team player, always thinking out loud about who should be involved or who should be consulted, to ensure a communication or written piece is accurate and appropriately framed. She always has a great attitude, and even if we are required to speak after hours about a challenging situation, she is always positive and willing to work on a project or task with all team players who are necessary.”
Chelsea Overstreet is assistant director of academic affairs and communication at McWilliams School of Biomedical Informatics at UTHealth Houston. She was nominated by Travis Crook, senior student affairs coordinator, and Susan Fenton, PhD, associate professor and associate dean for Academic and Curricular Activities at McWilliams School of Biomedical Informatics.
“Chelsea is a change-maker,” Crook wrote in his nomination. “She incorporates constructive feedback into everything we do here. She asks driving questions and has a sound understanding of logic and conclusion-based reasoning. In my eyes, she is a foundational piece that continues to move the school forward with everything she touches. Chelsea’s thoroughness is exemplified in her responsiveness. It seems like she is always available, always ready, and always happy to help. I don’t know how she does it, but I do know we are all the better for it!”
Deborah Parker is the infection control and prevention program coordinator for the John S. Dunn Behavioral Sciences Center at UTHealth Houston and UTHealth Houston Harris County Psychiatric Center. She was nominated by Receiving Supervisor Tammy Carpenter, receiving supervisor in Facilities Management.
“Deborah is an asset to our campus. She works the largest behavioral health campus in the county, overseeing 1,000 employees and nearly 500 patients,” Carpenter wrote in her nomination. “Deborah expresses concern for the safety of others with compassion. Deborah worked tirelessly, going from unit to unit, administering flu shots to every employee who was unable to attend a scheduled session or make an appointment.”
Jorge Pau is a systems and applications specialist at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston. He was nominated by Joshua Dorris, senior project manager at the school.
“Jorge sets the bar high,” Dorris wrote in his nomination. “I have managed upward of 300 staff at a time. Jorge is in my top 10 of people that I would use as an example of how to conduct yourself in the workplace. He would be in all of my training videos as an example of how to be committed to your job and how to exceed expectations. Where some would back away or avoid a challenge, Jorge does the opposite and takes it on.”
Joe Jazett Uranga Perez is a graduate clinical coordinator at Cizik School of Nursing at UTHealth Houston. He was nominated by Sydnee Lucas, DNP, RN, assistant professor of nursing graduate studies.
“Joe works tirelessly to secure clinical sites and build relationships students and faculty,” Lucas wrote in her nomination. Lucas often hears stories of gratitude for Perez during exit interviews with graduating students.
“Here is a direct quote from one such student,” she said. “‘Overall, I feel like this program has prepared me with a strong foundation. I enjoyed my instructors and felt like they cared for me as a student. I especially appreciate Mr. Joe Perez for the help he extended to me during my time with Cizik School of Nursing. I have recommended this program to multiple friends who are interested in advancing their careers.’ That is a heartfelt and impressive endorsement!”
Louise Pilares, DMD, is a coordinator for educational programs in periodontics and dental hygiene at UTHealth Houston School of Dentistry. Pilares was nominated by Maria Gordon, who also serves as a coordinator of educational programs.
“I appreciate Louise’s positive, genuine attitude and attention to detail. Louise is known for listening to others, valuing their opinions, and providing support to her team during stressful times,” Gordon wrote in the nomination of her colleague. “Louise strives to improve processes within the Dental Hygiene program. She has even created related pamphlets help promote the program to be distributed during presentations at no additional cost to the department.”
Carey Goode, a clinic coordinator and University Classified Staff Council representative, congratulated the Spotlight Award winners and presented them certificates. “Your enthusiasm and service are a true testimony of your dedication to UTHealth Houston, and all of you are truly valued for your contributions,” Goode said.