Four DELTA Staff Members Receive 2019 Provost’s Unit Award for Excellence

DELTA Awards for Excellence winners with Senior Management team. Top row left to right: Kay Zimmerman, Tim Petty, Donna Petherbridge, Tom Miller, Jessie Sova. Bottom row left to right: Alexis Simison, Jonathan Champ, Lou Harrison, Cathi Dunnagan, Bethanne Tobey.

DELTA Awards for Excellence winners with Senior Management team. Top row left to right: Kay Zimmerman, Tim Petty, Donna Petherbridge, Tom Miller, Jessie Sova. Bottom row left to right: Alexis Simison, Jonathan Champ, Lou Harrison, Cathi Dunnagan, Bethanne Tobey. Photo by Ken Martin.

The Office of the Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost honored DELTA staff members Jonathan Champ, Lou Harrison, Alexis Simison and Bethanne Tobey each with an Award for Excellence for their extraordinary commitment and contribution to DELTA and the larger NC State community. The recipients were recognized at The Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost’s Unit Awards for Excellence reception in Talley Student Union on March 26, 2019.

Recipients were chosen from a pool of 12 nominees from across the Provost’s Unit. Of these nominees, six received the Award for Excellence, with DELTA staff members making up four of these winners. Lead Instructional Designer Cathi Dunnagan was also nominated and honored with a certificate at the ceremony.

In addition to a $250 check, a plaque and eight hours of paid leave, recipients will be featured in the Provost’s Newsletter and the NC State Bulletin and be considered for the University Awards for Excellence. They will receive further recognition at the NC State Awards for Excellence Reception beside award recipients from other colleges and units in the university.

Congratulations to our recipients and nominees at DELTA!

Jonathan Champ, Lead PHP Developer/Information Architect

Champ was nominated by Senior Associate Director, Applications Development and 2018 Award for Excellence recipient Jeff Webster in the Human Relations category for his outstanding contribution to DELTA and NC State through his collegial attitude and dedication to bettering the workplace.

Jonathan Champ smiling.
Jonathan Champ

Within DELTA, coworkers know to reach out to Champ for assistance with data-related issues, the DELTA website and mailing lists in addition to his other areas of expertise. He’s a strong advocate for learning and collaboration, often helping out with open source projects and supplying his knowledge of software development best practices. Thanks to an ongoing commitment to self-improvement, he’s become a point-person to locate and create efficiencies. He exercised this talent in working with DELTA’s Senior Management Team and the Office of Institutional Research and Planning (OIRP) to automate funding and enrollment reports.

Champ is not only dedicated to his projects, but to creating an engaging and welcoming space for his colleagues. Webster admires his extra effort in making everyone feel recognized and comfortable at work. “He takes time to really listen to and understand multiple perspectives. He takes purposeful actions in DELTA to create community and build a positive work culture.”

DELTA staff members gathered outside, smiling together.
DELTA staff members volunteering at Habitat For Humanity Day

For example, Champ has organized festive events as a member of DELTA’s activities committee, fostered fellowship with group lunches, and participated in several team-building events, like DELTA’s Habitat for Humanity days. Events like these allow Champ to continue the community service he’s passionate about outside of work. He’s fought local food insecurity by volunteering with the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina and organizing relief packages for those affected by Hurricane Florence.

In 2016, Champ exercised his talents for workplace improvement and service by completing the NC State Pathways Leadership Development program, a course in which employees collaborate to find creative and effective solutions to improve the university community. He was an active member of Team Bump as they worked to upgrade parental leave procedures at NC State. The team introduced the Expectant Parent Portal, described as “a one-stop shop for NC State faculty and staff who are planning to add to their families,” and presented their ideas as part of a subcommittee for the Council on the Status of Women.

Members of Team Bump remember Champ’s contribution with fondness and enthusiasm. “Jonathan serves as the subject matter expert in trying to understand, write and talk about the complex, interwoven patchwork of policies that govern parental leave (which could be a full-time job on its own). Our parental leave proposal would not have gotten as far as it has without Jonathan’s ongoing commitment to equity,” says Director of Strategic Initiatives, Sustainability Traci Dixon.

Senior Consultant, NC State Learning and Organizational Development Stephanie Davis echoes the praise of Champ’s coworkers regarding his positive attitude and commitment to strong workplace relationships. “Jonathan was exceptional at fostering relationships across the whole cohort because of his friendly demeanor. He was typically the one to willingly participate in group social events both during his time in and after the program.”

It’s this dedication to kindness, progress and collegiality that has earned Champ such profuse praise and the Provost’s Unit Award for Excellence.

Lou Harrison, Director of Educational Technology Services

Associate Vice Provost, Academic Technology Innovation Donna Petherbridge chose to nominate Lou Harrison in the Efficiency and Innovation category for his tireless commitment to the NC State Wolfpack and DELTA – a relationship that has persisted for nearly four decades.

Lou Harrison headshot
Lou Harrison

“Lou has been a driver for innovation, helping us become nationally recognized as technology innovators. Lou has been leading innovation in the enterprise technology space from the beginning of his tenure at NC State,” she explains in her nomination.

In his time at NC State, Harrison has contributed to projects that propel students and faculty forward. Previously, he worked with the Department of Computer Science to design WolfWare Classic, one of the first course management systems (CMS) and the primary CMS tool at NC State for close to 20 years. The program also lent its name to our current collection of academic technology tools, used by students and educators on the university scale. More recently, he’s been a leader in implementing Moodle as a campus-wide application.

Harrison has served as chair and member of the Campus IT Directors Committee, encouraging collaboration between units and colleges as they work to solve IT-related problems. Speaking to Harrison’s profound dedication to teamwork, Josh Gira, Director, College of Natural Resources says, “His efforts highlight his vision, recognition of needs that extend across campus, and willingness to share in the solution. We need more people like Lou who want to work across colleges and units, sharing in common goals.”

Off campus, Harrison is extremely active in the digital learning industry and shares his experiences with students. As an established member of SIGGRAPH, “an international community of researchers, artists, developers, filmmakers, scientists, and business professionals who share an interest in computer graphics and interactive techniques,” according to its website, Harrison travels around the world attending conferences and building connections. Petherbridge says he makes sure to bring students along for their benefit. “He and his committee helped students with reel, resume and portfolio review, provided them with topical webinars and coordinated mentoring for them from industry talent.” Some notable contacts he shares with NC State students? The original founders of Pixar, among other industry leaders.

Harrison also heads several teams that work toward student success. As a leader in EDUCAUSE Student Success Analytics Constituent Group, he implements the use of learning analytics and data to positively impact students. He serves in roles like DELTA’s Director, Educational Technology Services and member of the Top Hat Customer Advisory Board to make sure vendors and their products are designed in the best interest of students.

Harrison standing at the Great Wall of China
Harrison at the Great Wall of China.

In his free time, Harrison likes to travel around the world, having explored places like the Great Wall of China and the Mekong Delta. He’s even circumnavigated the globe. In his travels, he loves to try new foods and mingle with prominent chefs like Jacques Pepin and Alex Guarnaschelli. 

On campus and off, Harrison knows what it means to think big. “Lou is unique in his ability to see the big picture and drive change in the technology field,” notes Petherbridge. “Lou is the guy behind the scenes making things better for DELTA, and he deserves recognition for his innovative thinking over time.” 

Alexis Simison, HR Consultant, Academic Outreach & Entrepreneurship Finance & Business

Simison received her nomination in the Human Relations category from Assistant Vice Provost, Business Operations Jessie Sova for her remarkable effect on morale at DELTA. “She has helped to shape a work culture that attracts and retains the best talent; the turnover rate is virtually non-existent in DELTA as employees embrace respecting each other, our customers, and the betterment of the greater community. She champions an environment where work-life balance and collaboration is the norm.”

Alexis Simison smiling with a dog.
Alexis Simison

In her decade with DELTA, Simison has earned the nickname “HR Goddess.” As the Academic Outreach and Entrepreneurship division has grown, she’s been up for the challenge, accepting HR responsibility for the nearly 20 programs and units that are a part of NC State Entrepreneurship and advancing its commitment to excellence.

To ensure a manageable and seamless expansion, Simison knows to place people at the forefront of her focus. “Alexis has been guiding and supporting the division, advising and resolving issues regarding staffing, position management, organizational development, recruitment and hiring, leave administration, and employee relations and performance,” says Sova. “Alexis has indeed been our organizational change champion and moral support!”

Simison has implemented several effective strategies to create a workplace culture of positivity and ambition. One of these strategies has been to establish employee ownership of the organization, making sure that everyone feels dedicated to improving DELTA for those they work with and those they serve. Sova continues, “Alexis helps us create an organizational culture and climate in which people have the competency, concern, and commitment to achieve goals and serve our faculty, staff and students well.”

Another of these strategies has been to promote wellness. “Alexis has been a Wellness Champion in DELTA and developed our DELTA Wellness Plan, kicking off our official wellness program at DELTA in April 2018, coordinating wellness activities that range from lunch and learns about work-life balance, to mindfulness meditation sessions, to yoga.” She also led the creation of the DELTA Lactation and Wellness Room, open to nursing mothers as well as DELTA employees in need of a moment of rest. As a result of her efforts, DELTA earned a gold Well Wolfpack Certification from NC State Human Resources.

A water color painting of the moon created by Simison
One of Simison’s original water color paintings.

Simison is committed to enhancing diversity and inclusion at DELTA. “All new positions utilize diversity recruitment,” says Sova. “Alexis also ensures our search committees are educated about and practice fair hiring as we strive to create a diverse workforce.”

In addition to these initiatives, she’s also been a champion for working families, spearheading the Children in the Workplace standard operating procedure and HR-approved telecommuting policies to ease employees in creating schedules compatible with their home life.

Simison practices her own work-life balance. When she’s not spending time with her two grandsons, she likes to craft her own works of art including watercolor paintings, stained glass and kaleidoscopes and rescue animals in need of homes. She even helps place rescue pets into caring homes of her colleagues at DELTA.

Simison exemplifies the criteria for the Provost’s Unit Award for Excellence, demonstrating devotion to all of her colleagues and making DELTA a caring and compassionate environment for everyone.

Bethanne Tobey, Lead Instructional Designer

“Bethanne Tobey has brought her excellent organizational skills and efficiency mindset to DELTA, resulting in improvements in our existing services, successful leadership of large and complex projects and the creation of a new service resulting in shared innovation and efficiencies that positively impact students and faculty,” says Director, Instructional Innovation Services David Howard.

Photo of Bethanne Tobey outside of CTI. Photo by Thomas Crocker.
Bethanne Tobey

He nominated Tobey in the Efficiency and Innovation category for her implementation of NC State’s course quality assurance program, Quality Matters (QM), a national organization that uses a research-based rubric of course design standards and peer review to assess quality in online courses.

“Bethanne felt that NC State could leverage the system membership to enhance our national reputation as a Distance Education leader by assuring that our online courses meet quality standards for online courses, increase student success by reviewing and improving online and blended courses, and create efficiencies for those creating online courses by developing templates and design documents,” says Howard. 

Tobey was the first to introduce this program at DELTA and took several steps to ensure its success, including the creation of the Online Course Improvement Program (OCIP) for faculty, a business plan and a presentation to the DELTA Senior Management Team. The team granted her a budget, and she quickly coordinated a pilot for the program. It is now a successful program offered by DELTA, with 11 courses QM certified across five different colleges in the university, with more on the way.

Her work in establishing OCIP has earned her recognition among the UNC System Quality Matters Council, for which she was appointed the Central Regional Representative and the Course Review Coordinator for the whole UNC System.

Tobey smiling outside with a young boy and a horse.
Tobey volunteering at Helping Horse.

Tobey’s accomplishments are reflective of her innovative mindset and knack for finding efficient solutions to complex problems. She often works with others to improve their projects with notable results.

“She has worked effectively with our communications expert to strategically use marketing to increase visibility of the Instructional Design Interest Group. Her work resulted in a 15% increase in average attendance,” Howard explains. “She also utilized her organizational skills to assist in the creation of the Virtual Reality Interest Group, working collaboratively with DELTA’s Creative Director to increase communication across campus.”

In her free time, Tobey loves to spend time outdoors with her four cats and dogs and do community service. She’s the lead volunteer with Helping Horse, where she organizes other volunteers as they teach riders with disabilities. “Helping Horse holds a special place in Bethanne’s heart because the organization believes that everyone deserves an opportunity to achieve success.”

For her dedication to improving the quality of services at DELTA and the lives of others, Tobey has certainly earned this award.