With a megawatt smile and a humble demeanor, Geological Sciences senior Brandon Okafor stepped into a room full of his colleagues on March 1 for the surprise of his life, namely the honor of receiving The University of Texas at Austin's first-ever Student Employee of the Year award.
Nominated by his two supervisors Nicole Evans and Heather Routt in the Jackson School of Geosciences, Okafor is the first student to receive the university's new Student Employee of the Year award and a $500 prize thanks to a one-time grant from the National Student Employment Association (NSEA) and UPS.
In 2007, Okafor began his first semester working at the university in the Department of Theatre and Dance, and he has held several different on-campus jobs since. He now works on a variety of projects as a student associate in the Jackson School of Geosciences, including assisting with building projects, helping with event and field trip preparations, and organizing lab supply rooms and classrooms, among other duties. According to his supervisors, "Brandon is the go-to for everything under the sun" and "not only does he never complain, he cheerfully rises to the occasion."
Student Employment Coordinator Amy Greenspan in Human Resource Services (HRS) spearheaded the Student Employee of the Year award. After attending a NSEA conference, Greenspan decided it was time the university appropriately recognize its student employees. Appealing to Longhorn pride, she played up the fact that Texas AandM University has been recognizing its student employees for more than a decade.
Less than one year later, Greenspan successfully implemented a method for nominating and rewarding student employees and collaborated with the Texas Exes and Student Affairs to recognize the nominees for the Student Employee of the Year award.
Supervisors across campus nominated more than 80 students for the award, with 10 moving on to become finalists. In order to be considered for the award, students had to meet the minimum work hour requirements. Then, each nominee was ranked on six different criteria: reliability, quality of work, initiative, attitude, professionalism and unique contribution.
Okafor's exceptional performance in each of these areas earned him the award. He was recognized for his achievement at the Texas Exes' 2011 Student Leadership Awards event on April 4, and he will be honored again on April 13 when the Division of Student Affairs hosts a luncheon for all the nominees and nominators as part of the nationwide celebration of National Student Employment Week (April 1016). During that week, all colleges, schools and departments are encouraged to recognize and thank the more than 10,000 students who work for the university.
To learn more about the work Greenspan has done to educate the campus about student employment, visit the Student Employee section of the HRS Web site.