From transforming the way the University of Tennessee approaches diversity and inclusion to championing biomedical research, recipients of the 2020 President’s Awards, including two UT Martin employees, Dr. Richard Robinson and Davis Rash, embody excellence throughout the UT System.
UT President Randy Boyd selected six employees to honor this year.
“As the president of this University, one of my greatest honors is to see the incredibly impactful work our employees do every day,” Boyd said. “This year’s six deserving employees, and the thousands of employees across the System, are the reason this will be the greatest decade in the history of this University.”
President’s Awards are the highest honor a UT employee can receive from the University and are intended to spotlight success and inspire excellence. Honorees are selected each year from a Systemwide pool of candidates nominated by campus and institute leaders. Winners receive commemorative plaques and monetary awards of $3,000.
This year’s winners are:
Educate Honoree: Richard Robinson
Richard Robinson, a UT Martin professor of communications, has made extensive contributions to the hands-on, experiential education of UT Martin’s communications department and university radio station WUTM-FM 90.3 “The Hawk,” the chief learning lab for broadcast students on campus. With decades of professional experience, Robinson brings mentorship and professionalism to his students in the broadcast and public relations fields.
Robinson has led the radio station to a significant number of awards since he took helm in 2005. With 292 state and national recognitions in total, 76 of which were first place awards, the radio station remains a beacon of opportunity for students to gain professional experience. Several of the station’s top accolades include: the “Platinum Award” by the Intercollegiate Broadcasting System for the past nine years; “Best College Radio Station in the Nation” in 2012“ by the Intercollegiate Broadcasting System and “Best College Radio Station in the South” from 2014-2017 by the Southeast Journalism Conference. Robinson delivers multiple professional development and broadcasting workshops each year while maintaining meaningful and long-lasting relationships with UT Martin students and faculty.
Discover Honoree: Robert Williams
Robert Williams, a UT Health Science Center professor and chair of genetics, genomics and informatics, and UT-Oak Ridge National Laboratory Governor’s Chair in Computational Genomics, has pioneered worldwide advancement of the rapidly developing fields of systems genetics and experimental precision medicine for more than three decades. His work will transform the biomedical and clinical research landscape at all UT Health Science Center campuses for years to come.
Williams has been awarded 39 grants, including seven active and pending projects totaling more than $11.5 million. One of his most notable ongoing projects, in partnership with the the LeBonheur Hospital/UTHSC Department of Pediatrics Biorepository and Regeneron, a major biotechnology and pharmaceutical company in New York, will provide UT investigators with more than $10 million in genome sequence data for 25,000 Tennessee children.
Connect Honoree: Karen Armsey
Karen Armsey, director of the UT Institute of Agriculture’s Human-Animal Bond in Tennessee (HABIT) outreach program, has been a significant leader in advancing the engagement component of the land grant mission of UT. HABIT volunteers provide dog bite prevention instruction and education as well as lead animal visitations in schools, nursing homes, hospitals, mental health centers, rehabilitation facilities, local law enforcement offices and more. HABIT has more than doubled the number of volunteer teams and locations served under Armsey’s 15-year tenure.
Her efforts led to a partnership between HABIT, the UT Law School and Court Appointed Special Advocates of East Tennessee to serve children who are involved in abuse and neglect court or custody cases. Armsey and her Great Pyrenees mix Shelby, known as the “Courthouse Treasure,” were the first volunteer team to take part in the free program. Today, HABIT is comprised of more than 800 members, 650 active volunteers and connects with more than 400,000 Tennesseans annually.
Support (Exempt) Honoree: Ashlie Czyz
Ashlie Czyz, UT System executive recruiter and director of human resources programs, advances the hospitality and proactivity of the UT human resources department. During her time at UT, Czyz has led the successful recruitment of multiple senior positions, including the vice president for academic affairs and student success, the chief financial officer and the UT Martin chancellor. She serves as the welcoming first impression many candidates have of the University and embodies the professionalism and dedication necessary to the success of human resources.
Described as kind, responsive, thorough, professional and detail oriented, Czyz has been known to go above and beyond in her duties. She works to develop targeted recruitment strategies for the most well-qualified and diverse candidates while curating a strong network of professional contacts within the higher education community.
Support (Nonexempt) Honoree: Davis Rash
Davis Rash, UT Martin senior heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) specialist, has diligently supervised the maintenance, programming, repairing and updating of the HVAC system for close to 30 years. Rash’s dedication ensures faculty and staff have a comfortable space to serve UT Martin and allows students to live, work and study on campus. While it might be easy to overlook the importance of an efficient heating and cooling system when it’s working properly, Rash’s knowledge of the fine details of UT Martin’s HVAC system allows efficient and timely repairs, saving the University thousands in technician fees and loss of instruction time.
His personal effort to learn more on the intricacies of the UT Martin HVAC system demonstrates his commitment to the success of the University and all those who call it home. Rash exemplifies the spirit of UT Martin and frequently lends a helping hand to other employees and campus visitors. In 1998, Rash completed a bachelor’s degree in business administration at UT Martin, while working full time.
Diversity Honoree: Michael Alston
Michael Alston, UT Health Science Center assistant vice chancellor for equity and diversity and Title IX coordinator, has championed significant change across the UT System since the beginning of his career. Having served in leadership at UT Martin, UT Knoxville and currently the UT Health Science Center, Alston’s entire professional career has been in service to UT. Alston works tirelessly to promote diversity and inclusion at the UT Health Science Center and continually creates and leads innovative programs to improve the climate on campus.
Alston led the creation of the Diversity Certificate Program, a resource available to employees that is designed to enhance cultural competency and understanding of the latest research and best practices in the fields of diversity. Since its inception, more than 160 faculty and staff have completed the program. He also expanded diversity celebrations on campus and created programming for Black History, National Hispanic and LGBT awareness months. Alston is continuously expanding opportunities for faculty, staff and students to actively engage with the diversity and inclusion efforts at UTHSC and across the state.
More information about the President’s Awards can be found at https://president.tennessee.edu/awards/. Downloadable photos of the winners are located at https://news.tennessee.edu/presidents-awards-honorees-2020/.