Photo caption: Nicole Owen, a longtime office manager in UW-Eau Claire’s mathematics department, is the recipient of the UW System Board of Regents University Staff Excellence Award for 2022. She will receive the award during a ceremony Sept. 30 as part of the Regents’ September meeting at UW-Eau Claire.
A longtime staff member at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire is the recipient of the UW System Board of Regents University Staff Excellence Award for 2022.
Nicole Owen, an office manager in UW-Eau Claire’s mathematics department, will receive the award during a ceremony Sept. 30 that is part of the Board of Regents meeting hosted by UW-Eau Claire.
Owen says she was “pleasantly shocked” to learn she was receiving the award given the many university staff members who work hard to support students, faculty and staff at UW-Eau Claire and other UW campuses.
University staff are the “backbone of our institutions,” so it’s meaningful that the Board of Regents now recognizes their contributions through its excellence awards, she says.
“I take pride in my work, enjoy what I do and strive to be a good co-worker, colleague, mentor and friend,” Owen says. “Becoming the recipient of the Regents award is heartwarming and makes the time I've spent building relationships, collaborating with other leaders and having crucial conversations worth it. I am proud to know that my work, and the work of others like myself, is being recognized.”
Award recipients are selected for superior performance resulting in significant contributions to the department and university; use of positive personal interaction to manage work changes; and a consistently innovative approach that improves productivity and work quality. Each recipient is awarded $7,500 to support professional development or program enhancements.
Owen has worked for UW-Eau Claire since 2007 and for the university’s mathematics department since 2008. The department is among the largest on campus, with 40 full-time faculty and academic staff and more than 100 student employees. More than 200 Blugolds are mathematics majors, and another 150 students are pursuing minors in mathematics.
As an office manager, Owen says her primary role is to assist faculty and staff in ways that ensure they can spend their time in their classrooms, participating in research and providing services to their students. She also works to support students, saying it's critical for students to feel engaged and connected to one another, the department and the campus.
The department hosts multiple large events each year, and Owen plays a critical role in planning and running the events, work that is helping to grow participation in them. Supporting those events is one way to build community, she says.
“To succeed, we need to work together to build a culture of inclusivity, creativity and compassion within our department and across UW-Eau Claire,” Owen says.
While being the “point person” for such a large department is a significant responsibility, Owen says it’s right where she wants to be because the department is “my home and I take pride and ownership in being part of this family.”
Describing Owen as a “major contributor to the success of the math department,” Dr. Abra Brisbin, associate professor and chair of the mathematics department, says Owen is a mentor to students in the department and supports faculty in countless ways. Her ideas, hard work and ability to problem solve are valuable to faculty and students, she says.
“Nicole Owen is responsible, dependable and dedicated to her work,” Brisbin says.
Dr. aBa Mbirika, professor of mathematics, agrees, describing Owen as “incredible and indispensable.”
Owen is an “integral part of our day-to-day work and helps us in every way to make our lives so that we can focus on our teaching, research and service,” Mbirika says.
In addition to her work in the mathematics department, Owen has been an active member in and leader of the University Staff Council since 2016 and has served as chair of the council since 2020.
Since becoming involved in the University Staff Council, Owen says she’s become “even more passionate” about advocating for employees and encouraging them to use their voice to invoke change.
Describing Owen as a “strong advocate for university staff,” Chancellor James Schmidt says she approaches her work as a representative of university staff with “pride, care and high energy.”
Her leadership has been especially valuable during COVID-19, Schmidt says, noting that Owen spent “countless hours” meeting with colleagues, campus leaders, community health leaders and others as they worked to understand pandemic-related issues and make decisions that would keep the campus safe.
Owen also is involved in the Professional Development Committee, Employee Appreciation Committee, the Administrative Professional Collaboration Group, UW-Eau Claire Caregiving Group, National Conference on Undergraduate Research Special Sessions Committee and serves as the liaison for the Commission on the Status of Women.
“We like to talk about UW-Eau Claire as a family of learners,” Schmidt says. “As colleagues mutually dedicated to help transform student lives. Nicole exemplifies the power of this metaphor through the commitment she embodies day in and day out on our campus.”