Photo courtesy of BYU Human Resources
By Jessica Tanner
Three of our incredible staff and administration have recently been recipients of the Staff and Administrative Employee Recognition (SAERA) Award: Kathy Whitenight, Cherie Top, and Cara Wiley. These amazing women have displayed levels of continual learning, innovation, and care that have improved the College of Nursing and BYU. The University-sponsored SAERA Award recognizes those who have shown competency, respect for sacred resources, integrity, teamwork, exceeding customer expectation, respect for all individuals, innovation and accountability. These women have definitely achieved that.
Competency: Striving for excellence and sharpening skills on a continuous basis, 2018.
“As an assistant dean, Kathy Whitenight is essential to the workings of the college of Nursing,” writes Dean Patricia Ravert, who nominated her for the award in 2018. On receiving the award Whitenight reports, “I know when other people are getting the awards but I had no idea I was submitted. So it was a big surprise and really an honor to get it.”
There were several reasons why Dean Ravert nominated Whitenight in the competency category. Whitenight has kept up with legal matters, managed updates in physical facilities, and overseen human resources. Another major department she oversees is Risk Management, where she helps students get the care they need in case of incident or injury. In this duty, Whitenight demonstrates personal care to each student. “They have my cellphone; they can call me 24/7,” she explains. “I’ve only gotten one call in the last year at 3:00 a.m. but I want them to that. I’d rather have them do that than not get the care they need and the financial coverage.” Whitenight keeps up on policies and procedures to help students avoid potential problems.
On Whitenight’s wall hangs James C. Christensen’s painting The Widow’s Might. “I have this picture on the wall,” she explains, “because…most of the things [we do] are done through tithing dollars. And that’s the widow’s mite.” Working with finances, Whitenight handles sacred resources with great care and respect.
Whitenight has to learn continually to keep up with technology and policies. “Each day something new could come in that I’ve never experienced before. And that’s what makes it exciting.”
Exceeding Service Expectations: Serving the needs of others beyond what is expected, 2018
Cherie Top, the Graduate Program and Research Secretary, was awarded for exceeding service expectations. Associate Dean and Professor Jane Lasseter nominated Top after seeing her interact with the students that would come up to apply for the graduate nursing program. “When we have our new applicants coming in they have to do a writing prompt,” Top explains. “And when they come in for their writing prompt we take their photo so that we can use it for the interview…So I make them take a picture up against the wall right next to Jane’s office. In her letter she talked about how I’m really nice to them because they come in and they’re really nervous for the writing prompt.” She helps to put these students at ease as they apply for their future.
Top is also consistently helpful and kind to the other faculty and staff. In fact, the people she gets to work with are her favorite part of her job. “The thing I like most about working here is the environment and the people that we work with. I feel like the staff and the faculty are a really close-knit group but they’re also really inviting.” She immediately felt included when she started working at BYU almost four years ago.
As for receiving the award, Top says, “I was super, super surprised. I didn’t even know they did those awards,” she admits with a laugh. “And they kept it a really good secret—they did it during college assembly and it was just a normal college assembly and I didn’t know it was going to happen.” It was a pleasant surprise, and the clock she received (the SAERA Award trophy) sits shining on her cabinet.
Innovation: Finding ways to improve products/services to change the way work is accomplished, 2019
Advisement Center Supervisor Cara Wiley was nominated for the SAERA Award by Associate Dean and Associate Professor Katreena Merrill in the innovation category. This was prompted by Wiley’s push for and implementation of an orientation class for first-semester nursing students.
“Before, the students had nothing,” says Wiley. When she became part of BYU nursing advisement, there was no orientation at all for nursing students. An orientation dinner was introduced, but it still was not enough. Wiley remembers, “I researched…other schools here at BYU who have limited enrollment programs, and they had orientation meetings.” It seemed to work for them, so Wiley worked to implemented it in the College of Nursing. It eventually turned into a 390R class so students could have it in their schedules.
“We’re trying to develop emotional intelligence, students’ resiliency, and [also] working on perfectionism,” Wiley explains. “It’s literally meant to orient them, [to say], hey, this is what it’s going to be like in the nursing program.” Students are able to meet future faculty and learn about a wide variety of subjects. Wiley reports it is a work in progress. “We just keep tweaking it, trying to make it better, trying to help them come in and learn how to be resilient in the first semester so that when they hit the harder semesters, they can handle it.”
Wiley has enjoyed being a part of the orientation class. “It’s nice for me, for the advisement center, to be involved in this orientation class because the students get to know us.” It also brought about the nomination for the SAERA Award. Though she was shocked to get the award, she was also grateful. “I haven’t gotten an award like that in my 14 years of being here and it was really nice to be recognized by my boss…We’ve been doing a lot of changes, and now we’re seeing the results.”