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The annual Dean’s Performance Awards honor employees whose work helps the UNC School of Medicine achieve its vision of becoming the nation’s leading public school of medicine.

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The awards span six categories that are aligned with the School of Medicine’s Forward Together strategic plan: research, service, education, faculty, diversity and administrative infrastructure. This year, more than 70 nominees were considered for their extraordinary efforts and the winners were announced at the 2023 School of Medicine Annual Staff Summit on Oct. 3. All those nominated for these awards were invited to a lunch in their honor with the School of Medicine administration.

John, Jeff, Holly, Rhonda

John, Jeff, Holly, and Rhonda from the Biochemistry and Biophysics department were nominated for the 2023 Dean’s Performance Awards due to their extraordinary efforts.

photo of John Hutton, Post-Award Accounting Manager
John Hutton, Post-Award Accounting Manager

John Hutton

As Post-Award Administrator, John primarily maintains, oversees, and reports financial accounting data to our faculty to aid them in understanding the financial components of their projects.  This is essential to ensure that faculty adhere to sponsor guidelines, funds are monitored and spent appropriately, and that funds are available to support the needs of the project.
He provides excellent customer service to the faculty and research staff members assigned to him.  When asked to do something by one of his faculty members, he completes their requests as he knows that it is important for their need of the information, they require to do their job.  He also trained several research staff members for his faculty on UNC systems, which speaks volumes to his willingness to help others. Faculty also appreciate his patience and ability to explain policies and procedures to help ensure that their projects are running smoothly financially.
Jeff Jones
Jeff Jones, lab manager

Jeff Jones

Mr. Jones has been supporting the research efforts of three very active research groups in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics since 2009. Though his position was designed as a lab manager to coordinate supply ordering, safety compliance, and general organization, he quickly developed into a departmental leader with impacts far beyond his three main labs.
After relocating to North Carolina in 2009, he began his work at UNC in the laboratories of Professors Jean Cook, Brian Strahl, and Brian Kuhlman. Over the next few years Mr. Jones provided consistently excellent and conscientious service in his primary duties, and this performance ensured the smooth operation of three large research teams. Our award nomination here is for the work he has done above and beyond his primary duties to help the entire Department.
Mr. Jones is unfailingly calm, optimistic, and respectful, even when faced with frustrating interactions with vendors. He maintained his excellent level of performance even through difficult personal times and the global pandemic. For all these reasons, we give Mr. Jones our highest possible recommendation.
Holly Shepherd, Student Services

Holly Shepherd

As Student Services Manager, Holly is the interface between PhD students, administration, and faculty, and she ensures that every graduate student in the program is on track. Her efforts and contributions speak volumes to her commitment and dedication.
Holly revised academic advising and created a new process that better tracks student milestones and provides concrete support for students.  She had an active role in initiating an emergency financial fund, curriculum changes, and a student advisory board.  As co-chair of the Graduate Education Committee, she has worked closely with the Director of Graduate Studies to address issues within graduate education and provided administrative support for the newly established postdoctoral committee.
Holly was appointed chair of the DEI Community Engagement sub-committee.  As Chair, she works with the DEI committee chair to re-establish a project called Synergy to enhance the community between students, faculty, staff, and postdoctoral fellows within the department and provide opportunities for open communication and collaboration among groups.  As a member of the DEI Access and Success sub-committee, she has played an active role in establishing a Peer Mentoring Network to support students.
Rhonda B. Strickland
Rhonda Strickland, Executive Assistant

Rhonda Strickland

Rhonda holds the current title of Executive Assistant to the Chair, but this title fails to fully capture the range of support she gives to the academic and research missions of the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics.  In her regular duties, Rhonda is consistently responsive, accurate, detail-oriented, and prompt– she almost never forgets even minor requests or tasks. She manages data duties such as distributing and then collecting the annual faculty activity reports and scheduling their meetings with the Chair. She fields a steady stream of meeting requests, including those requiring responding to digital polls.
Rhonda goes way above and beyond her job responsibilities. She sees herself not as a departmental employee, but rather as a host providing hospitality to the members of the department and our guests. In addition to performing her official duties – and then some extra ones – with competence and high reliability, Rhonda is always cheerful and positive.
I have been unfailingly impressed with her abilities and positive outlook. Rhonda Strickland is the best possible representative of someone who provides exceptional support to the academic mission.

Thank you to our staff members who contribute daily to advance the School of Medicine’s Forward Together strategic plan of research, service, education, faculty, diversity and administrative infrastructure.
Read about the 2023 winners.