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Annie Speicher and Jonathan Diehl Named 2020 Employee Excellence Awardees

Posted Date: 15 Apr 2021

Effective Date: 15 Apr 2021

Working through a pandemic introduced changes and challenges that no one could have imagined. Nonetheless, Northwestern IT employees rallied with a commitment to continue delivering excellent service and support to the University community. At the first Extended Staff Meeting of 2021, Northwestern IT gathered virtually to recognize employee and project team excellence for outstanding work and dedication.

Presenting the awards, Sean Reynolds, vice president for information technology and chief information officer, emphasized his appreciation for the efforts of all IT staff and congratulated and recognized all 12 Employee Excellence Award nominees, highlighting common traits emphasized in their nominations: being trustworthy, having integrity, and their personal sense of responsibility to improve the work environment and overall culture of Northwestern IT.

In the end, the 2020 Employee Excellence Award went to two equally worthy nominees—Annie Speicher, digital media specialist in Media and Technology Innovation (M&TI), and Jonathan Diehl, learning engineer lead in Teaching and Learning Technologies (T&LT).

Annie Speicher

Image of Annie SpeicherIn her nominations, Speicher's colleagues recognized the tremendous value she offers her team and the University. Stephen Poon, digital media specialist lead, noted that because of her work, departments have been able to meet recruitment and funding goals, and closer to home, M&TI has been able to reach out to a wider variety of clients and take on impactful projects.

Speicher directed, produced, and edited a video for the interdisciplinary SCALES project. The research group was thrilled with the result and noted it was a distinguishing component of their successful $5M National Science Foundation grant application.

She also earned praise for her work coordinating and producing videos to support the University's transition to remote teaching and learning. The Keep Teaching Video Series,  created in collaboration with Teaching and Learning Technologies, spotlighted faculty insights and best practices and was a resource for the Practicum in Foundations of Online Teaching.

Additionally, the Insider's Guide to Remote Learning video was created as part of Academic Support and Learning Advancement (ASLA) efforts to center peer guidance and mentorship as a foundation of undergraduate support and was shown during the 2020–21 Wildcat Welcome student orientation.

Speicher's nominators noted her exceptional skills, with Poon sharing, "Annie brings the quality of our department's work to a higher level, which has also brought success for our collaborators and colleagues." Ken Panko, director of M&TI, wrote, "The videos Annie edits are technically brilliant. The work is so professional that you almost don't notice it. It just makes sense."

Talking about her award, Speicher noted, "I'm really surprised and honored to be awarded the Employee Excellence Award this year. As a working mom with a Kindergartener at home, this past year has been extremely difficult. I am grateful to work for an organization that can recognize how hard it's been, and I hope we all take a moment to congratulate ourselves for everything we have accomplished over the past year, both personally and professionally."

Jonathan Diehl

Image of Jonathan DiehlDiehl was equally modest about being selected for the 2020 award, and he was quick to acknowledge his accomplishments this year as a collective effort. "I am extremely humbled and honored to receive the award. This year has been a trying time for many of us, and the progress we've made this year would not have been possible without the support of my entire team and many of our fellow IT teams."

When Diehl stepped into a lead role in January 2020, no one knew what the year would bring. He had just begun leading projects for a highly-skilled group of five learning designers when the abrupt shift to remote learning put them all to the most extreme test. Diehl's work with Zoom is a testament to his adaptability, will to excel under pressure, and commitment to excellence. He led the Teaching and Learning Technologies push to become proficient in using Zoom as a teaching tool, almost immediately after it had been rolled out across campus as a new video conferencing solution.

His nominator, Vicky Getis, director of T&LT, explained the significance of this feat. "Only a week after Zoom's rollout, and the first workday after all staff were asked to work from home, the Teaching and Learning Technologies staff ran virtual Canvas and Zoom workshops several times a day. In the next three weeks, through dozens of workshops, Diehl and the team connected with and taught more than 1,600 instructors. His organizational skills ensured each staff member was well prepared, working from the same script, and ready to help Northwestern instructors jump into the new world of remote instruction."

Diehl has continued the crucial work of preparing Northwestern's instructors to deliver exceptional instruction in new modalities. He collaborated with staff across several units to design and deliver Northwestern's first-of-its-kind training, the Practicum in Foundations of Online Teaching. With the foundational practicum receiving overwhelming praise, Diehl was asked to help instructors extend and deepen their teaching skills across modalities. He is currently leading the Advanced Practicum in Hybrid Teaching. He also serves as the chair of the team planning TEACHx, Northwestern's annual symposium on innovation in teaching and learning.

As the pandemic continued, with only three and a half weeks before fall 2020 classes began, Diehl was tasked with devising a plan and schedule to fulfill the Office of the Provost's request for Teaching and Learning Technologies to host more than 100 sessions to support 1,800 faculty members, ultimately ensuring their course designs were sound and providing them with a checklist to deliver successful instruction.

Getis noted, "Jonathan's excellent work always is a direct result of his integrity. Jonathan acts ethically and honestly at all times. He is transparent, open, and collaborative."

After attending a workshop that Diehl led, Susan Phillips, associate professor of English in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, shared, "What an amazing job Jonathan Diehl did today in the "Introduction to Zoom" seminar. He was fantastic—knowledgeable, clear, flexible, encouraging, patient. Everyone left the class feeling hopeful and more confident. And, I just wanted to take a moment to sing his praises."

Congratulations to Annie Speicher and Jonathan Diehl and all of the nominees for the 2020 Employee Excellence Award. To learn more about the award, visit the Inside IT Staff Recognition page.

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