On Tuesday, Jan. 24, Sandra Cordell was recognized for going above and beyond as an employee of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
On Wednesday, Jan. 25, she is scheduled to have surgery as part of her cancer treatment.
“I’m actually still going through my journey. I have not finished yet. I’ve finished chemotherapy and radiation, but I’m still going through the surgeries and reconstruction,” said Cordell, program and project coordinator and Veterans Entrepreneurship Program director in the Gary W. Rollins College of Business and a breast cancer survivor.
Her continuing and outstanding work with the VEP while also facing cancer earned her a Chancellor’s Blue Ribbon Award. Employees are nominated by co-workers for the recognition, bestowed twice-yearly in a luncheon gathering hosted by Chancellor Steven R. Angle.
Cordell is one of six employees chosen over the second half of 2022, with a monthly honoree for each month from July until December.
“I have to say it humbled me quite a bit,” she said.
In recognizing the most recent award recipients on Tuesday, Angle emphasized his commitment to acknowledging exceptional work performance and commitment.
“It’s so important for us as a university to acknowledge you and what you do, taking the time to look at the accomplishments to show how you do your job; what you’ve done; the people who feel so fortunate to work with you and nominate nominated you,” Angle told the honorees.
“In many cases, it’s just fun for them to see you being acknowledged for what you do and who you are, the difference you make in the lives of our students.”
In nomination letters for the August award, Joe McCauley, academic advisor for the College of Arts and Sciences, was described as “first-one-in, last-one-out” by co-workers.
“I was told early on that, when you have a job to do, you do that job,” he said. “If that means you have to get there early in the morning and you are the last person that darkens the door at the end, that’s what you do.”
Emily Rosenquist, assistant director for advocacy and education in the Center for Women and Gender Equity, earned the Blue Ribbon Award for December. She said had been on the nominating end of the award in the past and to win one herself left her “in a little bit of disbelief.”
“I know that it was really genuine from them because I’ve worked with them to nominate other people,” she said.
Cordell, a U.S. Navy veteran, said, “I’m military—get the job done; put your head down and get it done—I can do it all myself,” but cancer treatments taught her that she actually couldn’t do it all herself.
“I leaned on my team more. It helped me to open up more and build those friendships even more,” she said. “It’s just brought me so much more happiness when you look at the big picture. It taught me to appreciate the important things.”
Chancellor’s Blue Ribbon award winners, July-December 2022
July 2022: Ann Laster, administrative specialist, Department of Performing Arts, nominated by seven fellow employees.
Laster was recognized for the impact of her work in the department, which has faced setbacks such as no performances in the Fine Arts Center due to building renovation and the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The last three years have been long … and Ann has been an anchor and support throughout,” one nominator wrote. Colleagues called her “the rock” and said she has handled diverse challenges “without complaint and [is] always pleasant in working with faculty.”
* * * * *
August 2022: Joseph McCauley, academic advisor, College of Arts and Sciences, recognized for efforts in the HUB success center for students.
“Joseph is the first one in the office and the last one to leave,” one nomination letter read. He was praised for stepping in when needed to help students and the campus community. His co-workers in the HUB said he is the “go-to problem solver” while he “maintains a positive attitude and has remained an encouraging voice through each hiccup, challenge or obstacle,” a nominator wrote.
* * * * *
September 2022: Sandra Cordell, program and project coordinator and Veterans Entrepreneurship Program director, Gary W. Rollins College of Business.
“Despite the exhaustion (of cancer treatment) and incredible amount of work required to deliver the Veterans Entrepreneurship Program, she continued to excel with her hard work and hustle to deliver an incredible and inspirational program,” Dr. Frank Butler, Frank W. McDonald and UC Foundation professor of business management, wrote in his nomination letter. Praise for VEP and its success can be attributed to Cordell’s work, he said. “It is clear that she has moved immeasurable mountains to make the program and department run smoothly, cultivating a terrific environment in which to grow and excel.”
* * * * *
October 2022: Kimberly Thomas, administrative assistant, departments of physical therapy and occupational therapy, recognized by 36 nominators from the UTC community, including colleagues and students.
“You need to know where something is? Go to Kim. You need someone to vent to? Kim will listen. You want someone to greet you with a warm smile and sincere good morning when you walk in the building? That person is Kim Thomas,” a nomination letter read.
Others described her as “a joy,” “our superhero,” “the glue of this area,” “kind and caring” and “truly a phenomenal individual.” Thomas was praised for “her care and attention to making students’ and coworkers’ lives better” every day, and for a “work ethic and keen awareness” that make “her departments and the University a better place to be.”
* * * * *
November 2022: Angela Foster, University photographer, Division of Communications and Marketing.
Foster “is one of those employees at UTC that you can’t quite believe does what she does,” a nominator wrote. Days, nights and weekends, Foster photographs events on campus and off, making “the University and its employees look their very best.” Foster was praised for the variety of photos and settings she captures, and for doing so cheerfully.
“To most of us, she is the quiet person on the sidelines with the big camera; to those with whom she works, she is a big-hearted, beautifully curious pleasure,” a nominator wrote.
* * * * *
December 2022: Emily Rosenquist, assistant director for advocacy and education, Center for Women and Gender Equity.
Rosenquist joined UTC in 2020 and “ever since has continued to increase accessibility to services for survivors and develop outreach programs focused on education and collaboration between campus and community partners,” a nomination letter read.
Rosenquist created 13 seminars on subjects from nursing to criminal justice; women, gender and sexuality studies to psychology, one nominator wrote, adding, “Despite taking on a very difficult and taxing job, Emily continues to center students in her practice and works diligently toward that goal each day.” Another nominator praised Rosenquist for, despite challenges to the work, still bringing “laughter and a sense of joy to the staff she works with and the students she serves.”