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Brunson, Webster Receive 2018 Provost’s Unit Award for Excellence

Awards for Excellence recipients Emanuel Brunson (left) and Jeff Webster (right) pictured with Senior Vice Provost Tom Miller (center) at the reception ceremony March 21, 2018 in Talley Student Union. Photo by Marc Hall.
Awards for Excellence recipients Emanuel Brunson (left) and Jeff Webster (right) pictured with Senior Vice Provost Tom Miller (center) at the reception ceremony March 21, 2018 in Talley Student Union. Photo by Marc Hall.

DELTA staff members Emanuel Brunson and Jeff Webster each received an Award for Excellence from the Office of the Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost for their outstanding service to DELTA and the NC State community. The two were honored at a reception ceremony held March 21, 2018, in Talley Student Union. 

In addition to a certificate for being nominated, recipients of the Award for Excellence receive a plaque, eight hours of paid time off and a check for $250.

Out of 17 nominees, Brunson and Webster were two of five selected for the award. Other nominees from DELTA included Lead Instructional Designer Cathi Dunnagan and Communications Coordinator Sherry O’Neal, both in the human relations category, who were also honored with a certificate at the reception ceremony.

Both Brunson and Webster won awards in the customer service category recognizing employees who provide exceptional service, exceed expectations and meet the needs of the customer with added value to the customer’s experience.

The two will be honored at the NC State Awards for Excellence ceremony in June where up to 12 people from across the university will receive special distinction as recipients of the university-level award.

Congrats to our DELTA recipients and nominees!

L-R: Stacy Gant, Provost Warwick Arden, Emanuel Brunson. Emanuel receiving his award. Photo by Marc Hall.
L-R: Stacy Gant, Provost Warwick Arden, Emanuel Brunson. Photo by Marc Hall.

Emanuel Brunson, Lead Technology Support Technician

Brunson was nominated by Director of Instructional Support Services Stacy Gant for his exceptional customer service to NC State faculty members in helping them navigate adding technology in their courses.

Brunson completed the Pathways Leadership Development Program in 2016 where he received a “Model the Way” award which emphasizes leaders who create standards of excellence and model those standards for others to follow. Gant noted that Brunson models the way in every aspect of his life.

Stephanie Davis, program manager for Pathways, said about Emanuel, “When I think of the word “service” I am reminded that the root word is “serve.” To me, the heart of excellent customer service is the ability to meet someone’s needs by thinking about things through their perspective even if it means putting aside your own needs in order to help someone else; in other words, to serve. Through my interactions with Emanuel and observing how he works with others, he genuinely serves people by demonstrating care and concern and is always willing to go out of his way to help and to provide insightful solutions. Emanuel exemplifies the definition of  excellent customer service.”

Gant said that since joining DELTA in 2012, Brunson has been the calm and reassuring voice that NC State faculty often find when calling the LearnTech help desk for assistance. She noted that many faculty members are often frustrated with an instructional technology challenge when they call for help. “Emanuel, however, has a knack for listening to people, for calming stressful situations, and for reassuring people. He truly wants to serve others by helping them. He can take a complex problem and break it down into small, achievable steps, helping faculty get where they need to be in using the technologies in their courses. He is above and beyond patient with people, and he has the ability to carefully listen to our customers to understand what they need,” Gant added.

In addition to his work supporting faculty, Brunson also serves as a leader to the help desk’s student workers. He is an inspirational and patient role model, advising and coaching the students on how to handle the many calls that pass through the help desk each year. Gant said his positive attitude and strong interpersonal skills help foster an excellent rapport not only with student workers but across the entire DELTA team. Brunson diligently works to be a voice for faculty among DELTA where he regularly presents issues from the faculty perspective to DELTA’s programmers.

Emanuel Brunson and his wife, Val, and son, Isaiah. Emanuel and family pictured after the awards. Photo by Marc Hall.
Emanuel Brunson and his wife, Val, and son, Isaiah. Photo by Marc Hall.

In his personal life, Brunson models the way by serving in his community. “Most recently, he and his wife were foster parents for two children who came from a difficult situation. As he does at work, Emanuel treated those children with care, compassion, patience and the celebration of small wins to try and make a positive difference in their lives,” said Gant. Brunson is also an ordained minister and teaches Sunday school and fills in for church services as needed. His ministry work in the past included a prison ministry at the Durham County Jail. In his free time, Brunson coaches youth baseball and basketball.  

“Emanuel’s role as a coach, and also through his work in ministry, is similar to how he views his role at the DELTA helpdesk; it is a service role, where you figure out what someone needs, and you help that person move forward the larger vision of the organization. You work with and coach others to find and amplify their strengths. You listen to them and help them succeed, and it is not about you being on the stage with a spotlight; it is how you model the way and serve others to help them get to where they want to be,” said Gant.

Gant added Brunson’s exceptional customer service to NC State faculty and to the broader community around him makes a deserving recipient of the Provost’s Unit Award for Excellence.

L-R: Provost Warwick Arden, Jeff Webster, Senior Vice Provost Tom Miller. Jeff receiving his Award for Excellence. Photo by Marc Hall.
L-R: Provost Warwick Arden, Jeff Webster, Senior Vice Provost Tom Miller. Photo by Marc Hall.

Jeff Webster, Senior Associate Director, Applications Development

“Jeff is one of those rare Information Technology professionals who is always focused on creating positive customer relationships and experiences. Often working quietly in the background, Jeff has been with NC State University since July 1996, and throughout his 20 years of service to NC State, is known among his colleagues and peers as an individual who has helped lead the way for new innovations while consistently focused on improving customer experiences with various technologies,” said Lou Harrison, director of Educational Technology Services, in his nomination submission.

According to Harrison, Webster was part of the four-person team who created WolfWare — the first of its kind online file storage, assignment and messaging system at NC State and the precursor to current Learning Management Systems (LMS). Since the beginning, Webster has been an integral part of implementing multiple enterprise academic technologies including a move to an open-source LMS with Moodle in 2008. “Not only did we implement Moodle on campus, we have embraced the open-source philosophy and regularly contribute to Moodle core under Jeff’s direction,” said Harrison.

Webster’s leadership during multiple iterations of Moodle with a customer-centered approach cannot be overstated. In 2012, Webster took the lead on a massive enterprise project to move NC State to Moodle 2, which is now used by almost every student at NC State. The complex project included developing new customizations and integrating Moodle 2 with other campus systems. Webster coordinated meetings, timelines, updated project tracking software all in a highly effective, collegial way with a focus on the user experience. Harrison noted that when DELTA transitioned completely to Moodle 2 in Fall 2013, it was largely thanks to Webster’s efforts.

The next major project was building a portal to let students and instructors easily access their courses and manage their course technologies. The “new WolfWare” took more than a year to develop and is continually being improved. “Jeff has been a great colleague when working on all the WolfWare website projects both internal and external to DELTA. He is able to have focused conversations about features that are needed, and he brings an outstanding knowledge about how the technical systems of the university work and a great deal of skill in translating user requests into systems requirements,” added Harrison. He also helped lead the way for implementing new technologies such as Blackboard Collaborate and Sonic Foundry Mediasite with a focus on the customer’s experience.

“In addition to helping us move forward in improving our technology, Jeff is integral to building positive customer relationships not only during times of transition but in moving forward with regularly engaging customers as active partners in making decisions about features that we could implement in our systems. Jeff thinks beyond the walls of NC State as well, working with his team to contribute improvements we have made to Moodle back to the open source LMS community,” said Harrison. Under Webster’s leadership, the DELTA team has developed a gamification module and Moodle NC State Book that will benefit Moodle users around the world.

Webster’s active leadership has helped DELTA move forward in collaborative and innovative ways. He is the lead for the WolfWare Governance Technical Committee, reviewing features requested by customers to ensure they will work. He participates in campus IT governance and shares his extensive knowledge of computer security issues across the NC State IT community. “Jeff is known for listening to our customers and doing everything he can to move our systems forward in ways that respond to their needs while balancing that with the real issues of IT security and sustainability of our systems,” said Harrison.

Webster also serves on the Committee of Management of the international Moodle Users Association as one of only 10 people from across the world on the board and one of two members from the United States. Webster represents the needs of NC State in the open-source community.

Outside of work, Webster enjoys tabletop board games such as Settlers of Catan, Fluxx and Dominion. Harrison also noted that Webster is involved with the distributed computing community, which involves allowing researchers to use spare computing cycles on individual’s machines, which means people can leverage vast computing capabilities beyond what they might have access to on their own.

“Jeff is a model for customer-focused design and collaboration with others, both internal and external to DELTA. Jeff is an IT guy who truly cares that the systems that we run are optimal and work for our customers, that the campus partners we collaborate with have a say in how our enterprise systems are implemented, and he ensures that DELTA continually looks for innovative ways to think and do,” Harrison added.

Photos by Marc Hall:

L-R: Daniel Davis, Provost Warwick Arden, Cathi Dunnagan. Cathi receiving award. Photo by Marc Hall.
L-R: Daniel Davis, Provost Warwick Arden, Cathi Dunnagan.
L-R: David Howard, Provost Warwick Arden, Sherry O'Neal. Sherry receiving award. Photo by Marc Hall.
L-R: David Howard, Provost Warwick Arden, Sherry O’Neal.
The attendees of the reception congratulate the nominees and award recipients.
The reception attendees congratulate the nominees and recipients.
DELTA colleagues cheer as Emanuel Brunson walks to accept his award. Photo by Marc Hall.
DELTA colleagues cheer as Emanuel Brunson walks to accept his award.
Several DELTA staff members attended the awards reception to support our nominees.
DELTA's Awards for Excellence nominees pictured left to right: Sherry O'Neal, Emanuel Brunson, Senior Vice Provost Tom Miller, Jeff Webster and Cathi Dunnagan. Photo by Marc Hall.
L-R: Sherry O’Neal, Emanuel Brunson, Senior Vice Provost Tom Miller, Jeff Webster and Cathi Dunnagan.