Every day, hundreds of staff members work on the front lines and behind the scenes at Chico State to support student success and carry out the University mission. From tackling small and large obstacles to handling campus and community crises to supporting and helping others, these individuals exemplify what it means to be a Wildcat.

This year, Staff Council is recognizing four employees with the 2019 Staff Excellence Awards to honor those whose contributions have greatly improved and impacted the campus community.

Outstanding Staff Employee of the Year

Portrait of Jeff Layne

Jeff Layne has an undeniable dedication to distance education students and embraces his multiple roles on campus with enthusiastic leadership. An integral part of campus for the last 32 years, he currently serves as a program director of Regional & Continuing Education. His creativity, dedication, and leadership of students attending Chico State from a distance are unmatched and, as described by comparative religion and humanities professor Jason Clower, a demonstration of his “freakish goodwill.” 

“Jeff is relentless in his passion for distance education students, and our faculty sees that in action,” said Interim Dean Clare Van Ness. “Jeff has helped the campus deliver education at a distance with technologies that vary from microwave delivery and television, to satellite delivery and desktop computers, to today’s online programs that are available on mobile devices.”

In addition to a number of campus endeavors, Layne has also pioneered the establishment of the comparative religion and humanities degree program and is credited to be a rocketing force behind recruitment, communication, and guidance in all spaces he occupies on campus. As Clower said, Layne is “the most outlandishly dedicated, unsparingly devoted, pathologically energetic staff employee of the year.” 

Staff Safety Award

Portrait of Cliff Chittenden

For the last four years, George “Cliff” Chittenden has been a consistent source of security and productivity for Facilities Management and Services (FMS) and the campus community. Chittenden is an FMS custodian and primarily maintains the second floor of the Arts & Humanities building. He is committed to maintaining the building and protecting those who frequently use the space, consistently working above and beyond to ensure both the cleanliness and safety of the building. In addition to his everyday custodial duties, Chittenden is praised by his nominators for being proactive in preventing trespassing and damage inside the building after operating hours. 

“Cliff is always concerned for our safety in these situations, reporting damage and missing property, and notifying us about any suspicious activity or elevators out of service,” said nominator Sharon DeMeyer, a staff member in the English department. “He also quickly cleans messes that could be hazardous or cause health risks. I feel safer when Cliff is on the job!”

Wildcat Spirit Award

Portrait of Paula Scholtes

Paula Scholtes is known across campus for her kind demeanor and her unwavering commitment to the University and those who make up the community. As colleague Mary Wallmark explains, “Paula is what sunshine would look like if it were a person.” Scholtes has filled many roles on campus throughout the last 30 years, including, and certainly not limited to: positions in the Meriam Library, Staff Council, Wildcat Spirit Week, Commencement, the Joy of Giving Program, and her support for Chico State’s Relay for Life Team through fundraising efforts for the American Cancer Society. As emphasized by one of her nominators, she uses these positions on campus to promote inclusion that professionally welcomes indigenous students, addresses homelessness and mental health, and improves outreach to underrepresented students.

Scholtes is also seen as a model for civic engagement. She frequently attends community festivals, events, and marches, and has been an advocate for community needs such as electing representative and diverse City Council members and community leaders. One of her nominators described Scholtes as someone who “greets you with kindness and takes an interest in and values the people who make up Chico State, and supports the values of diversity, inclusion, and sustainability with positivity, conviction, and enthusiasm.”

Customer Service Award

Portrait of Jennifer Thayer

Jennifer Thayer’s infectious positivity and strong support to every area of campus through her position in the Procurement and Contract Services department has earned her campuswide recognition. Thayer works diligently in negotiations and forming vendor contracts to ensure that Chico State is receiving the best quality products and services. Her involvement on campus extends to every imaginable area, from University Housing and athletic venues to functional aspects of campus such as elevators, key and lock systems, and basic commodity vendors used by staff, faculty, and students. No matter the task at hand, Thayer is credited with unending positivity and kindness. 

“Jennifer is always mindful of the laws and policies, and she is a responsible steward of our resources,” said Athletics Director Anita Barker. “With an eye toward serving students, she can be trusted to apply professional judgment in a proactive way to support her units.” 

Thayer makes every concern a priority and tackles them with enthusiasm, no matter how small the task. As her nominators described: whether a soccer field is flooding, University Housing has a purchasing issue, or a simple question needs to be answered regarding a contract or campus policy, Thayer is always reachable and goes above and beyond to find the best solution.