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Highlighting UA employees after Forbes recognition

Vincent Tran

 Rebecca Ballenger works with her students to prepare books for their silent books exhibit. 

According to Forbes Magazine, the University of Arizona is one of the best employers in the state. 

On June 5, Forbes published America’s Best Employers By State 2019, where the UA was ranked No. 11 out of 72 employers in Arizona. With employers solely headquartered in Arizona, the university came in second, with GoDaddy taking the No. 1 spot.

In a tweet reacting to this recognition, UA President Dr. Robert C. Robbins said, “we take immense pride in an outstanding professional environment where employees can expand their own potential while helping students pursue success.”

“The university strives to be a place that brings out the best in each member of its community,” said the UA Human Resources department. “It is important to remember that many of the same things that draw students to the UA are the same things that attract employees.”

According to UA HR, many of the programs and services available to students are also available to employees, such as childcare support, counseling and accessibility options.

Whether it be working with students or not, many UA employees have left their mark on the university with the work they’ve done and continue to do. 

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Danielle Hargett, College of Education marketing specialist, highlighted an employee that she believes has made an incredible mark on students and faculty — Rebecca Ballenger, the associate director of Worlds of Words, one of the largest collections of children’s literature in the U.S.

Ballenger began her journey at the College of Education in January 2001 then left in May 2010. In June 2016, she returned and has been standing strong since.

Hargett says often times employees are too busy to speak with their neighbors, but Ballenger tries to increase her interactions by hosting workshops and field trips.

“She not only inspires the children who visit Worlds of Words, she also finds ways to bring together College of Education staff and faculty members for fun workshops,” Hargett said.

As Associate Director of World of Words, Ballenger is in charge of student workers and interns. 

“She inspires the same level of creativity and provides opportunities for them to learn, grow and gain confidence in preparation for their professional careers,” Hargett said.

Though there are hundreds of employees working directly with students, there are also hundreds of employees who work behind the scenes to make our buildings function and our campus clean and friendly.

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According to Christopher Kopach, assistant vice president of Facilities Management, the facilities team consists of about 640 employees. They have received the Award for Excellence in Facilities Management twice, once in 2014 and later in 2018.

Though it was difficult for Kopach to choose just one employee, he highlighted a worker that has been a part of Facilities Management for 31 years.

Rick Lower, the UA superintendent of Central Plant, has played a major role in Facilities Management and continues to today.

“Over the years, he has been in charge of our utility systems, our plumbing department and, more recently, our power plants,” Kopach said.

Before Google, Lower was the answer to everything involving mechanical systems, construction and utility tunnels. “Rick was the guy everyone would go to,” Kopach said.

“[Lower] has a very diverse background. Plus he is extremely dedicated to the University, always making sure everything is running well,” Kopach said.

As for him, Lower says the UA has impacted him in a great way. “It has given me the opportunity to grow and learn within this community,” Lower said. 

The Facilities Management team has an incredible passion for keeping the UA an outstanding place, Kopach said. “We hire for heart and it shows in the quality of work we do.”

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