Pamela DeGraffenreid, director of the Western Carolina University Bookstore and vice chair of the University of North Carolina System’s Staff Assembly, is the 2017 recipient of the Thomas W. Ross Visionary Leader Award.
The award was created last year to honor UNC President Emeritus Thomas W. Ross, who was known as an inspired leader and advocate for staff members across the university system during his tenure as president, said Pernell D. Bartlett, university program specialist in the Office of Sponsored Programs at Elizabeth City State University and outgoing chair of the UNC Staff Assembly.
DeGraffenreid, former chair of WCU’s Staff Senate, becomes only the second recipient of the award, which is presented to a UNC Staff Assembly delegate who has proven to be an exemplary leader who models the way for others to follow and inspires a shared vision on his or her campus, throughout Staff Assembly and across the UNC system.
“Pamela DeGraffenreid earned this award though her tireless efforts in supporting the goals and objectives of the assembly,” Bartlett said. “As the chair of the UNC Staff Assembly’s Chair Committee, she and her committee just completed a most successful year, presenting numerous recommendations and suggestions to the full assembly on an array of issues. As the vice chair, she was active in the development of the 2017 UNC Chancellor Cup Golf Tournament, as well as performing the duties of the assembly chair in his absence.”
DeGraffenreid said she feels honored to be recognized by her peers across the UNC system through her selection as recipient of the award.
“This award sends the message to me, and hopefully others who will follow my path, that when you’re passionate about something, people notice. To know that I have an opportunity to actually make a difference in the work experience for more than 30,000 employees is just overwhelming at times,” she said. “However, once I was able to move past the excitement of actually being able to implement some of my ideas, I willingly dove in, spending numerous hours on several projects. I feel this award shows how much the Staff Assembly members appreciate my commitment to our state employees.”
A member of the WCU Staff Senate since 2011, she served as chair of that organization during the 2015-16 academic year, a position that also included serving as a delegate to the UNC Staff Assembly. In October of this year, she was elected to a two-year term as Staff Assembly’s vice chair. DeGraffenreid said her time serving on the organization has given her confidence to believe that she can make a difference.
“The Staff Assembly has allowed me to express concerns important to those who not only work alongside me at WCU, but also at campuses across the state,” she said. “I am devoted to issues that make employees feel valuable. I am committed to finding opportunities that benefit state employees, especially the employees who may feel voiceless. I hope I have helped motivate a mindset of a broader vision of unity among our campuses, regardless of size.”
The UNC Staff Assembly is a prime example of what can happen when people share a common vision, she said.
“This group works endless hours each day on projects to improve the lives of our state employees. What I have also found, and hope I have passed on to our WCU delegates, is that through collaborative efforts change is doable, measurable and impactful. Most campuses share the same issues, but when we come together for the sole purpose of improving the working conditions for all state employees, we can, and should, make a difference. I love being a part of such a wonderful group of individuals who genuinely share the same passion,” she said.
The UNC Staff Assembly is the elected body of representatives of the staff of the 17 campuses of the University of North Carolina system, UNC General Administration and affiliates. The organization’s goal is to improve communications, understanding and morale throughout the system, and to increase efficiency and productivity in campus operations.