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2020 University Staff Excellence Award winner

Nicole Benning, Research Support Specialist, Research Services and Ethics Office, is the 2020 recipient of the University Staff Excellence Award winner.

“Dedicated”, “professional” and “honest” are just a few of the words used by her peers to describe Nicole Benning, the 2020 recipient of the University Staff Excellence Award.

Benning is a Research Support Specialist in the Research Acceleration and Strategic Initiatives department where she delivers administrative support and customer service to USask researchers. Among Benning’s responsibilities is managing various research processes, activities, and obligations in accordance with legislation, regulations, policies, guidelines, collective agreements, and standard operating procedures.

“Hers is a difficult and complex job, with high pressure and high stakes,” said Dion Martens, Director, Research Excellence and Innovation at USask. “In every way, at every step, Nicole goes above and beyond to deliver excellent service and support to researchers and administrators.

“Whether she is checking over a last-minute grant application and then submitting it on behalf of a researcher after hours—on the side of the highway using her phone—or taking the time to get to know a new colleague or faculty member and ensuring they feel welcome, Nicole demonstrates excellence.”

Benning has worked various roles in research at USask since 1999 and over her tenure, her work has demonstrated a commitment to the university and its priorities, as well as its values. Her integrity, strong work ethic, professionalism, and perseverance has garnered the respect of her co-workers as well as colleagues from other institutions 

“Nicole’s experience and expertise is sought after nationally,” said Susan Blum, Associate Vice-President Research and Innovation at Saskatchewan Polytechnic and former Director of Research Services and Ethics at the University of Saskatchewan. “She continually strives to enhance the work environment by providing extraordinary service to the university community. She is inspirational, supports and respects the endeavors of others.”

Benning’s name is always the first come up when someone has questions about research funding or the research process in general. She is always there to answer questions and make sure that the right information gets to the right people at the right time. Benning takes on the role of leader and mentor to other research support specialists and goes out of her way to identify and alleviate pain points that researchers encounter. Her knowledge and attention to detail have saved countless grant applications from rejection.­

It is these characteristics and her dedication to the university that make her a worthy recipient of the 2020 University Staff Excellence Award.

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