Staff Awards for Excellence presented to three UNK employees

KEARNEY – Three University of Nebraska at Kearney staff members were honored Friday for their outstanding service to students, the university and education.

Renee Besse, LeAnn Jochum and Stacy Darveau were recognized with the Staff Awards for Excellence during the annual Faculty/Staff Convocation. Each honoree received a framed certificate and $1,000.

Staff Awards for Excellence are sponsored by UNK and the Jim and Lynn Rundstrom Family Foundation Fund. UNK Staff Senate President Holly Peterson presented the awards.


As associate director of the Office of Financial Aid, Besse works behind the scenes to improve and streamline services for students.

She’s led the department through the transition to two different student information systems and is described by colleagues as a problem-solver and catalyst for change.

“While her current role may not have a lot of direct student interaction, her knowledge, skills and ability, paired with her desire to serve students in the best way possible, directly impact each and every student,” Peterson said.

Besse is a UNK graduate who has worked at her alma mater for 32 years.

She “knows the true meaning of being a Loper,” Peterson said.


Co-workers describe Jochum as a problem-solver and outside-the-box thinker who demonstrates a strong work ethic.

As associate director of operations in the Office of Residence Life, she plays a critical role in ensuring students have a great experience while living on campus.

Jochum went above and beyond her job description over the past two years.

In summer 2019, she helped lead the UNK response when the Kearney area was impacted by major flooding. More than 300 people were temporarily housed in campus residence halls.

Jochum also implemented policies and procedures to ensure students living on campus are as safe as possible during the COVID-19 pandemic, including providing specialized services for those who test positive.

“During these stressful times, this deserving award recipient demonstrated outstanding leadership,” Peterson said.


An administrative associate in the College of Business and Technology Dean’s Office, Darveau has been part of the Loper family for more than 20 years.

“She goes above and beyond in almost every way that can be imagined,” Peterson said. “She is actively seeking ways to be better instead of being content with ‘good enough.’”

Known as someone who promotes a “positive, optimistic and forward-looking culture,” Darveau serves as a role model for employees within the College of Business and Technology and across campus. She took the initiative to organize regular meetings for CBT staff and impacts “practically everything” the college does.

Darveau is currently serving her second term on UNK Staff Senate and holds the position of president-elect. She’s also a Leadership UNK graduate and a current member of the program’s Board of Graduates.

“She makes UNK a better place,” Peterson said.