Cambus dispatching and bionic supervisor Bryan Mulrooney recognized as student employee of the year for 2019–20
Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Step onto a Cambus on any given Wednesday, and the driver is likely wearing a Hawaiian shirt. It’s a bright spot on often glum days as riders and drivers navigate the COVID-19 quarantine. UI student Bryan Mulrooney credits his closet for the idea.

Mulrooney’s knack for team-building, his fun-loving disposition, and his vast collection of Hawaiian shirts gelled into “Aloha-Shirt Wednesdays” during the summer of 2018. Mulrooney noticed the Cambus crew typically gathered after work on Wednesdays, so he began convincing others in the department to join him in wearing Hawaiian shirts midweek. The tradition grew over time, and now Cambus orders branded Hawaiian shirts in Hawkeye colors for its drivers to wear.

“Cambus has a well-established workplace culture, but it is up to the supervisors and support team maintain this culture as time goes on,” Mulrooney says.

Mulrooney has accepted that challenge in a significant way, says Mia Brunelli, Cambus operations manager. In his role as Cambus dispatching and bionic supervisor, Mulrooney selects, trains, and supervises 10 student dispatchers; indirectly supervises 90 fixed-route student drivers; and oversees the operation of the paratransit Bionic Bus service and its 75 drivers. This includes training drivers, creating rider schedules, and handling rider concerns. The paratransit service provides more than 600 rides per month to UI students, staff, and faculty with temporary or permanent disabilities.

In recognition of his hard work and contributions, Mulrooney was named Iowa’s student employee of the year for 2019–20.

“Bryan’s positive impact on Cambus operations, workplace culture, and employee morale is a product of his competence, leadership style, caring, and sense of humor,” says Brunelli.

Each year, about 7,000 students are employed through Iowa’s student hourly and work-study employment programs. Mulrooney was recognized along with seven other student employees and seven student employee supervisors during the 2019–20 National Student Employment Week, April 13–17.

A native of Winnebago, Illinois, Mulrooney is pursuing a double major (music education and tuba performance and pedagogy) and plans to graduate in spring 2021. He began driving for Cambus in 2016, his first year at Iowa.

“I was all in on wanting to become a high school band director. The biggest draw is that I would have the potential to make a positive impact on a lot of lives. Once I started moving up at Cambus, I realized I have an additional passion in public transit, and I was already having a positive impact on the lives of employees and members of the community,” Mulrooney says. “Whenever I see a Bionic Bus driving down the street, I get to take pride in knowing that I trained the driver operating the bus, I hired the dispatcher who clocked them in that morning, and I made the schedule for them to give that ride.”

Last fall, Cambus replaced its paratransit pen-and-paper scheduling with a digital software system.

“Implementing this software would be a large undertaking for any transit agency, much less a system managed by a part-time student employee. Bryan took the lead on implementing this software, including developing training for dispatchers and drivers. Bryan also transferred all rider data, including 150-plus weekly rides, to the new software. He accomplished full implementation of this software within the fall semester while also being a full-time student and the sousaphone section leader in the Hawkeye Marching Band. It’s among the most impressive projects I’ve seen a student employee take on and accomplish in such a timeframe,” Brunelli says.

Mulrooney’s strong work ethic has enabled him to broaden his positive impact on the campus community.

“Through data analysis using the new software system, Bryan has been able to identify efficiencies and continues to develop improvements with an effort to provide the best service we can for the Cambus Bionic riders, many of whom depend on the service for getting to work, school, appointments, shopping, and more,” Brunelli says.

Mulrooney regularly tackles extra projects without being asked, such as rewriting the 124-page, dispatch reference manual, which had been outdated for years. It took him nearly a calendar year to complete. Brunelli says the updated manual has enabled dispatch teams to respond more effectively and consistently to service issues and questions. He also solved staffing issues by looking at historical data to identify trends.

“What I figured out is that there are never enough Bionic-trained drivers. Cambus has a high turnover rate since we are all students. So it is extremely important to me to hold Bionic trainings as often as possible, as long as there are applicants,” Mulrooney says.

As a result, the Bionic department is among the best-staffed it has ever been, with new hires learning from senior workers before they leave.

“Bryan is a recognized leader in the organization, highly collaborative, and friendly, which makes him trusted and well-respected,” Brunelli says.

He has found connections between his music-school education and work at Cambus.

“One of the most important applications I’ve learned from music education that can be transferred into the workplace is establishing and maintaining a culture. A classroom or workplace culture is arguably the most important part of the setting,” Mulrooney says. 

His newfound interest in public transportation and its community impact has Mulrooney considering attending graduate school for urban and regional planning. However, he says he may pursue a job in transportation operations if he finds the right opportunity.

Other award recipients include:

Kazia George, University Human Resources, finance and operations (Winner, Administrative Services)
UI Human Resources Generalist Megan Walker did not expect student employee Kazia George to fundamentally change the human resources department. When George started, she performed typical tasks, maintaining records, handling phone calls, and interacting personally with individuals coming into the office.

As the demands of the office shifted, George easily adapted to increasing responsibilities and began initiating projects when she identified needs. She recommended and completed improvements for an employee orientation presentation; developed and implemented a four-week training schedule for the next student employee; and brought together two historically separate teams within the department.   

“She took the initiative to learn the unique processes and best practices of each group, unifying them into a type of common practice. With her friendly approach, she could point out the differences in our procedures to each member of our team and help us to find similarities to bring us together,” Walker says. “I could not have imagined the impact one person could have had on our department and how we are all positively changed for having worked with Kazia. She has ensured lasting change to the organization and cared about the professional development of those after her.”

Amy Gottschalk, pathology (Winner, Science, Health, & Engineering)
During her second year working as a graduate assistant in Marco M. Hefti’s research lab, Amy Gottschalk is well on her way to submitting her work for publication in a peer-reviewed journal. She has become an invaluable part of Hefti’s lab and research program. An undergraduate majoring in neuroscience, Gottschalk’s research involves characterizing the role of specific processes during normal aging and in Alzheimer’s disease. She is the lab’s expert on a technique she’s been teaching to others.  

“Thanks to her hard work, my lab has been able to start and make significant progress on a set of experiments I have wanted to do for a long time but never had the personnel or time to carry out. As a result, we have developed interesting preliminary data that has been the basis of one grant application and a poster presentation at a MidBrains 2019. Going forward, we are on track to present this work to a broader audience,” Hefti says. “None of this would have been possible without Amy. Her positive attitude, interest, and enthusiasm make her a pleasure to work with and a vital member of my research group.”

Devonte Chism, Orientation Services (Certificate of Distinction)
Orientation Services considers Devonte Chism a go-to student leader, someone ready to take charge and run with tasks whether he’s done them previously or not. In his second year as a program assistant and member of the executive team for Orientation Services, Chism has assisted the merging of orientation and On Iowa!

“We relied heavily on Devonte for insight into how best to support students with the changing office dynamics. Devonte has regularly shared his personal insights on various changes to the student training and experience, and always does so in a respectful way. He advocates for fellow student leaders who may be less comfortable voicing concerns. His ability to have uncomfortable conversations comfortably makes Devonte an incredible leader in our office, and he has helped push our student leader initiatives to a more positive place,” says Taylor Ullrich, coordinator in Orientation Services.

Hayley Vogt, microbiology (Certificate of Distinction)
Study abroad didn’t keep Hayley Vogt, administrative assistant for the Center for Immunology and Immune-Based Disease, from helping Director Gail Bishop plan the center’s annual retreat. Vogt simply worked remotely for several months, keeping in frequent contact with Bishop. She coordinated every detail of the retreat, freeing up Bishop to focus on the scientific aspects of the program. From handling the venue to arranging speaker travel and accommodations, organizing abstracts into a program and arranging poster sessions, Vogt ensured everything ran smoothly. Bishop has worked with many student assistants but says Vogt is in a category of her own.

“She has made my job so much easier,” Bishop says. “She anticipates the needs of the center and attends to them efficiently and smoothly before I have even thought to ask her. She always takes the initiative to try to solve problems herself, and she is highly resourceful and thoughtful. Even when things go wrong, she is professional and calm.”

Lucas Halvorson, Academic Support and Retention (Certificate of Distinction)
This fall, UI students will have an important resource to support their academic success with the rollout of the new Navigating Online Courses workshop. Long before COVID-19 revamped teaching and learning at Iowa, Lucas Halvorson, academic support program assistant in Academic Support and Retention, was researching and developing a high-quality workshop to help fellow students. His own experience with online coursework gave him the idea. Although his role includes facilitating and scheduling workshops, developing something new is above and beyond the scope of his job duties. With the blessing of the department, he took on the project anyway and built the workshop, incorporating best practices, tips, and suggestions from peer institutions and professionals on campus.

Melissa Adrian, Enrollment Management, Office of the Provost (Certificate of Distinction)
As a mentor and leader to student statisticians on the enrollment management data team, student statistician Melissa Adrian not only helps fellow student workers in the office, but she mentors them on their educational and career paths with tasks such as applying for summer internships.

“Melissa is a soft-spoken and collegial person who is a natural leader. She commands respect because of her knowledge and skills and willingness to share them,” says Michael Hovland, director of enrollment management data analytics.

Adrian has been with the team for two years and each fall has brought back new ideas to share after completing prestigious summer fellowship programs. Last year, she took the lead in developing a new predictive enrollment model for the College of Law. This year, she applied new machine-learning approaches to the law school predictive model.

Mikhayla Hughes-Shaw, Journalism and Mass Communication (Certificate of Distinction)
In fall 2019, the first year of peer mentoring for journalism and mass communication undergrads, more than 100 students per week attended student center programs and corresponded with peer mentors for help in classes.

Rebecca Kick, administrator for the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, credits student Mikhayla Hughes-Shaw, a highly motivated peer mentor, with the success. Under her own initiative, Hughes-Shaw developed a weekly student newsletter, created twice-weekly study nights, scheduled a mindfulness seminar, and reached out to 300 students via email.

“The impact Mikhayla has made this year in our student center was recognized immediately by professors who have seen better grades and more engaged students in the classes where Mikhayla hosts study sessions. We have also seen an increase of students just using the student center between classes to study, meet friends, and relax. Mikhayla walks around and chats with all of them,” Kick says. 

Supervisor of the Year 2019–20
Mark Petterson, assistant director of the Judith R. Frank Business Communications Center, Tippie College of Business


  • Ally Carey, UI Healthcare Marketing and Communications
  • Hannah Day, College of Engineering Student Development Center
  • Charles Ellis, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Strategic Communications Office
  • Mary Harkleroad, University Housing and Dining—Catlett Market Place
  • Kara Krantz, Facilities Management
  • Iman Noferesti, John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center
  • Charissa Weber, Division of Student Life
  • Jingyi Yang, Finance and Business Information Services

2019–20 Nominees, Departments

  • Hannah Altman, Department of Biology
  • Sarah Bridgeport, Department of Rhetoric
  • Baylen Brus, Information Technology Services, Research Services
  • Anna Buckingham, Institute for Clinical and Translational Science
  • Magdalena Caro, Career Center
  • Lauren Chesire, Facilities Management
  • Megan Dao, Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science
  • Nathan Dunahoo, ITS Research Services
  • Tiffanie Duong, Finance and Business Information Services
  • Sydney Evans, Epidemiology
  • Becca Frederick, University Bands, School of Music
  • Jessica Freese, UI REACH Program
  • Alyssa Gaynor, College of Pharmacy
  • Elijah Godbolt III, ITS Research Services
  • Grace Gudenkauf, UI REACH Program
  • Cassandra Handley, Center for Biocatalysis and Bioprocessing
  • Kylie Henkels, Volunteer Services
  • Alexandra Hope, Neurology
  • Paige Howard, Neurology
  • James Hughes, Parking and Transportation, Cambus
  • Angie Kalwies, Carver College of Medicine, Internal Medicine
  • Hayley Larson, Division of Student Life
  • Allison Lemke, Pulmonary Rehab—Department of Rehab Therapies
  • Elizabeth (Lizzy) Leu, College of Nursing, Recruitment
  • Alyson Maloney, Division of Student Life
  • Justin McCartney, Treasury Operations
  • Anna Meline, John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center
  • Elianna Novitch, College of Education
  • Ayotoluwafunmi Ogunwusi, Journalism and Mass Communication
  • Ashrita Raghuram, College of Engineering
  • Madison Rush, Recreational Services
  • Karina Sanchez, Recreational Services
  • Rachel Schaner, John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center
  • Brendan Seabold, Chemistry
  • Ashlyn Shumaker, John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center
  • Jensen Steinbronn, Theatre Arts
  • Bjorn Swanson, University Bands, School of Music
  • Grace Tafolla, Department of Athletics Communications
  • Marissa Vander Linden, Physics and Astronomy
  • Carolyn Wojtkowski, Institute for International Business/Iowa JPEC
  • Charles Woods III, Volunteer Services, UI Health Care