Congratulations to Campus Innovator – Kelly Pannkuk!


I am excited to extend a congratulations to our newest staff innovator: Kelly Pannkuk! Kelly has worked as a custodian here for quite some time, and while custodial work may not, at first glance, seem like the most obvious place you would look to find innovation happening from the ground-up, Kelly’s work is a wonderful example of the diverse ways innovation can manifest.

Innovation Comes in All Shapes and Sizes

Innovation is about positive change, wherever you are, whatever you’re doing. It’s not always flashy. And contrary to popular belief, it’s not about a fancy and impressive end product. Fundamentally, what makes an action innovative isn’t the outcome you eventually arrive at, but the approach that got you there in the first place: being an innovator is about recognizing that something could be better and then following up on that realization with action that makes a difference.

Kelly’s success at being an innovator on our campus is built upon her dedication to going above and beyond in her work and setting her own definition of what makes for great custodial service.

It’s All About Perspective

The way you think about the work that you do has a large impact on your success in doing it well and approaching it creatively. Kelly shares some of the things she focuses on during her work:

“I feel my job is innovative because there is a difference in clean and sanitary. I practice daily sanitizing and making a difference to the look and feel of a building. I believe walking into a well kept building will boost a persons confidence.

When students walk into a sanitized and debris free restroom from the ceiling to the floor, they will know the campus is a clean, inviting atmosphere and that makes them happy they chose Centralia Community College.

These innovations change my thinking in a sense that I put my self in students or staff place and see what they see. Clean that first then do extra because I noticed it was dirty along the way. And I know what people like to see. I am proud to be an employee of Centralia College and will maintain my assigned buildings within my job scope to the best I can.”

There are many elements here that contribute to doing amazing work.

Putting yourself in others’ shoes allows you to see your work from a different perspective, and when you’re doing something for others (whether that’s cleaning, programming an app, or making a presentation), seeing things from their point of view lets you target your work in the best way possible: if your goal is to make your audience happy, stepping into their proverbial shoes will really give you an idea of what WILL make them happy. That’s an often-overlooked mental exercise to doing work that really hits the nail on the head.

Kelly also talks about keeping your eyes on the big picture, about seeing the broader impact of the task at hand. She talks about how each task is a building block part of a beautiful, well-kept building, and how a welcoming building impacts how people feel. When you have this kind of context while you work, your perspective changes. It’s not about what you’re doing; it’s about why. It’s not just a task; it’s an opportunity to embody your values and impact peoples’ lives. When framed this way, there is opportunity in everything: opportunity to do something that matters and opportunity to find new ways to do it better.

That’s the kind of perspective that lets you excel at anything you will ever do and keeps you thinking about how you can improve and see real, meaningful results. That’s the kind of perspective that leads people to innovate!

Making Connections

Another huge part of what makes Kelly’s work so novel is how she connects with others:

“I am polite to students and co-workers and carry small conversation making students feel welcome. Every person I talk to is an opportunity to display the CC mission statement.”

Anyone can DO a job or complete a task, but taking the time and having the skill to regularly foster connection with anyone who crosses your path creates an environment for all of us that is warm and welcoming. In fact, adding a little human touch to every interaction could be as important and impactful to some students as some of the custodial work that’s more integral to Kelly’s job description.

It’s definitely a different approach to custodial work. When you see the goal as cleaning, you focus on the task. When you see the goal as creating a welcoming environment that makes people happy, you have room to be creative. You can start to see how with a big-picture goal, there are many ways you can accomplish making people feel welcome in campus buildings beyond the well-defined job tasks. Every time you pass students the hallway is an opportunity to meet that goal. That process of asking, “What is the real goal of the work that I do? What’s the big picture?”, “What else can I do to accomplish that?” and then making it happen? That’s innovation.

We are lucky to have Kelly working with us, and we hope she stays for years to come. Thank you, Kelly!


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