Gold U winner Amber Hawk elevates College of Pharmacy

Amber Hawk

Amber Hawk

When Amber Hawk first started at the UNMC College of Pharmacy eight years ago, hers was a newly created position. She signed on to be an admissions and recruitment associate. But in the years since she’s grown her role, and impact on the college, exponentially. How?

“Just seeing places where I could be useful and helpful and make a difference, and then applying those things,” said Hawk, now the college’s director of recruitment and admissions.

That is technically true. But she chose a very humble way of describing the actions that resulted in the impact that makes her the newest recipient of the Gold U Award. The award typically is given out six times a year to employees who consistently deliver outstanding performance and service to the university.

“We are truly honored to have Amber as our director of admissions,” said Keith Olsen, PharmD, Joseph D. Williams Endowed Dean of the UNMC College of Pharmacy. “Her excellent work is a key to our success as an elite college of pharmacy.”

Amber Hawk describes the pharmacy profession during a Native youth STEM leadership academy at UNMC in 2019.

Hawk has been central to a record enrollment of graduate students and a “comeback” in PharmD program numbers following a COVID recruiting slump. As with any Gold U winner, it can be tough to sum up why they deserve the award in just a few words. But a few attributes especially stand out:

  • Since adding the pharmaceutical studies graduate program to her duties, she introduced several innovations streamlining the applicant review process. The review committee now can evaluate applications remotely and read evaluations from other members in real time, while increasing the number of applicants evaluated and interviewed. “This was only possible with Amber’s forethought, planning and effort,” said Luis Marky, PhD;
  • She’s become a “go-to” not only within the college but is sought by partnering institutions and throughout the Big Ten for her ideas and expertise, said Christopher Shaffer, PharmD, PhD. She is an excellent external representative of the college among key collaborators; and
  • “She is, in my opinion, the best first impression of the college of pharmacy for prospective students, and her nature is a big reason our students chose us,” Dr. Marky said.

Hawk is praised for the “emotional intelligence” that allows her to connect with everyone from potential and current students to the highest levels of leadership. “Amber is a reassuring, calming presence within the college,” Dr. Shaffer said. “When operations and workflow can seem quite chaotic, she is able to rise above the fray and be a calming voice of reason.”

This emotional intelligence allows her to be not just smart, but brave. Nominators specifically praised her courage. She doesn’t shy from big challenges and knows when to make a decision herself or when to seek counsel. She is able to ask tough questions with tact, which has allowed the college to anticipate problems and find solutions in new ways, often simplifying duties and processes.

Nominators admitted there was some initial doubt at a few of Hawks’ new ideas. But she persisted, and in the end, program and college leaders trusted her, to gratifying results.

“You don’t gain anything if you don’t try something new,” Hawk said.

She’s continued her education since joining the college, earning a master’s degree from the University of Nebraska at Kearney (partly during a pandemic, while working full-time, with a small child) and a graduate certificate in Health Professions Teaching and Technology from UNMC.

She has continued to grow her role, overseeing pathway programs, new student onboarding and orientation, creating a system for distributing new scholarship monies and more.

While she works with nearly everyone in or who works with the college of pharmacy, she does admit to having a favorite.

“I really enjoy engaging with our students,” she said, “and now it’s the best part of my job.

“It’s really fun now that I’ve been here eight years. Seeing students I’ve helped now having gone through our program and graduating. I’m in a really unique position, working with them for eight years – graduation is that much more special.”


  1. Tami Houdesheldt says:

    I loved seeing this when I turned on my computer. Well-deserved! Congratulations Amber!

  2. Bill O'Neill says:

    Congratulations, Amber!

  3. Tres says:

    Congrats Amber! Much deserved recognition!

  4. Emily Brandt says:

    Congratulations, Amber! So well-deserved!!!!

  5. Beth Culross says:

    Congratulations and thanks for all you do!

  6. Kelli Schneegass says:

    Congratulations, Amber!

  7. Jonathan L. Vennerstrom says:

    Congratulations Amber – well done!!

  8. Tanya Custer says:

    Congratulations, Amber!

  9. Mary Hawk says:

    Congrats, Amber! So proud of you and your hard work.

  10. Aaron Mohs says:

    Congratulations, Amber!

  11. Stew Vreeland says:

    Awesome to be so recognized. Way to go

  12. TERRI A VADOVSKI says:

    Amber – you totally deserve this recognition!

  13. Roger Vreeland says:

    Proud of your accomplishments and recognition.

  14. Peggy Moore says:

    Congratulations Amber!

  15. John Keady says:

    One of the best ar COP! Congratulations Amber.

  16. David Roethemeyer says:

    Congrats Amber! Much deserved!

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