Employee Benefit News’ Benefits Forum and Expo has officially begun in Phoenix, and Sunday night included the awarding of the annual Benny Awards, which honor excellence and achievement in practitioners directly involved in the management of employee benefit programs.

Christine Carstens, director of employee benefits at Hughes Network Systems LLC, took Benefits Professional of the Year. Her first day at the position also happened to be the first day of open enrollment at the Germantown, Md.-based firm.

In addition to overseeing Hughes’ new system, Carstens, who had spent her career on the recruiting size of the business, launched a special retirement communication series and oversaw the company’s best wellness screens since 2005.

“Even though I was nervous about moving into the benefits side of human resources, I told myself ‘I know I can do this,’ and I didn’t hesitate to ask questions, do research and get information from as many people as I could,” Carstens tells EBN.

The award for Benefits Leadership in Health Care went to Raymond L. Eames III, director of benefits at SKF USA Inc., and for Benefits Leadership in Retirement, the winner was Carol Klusek, Aetna’s head of retirement and financial benefits. Sheryl Harris, benefits manager at JM Eagle, took the Judges’ Choice Benny.

Kelley M. Butler, EBN editor-in-chief, says she and her staff “are annually awed and inspired” by the nominees and that the magazine is “happy and proud to give them the recognition they deserve.”

Pick up Sept. 1’s EBN or go to the digital edition to read more about the Bennys. Nominations for the 2013 Benny Awards will open up in the spring.

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