Champions' Multifaceted Qualities Focus on Social Justice and Equal Access

October 31, 2011 — Many words define "champion," Darlene Scott-Scurry, director of the University of Virginia's Office of Equal Opportunity Programs, said Friday at an annual reception on to honor University employees for their activities in support of diversity.

Those words include "advocate, sustainer, fighter – one who defends, protects and upholds," and apply to those who were nominated by friends and colleagues and recognized as "EOP Champions," she said. 

"You have taken our mission of eliminating discrimination and advancing equal access to everyone at U.Va. and run with it," Scott-Scurry told the awardees.

The EOP Champion Awards honor individuals and organizations that perpetuate the principles of equal opportunity and exhibit leadership qualities that result in notable contributions to the cause of social justice and equal rights.

The 2011 winners were recognized for working to ensure more diverse job-applicant pools, to provide assistance to those with disabilities and to speak out for the principles of equal opportunity, social justice and equal rights.

"You have given our office of eight people the sense that we are a much larger team and have given us a louder, clearer voice throughout Grounds," Scott-Scurry said.

The winners, along with Scott-Scurry's remarks based on their nominations:

• Sally Barber, special adviser for state and federal relations, Office of the Vice President & Chief Executive Officer of the Medical Center

"Though nominated anonymously, Sally's advocacy and support of EOP's mission and programs are anything but. She was among the first visitors to the first open house of EOP's West Complex Office in 2006. She has been supportive of EOP's work and made herself available to provide her perspective on proposed initiatives and projects and their impact on the Medical Center. Sally is also an active member of the Women's Leadership Council, working to ensure equality of opportunities for all female faculty, students and staff. In her role as Special Adviser for State and Federal Relations, she has supported legislation that promotes equity and access."

• Debbie Berkeley, assistant director of the Elson Student Health Center, Learning Needs and Evaluation Center Nominated by: Brad Holland, University Ombudsman

"Debbie has always been a tremendous asset, problem-solver and advocate for students with disabilities. Whether she is working to help someone through her position as assistant director of LNEC or her work on various committees at the University, she has never allowed red tape, bureaucracy or other roadblocks to deter her from providing assistance to those with disabilities. While Debbie's official duties are to assist students, she goes even further to help with access for faculty and staff when asked. She does not let the boundaries of her position prevent her from providing assistance wherever there is a need."

• Elizabeth Coles, senior fiscal technician, School of Medicine, Digestive Health Research Center
Nominated by: Susan Fraiman, Stacy Diggs-Allen, Maryann Lincoln, James Harvey, Esther Davis, Jo-Annette Perez-Chacon and Joanne Delapp-Anderson

"Liz was executive vice president and hospital recruiter for the Staff Union at U.Va. from 2002 to 2008. She was indispensible to SUUVA's project of representing employees and bringing them together to promote a safe and equitable workplace. Her leadership and integrity as an advocate for social justice is well recognized by her peers. She is careful to make sure that each individual she comes in contact with is at ease with their work environment and offers her support to ensure that things run smoothly. Liz is a dedicated, longstanding employee who stands up for the principles of equal opportunity, social justice and equal rights. She has the courage to speak up about issues of inequality even when she is a lone voice."

• Robert Covert, associate professor, Curry School of Education
Nominated by: Charles Ross, College of Arts & Sciences, and Mark Hampton, Dean's Office, Curry School

"Bob is a tireless advocate for social justice and equal rights and demonstrates his commitment to these ideals in all that he does. While perhaps best known for his courses on multicultural education, in which he leads students to a greater understanding of the role that differences play in structuring the justice and rights that are accorded individuals in our society, he also lives his work as a faculty member at U.Va. and in the way he lives his life. Bob challenges students and colleagues to recognize differences, to understand their own biases toward those different from them and how those biases affect their interactions and relationships. Mark, a student facilitator in his class and a member of Student Council Diversity Initiatives and Sustained Dialogue, said, 'Professor Covert has been more than willing to come speak at our events and provide wise words on the importance of dialoging and learning about people.'"

• Debbie Dean, Integrated System functional liaison, University Human Resources
Nominated by: Sue Haas, University Human Resources

"Debbie has been an active member of EOP's Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Compliance working group since its inception. Through her participation, she fosters an open and inviting atmosphere for those with whom she comes into contact and gets down to the details of equal opportunity in employment. Debbie works quietly behind the scenes to ensure the required information needed for development of the University's Affirmative Action Plan is documented correctly in the HR systems. She is always willing to go above and beyond in assisting EOP to make sure the University is satisfying its obligation as a federal contractor. Debbie also provides knowledge about our institutional history, which is invaluable for producing required EO/AA reports."

• Patrice Grimes, associate dean, Office of African-American Affairs, and assistant professor, Curry School of Education
Nominated by: Beverly Adams, College of Arts & Sciences

"Among Patrice's responsibilities as associate dean in the Office of African-American Affairs is the Faculty-Student Mentoring Program. This program provides students of color with supportive and nurturing educational experiences. Patrice is passionate about advancing the mentoring program and ensuring that each mentee and mentor develops a positive relationship and has a rewarding experience. This year she made it a priority to meet with all the mentees to ensure their understanding of the program and to encourage their active participation. One faculty mentor said, 'It's important to help students succeed at U.Va. The program is a good way to contribute to building a diverse community here.' Since 2006, Patrice has been a faculty mentor and conducted student workshops on a variety of academic and leadership topics. She participates in many University efforts to increase diversity among the faculty and student body at U.Va."

• Donna Kauffman, human resources consultant manager, and Olga Kipnis, senior project manager, University Human Resources
Nominated by: Pat Daniele, University Human Resources

"Donna and Olga completed a major initiative on the Jobs@UVa implementation program, making changes in the Jobs@ system to assist in diversifying applicant pools and ensuring that appropriate data is captured for the University affirmative action plan. Not only did it change how the University hires and recruits, but it also changed the way the University approaches EO/AA. Donna and Olga worked many hours updating the process and procedures for the system, while educating colleagues about the importance of affirmative action to ensure that U.Va.'s workforce is diverse."

• Leonard Sandridge, special adviser to the president, Office of the Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer
Nominated by: Carol Anne Soderlund, Department of Medicine, Administration

"He may be supposedly retired, but Leonard is still remembered for saying, 'Just do what's right,' setting an example for everyone in the University community during his many years leading U.Va. As Leonard's nominator recounts, a few years ago, she contacted him regarding an issue that resulted in her being placed on short-term disability. After hearing the circumstances, Leonard was very supportive and helped her regain her job. His commitment to the fair and ethical treatment of employees and righting of wrongs reveals much about his character. He has shown his commitment and concern for equal rights and access for all U.Va. employees, as demonstrated in his creation of the employee councils and the position of the ombudsman so that all have a way to be heard."

• David Villiott, design manager, Facilities Management
Nominated by Melissa Oliver, Equal Opportunity Programs

"For decades, David has been the 'go-to' person when making sure structures and programs at U.Va. are accessible to those with physical disabilities. Long before the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed in 1990, David could give you the turn radius for wheelchairs, tell you how steep was too steep for an incline and quote from the American National Standards Institute – all off the top of his head. His interests in universal design and U.Va. becoming as barrier-free as possible go beyond the job. Access is important to him because he genuinely cares about equality, knowing that we all become less able over time. David's dedication to his work has had a significant, positive impact for those who depend upon curb cuts, ramps, lifts and access in general to get around this historic setting."

• Kathy Woodson, human resources generalist, College of Arts & Sciences
Nominated by: Nancy Bertram, Dean's Office, College of Arts & Sciences

"During the past year, Kathy has taken the initiative to learn not only about the changes in the Jobs@UVa system to ensure more diverse applicant pools, but she has also made a significant investment of time learning more about EO/AA laws in order to assist departments in the College of Arts & Sciences in satisfying compliance requirements. She works directly with departmental staff and search committee chairs to review and make suggestions regarding the steps to be taken to ensure that the composition of the search committees and the search process itself is inclusive. This entails placement of advertisements and demonstrating a commitment to diversity though the recruitment and hiring of faculty and staff. She has been relentless in educating and encouraging departments in the pursuit of inclusion. Kathy also serves as an equal-opportunity advocate, a communication liaison between the College and EOP."

— By Anne Bromley

Media Contact

Anne E. Bromley

University News Associate Office of University Communications