‘Extraordinary Employees’ Build Bridges at UVA

University employees and President Jim Ryan

UVA President Jim Ryan, far right, poses with several University employees who earned “Hoos Building Bridges Awards” for collaborating across departments and schools to solve problems and to make UVA better. (Photo by Coe Sweet)

Nine University of Virginia employees and two teams earned “Hoos Building Bridges” awards and were honored at a late-June reception in the Rotunda. Award winners received framed certificates and a $250 bonus from UVA President Jim Ryan. Winners included:

Matt Banfield, associate vice provost for academic affairs, Office of the Provost

Banfield was recognized for building coalitions, connections and consensus across Grounds, including for work on the Provost’s Graduate and Undergraduate Policy Advisory Committees that include faculty and staff representatives from UVA’s schools. His work included working with the Division for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion to review and update 14 policies.  

Katie Densberger, director of academic support, Georges Student Center

Densberger has spent years developing the academic support structure for science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, classes. Densberger worked one-on-one with faculty to understand the unique needs for their classes and developed services that worked best for them.

“She has led by example and demonstrated what is possible when collaboration is the centerpiece of one’s approach to serving faculty and students,” wrote Josipa Roksa.

Gabby Fuller, administrative assistant and communications coordinator, Department of Astronomy

Fuller created, organized and has led the UVA STEM Food Drive for the past two years to support the local Blue Ridge Area Food Bank and has strengthened relationships among the STEM departments within the College of Arts & Sciences. Fuller’s initiatives included a spirited contest to increase donations, which brought in nearly 2,500 pounds of food in two years.

Lesa Hanlin, director of strategic initiatives, School of Continuing and Professional Studies

Hanlin worked with UVA’s Human Resources to create a program called Higher Education Program for Executive Level Assistants. This program brings more inclusive professional development opportunities to staff members who may not have had many programs designed specifically for their roles. She spearheaded several projects to help School of Continuing and Professional Studies employees bond, and launched efforts to introduce the school’s senior leadership team to all faculty and staff at the school.

Jim Ryan, Justin Bryant, Elizabeth Strickland portrait
Justin Bryant, left, and Elizabeth Strickland, right, receive awards from UVA President Jim Ryan for their efforts to bridge the gap between UVA Health doctors and the internet technology staff to ensure hospital technology and patient care work seamlessly together. Joanne Casey, not pictured, was also a part of this winning team. (Photo by Coe Sweet)

“Lesa truly embodies all the categories of Hoos Building Bridges,” wrote Alexa Jeffress. “She goes above and beyond to create inspired experiences for staff members across UVA, whether through professional development or team building.”

Adam Richard, finance and administrative manager, Undergraduate Academic Programs, College of Arts & Sciences

As co-chair of the staff senate’s Advocacy Committee, Richard has worked to become an expert on matters that affect the College’s employees, including parking and transportation, health insurance, financial benefits, education benefits, staff emeritus programs and more. That included partnering with UVA’s Multilingual Outreach Volunteer Effort to translate a staff senate survey into Spanish, French, Turkish and Kiswahili, and he ensured the materials were accessible to people with disabilities.

“Adam Richard embodies everything it means to build partnerships and relationships across units around Grounds,” wrote Leah Gould. “His ability to build bridges and establish longstanding partnerships around Grounds has made the University a better place for staff, whether they realize it or not.”

Susan Salko, program director, Post-Baccalaureate Pre-Medical Program, School of Continuing and Professional Studies

The 18-year-old Post-Baccalaureate Pre-Medical Program has been under Salko’s direction the past eight years. Although it is housed in the School of Continuing and Professional Studies, it requires significant strategic planning and leadership coordination across the University. Students take classes in the College of Arts & Sciences, are taught by a UVA Health Systems administrator and volunteer at UVA Health hospitals, Charlottesville Free Clinic and UVA Population Health.

Salko was also commended for quickly ensuring faculty and staff had access to resources, including mental-health resources, after the Nov. 13 fatal shootings of three UVA football players on Grounds. Two other students were wounded.

Jill Golaszewski wrote, “UVA is sincerely lucky to have someone who cares deeply and works tirelessly for students, knows how to connect and advocate for the optimal student experience, and reaches across many aisles to create a successful program that has produced more than 300 doctors over the past 18 years.”

Cheryl Wagner, chief of staff, Office of the Vice President for Research

Wagner has spearheaded several projects involving several schools and departments, including the research and investment collaborative known as “3Cavaliers” and the Strategic Research Infrastructure Initiative.

The latter project was a particularly complex undertaking, with Wagner responsible for guiding nine working groups, an organizing committee and a steering committee. The final list of priorities to help meet the future needs of UVA research will soon be presented to Ryan for funding.

Meredith S. Cole wrote, “Bridge builders like Cheryl Wagner are so important. Cheryl consistently and passionately brings groups and individuals together across Grounds for large initiatives and projects.”

Kate Bakich, UVA Health administrator, Health Information Technology

Bakich was involved in UVA Health’s purchase of three northern Virginia community hospitals and put in countless hours to ensure the new employees were acclimated, trained and supported throughout the transition. The nominator called her “the single most influential leader on the project” who deserves recognition for building bridges with new employees.

“Not only does Kate connect well with external team members, she understands intimately the inner workings of each of her colleague’s departments,” wrote Shenia Thompson. “During each project that Kate supports, she is the lone leader who can speak to, and act upon, what is required for each individual department and team to be successful, a leadership skill that is rare to find.”

Brendon Coll, School of Medicine controller, School of Medicine Dean’s Office

Coll played a critical role in the difficult task of helping the School of Medicine transition from Oracle to Workday Financials. For more than 18 months, Coll worked with Medical School leadership and others to ensure the transition was efficient and smooth, handling unique and unexpected challenges along the way. 

Group shot of award winners with President Ryan
Left to right, Dr. Nicholas Teman, Michelle Dawson, Kathleen Henahan, Dustin Money, Michael Gelvin and Garry Gellert receive their awards from UVA President Jim Ryan, center. The team devised a way for hospital patients tethered to large, life-saving tubes in their legs to get up and walking, which increases the patients’ stamina and independence. (Photo by Coe Sweet)

“Brendon’s willingness to listen to a department fiscal tech’s problems, work with them to resolve the issue, identify the best practice that should be used going forward, and share that information across the organization is indicative of the knowledge, skills, partnership, and commitment that he brings to each challenge,” wrote Allison Holt.

Elizabeth Strickland, Joanne Casey and Justin Bryant, UVA Health internet technology

This small team created three programs that have addressed a long-standing need for better collaboration between UVA Health providers and the information technology staff. The team developed programs that allowed doctors to work one-on-one with IT staff, so physicians and advanced practice providers could use the Epic EMR and other technology more effectively and efficiently. This collaboration allows physicians and other health-care providers the ability to more effectively focus on patients rather than technology challenges.

“These provider trainers have gone to extraordinary lengths to build strong, collaborative relationships with individual providers and provider leadership across the organization,” wrote Dr. Bobby Chhabra.

Kathleen Henahan, Garry Gellert, Michelle Dawson, Dustin Money, Michael Gelvin and Dr. Nicholas Teman, physical therapy, thoracic and cardiovascular surgery

This team researched methods for providing critically ill patients who have large tubes inserted into their femoral arteries to be able to walk while in the hospital. The members developed guidelines for determining who might be appropriate patients, assessing risks and benefits, and what kinds of health care providers should be involved. In March, the team successfully tried out the new techniques on a patient. Keeping patients who need significant external support for their hearts or lungs as active as possible helps preserve their strength and independence.

Give Where You Live, Support Our Local Nonprofits
Give Where You Live, Support Our Local Nonprofits

Lara Demers wrote: “This type of teamwork is keeping us at the top of what standard clinical practice for this patient population should be, and comparable with other hospitals doing this type of work.”

UVA launched the Hoos Building Bridges award in 2019, building on a vision the UVA president outlined in his first Opening Convocation address. When in doubt, Ryan said, “build a bridge.”