What do sweet potato pie, the University of Virginia Staff Senate and medical research have in common? They are some of the superior products of dedicated UVA employees who have made a difference in the lives of their colleagues – and many others.
This year’s group of Leonard W. Sandridge Outstanding Contribution Award winners share a range of accomplishments in serving the University, but the award encompasses more than fulfilling job duties and frequently going beyond them. As they solve problems, upgrade procedures and other tasks, these staff members put heart and soul into all they do, building relationships and creating community within UVA, with its neighbors and among professionals.
The Sandridge Awards are the highest honor the University bestows upon employees. They include five employees from the Academic Division, five from the Medical Center and one from UVA’s College at Wise. The 11 winners were honored June 10 at a Board of Visitors luncheon at the Colonnade Club. Each group attended or will attenda Service Award Dinner alongside employees who have 25-plus years of service.
The 2016 Outstanding Contribution Awards from the Academic Division go to:
• Constance Alexander, office manager of Procurement & Supplier Diversity;
• Kevin Donovan, senior assistant dean for career services at the Law School;
• Brandon Kemp, senior laboratory and research specialist in the School of Medicine;
• Amy Muldoon, project coordinator, Demographics Research Group at the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service; and
• Gary Wood, North Grounds zone manager, Facilities Management.
The Medical Center surprised its winning employees with staff visiting them at their workplaces and presenting them with flowers and balloons. Take a look here.
The Medical Center awardees are:
• Veronica Brill, director of the Emily Couric Clinical Cancer Center;
• Geraldine Gaines, supply chain supervisor;
• Jennifer T. Hall, magnet program coordinator;
• Sara McClelland, nurse clinician II in the Pediatric ICU;
• Denese Straughn, administrative specialist for the Faculty and Employee Assistance Program.
The Wise award winner is Brenda Whitaker, administrative assistant in the Natural Sciences Department.
Extra Special Pie Baker: Constance Alexander
As office manager for UVA’s Procurement & Supplier Diversity, Connie Alexander’s responsibilities include purchasing and human resources, but her colleagues consider her much more than someone who runs the shop, because she’s always willing to lend a hand.
When the former Surplus Property Division had an outside contractor take over its functions, the 27-year employee took on the role of liaison, which she continues today, working with contract vendors, Facilities Management and many other UVA staffers to assist in the reuse, recycling and disposal of the University’s surplus property.
She is quick to help her colleagues personally as well as professionally, sometimes with her baking skills. When a new coworker had a birthday and was far from family, she made him a sweet potato pie after he told her that’s what his mother used to make for him. When another coworker had a scheduling conflict, Alexander took care of her children once a week for two years.
For several summers, Alexander has mentored two high school students in the Community Attention Youth Internship Program, in which they come to her job site for eight weeks to learn about UVA employment and basic work skills.
“While Connie is an outstanding contributor in her formal work role, the thing that makes Connie extra special is that her willingness to help reaches externally outside her formal University roles,” Contract Administrator Lorie Jean Strother wrote in nominating her.
MVP: Kevin Donovan
The School of Law’s stellar performance in the legal job market has been a critical asset to its budding attorneys and a key factor in UVA remaining among the nation’s top 10 law schools, wrote outgoing Dean Paul Mahoney and colleagues in nominating Kevin Donovan for a Sandridge Award.
Since he became senior assistant dean for career services in 2009, Donovan has overhauled the office, making sure each first-year law student meets with a career counselor early on and regularly. He also spent more time cultivating relationships with recruiters and law firms.
Donovan forges strong relationships with each student in his charge, “while consistently modeling the professionalism that is expected of our students upon entering their practice,” his nominators wrote. He also developed a professionalism program for students before they go to their first summer internships.
One alumnus said Donovan may very well be the most valuable person at the Law School. “Kevin plays a large role in affecting the students who choose to attend UVA Law, based on statistics of job placement, as well as how satisfied UVA law students are with the school when they graduate,” he wrote. “As Student Bar Association president, I reviewed responses contained in multiple student surveys that uniformly demonstrated not only strong satisfaction with the Career Services Office, but also clear, unwavering appreciation and fondness for Kevin.”
Vital to Success: Brandon Kemp
Brandon Kemp has worked in Dr. Robert Carey’s endocrinology lab since he was an undergraduate at UVA more than 11 years ago. His nominators, including Carey, wrote that Kemp has made consistently exceptional contributions to improve the productivity of the research program in the control of blood pressure and hypertension.
“His work has been vital to our success in publishing and presenting new discoveries in the field,” Carey wrote. “Brandon has exceeded our highest expectations, allowing the program to catapult forward on several investigative fronts with national and international recognition. Brandon’s work was foundational for our receiving multiple research grants, including this year, from the National Institutes of Health.”
In addition, as co-chair of the Department of Medicine’s Staff Employee Advisory Council, Kemp has been instrumental in organizing and leading two ongoing, annual events to expose local students to the world of medicine, “Inside UVA Medicine” for middle-schoolers and the “Future Leaders in Health Care” symposium for 11th- and 12th-grade Charlottesville High School students.
He has been honored previously with a Department of Medicine Employee of the Month award and, in 2013, the department’s Employee of the Year award for leadership in laboratory service and research.
‘Green’ Staff Leader: Amy Muldoon
A multi-talented office manager, Muldoon’s responsibilities at the Cooper Center and at UVA have continuously grown beyond her job description. She is responsible for the group’s data security, website design and maintenance, publication editing and publishing and client database management.
“From internal administrative systems to external communications, Amy humbly and consistently has achieved exceptional results that have increased efficiency and broadened University outreach throughout Virginia and beyond,” Executive Director John P. Thomas wrote.
Looking for information about sustainability practices at work led her to the Sustainability Partners program, which provides ways for staff to improve those practices at the University. Her efforts earned a Green Workplace certificate for zero-waste at the Cooper Center, and she has also worked on this goal at other University-wide events.
Two years ago, Muldoon helped establish the University Staff Senate, which represents nearly 5,000 employees, and she served as co-chair this past year. She enlisted UVA’s Center for Organizational Excellence to help the group develop a shared vision and to set goals.
“She has a clear understanding of how employee engagement contributes to better outcomes for the institution, and is a tireless champion for the potential of the Staff Senate to be fully realized,” wrote Organizational Excellence leaders Sarah Collie and Mary Brackett.
In the Zone: Gary Wood
More than 40 years ago, Gary Wood started working at UVA as an entry-level air-conditioning employee on the night shift. Over time, he steadily acquired new skills and certifications as an HVAC mechanic.
When Facilities Management reorganized the way its teams took care of UVA buildings in 1998, mapping maintenance zones to improve efficiency and effectiveness, Wood’s outstanding reputation made him the first one chosen to lead the crew of the North Grounds zone, including the then-newly built Darden School and the Judge Advocate General School, which hosts the training program for U.S. Army lawyers. Since then, the size of this zone has more than doubled, to more than 1.6 million square feet.
“Gary’s leadership qualities and ability to mentor others, share knowledge and gain commitment certainly contributed to his being selected in 1998 to lead the first zone at the University,” Director of Operations Cheryl Gomez wrote.
Zone managers are the principal customer contact for facility stewardship, routine services and departmental support. Wood’s nominators described him as a strategic thinker who always seems able to resolve problems and challenges.
In Facilities Management, North Grounds has come to be called “Woodville,” one nominator wrote, because everyone knows that any work done there will be subject to Wood’s standards and scrutiny. “His steadfast protection of the interests of his zone’s customers earned Gary the trust and admiration that resonates in their testimonials.”
Soul of the Department: Brenda Whitaker
The UVA-Wise Natural Sciences Department faculty members who work with Brenda Whitaker describe her as “the lifeblood of the department,” “the gravitational center of administrative logistics for the department” and the “soul of the department.” She helps students and colleagues through difficult times, her nominators wrote.
One nominator said that she serves as an invaluable aid. “I trust her discretion absolutely and call upon her to critique evaluation letters, give suggestions and advice about the best way to respond to difficult situations, and even read emails before I hit the ‘send’ button. I could have not done my job if I had not been able to rely on her discretion, perceptiveness and good sense.”
“She maintains an impressive vocabulary of scientific terminology to converse with and fulfill our teaching and research needs,” thus keeping the department running smoothly, another nominator wrote.
Whitaker, who has worked at UVA-Wise for 47 years, started a book club several years ago that includes College faculty. A colleague in the club said, “It’s always a joy to talk about science and current events with her.”
Her nominators agree: “Whitaker models for our students what it means to be an educated person. The range of her interest and the depth and breadth of her knowledge is remarkable.”