UVA President Jim Ryan recently announced the first winners of the “Hoos Making an Impact” program, launched by the Staff Senate in late 2022, to collect and implement innovative ideas from staff across Grounds as part of an initiative to cultivate staff success and foster staff relationships with the community.
The inaugural theme for the new, annual competition was sustainability, generating a list of 44 staff ideas to advance UVA’s 2030 Sustainability Plan. A selection panel reviewed and named the top 10 for a second round, during which proposals were presented in person. All ideas were evaluated based on alignment with the sustainability plan, feasibility and overall impact on UVA, should the idea be implemented.
“We received dozens of incredibly creative and thoughtful ideas, and ultimately selected two deserving winners this round,” Ryan said. “I’m truly grateful for the time and care that staff members devoted to thinking through their submissions, as well as to the selection panel for their consideration. I’m excited to work with our talented staff colleagues to put these plans into action.”
The winners are:
Rachel Sligar and Kendyl Bilenkij
Sligar, an enterprise application business systems analyst, and Bilenkij, a manager of cloud applications and enterprise licensing, submitted their idea to reduce paper waste by increasing the use of DocuSign and document imaging integration processes to streamline document routing and signing on Grounds. Implementation would conserve water and wood used in paper production, and lower carbon emissions and waste.
“We are elated at the opportunity to support two of President Ryan’s key initiatives in the 2030 Plan,” Sligar and Bilenkij wrote. “Not only will this [idea] allow staff to focus on people over process, but it will also have an exponential impact on UVA’s sustainability goal. To date, our use of DocuSign has saved over 1 million sheets of paper. This equates to 112 trees, 107,484 gallons of water, 85,683 pounds of CO2 and 5,932 pounds of solid waste.”
Ethan Heil and Patrick Clark
Heil, an energy and sustainability engineer for Facilities Management, and Clark, an alternative transportation and innovation manager for Parking and Transportation, submitted their idea to launch a “commute club” incentive program. The club would promote and encourage alternative commuting, such as carpooling, remote working, cycling, walking and public transit.
In addition to added health benefits and enhanced sense of community, the club would offer incentives to staff to choose a more sustainable commute, including financial support, points, bonus-reward parking spots, reserved parking for club members, shared parking spots and more.
The idea will support the University’s sustainability plan and good-neighbor effort by reducing fuel emissions and money spent on fuel by commuters. Long-term impacts could include reduced expenses for alternative commuters, as well as decreased traffic and congestion in the Charlottesville area.
“The ‘Hoos Making an Impact’ competition is a unique opportunity to identify and fund Universitywide initiatives that address sustainability and staff success,” Heil and Clark wrote. “It’s an honor for our proposal to be selected as a winner and to have the chance to turn this idea into reality.”
The duo said alternative commutes tend to be cheaper, less stressful and easier on the environment, but it can be difficult for commuters to change habits. “The UVA Commute Club would provide a one-stop shop to help commuters find easy, affordable ways to skip the drive to work, even if it’s a day or two each week.”
Keep an eye on the UVA Staff Senate page for updates and information, including the themes of future competitions, on the “Hoos Making an Impact” challenge.