The Year’s Most Impactful Ideas: Retaining Researchers, Peer Staff Mentoring

April 24, 2024 By Bethanie Glover, Bethanie Glover,

The UVA Staff Senate announced the winners of the second annual Hoos Making an Impact competition this week. Launched by the Staff Senate in late 2022, the contest gives University of Virginia academic staff the opportunity to share ideas on how to make the University better and foster staff success. Each winning idea receives $1,000, plus up to $100,000 of additional funding to support its implementation on Grounds. 

Staff submitted 44 written proposals this year; a selection panel comprising representatives from across Grounds reviewed and advanced the top six to a second round of review, where proposals were presented in person. All ideas were evaluated based on feasibility, impact, longevity, and, most importantly, how well they aligned with the UVA 2030 Plan key initiative to cultivate staff success.

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“I am extremely excited to see the quality of thought and innovation of staff submissions and thankful for the overwhelming support of President Ryan, Executive Vice President & Chief Operating Officer J.J. Davis, and Executive Vice President and Provost Ian Baucom in sustaining this significant competition that celebrates staff and their commitment to cultivating success in our mission to be good and great,” Staff Senate co-chair Patrick Wood said.

The 2023-24 winners are:

Leslie Booren, School of Education and Human Development

A headshot of Leslie Booren from the School of Education and Human Development

Leslie Booren, of the School of Education and Human Development, was selected as one of this year’s Hoos Making an Impact winners for her idea to expand professional learning opportunities for UVA research staff.

Booren, associate director of operations and communications for the Youth-Nex Center at the School of Education and Human Development, submitted an idea to create a multifaceted program to support the retention and professional development of UVA’s restricted research staff. Booren’s idea will open new pathways for research staff to move seamlessly from project to project, reduce costs associated with research staff turnover and build a consistent support infrastructure of staff institutional knowledge and skills.

“I’m incredibly grateful to President Ryan and the UVA Staff Senate for creating opportunities to uplift staff ideas on process improvement,” Booren said. “The Hoos Making an Impact initiative promotes a culture where every idea matters, and any staff member across Grounds can speak up to improve UVA. I would encourage all members of the staff community to start thinking about their own submission for fall 2024.”

A form is available for UVA research staff to provide input and get involved in the development and testing of professional development resources as Booren’s idea comes to life.

Melissa Goldman, School of Architecture

Goldman, a fabrication lab manager and lecturer at the School of Architecture, presented an idea for a staff mentoring program to provide a wide network of staff support, development, knowledge-sharing and celebration of success. UVA Human Resources will work with Goldman to merge her idea with existing mentorship offerings into a comprehensive mentoring program.

A headshot of Melissa Goldman of the School of Architecture
Melissa Goldman, School of Architecture, was selected as a Hoos Making an Impact winner for her idea to create a mentoring program for staff to collaborate on successes, support, development and opportunities.

“Hoos Making an Impact is such a wonderful initiative for getting big ideas rolling across the University for staff,” Goldman said. “I’m very thankful for my time on the Staff Senate and the community the Senate fosters, to get a widened view of Grounds and the kinds of programs that would benefit our whole staff. I am excited to see staff build bridges across Grounds to support, to learn and to celebrate each other.”

2023 Hoos Making an Impact Ideas: Where Are They Now?

UVA Today caught up with the two winning partnerships from the 2023 inaugural Hoos Making an Impact competition to check on the progress of their idea implementations. 

Last year, Patrick Clark (Parking and Transportation) and Ethan Heil (Facilities Management) received a Hoos Making an Impact award for their joint idea to develop a UVA commute club, which is now in its final planning phases with a goal to launch this summer.

2023 Hoos Making an Impact winning teams Patrick Clark and Ethan Heil (left) and Kendyl Bilenkij and Rachel Sligar (right)
2023 Hoos Making an Impact winning teams Patrick Clark and Ethan Heil (left) and Kendyl Bilenkij and Rachel Sligar (right) are putting their ideas in motion.

Rachel Sligar and Kendyl Bilenkij (Information Technology Services) were recognized for their idea to reduce paper waste and streamline document routing and signing on Grounds by increasing DocuSign use and document imaging integration processes. A student worker has been hired to collaborate across Grounds and implement these processes.

Keep an eye on the UVA Staff Senate page for updates and information on the next Hoos Making an Impact challenge.

Media Contact

Bethanie Glover

Deputy University Spokesperson