The Higher Ed Workplace Blog

And the Award Goes to …

Each year, CUPA-HR’s Higher Education Human Resource Awards honor individuals, teams and institutions that are doing outstanding and innovative work around advancing diversity and inclusion in higher ed, elevating the HR role on campus, furthering the higher ed HR profession, and giving selflessly of their time and talents to CUPA-HR and their higher ed HR peers.

Here, we celebrate this year’s recipients:

Chief Executive HR Champion Award – Jacqueline Moloney, Chancellor of University of Massachusetts Lowell

Honoring a president or chancellor of a higher ed institution or system who has demonstrated significant support for the institution’s HR function (sponsored by Sibson Consulting).

Throughout her time in senior leadership positions at UMass Lowell, Chancellor Jacqueline Moloney has supported a broad-based, large-scale organizational change effort that has resulted in, among other things, doubling the operating budget of finance and operations; adding over 1.5 million square feet of building space; growing enrollment by nearly 60 percent; and increasing the workforce by 40 percent.

Moloney is a strong HR ally and has supported HR’s proactive initiatives to ensure market-based competitive salaries; clear and comprehensive job descriptions; inclusive recruitment and selection processes; a comprehensive performance management and accountability system; robust strategic data reporting; the appropriate use of technology in business process review and redesign; robust employee recognition; and organizational climate assessment.

“Chancellor Moloney understands and respects the importance of effectively engaging members of the campus community, providing transparency in decision making, respecting and incorporating different perspectives, and creating a climate of high performance, accountability and inclusion,” says Lauren Turner, senior associate vice chancellor for HR and organizational strategy and effectiveness at UMass Lowell. “Time and time again, she has shown that she truly is an HR champion.”


HR Excellence Award – Kelley Stuck, Chief HR Officer at University of Virginia

Honoring transformative HR work in higher ed and recognizing teams or individuals who have provided HR leadership resulting in significant and ongoing organizational change within their institutions (sponsored by VALIC). 

Kelley Stuck received the award for her leadership on the Ufirst project, which reimagined and restructured how UVA’s human resources organization does its work. The new HR organization, supported by best-in-class technology, aims to provide consistent, quality and efficient services to the UVA community, enabling the recruitment and retention of faculty, staff and team members who are experts in their respective fields. Outcomes of the Ufirst project thus far have included:

  • A reduction from more than 85 HR units within three organizations to three streamlined communities of expertise with eight functional areas;
  • The emergence of a service-oriented, collaborative, innovative HR culture;
  • Enhanced HR operations and improved customer satisfaction;
  • Greater fiscal responsibility;
  • A reduction in the volume of HR inquiries and a reduced time to close inquiries;
  • Implementation of state-of-the-art and streamlined case management technology; and
  • More efficient use of trend data to inform HR’s work.


 Inclusion Cultivates Excellence Award – Utah Valley University

Recognizing institutional initiatives and programs that have made a significant impact with respect to inclusive and equitable workplace practices, particularly those that have brought about cultural change throughout the organization (sponsored by PageUp). 

Utah Valley University (UVU) has embarked upon a multi-year strategic plan to reinforce its commitment to inclusion, access, diversity, multiculturalism, and global and intercultural engagement. More than $3 million in funding over the last four years have been dedicated to 40 new initiatives and projects, including:

  • Several new identity-affirming spaces on campus, including the Women’s Success Center, Veteran’s Center, LGBT Student Services, and the Center for Global and Intercultural Engagement;
  • Three new multicultural initiatives (one for Native Americans, one for people of the Pacific and one for African Americans);
  • Four new campus facilities named for women (prior to this, there were none);
  • The implementation of a global intercultural curriculum;
  • A robust first-generation-student initiative;
  • The creation of nearly 30 family/all-gender restroom facilities;
  • A recognition program which celebrates individuals/departments for their work to advance diversity and inclusion; and
  • Several professional development programs related to diversity and inclusion.

Says UVU Chief Diversity Officer Kyle Reyes, “From its inception, the UVU Strategic Inclusion Plan and efforts have been focused on campus-wide ownership of issues of inclusion, diversity, equity, access, pluralism and opportunity. That’s why we’ve been so successful — every school, department and individual has a part to play.”


HR Innovation Awards – Pennsylvania State University Human Resources and University of California, Irvine Human Resources

Recognizing transformative HR work in higher ed (sponsored by PageUp). 

Penn State
Penn State’s HR organization received the HR Innovation Award for its HR Business Process Transformation project, which has resulted in changes to better enable the HR organization to support the university’s strategic goals. Specific outcomes have included:

  • Creation of a new state-of-the-art HR shared services center;
  • Alignment of HR strategic partners and consultants with Penn State’s various units, departments and campuses;
  • Implementation of a new learning resources network;
  • Implementation of a new HR information system; and
  • Elimination of duplicative, decentralized, outdated and inconsistent HR processes and policies.

Says Mary Beahm, Penn State’s vice president for human resources, “This transformation has redefined how we do business, positioned Penn State HR as leading-edge within higher education, and allowed us to see our path forward to even greater contributions to the university.”


UC Irvine
UC Irvine’s HR team received the HR Innovation Award for the creation and implementation of a new HR business model which provides for streamlined and consistent processes and procedures and the alignment of resources across the university’s three HR organizations — campus, medical center and health sciences. Outcomes of the new HR model have included:

  • The creation of executive director positions for each of the three HR organizations;
  • The Partnership for Strategy and Innovation — a subset of HR consisting of four individuals with expertise in workforce planning, communications, organizational effectiveness and workforce relations who lead enterprise-level initiatives;
  • The elimination of annual performance reviews and the implementation of goal-setting and quarterly one-on-one meetings between supervisors and employees;
  • Implementation of campus-wide merit-based salary increases;
  • The opportunity for HR staff to complete training to become certified HR business partners;
  • The elevation of HR to a strategic business partner and cabinet-level contributor; and
  • A more engaged campus community.

Says Ramona Agrela, UC Irvine’s associate chancellor and chief HR executive, “The new HR model respects the individuality of each of the university’s HR organizations while aligning resources across the enterprise into an even more efficient, responsive and client-centric team and enables us to optimize across common strategic goals, planning, practices and unmet organizational needs.”


Donald E. Dickason Award – Barbara Carroll, Associate Vice Chancellor and Chief HR Officer at Vanderbilt University

CUPA-HR’s highest honor for exceptional leadership and service to the association (sponsored by TIAA). 

Over the past decade, Barb Carroll has made significant contributions to CUPA-HR. She has been a tireless advocate in the public policy arena, serving for three years as chair of CUPA-HR’s public policy committee and working closely for many years with the association’s government relations team in Washington, D.C., on several issues affecting higher ed. She has also been actively involved in CUPA-HR’s research endeavors, serving for several years as the primary advisor to the association’s research team and helping facilitate a restructuring and redesign of the association’s salary surveys. In 2015-16, she served as chair of CUPA-HR’s board of directors, and has served for several years as a mentor to emerging CUPA-HR leaders.

Says David Blake, past chair of CUPA-HR’s board of directors, “Barb’s efforts and ability to share her knowledge have been instrumental in the professional development of many of her peers and colleagues. As the board chair who preceded her, I have personally benefitted from her mentoring and leadership. Barb exemplifies both the mission and values of CUPA-HR as both a leader and a practitioner.”


Distinguished Service Award – Laurita Thomas, Associate Vice President for HR at University of Michigan

Recognizing outstanding service to CUPA-HR through constituent activities, such as service in governance or leadership roles, or through professional development contributions in support of the association (sponsored by Kronos Incorporated).

Laurita Thomas began her CUPA-HR leadership service in 2012 as a member of the association’s learning task force. She then went on to serve as a member of the board of directors from 2014 to 2017. She also served on CUPA-HR’s public policy committee and learning and professional development committee, and was instrumental in the creation of the association’s learning framework, which is meant to guide the learning and development of higher education HR professionals. Thomas has also been active in the association’s diversity and inclusion work, is a frequent presenter at national and regional CUPA-HR events, and has served as a mentor to several early-career higher ed HR professionals.

Says Mark Coldren, former chair of CUPA-HR’s board of directors, “Laurita is recognized as a thought leader and an innovator in the higher ed HR profession. She is an active resource for not only the association’s members, but also her peers and colleagues around the country. She is a trailblazer, a consummate professional, a dedicated leader, and one of the smartest people I know!”


This year’s awards recipients will be formally recognized at the CUPA-HR Annual Conference and Expo 2018 in Indianapolis, October 7-9.

Keep an eye on the blog and future issues of The Higher Education Workplace magazine for more on the work of these teams and individuals.