The Higher Ed Workplace Blog

Award-Winning Work in Higher Ed HR

From diversity and inclusion efforts to people development initiatives, leading change and more, human resources teams and HR practitioners across the country are doing great work every day.

CUPA-HR’s Higher Education HR Region Awards program recognizes some of the best and brightest in higher ed HR and honors HR professionals who have given their time and talents to the association.

Here are this year’s recipients.

HR Excellence Award 

Honoring transformative HR work in higher education and recognizing individuals or teams that have provided HR leadership resulting in significant and ongoing organizational change within their institutions. (Sponsored by AIG Retirement Services) 

Duquesne University’s Minority Professional Development Leadership Program (Eastern Region)
This program provides employment opportunities to unemployed or underemployed college-educated women and minorities through compensated, full-time, temporary employment at the institution. Interns build their knowledge and skills and increase their chance of gaining permanent employment at the institution or other organizations in Pittsburgh. Since its inception, the program has hired 27 interns, 23 of whom have gone on to obtain permanent internal or external employment. The remaining four continue to serve as university interns.

Central Carolina Community College Human Resources (Southern Region)
Over the past three years, the newly organized and re-energized HR department at Central Carolina Community College has led significant and ongoing organizational change through the implementation of new processes and initiatives, as well as an increased focus on customer service. This transformation includes a more efficient recruitment and hiring process, implementation of a new software management system, increased employee satisfaction of HR, the creation of a salary method and classification plan, a newly improved performance appraisal method across the institution, and improved employee relations, employee assistance and wellness programs.

Melissa Nash, University of Wisconsin-Green Bay (Midwest Region)
Melissa Nash has been instrumental in the university’s efforts to recruit and retain a more diverse workforce. Her contributions include developing and implementing implicit bias training for all supervisors; developing training and protocols for advising search committees on issues of diversity; implementing different recruitment methods to reach a more diverse population; and working with employee resource groups to bring diverse employers into the recruitment process.

Debbie Garcia, Arizona State University (Western Region)
Debbie Garcia has set the standard for excellent customer service at Arizona State. She is seen as the subject matter expert on all HR-related matters and has created a culture of professionalism where faculty, staff and students feel heard and well-served. She has generated new processes and procedures, accelerated efficiency, and positioned the HR department in the School of Earth and Space Exploration and the College of Liberal Arts as the flagship unit for HR excellence.

Distinguished Service Award

Honoring CUPA-HR members who have provided outstanding service and leadership to their region and/or to higher education human resources.

Darren Hoff, University of Minnesota Twin Cities, College of Pharmacy (Midwest Region)
For the past 10 years, Darren Hoff has been a consistent and reliable board member for the Minnesota Chapter, where he proactively secured sponsors and speakers to ensure successful chapter events. He also led several webinars during his time on the chapter board. He currently serves on the CUPA-HR Midwest Region board as the director of membership and chapter engagement.

Theresa Elliot-Cheslek, Washington State University (Western Region)
Theresa Elliot-Cheslek currently serves as the past chair on CUPA-HR’s Western Region board, and has contributed significantly to the Washington State Chapter, heading up several of its annual conferences and generating the Eastern Washington coalition to support the less-populated region of the state.

Brittney Richardson, Dillard University (Southern Region)
As president and then past president of the Louisiana/Mississippi Gulf Coast Chapter, Brittney Richardson has helped the chapter thrive by fostering strong financial support from vendors, increasing the caliber of speakers at chapter events, and even stepping in to present when needed.

Kevin Clarke, University of Florida (Southern Region)
Kevin Clarke has been a key collaborator and champion in many projects that will modernize and innovate how the University of Florida’s HR department operates. He co-chaired the complete rewrite of the staff employee handbook, worked on updating and improving how HR conducts performance evaluations, and has assisted in the adoption of the first case-and-issue tracking software within employee relations.

Chapter Excellence Award

Recognizing a chapter that is making a significant impact through its commitment to CUPA-HR and to the higher ed HR community.

Eastern Pennsylvania and Delaware Chapter
The Eastern Pennsylvania and Delaware Chapter has developed a strong leadership pipeline by forming various board committees to create service opportunities for higher ed HR professionals. The chapter has hosted several highly-attended meetings at various institutions within the chapter area to accommodate diverse participant needs, teamed up with corporate partners to offer webinars, and partnered with other local CUPA-HR chapters to expand the learning and networking opportunities and provide a more rewarding experience for event attendees.

Florida Chapter
The Florida Chapter strives to increase CUPA-HR colleague engagement in Florida by reimagining chapter events, partnering with other CUPA-HR chapters and hosting several face-to-face events throughout the year. The chapter’s annual conference included a facilitated session about microaggressions and the impact on women and minorities in higher ed. In the public policy realm, the chapter board has communicated with area professionals about actions and items being considered by the state legislature and will organize a delegation that will make phone calls and visits to the state legislature throughout the year

Kansas Chapter
The Kansas Chapter has been successful in creating connections between higher ed HR professionals from small HR departments across the state by hosting its annual conference and a mid-year webinar and by utilizing CUPA-HR Connect (the association’s online discussion space) as its primary mode of communication and a space to ask questions and share best practices among chapter members. The chapter also developed and implemented a three-year strategic plan that resulted in chapter leaders moving on to serve on the CUPA-HR Midwest Region board and several high-quality and affordable professional development events.

Utah Chapter
The Utah Chapter focuses on one-on-one recruiting that encourages representation from state institutions not involved with CUPA-HR and invites other state chapters to attend or present at its two annual conferences. The chapter incorporates diversity, equity and inclusion into its programming through resources provided by the CUPA-HR national office, hosts an emerging leader session to discuss ways to get involved by serving on the board, and sends all board members to CUPA-HR’s Association Leadership Program.

Congratulations to all of this year’s Region Awards recipients!