The Higher Ed Workplace Blog

Award-Winning Work in Higher Ed HR – 2022 HR Excellence Award and Higher Ed HR Rock Star Award

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

CUPA-HR’s regional Higher Education HR 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 regional award recipients:

HR Excellence Award

Honoring transformative HR work in higher education and recognizing a team that has provided HR leadership resulting in significant and ongoing organizational change within its institution

Office of Human Resources Management, Fordham University (Eastern Region)

Fordham University’s office of human resources management has transformed from a primarily transaction-focused department to a strategic partner that is relied upon throughout the university. The department has demonstrated its strategic strength on multiple fronts including the management of the university’s COVID-19 shutdown and reopening, return-to-work policies, customer service, technology, communication with employees that resulted in increased engagement and trust, anti-bias training, professional development initiatives and the performance management process. Additionally, in keeping with and living Fordham’s Jesuit mission of Cura Personalis, “caring for the whole person,” the office developed and implemented programs to help employees maintain a healthy work-life balance. Some health and wellness services that were developed include back-up childcare support, on-site and virtual physical fitness classes, and behavioral health services, such as a registered dietician available to employees. In doing so, the HR team has distinguished itself as a trusted advisor to employees, managers and senior leaders alike.

University Human Resources, Iowa State University (Midwest Region)

In 2019, Iowa State University implemented a new financial management and human capital management system. In conjunction with the new system, finance and HR service delivery teams were developed, pulling distributed customer-facing finance and HR roles into two centralized teams. University human resources’ performance through this significant and ongoing organizational change has been positive for the entire campus community. The HR delivery model has led to increased consistency and standardization in delivery of services across the university. It has also created a more well-trained and cohesive team of professionals that work together up and down the chain to find creative solutions to HR challenges and opportunities. HR support for leaders across the institution has significantly improved through better access to accurate data, streamlined processes for workforce and position planning, compensation adjustments, support addressing low-preforming employees and behavioral issues, large-scale employee movement and reorganizations, and professional human capital consulting. The new HR delivery systems have resulted in a much more efficient, collaborative and cohesive HR unit that is better equipped to serve employees and supervisors. At the same time, employees and supervisors have benefitted from HR’s reliability, transparency, accountability and consistency in its efforts to support them.

Talent and Culture Department, Broward College (Southern Region)

Recognizing that HR alone cannot create culture but that it plays a critical role in ensuring the infrastructure is in place to support the cultural aspirations of an organization, the talent and culture department at Broward College has worked over the last several years to spearhead significant organizational change. Beginning in 2019, the university launched its three-year culture transformation plan. An integral step in the transformation process was the implementation of information-gathering discussions between the HR leadership team and employee groups comprised of administrators, faculty and professional technical staff, which provided substantive feedback on areas that needed the most attention. This organizational change, led by the talent and culture department, has resulted in more substantive collaboration; stronger relationships among faculty, staff and administrators; and greater trust and communication between employees and their supervisors. It has also served as a catalyst for innovative projects throughout the organization designed to maximize the experience of employees, students and the community. Some major initiative highlights include the creation of talent business partner roles, Leadership 360 Assessments, psychological safety workshops, employee resource groups, employee onboarding, and a leadership development program called BC LEAD that educates and empowers managers at all levels to rise to leadership excellence.

HR Campus Climate Liaisons, The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (Western Region)

After implementing a strategic action planning process, led by an internal HR workgroup called Campus Climate Liaisons, The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley saw double-digit improvements in climate survey results within three years, all amid a pandemic. The liaison group consists of individuals from various HR areas, such as talent development, organizational development, employee wellness and employee relations/business partners. The group was trained to provide support to assigned departments with result-sharing, action-planning and ongoing progress-reporting. This method ensured that all departments received the same level of support and helped the HR team better track progress toward climate goals. It also helped empower all department leaders to have conversations about campus climate and department climate. The biggest improvements were seen in areas of faculty, administration and staff relations; senior leadership; and facilities. The campus climate liaison model has been so successful that it will continue to be used for future campus climate initiatives and to provide ongoing support to all departments.

Higher Ed HR Rock Star Award

This award recognizes an individual who is serving in the first five years of a higher education HR career who has already made a significant impact.

Audrey Davis, Assistant Director of Personnel, Texas Tech University (Western Region)

With her enthusiasm and inspirational demeanor, Audrey Davis has built strong and trusting relationships with each department she works with, not only within university student housing, but within each auxiliary services area at Texas Tech University. Since taking over the personnel team, Audrey has demonstrated continuous innovation and creative thinking, which has completely changed the way the student housing personnel team operates and provides services. After only two years in her role, she has identified and eliminated major gaps in the onboarding/offboarding processes. She has also developed a collaborative hiring system that allows hiring managers to communicate efficiently with the personnel team to discuss new hires, promotions and terminations. Audrey’s initiatives have resulted in university student housing being named a center for excellence for human resourcing by the assistant vice president for auxiliary services. Audrey continues to make a positive impact with her role and demonstrates her passion through advocacy, by fostering a welcoming work environment and by building confidence in her team to serve as a one-stop shop for personnel services.