The Higher Ed Workplace Blog

CUPA-HR Announces 2019 Higher Education HR Awards Recipients

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 – Bassam M. Deeb, Ph.D., President of Trocaire College

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).

Since his appointment as president of Trocaire College in 2012, Dr. Deeb has provided forward-thinking vision and support to the college’s HR organization. Among other HR-related initiatives, Dr. Deeb:

  • Created a chief HR officer position that serves on the president’s council and reports to the president and the board of trustees.
  • Created a new Compensation Committee of the board of trustees, which aims to ensure compensation practices and philosophy are in alignment with the institution’s strategic plan.
  • Directed a review and revision of the evaluation processes for all employees, creating alignment between evaluation and goal setting, strategic objectives, budgeting and professional development. This effort led to the creation of the Mary Clare Development Center for faculty development and the strengthening of the Staff Advisory Committee to drive the staff’s development needs.
  • Allocates 10 percent of the total rewards budget to professional development for the college’s faculty, staff and administrators.

Under Deeb’s leadership, Trocaire College was awarded the “Great Colleges to Work For” designation in 2018 by The Chronicle of Higher Education, specifically recognizing the professional and career development programs, supervisor/department chair relationships, and work-life balance.


Central Carolina Community College Human Resources Department, from left: Denise Johnson, HR Coordinator, Trinity J. Faucett, Director of HR/Deputy Title IX Coordinator, and Jessica Fink, HR Technician

HR Excellence Award – Central Carolina Community College HR Team

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 AIG). 

Over the past three years, the newly organized and energized HR department at Central Carolina Community College has led several efforts to make HR processes, and the institution, more effective. Outcomes of their efforts include:

  • The implementation of a new user-friendly software management system and hiring procedures that have decreased the amount of time to fill positions at the college from an average of 90 days to an average of 25 days.
  • The creation of a salary method and classification plan that ensures that a fair, equitable and legally defensible pay system is in place. Within the salary administration process, all positions were reviewed to ensure appropriate salary range, and job descriptions were updated.
  • The implementation of an improved electronic performance appraisal method.
  • The promotion of the employee assistance program, which has doubled usage in recent years, as well as the expansion of the existing employee wellness program.

The HR department’s changes resulted in significantly improved employee satisfaction ratings, increasing from 69 percent of college faculty and staff reporting to be satisfied with HR in 2012 to 91 percent in 2017. Employee relations have improved, and HR is now actively involved in conflict resolution and intervention related to performance misconduct.

Inclusion Cultivates Excellence Award – Oregon Health and Science University (for Its Job Carving Program)

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 EyeMed).

Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU)’s Job Carving Program is designed to assist people with disabilities in obtaining permanent employment within the university as well as provide these individuals with opportunities to thrive in their jobs. OHSU works in collaboration with Oregon Vocational Rehabilitation Services to recruit individuals with disabilities to serve in “support services aide” positions, which were created to help departments and divisions across campus tackle routine duties and tasks that were not getting done due to already-heavy workloads and competing priorities. Since the program began a few years ago, 32 individuals with disabilities have been hired for permanent support services aide positions, and OHSU aims to expand the program internally and externally in the region.

“The success of an organization is dependent upon its ability to embrace and amplify the diverse skill sets, experiences and insights of its employees,” says OHSU chief operating officer Joe Ness. “Through its Job Carving Program, OHSU has increased its diverse workforce, solved employment and business needs, and helped to instill independence and confidence in the unique members of our community.”

HR Innovation Awards – California Institute of Technology Recruiting Team and University of Kentucky Health and Wellness

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

Caltech Recruiting (for its Meet Caltech project)
The Caltech recruiting team created the Meet Caltech project to highlight the diversity of the institution’s staff and to foster relationships between new hires and existing staff. When new hires opt in to the Meet Caltech program, they fill out an electronic survey that accompanies their typical onboarding documents. Their answers, along with a picture taken by recruiting staff on the first day of work, are highlighted on the @caltechcareers Instagram account, as well as shared directly with the employees’ supervisors and in the HR newsletter.

Though the model is relatively simple, Meet Caltech has proven to be effective in making new employees feel more connected to their departments and helping managers informally engage with their new hires. In less than a year, the associated Instagram account saw a 1,000 percent increase in followers.

University of Kentucky Health and Wellness (for its Community Supported Agriculture Voucher Program)
Created as a response to an increase in obesity and diet-related medical claims, the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Voucher Program encourages healthy eating and nutrition by way of increasing fruit and vegetable consumption, all while supporting the local farm community.

Vouchers of either $200 toward a large share or $100 toward a small share are provided by lottery to employees on a UK health plan to put toward the purchase of a CSA share from a participating local organic farm of their choice. Monthly education workshops and blog posts are provided by an internal registered dietitian to educate participating voucher holders on recipes and ways to use and prepare produce provided in shares.

Among the many health and food behavior outcomes measured in the ongoing impact assessment of the CSA Voucher Program, participants increased their vegetable consumption by nearly two servings per day and reported more than .5 fewer non-wellness/preventive visits per year to doctors’ offices or health clinics. Initial estimates indicate that for every dollar spent on the program, $2.47 was saved in medical expenditures.

Chapter Excellence Award – CUPA-HR Florida Chapter

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

In 2016, the CUPA-HR Florida Chapter re-emerged after being dormant for a few years, and since then, the innovative board of directors has updated the chapter bylaws, enhanced the website, created a new logo, developed policies and procedures, and organized successful conferences and meetings across the state. The chapter has also done an exceptional job in creating a leadership pipeline to ensure continuity of programs and services. At-large positions were added to the board to increase the talent pool for leadership positions, and the board provided extra guidance for those who expressed interest in leadership. Additionally, chapter leadership has taken an active role in raising awareness about public policy efforts, helping to educate higher ed professionals about proposed state legislation, and voicing the higher ed perspective to state legislators.

Donald E. Dickason Award – Dave Blake, Vice President of HR at California Western School of Law

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

In 2011, Blake was recognized with the Western Region Emerging CUPA-HR Leader award, and since that time he has made significant contributions to CUPA-HR. He has served in numerous leadership roles throughout the organization, including chair of the national board of directors, chair of the Western Region, and president of the Southern California Chapter, as well as chair of the Public Policy Committee and chair of the Learning and Professional Development Committee. In the last couple of years, he has taken an active role as a guide for CUPA-HR’s Wildfire program, an immersive year-long program that helps a select group of early-career professionals find their passion for higher ed HR by connecting them with higher ed leaders and unique learning opportunities.

Says Mark Coldren, who has served with Blake on the board of directors and currently serves as a fellow guide for the Wildfire program, “Dave has been a highly visible and high-impact leader within all levels of the association. He has presented, mentored, planned, implemented – you name it. If it is part of CUPA-HR, Dave has influenced it.”

Distinguished Service Award – Kevin Fowler, Executive Director of HR at Tyler Junior College

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).

Fowler began his CUPA-HR leadership service in 2008 as a founding member of the association’s Lone Star Chapter, where he later served as chapter president. He then went on to serve on and chair the Western Region board of directors, followed by service as a member of the national board of directors from 2015 to 2017. He chaired the CUPA-HR Awards Committee and served on the Budget and Finance Committee, Learning and Professional Development Committee and Public Policy Committee. He has also volunteered as a guide for CUPA-HR’s Wildfire program.

“Kevin is one of those individuals who, when you first meet him, you feel like you have known him for years,” says Janet May, CUPA-HR board member and chief HR officer at Houston Community College. “From the beginning of a conversation to the end, his focus is on ensuring the individual he is working with has what they need to be successful. His support of up-and-coming professionals in the higher ed HR field, along with his support of those new to higher education, his years of service at all levels of CUPA-HR, and his contributions to the Tyler Junior College community are all attributes that we look for and admire in our CUPA-HR community.

This year’s awards recipients will be formally recognized at the CUPA-HR Annual Conference and Expo in Denver, Colorado, October 20-22.

Keep an eye on the blog and future issues of Higher Ed HR Magazine more on the work of these teams and individuals.