FIU’s Division of HR Creates Timely Initiatives During COVID-19, Positioning Itself as a Strategic Partner

2021 Higher Education HR Awards

Florida International University’s Division of Human Resources
is the recipient of CUPA-HR’s 2021 HR Excellence Award.


Without compromising quality of work, the Division of HR (DHR) at Florida International University (FIU) led a workforce shift during COVID-19 that has allowed the university to exceed productivity levels while also accommodating the health and safety of the university community. The following initiatives and actions taken by DHR have been instrumental in transforming and positively impacting FIU’s workforce during the pandemic and up to this day.

COVID-19 Response

DHR modified, increased and created content on communication platforms to heighten awareness with just-in-time information as COVID-19 developments unfolded and as the university workforce temporarily transitioned to fully remote work. Some of the key actions taken included conducting supervisor webinars prior to transitioning to remote work, conducting remote work readiness and effectiveness assessments, creating a dedicated COVID-19 website, hosting town halls to help with the remote work transition, and sending a weekly newsletter with content about health and well-being for the university community.

DHR also created a COVID-19 emergency policy to alleviate fears of job loss and benefits reduction as temporary modifications were being vetted. The policy extended professional development hours for remote employees and created an internal talent share, a COVID-19 sick leave pool, extended vacation leave, virtual events for new employees, socially distanced recognition and appreciation events, and a weekly Virtual HR Water Cooler — an initiative that allowed employees to connect with the HR team.

Further, FIU’s Office of Employee Assistance created meaningful programming to help employees process, navigate and flourish amidst the pandemic, including professionally facilitated support groups that helped employees deal with the stress of COVID-19 and burnout, to name a few.

“As strategic partners of our university, our well-rounded knowledge of HR matters and understanding of the future of work has garnered our team’s leadership a seat at the table where the big decisions are made,” says Trudy Fernandez, director of HR relations at FIU.

Response to Racial Unrest

In response to racial unrest that stemmed from the murder of George Floyd, the HR division implemented initiatives to address issues of inclusion and equity more fully, particularly as they relate to FIU. Actions taken included the creation of an anti-racist statement for FIU, town hall presentations, the creation of a DEI website, establishment of a Black Faculty Association and a Diversity Council, and incorporation of a DEI representative on FIU Strategic Planning Execution Teams.

Despite the ever-evolving challenges higher ed faced over the last year, FIU has continued to rise in rankings — for the fifth year in a row, the university has been recognized as a Great College to Work For®, achieving honor roll designation for its outstanding workplace practices. Florida International University is a top 50 public university that drives real talent and innovation in Miami and globally. U.S. News and World Report places dozens of FIU programs among the best in the nation, including international business at No. 2. Washington Monthly Magazine ranks FIU among the top 20 public universities contributing to the public good.

About the HR Excellence Award:
CUPA-HR’s HR Excellence Award honors transformative HR work in higher education, recognizing teams or individuals who have provided HR leadership resulting in significant and ongoing organizational change within their institutions. CUPA-HR will make a $3,000 contribution to the recipient’s institution.
Learn more