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Division of Administration Newsletter E-Newsletter [Vanderbilt University]

June 17, 2020

In my last divisional message, I remarked that in these uncertain and disconcerting times, I find it helpful to focus on our purpose and how the work of our division impacts the university. When I reflect on our work, I can’t help but think about the people in our division who day in and day out strive for excellence in how they support the university’s mission and serve and care for the campus community.

From staff in People and Business Services, Facilities, Public Safety, VCFC teachers, Contracts and Grants, Mobility, Equal Employment Opportunity, Title IX and Student Access Services who support our students, faculty and staff with critical issues, and so many more, I applaud your outstanding work.

In the last few months in particular, many of our staff have gone above and beyond in their duties, displaying the depth of their devotion to ensuring that the campus runs safely and smoothly. I extend my deepest gratitude to them for their perseverance, ingenuity, collaboration, hard work and care for this wonderful place that is Vanderbilt.

I would like to use this forum to recognize some of the exemplary staff in our division who capture undaunted spirit and work ethic. These staff have been nominated by their supervisors, peers and colleagues who have taken notice of their efforts. While these staff represent just a few of the many nominations received, they serve as a great example and deserve to be acknowledged for their heroic efforts. My hope is to continue sharing these stories in upcoming newsletters as a small way to thank everyone for their hard work.

Thank you for all that you do for Vanderbilt.


Eric Kopstain

Vice Chancellor for Administration


Staff across the division are going above and beyond to provide excellent support for the university’s mission, and serve and care for the campus community. Here are a few of the staff we would like to highlight.

Tamara Cooley, Safety Officer Sr., Emergency Preparedness and Safety, Vanderbilt University Public Safety

Tamara Cooley has played an instrumental role in the development of campus protocols during the pandemic. Her technical advice and expertise have been pivotal, not only as the university shut down various operations, but also as the university has planned for ramp-up. As a Certified Industrial Hygienist and Safety Professional, Tamara was poised and ready to assist. She researched and provided CDC/EPA guidance for cleaning and disinfecting products, helped develop procedures and has provided guidance on PPE use. She has been instrumental in the development of aspects of our Return to Campus procedures. Tamara is an instrumental member of the team working on critical COVID-19 health/safety and supply working groups to ensure the university has the necessary disinfectants, PPE and key supplies needed as operations continue to ramp-up. She has accomplished this with continual changing guidance from many different sources, in between Zoom meetings, and serving as a subject matter expert to departments needing guidance and support.

Andrea George, Director of Environmental Healthy & Safety (EHS) and Sustainability and Environmental Management Office (SEMO), Facilities 

Andrea George has been working tirelessly around the clock in her role as Director of Environmental Health and Safety these past few months. She has been an integral part of the team that prepared the 4-phase plan for research ramp up on campus and developed everything from research guidance to safety protocols to intake forms, and much more. Her knowledge of Vanderbilt and safety measures have been instrumental to our efforts beyond just the research enterprise. Andrea has been pulled into a variety of meetings on a daily basis to consider and develop plans for important aspects of the university’s continued ramp-up and as we look to bring back student populations in the future. She has been deeply involved in efforts around developing plans for testing, contact tracing, and community support for students, faculty and staff and has assisted with preparing materials for senior leadership and the Board of Trust. She has been available day and night to field questions, has stepped up to prepare procedures and protocols without being asked, and has become an instrumental member who is not only utilized by our division but by others at the university in Academic Affairs and even the Interim Chancellor. The quality and amount of work she has taken on is second to none.

Mark Petty, Assistant Vice Chancellor of Plant Operations, Facilities

Mark Petty is nominated for his terrific leadership throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. He has been on campus every weekday, keeping his team updated and abreast of tasks needed to be complete, procedures, protocols and more. His leadership has been constant and consistent. Staff on his team have noted that he has been open, transparent and honest during this uncertain time. Mark and his team have been leading a variety of important efforts from working closely with facilities officers on classroom usage and capacity elements as part of our fall planning, to installing wayfinding and signage throughout campus, to student room consolidation efforts, changes to cleaning protocols and so much more. He takes pride in the work of his team and has exemplified the can do spirit needed in these unprecedented times.

Chris Preston, Manager of Facilities Svc & Sys, Facilities

Chris Preston has had to work from home due to family immunity issues but has worked tirelessly on COVID-19 efforts. He has overseen the student room consolidation process, including the creation of a system within the Facilities AiM work management system for tracking student room personal belongings. He has also developed the tracking sheets used to inventory student belongings before packing and built teams to inventory rooms before packing. Chris has continued to build and update an operational master calendar for cleaning and disinfecting facilities on campus, tracking building inspections and tracking COVID-19 related tasks. He has been very creative in using existing tools, systems and staff in new ways to perform work that at times is outside of his normal operations and knowledge base. Chris accepted every task and request without hesitation and consistently delivers high quality work.

Cleo Rucker, Director of HR Consulting, Employee & Labor Relations, Human Resources

Since transitioning to remote work, Cleo Rucker has worked tirelessly to assist the Vanderbilt community. Cleo leads the Consulting team in Human Resources and is a fluid collaborator who has been working across multiple work groups to solve global challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic. He has strengthened partnership with HR leaders outside our organization to learn from one another and share experiences. Cleo works closely with physicians from VUMC to ensure the university continues to progress toward actions which ensure the safety of staff working on campus. Cleo and his team have been the direct line to leaders who are faced with the daunting task of responding to the financial pressures related to COVID19. Cleo is responsive and goes above and beyond to provide communication, support and employment options to university leaders. While facing daily hardships of this crisis, Cleo has the masterful ability to keep communications light-hearted, and often you will find yourself enjoying a good laugh in his presence (in person, on the phone or through Zoom). Most times it is easy to be a leader when things are going well, but much tougher to lead when times are tough. Cleo Rucker and his team are working around the clock to assist employees and leaders across our institution every day.

Megan Sargent, Project Manager, Campus Planning & Construction, Facilities

Prior to the Safer at Home policy taking effect, Megan Sargent and her family were directly impacted by the March 3 tornado. With the university’s shift to remote work, she has been juggling two small children and alternating between work and parenting alongside her working husband. Megan has shown tremendous devotion, patience and strength during this time. Megan has taken a lead role on the COVID-19 circulation team that is currently developing the circulation plan for both exterior and interior spaces throughout campus, signage and wayfinding and various building protocols. She has worked tirelessly to pull various elements of the circulation plans together and has done so with a positive attitude at all times. A colleague mentioned that Megan is not one to let challenges impact her devotion to the university or her position and handles them all without complaint. She has gone above and beyond in her role.

Jay Spiegel, Purchasing Manager, Campus Dining

At the outset of the pandemic, Jay Spiegel stepped up to assist the university with finding the necessary personal protective equipment and supplies for Plant Operations staff to continue to perform their important duties. He took this role on, beyond his normal work duties, and helped the team procure gloves and masks at a time where it seemed impossible to find them. Jay continues to work with Plant Operations to help acquire supplies such as hand sanitizer, soap, dispensers and disinfectants. He needed only minimal direction to take on the tasks at hand and pursued numerous supply lines – paper, janitorial, restaurant and more. Jay followed up with timely, pertinent information without prompting and truly exemplifies our divisional values of teamwork and partnership.

Trauma Informed Design Care Group, Vanderbilt Child and Family Center (Group includes: Cierra Price, Jazlin Hanson, Darcia Witherspoon, Bethany Downs, Jamie Broadwater, Toya Cobb, Kelsey Pentecost)

The Trauma Informed Care Design Group was convened in late April to research and create meaningful support aligned to early childhood best practices. Their focus has been twofold: first, to identify or create specific activities and resources for Acorn School teachers to provide to children and parents managing life changes due to COVID-19 and specifically addressing young children’s social emotional growth and development; and, second, to directly address the additional stress teachers’ experience with this work by naming it and creating meaningful supports. The level of engagement with this group far outweighed the charge. The team consistently shared research daily and met many times remotely before making the following strong recommendations: align May professional development (readings and dedicated cohort time) to this topic (providing specific recommended articles), and additionally create weekly Peer Support Groups (via Zoom) that could include a guest speaker from EAP. This team exemplifies the very best and highest collegiality, demonstrating care for their coworker’s needs in both their quality of work excellence and their demonstrated hustle to research and implement so quickly to prevent a crisis. The reaction of Acorn School teachers has been appreciation. This is demonstrated by the level of engagement and the manner in which the content comes up in reflection activities. Cierra, Jazlin, Darcia, Bethany, Jamie, Toya and Kelsey truly exemplify that undaunted spirit, and the level of service they have portrayed during these past few months is exceptionally admirable.


If you know of a staff member in our division you would like to nominate to be featured in an upcoming newsletter, please email Leigh Shoup (leigh.shoup@vanderbilt.edu).

Please also continue to share your stories, pictures and videos showing the spirit and work ethic of our division with Leigh Shoup (leigh.shoup@vanderbilt.edu) and we will continue to share those stories in future newsletters and other ways.


Office of the Vice Chancellor for Administration

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