We recently celebrated Labor Day, a day to celebrate U.S. workers and their achievements and the unofficial end of summer. I can’t help but reflect upon the work of staff in our division over the past several months as we pivoted to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, learned to work in new ways, and prepared for the safe return of students, faculty and some of our staff colleagues to campus. Your dedication, innovation, perseverance and collaboration with each other and colleagues across the institution have been remarkable and show what it means to be a member of the Vanderbilt community.
Extraordinary efforts were made by our division in collaboration with other campus partners to prepare campus in a variety of ways – revamping Dining to deliver a grab and go and pick up model aligned with physical distancing guidelines; transforming outdoor and indoor spaces with different types of signage to indicate circulation patterns; ensuring that classrooms are outfitted with equipment and designed to ensure the safety of students and faculty; helping stand up the Public Health Central Command Center (Command Center) to facilitate COVID-19 testing and contact tracing; developing a Public Health Ambassadore program to encourage community members to wear masks, physical distance and follow protocols; creating a COVID Emergency Relief Fund and Leave Bank to support individuals impacted by COVID-19; and much, much more.
At the same time, our division has remained committed to keeping other university efforts not directly related to the pandemic moving forward – changing processes to accommodate new Title IX regulations taking effect; continuing progress to reimagine the West End Neighborhood with the delivery of Nicholas S. Zeppos College and completion of Phase 1 of the transformation of the Peabody neighborhood in alignment with FutureVU and the Academic Strategic Plan; providing a new daily parking option to offer more flexible parking options to commuters; and announcing a new partnership with PepsiCo as the provider of campus dining beverages in alignment with our sustainability goals.
To say that I am proud of all our efforts would be an understatement. Our division has truly demonstrated the impact we have across the university. Amidst all of the work, I encourage you all to take some time to relax, spend time with your family, go for a walk and enjoy the cooler weather. We all need time to recharge, and self-care, especially now, is very important to ensure that we have the stamina to keep doing our best each and every day.
I would like to use this forum to continue to recognize some of the exemplary staff in our division who epitomize our undaunted spirit and work ethic. These staff have been nominated by their supervisors, peers and colleagues who have taken notice of their efforts. I encourage you to read about their efforts below, and share with them your appreciation the next time you see them on campus or on Zoom!
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.
Matthew Buckley, Assistant Director, Plant Operations, Facilities
Matthew is a critical member of the Facilities team, managing the storeroom, surplus, recycling operations, key/sign shop, and more before the pandemic, and his value to the organization has increased exponentially during the last several months. Matthew was instrumental in the movement of student belongings to the Stadium Club and disinfection of student rooms during the move out in the spring. He monitored inventories of critical supplies and helped procure and deliver more when needed. More recently, Matthew has provided critical assistance to the university’s testing efforts, coordinating delivery and pick up of COVID-19 tests for students, faculty and staff daily during arrival and ongoing testing. A colleague says that Matthew has a quiet demeanor, adding a significant element of calm and confidence in the midst of challenging times, and his exemplary efforts have not gone unnoticed. Matthew is the person to see if you have a problem, need a solution and need it quickly. Matthew is a valued member of the team, a great campus partner to all, and an essential contributor to the success of many efforts in Facilities and beyond.
Lamar Cumings, Jr., Manager of Custodial Services, Plant Operations, Facilities
Lamar and his staff in Custodial Services jumped in to help from the very beginning of the pandemic. They very quickly organized and began disinfecting non-residential spaces across campus (approximately 4.5M square feet in 3 weeks!) to ensure that buildings were clean and safe. Lamar worked seven days a week and often across all three shifts, well above and beyond the call of duty, and he personally oversaw the disinfection of all the childcare centers and Mayfield apartments. He made sure his team had face masks (homemade by his mother-in-law), kept a positive attitude, and demonstrated true leadership in every phase of the campus shut down and ramp up phases. When participants in a debriefing with managers and supervisors in Plant Operations were asked to name a hero during the COVID-19 response, Lamar was mentioned more than any other individual. People said that he has been visible, problem solving, and has a positive attitude the whole time, and they couldn’t say enough about how his presence was calming and reassuring. Lamar is relatively new to the university but has demonstrated a loyalty and devotion comparable to employees who have served for decades. His dedication and work ethic are second to none and he continues to play an important role in the Facilities team.
Jessamyn Davis, Program Manager, Office of Emergency Preparedness, Fire and Workplace Safety, Vanderbilt University Public Safety
In her role within the Emergency Preparedness team of Vanderbilt University Public Safety (VUPS), Jessamyn is equipped with the skills to face a variety of emergency situations, including the COVID-19 pandemic. Jessamyn led a cross-functional team comprising of representatives from VUPS, VUIT, Dean of Students Office, Dining, Communications and Office of the General Counsel to develop the symptom monitoring features on the VandySafe app. Given her expertise, professionalism, work ethic, and collaborative nature, Jessamyn was selected to serve as a key member within the Command Center, which provides support and coordination for university COVID-19 testing, contact tracing, quarantine, isolation, and exposure mitigation and prevention strategies. As part of the administrative function of the Command Center, Jessamyn is a part of the team led by Andrea George that supports the contact tracing function of the Command Center, manages data related to those with positive test results and their close contacts, coordinates closely with the Dean of Students office to provide student support, investigates and mitigates any forming clusters of infection, manages the close contact testing program, and provides notifications to those that need to know about individuals with positive test results and their close contacts such as instructors and Deans. These are complicated processes and Jessamyn has jumped in with a positive attitude and can-do spirit, and has been an instrumental team member to date. Jessamyn has assumed her role in the Command Center in addition to completing her normal work duties including coordinating the university’s Fire Safety Program.
Kurtis Eisenhuth – GIS Analyst, Facilities Information Services, Facilities
Kurtis is new to Facilities and yet he already shines with his attitude, GIS skills and desire to jump in and tackle challenges. He has been asked to work on time-critical special projects by leadership related to mapping since we have been remote, and he has demonstrated grit and determination to overcome challenges while being off-campus to provide the requested data. Kurtis was asked by AVC Mike Perez to help with the return to campus circulation team, and he requested permission to come back to campus in order to meet the time sensitive deadlines associated with this project. His primary function on the circulation team was to plan and map all building movement and coordinate the appropriate signage. Given the major burden placed on the Facilities organization over the summer, with so many activities and obligations taxing its limited resources, Kurtis volunteered, beyond the call of duty, to assist with installation of circulation markings and signage. Kurtis has since become involved with a team managing use of outdoor open spaces and Dining tents and has developed a master mapping tool in GIS that he keeps up to date with all activities and uses of open spaces across campus. The tool provides a holistic view of outdoor activities and is critical to ensure activities and infrastructure are coordinated, spread out across campus and in line with the university’s COVID-19 protocols. Everyone loves Kurtis as a teammate because he is intelligent, highly considerate, has a ‘can do’ attitude, and gets things done. Kurtis is pulled in many directions and keeps an incredibly positive attitude and strong work ethic that is not only admirable but provides immense value to the institution.
Chelsea Hamilton, Sustainability Outreach Coordinator, Sustainability and Environmental Management Office, Facilities
Chelsea is a valuable member within the Sustainability function in Facilities. Chelsea was asked to assist the Command Center given her proven track record of thoughtful communication, engagement with students and strong ability to multitask. In her role within the Command Center, she supports the communications and compliance function, as well as the administrative function. As part of the communications and compliance team, she has been enormously helpful as part of the helpdesk function for getting people tested, a role that has been absolutely essential in supporting students and other community members in understanding protocols and guidelines regarding testing, as well as troubleshooting the testing process. Chelsea has worked closely with other members of the team to develop standard FAQs for all of the helpdesk questions coming in from the VU community. She also assists with the compliance process for undergraduate testing, which involves tracking those attending weekly tests and following up with individuals throughout the week – no small task. Chelsea has assisted with training other staff members and always lends a helping hand. As part of the administrative function, she provides support to the team led by Andrea George. A colleague says that Chelsea always has the best attitude and will take on anything that comes her way, handling it with the utmost skill and grace.
Ashley Majewski, Program Coordinator, Vice Chancellor for Administration Office
Ashley is a vital member of the Vice Chancellor Administration office team and has once again stepped up to take on a variety of tasks since last March. She attends daily meetings with leadership and key members of the university’s COVID-19 response, taking meeting minutes and keeping track of tasks that need to be completed, all of which is an important part of staying informed and involved in ongoing collaborations across the university. Ashley’s skills also continue to be utilized by members of the DofA leadership aside from the Vice Chancellor office, to assist with various working group efforts as part of ongoing COVID-19 efforts. In addition, with Leigh Shoup stepping into an almost full-time role with the Command Center, Ashley has taken on more tasks for the office as well, and is absolutely an instrumental member to the office team. She completes all of her work with the best attitude, is focused on the team and task at hand, and is exceptionally professional in all that she does. A close colleague said “there is no way we would have been able to accomplish as much as we have without Ashley.”
Leshuan Oliver (Captain, Campus Precinct and Community Relations, VUPS) and Brittney Whatley (Operational Continuity Manager, Emergency Preparedness, VUPS)
Leshuan and Brittney expertly lead Vanderbilt’s Public Health Ambassadore Program. The program was launched in an effort to guide the university community in practicing healthy behaviors during the COVID-19 pandemic. Originally started with Vanderbilt University Public Safety Community Service Officers, the program has grown to include additional campus community volunteers across the institution. Leshuan and Brittney develop daily and weekly PHA reports that include data on the number of face masks distributed, positive community interactions, issues reported, and more. They worked with VU Communications to develop language on the Return to Campus website about the program and procure attire specifically for PHAs, as well as train CSOs and volunteers as PHAs. The PHA CSO team has been instrumental in conducting medical transports to move students going into quarantine and isolation on campus to their housing, as well as responding to reports that come in through the PHA hotline both on campus and off campus. The duo even recently presented to the University Staff Advisory Council (USAC) to share information about the program and field questions. Both Leshuan and Brittney have gone above and beyond their normal duties to ensure the program is effective, adapts to changing needs and provides excellent service in support of the university’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Leigh Shoup, Chief of Staff, Vice Chancellor for Administration Office
From the beginning of the pandemic, Leigh has provided critical support to the VU Communications team in developing and updating content for the university’s Return to Campus website, and continues to serve as a critical communications partner. Leigh has become deeply involved in the important work of the Command Center. She recognized a need early on for more assistance for the Command Center and stepped up to help manage notifications to VU community members about testing and the critically important task of responding to VU community members that have questions and concerns about all aspects of the testing program. Not only does she field questions directly, but she helps draft FAQs and talking points for other support staff across the university to help respond to similar questions from students, parents, faculty and staff. Leigh works tirelessly, often taking on the more “thankless” tasks, such as developing and managing the process for undergraduate compliance with mandatory, weekly COVID-19 testing at the testing center. She forges collaborations with colleagues and campus partners to ensure a holistic approach is taken to every challenge, and has a “get things done” attitude that allows her to produce a high volume of high quality work. This, in turn, allows others, such as our campus public health experts, to remain focused on their core work, free from worry that something important might slip through the cracks. Leigh brings out the best in the teams she works with and has demonstrated extraordinary commitment to the university in this unprecedented time and we are grateful for her service.
Kiley Stokes, Director, Business Services Administration, People and Business Services
To work alongside Kiley Stokes is to have an ally, an advocate, a colleague, and a friend. Few in the Division of Administration have not been touched either directly or indirectly by Kiley’s efforts, and her efforts have made a lasting impact in the division. Kiley’s role of Director is constantly evolving, supporting Human Resources, Campus Dining, Child and Family Center, and Printing Services, just to name a few. Despite the challenges of remote work and operating during a public health crisis, Kiley did not miss a beat, working long hours to develop and implement new COVID-19 policies and procedures. Of course, this was in addition to her numerous duties supporting employee needs, union relations, employee immigration affairs, and Oracle HCM support for the division. Kiley’s exact job role is difficult to pin down, simply because she is so capable in every project she tackles. With each assignment, Kiley not only gives 100% of her time and attention to get the job done, but she also does so in a kind and compassionate manner, with the highest degree of integrity. Never afraid to challenge the system, Kiley consistently asks “Is this the right thing to do?”, and then follows through. Her focus on her colleagues and coworkers is a true gift; Kiley has proven time and time again that she is dedicated to the mission of Vanderbilt University, and to putting its people first.
Michael Ferral (Assistant Director of Operational Excellence), Donald Jackson (Assistant Director of Retail and Market Operations), Aaron Dilts (Assistant Director of Commons and Culinary Excellence), and Gayle Hanson (Assistant Director of Athletics, Zeppos and Rand Dining)
This small team of Assistant Directors in Campus Dining has been working diligently and strategically amid the uncertainty of the pandemic. They have gone above and beyond to ensure a safe environment while continuing to serve the Vanderbilt student. In March, when the majority of campus closed, this team worked tirelessly to ensure the students remaining on campus were served a warm, nutritious meal for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Despite the risk of being around people during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, this group rallied their teams and stepped up for the VU community. Not only did they serve the remaining students living on campus, they made enough meals to nourish the Facilities and Public Safety staff reporting to campus each day.
Since March, a lot has changed in Campus Dining. This group of Assistant Directors has spent hours on virtual planning calls, walking locations, implementing circulation plans, adjusting menus, creating and building new to-go programs, training and hiring new management and staff members. We are impressed and grateful for this team of motivated leaders. We know the sacrifices they have made over the last six months and the endless hours of work they have put in each week. This team’s attitude and work ethic truly propelled the innovation, passion and commitment required to launch a successful opening for fall semester.