BILLY JOE VARNEY AWARD
This award recognizes a career of service to the University of Arizona and the community by someone who loves the UA and acts in the spirit of Billy Joe Varney.
Chris Kopach, Assistant Vice President, Facilities Management
In every single moment, each day for the past two and a half decades, Chris Kopach has served as a paradigm of service to our University community. In all actions he consciously chooses to model inclusive engagement and community-focused service – and this has enabled our grounds-keeping, custodians, building maintenance teams, and utilities-expert colleagues to maintain our campus in an exemplary manner, frequently recognized as a national standard. This year, in keeping with his well-known characteristic “I can absolutely help the University do that!” attitude, he has also successfully led and coordinated the University’s critical campus-wide operational response to the unprecedented challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic and its countless impacts.
Individual Awards are presented to approximately 9 members of the Classified and University Staff, regardless of their length of service, classification or pay grade. These awards are designed to recognize outstanding achievements.
Ruston "Rusty" Agte, Animal Shipping Coordinator, University Animal Care
Rusty’s first response is always “how can I help”, and never “well, that’s not my job”. As the Animal Shipping Coordinator, Rusty is our department’s first point of contact for most newly hired faculty. As such, he sets the tone for our service mission and I couldn’t ask for a better face to our organization. He goes beyond all expectations in welcoming, guiding, and facilitating, what can be a stressful and complex process for new investigators. He is available, approachable and knowledgeable making the move to our university as seamless as possible. Internally, Rusty supports my group, the Veterinary Services unit, by providing procurement support. He will personally monitor critical shipments, hand delivering our special packages with humor and flare – typically a bow of some sort – that brings a smile to our day.
Keith Alcock, Systems Programmer, Computer Science
Keith started contributing and improving all our software projects. He has done a great job at improving everything that we produce and open to the world. Similarly, he is now monitoring all the student contributions to these projects, making sure they are at the expected level of quality, and patiently helping everybody when help was needed. Keith is doing a fantastic job at reaching out and helping everybody involved with our lab, from students that are just starting with the lab to long term collaborators that rely on our software. In the period he has been with our lab, Keith has become the fundamental glue that holds all our software efforts together.
Brian Berrellez, Director, Intelligence and Data Analytics, CALS Administration
Brian is “the campus treasure” because his expertise in data analysis is sought after by campus. He freely gives of his time on a dozen different data projects at multiple colleges including Engineering, Optical Sciences, Education, and others. This is all on top of his work at ALVSCE and has led to improved services to student and faculty, and improved decision making by leaders. Brian’s long and distinguished list of service to the community is the richest and most impactful I’ve seen in 20 years at the UA ,with many of these commitments requiring hundreds of hours of time on nights and weekends, which he magnanimously gives without complaint or expectation of recognition.
Josephine Corder, Director, Life and Work Connections, Human Resources
We feel that “Jo” is an exemplary leader who, within a short period of time has developed a diversely skilled and culturally conscience team. Jo’s leadership has enabled the LWC team to learn and develop new methods of reaching out to the University community, as well as living and working from principles of equanimity and fairness. Jo is an exceptional project manager and is always identifying opportunities within the university community. She has led efforts within LWC to assist our various team members in creating, producing, and executing presentations to the university community based on various wellness activities. These presentations have been well-received by the university community, especially during the pandemic, in helping employees to maintain wellness.
Danielle Hallahan, Executive Assistant, College of Applied Science & Technology (CAST)
Danielle is exemplary and she improves every process she touches. Her work far exceeds her position’s requirements and her work ethic and positive attitude improves everyone in the college’s business office. Her commitment to improve college and campus operations is tireless. She is continuously seeking out ways to make CAST better. Her passion to improve college culture and business practice has resulted in numerous improvements to college operation and organizational climate.
Tanya Hodges, Regional Manager, Yuma/Executive Director Business Initiatives, Distance Education
For the last 12 years, Dr. Hodges has worked tirelessly in Yuma and the surrounding region to bring two-plus-two transfer options from The University of Arizona Colleges of Agriculture, Engineering, Science, and Applied Science & Technology to the area to serve students. To do so took passion, ingenuity, persistence, brilliance, and vision. She focuses on the research, innovation, and technology needs of regional industries and partners with employers, industry groups, and K-12, Arizona Western College, Imperial Valley College, ASU, and NAU to lead the community to position themselves for the industries and jobs of the future. She has built over 40 STEM focused transfer pathways for students to complete their Associate and Bachelor’s degree without leaving home, removing barriers to degree attainment. She is a fierce advocate for higher education, ensures her students are engaged in hands-on learning, and puts all of her (endless) energy into teaching, mentoring, advising, and motivating her students, employees, and faculty.
Cory LaPlant, Senior Specialist, Systems Operations, Admissions & New Student Enrollment
Cory made a special effort to be inclusive of the distance education activities and CRM needs, aiding in renaming the instance ‘Extended Campuses’ to ensure we, and our student population, were considered in larger decisions affecting the operations and design of the software. Not only did this strengthen the work of the distance education efforts, but it allowed for greater collaboration and sharing of ideas across Online and Distance Education, making us all better at what we trying to accomplish. Distance Education has almost doubled statewide undergraduate enrollment from 400 students to 750 students while Arizona Online has grown exponentially from 150 to 3700 students. Without the contributions of Cory LaPlant in managing and communicating with our prospective students and applicants, our teams would not have been able to sustain this growth trajectory.
Maggie Murphy, Manager, Environmental Health & Saftey, Research Laboratory & Safety Services
In 2020, throughout the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Maggie was also pivotal in supporting the Occupational Health (OH) department in developing strategies to safely provide routine medical protection services and being in the front lines by providing respirator fit-testing services to university essential staff, while still performing her normal job duties. Maggie was one of the lighting pillars in our team and invigorated our morale as we navigated through our own pandemic acclimation. She started to host one-on-one staff check-ins to hear out our concerns or invite us in to participate in developing alternative methods in providing exemplary safety services with less available staff. She went above and beyond her job responsibilities to support not only her own staff but other departments as well.
Gigi Owen, Assistant Staff Scientist, Arizona Institute for Resilience
Dr. Owen she has repeatedly stepped up to take leadership roles that go well beyond the bounds of her position as staff scientist within CLIMAS. She took a relatively small amount of funding my program has for training graduate students and has used it to develop our Environment & Society fellowship program that provides support and mentoring for up to five UA graduate students each year. Under her leadership, the fellows program has continually evolved to better meet the needs of UA students and our program. Dr. Owen’s research, outreach, and service all reveal a significant commitment to a compassionate and fair workplace as well as a strong desire to ensure that the research we do is impactful for all members of society and addresses relevant and meaningful questions.
Amy Warren, Administrative Assistant, Spanish & Portuguese
Amy executes tasks perfectly, is great at problem-solving, and always follows through. Moreover, she always volunteers when new things need to be done. When I decided to do a biannual newsletter to showcase the department’s achievements, she researched the best option to set it up and disseminate it. We worked closely on the design and first iterations, and the result exceeded my expectations. Since she took charge of the Facebook and Instagram accounts, the department’s outreach has greatly increased thanks to her regular and engaging posts about the department’s activities. She has expanded her portfolio to include financial transactions, handling remote New Student Orientation, and has been cross-training with the program coordinator for undergraduate studies so she can fill in for her during the latter’s upcoming maternity leave.
Gary Windham, Principal Analyst/Architect, Infrastructure & Foundational Technology
Gary has been repeatedly described by colleagues as “brilliant,” it was a serious coup to temporarily steal Gary’s time, talent, and expertise away from UITS to join the efforts of the Test, Trace, and Treat team. Gary joined the newly formed Test All Test Smart team in mid-June of 2020, and swiftly built a world class testing system that was deployed on July 31st. Since then, Gary has worked day and night to continuously expand and improve upon this system that helps promote and protect our Wildcat community and beyond. While being a true team player, Gary has almost single-handedly built these systems to increase efficiency and effectiveness of our COVID operations. Without Gary’s very specific skill set and willingness to dive into the deep waters of COVID testing, tracing, and treating, it is unclear if the university would be in the position we are in--largely open for learning and working, with thousands of people on campus every day--during a once-in-a-lifetime public health crisis.
The team award is presented to a team primarily comprised of Classified University Staff and tasked with a specific project or function.
Bend the Curve Hand Sanitizer Team
In March 2020, because of concerns about spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, most of the University research laboratories were shut down. There was also an acute shortage of medical-grade hand sanitizer across the country, adding to the risk of infections, especially for front-line healthcare workers. When the idea of producing high-grade WHO-formulation laboratory sanitizer was proposed, several members of the Vedantam and Viswanathan laboratories eagerly volunteered to help. It started out on a small scale - nine liters - made with existing laboratory supplies, and filled into bottles scrounged from various Dollar stores around Tucson. Research Scientist Dr. Roxas led the team, with support from research associates Shylaja and Rachel; Graduate Students Shobitha, Farhan and Anusha, and Undergraduate Students Kayley, Allison, Cole, and Daniel eagerly participated. This is a testament to the initiative of the group, as well their passion for, and commitment to, inclusive excellence: they saw an opportunity to help the community and, with little direction, organically formed a team. We donated the first batch to the Carondolet Marana Hospital and UA Campus Health in Tucson. Through co-workers and the community, word rapidly spread on social media. There were waves of requests from healthcare workers and other communities around Arizona. Our colleagues and coworkers donated supplies from their laboratories. Our School Director donated bottles and materials, and the CALS Dean and Associate Dean generously provided funds to expand production. Members of the broader University community, and UA mission partners like Shamrock Dairy stepped in to make labels and ensure a steady supply of reagents and bottles. With help and coordination from Vice President for UA Initiatives office we expanded our donations to Arizona communities and Native American Health Services: Navajo, Tohono O’odham, Hopi, Southern Paiute, San Carlos Apache, Hualapai, Hotevilla, Colorado River Indian Tribe and the Lake Havasu Mobile Health clinics. The work of the Hand Sanitizer Team has engendered heartfelt gratitude and goodwill to the University from across the entire state.
Farhan Anwar, graduate student
Jennifer Roxas, research scientist, Animals & Biomedical Sciences & Research
Alison Williams, undergraduate researcher
Anusha Harishankar, graduate student
Shobitha Jillella, graduate student
Rachel Claus-Walker, research specialist, Animals & Biomedical Sciences & Research
Kayley Manuel, undergraduate researcher
Cole Puetz undergraduate researcher
Daniel Quijada, undergraduate researcher
Shylala Ramamurthy, research specialist
Bill Florence, graphic designer, Facilities Management, Maintenance Services
Instructional Technologies Team
Digital Learning’s Instructional Technologies team (InTech) supports the mission and vision of the University of Arizona through working and collaborating with faculty, instructors, staff, and students to improve and innovate education with technology, and to create solutions for the big teaching and learning challenges facing our educational community. While usually content to provide support behind the scenes, the positive impact this team has on the university community has been thrust into the forefront in light of the increased needs for tech-enhanced teaching and learning since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, InTech worked closely with OIA, UITS, and the Academic Technologies (AcadTech) team to ease the rapid transition of in-person courses and training to remote learning through workshops, seminars, asynchronous training, and one-on-one consultations. They consulted with faculty groups and learning communities to tackle issues such as video-based learning in limited internet bandwidth communities, academic integrity and testing in COVID living situations, and multi-modal instructional approaches. They continue to work closely with their partners in the extended remote learning situations to ensure that all instructors and students can easily find and access the tools and support they need to make their learning environments successful including creating an in-depth knowledge base of technology support articles on the InTech website, design workshops, presentations, videos, and other collaborative outreach projects.
Adam Baldry, Instructional Technologist, Digital Learning
Dan Whitaker, Instructional Designer, Digital Learning
Mayra Gomez, Program Coordinator, Testing Office
Brad Butler, Instructional Technologist, Digital Learning
Elizabeth Nguyen, Lead Instructional Technologist, Digital Learning
UA COVID 19 Public Health Advisory Team
The UA’s COVID-19 Public Health Advisory Team (PHAT) directly supported the mission of the UA by facilitating the safe return of students, faculty and staff to campus during the pandemic. This team offered their expertise at a time when that expertise was desperately needed. Many team members have a background in public health and are connected to the UA Mel & Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health MEZCOPH); the team embodied the MEZCOPH mission, “promoting the health and wellness of individuals and communities in the southwest and globally with an emphasis on achieving health equity through excellence in education, research & service.” In all they do, PHAT remains focused on equitable health and safety outcomes for all members of our campus community. The COVID-19 re-entry planning and execution process was an incredible challenge for everyone involved. This pandemic put pressure on all aspects of university and campus life and forced our entire UA community to solve new problems on an unforgiving timeline. We all wished for more certainty, more resources and more time, but these were luxuries that simply were not available to any of us. In this dynamic, chaotic, stressful environment, members of the PHAT team rose to the task and delivered to the UA community compassionate and well-informed public health expertise and guidance. While the pandemic was and continues to be a public health crisis of startling proportions, the UA community relies on PHAT to help shepherd our community through this challenge in a way that respects the needs and contributions of all our community members.
Paloma Beamer, Professor, Community, Environment & Policy
Kate Ellingson, Assistant Professor, Epidemiology and Biostatistics
Kacey Ernst, Professor, Epidemiology and Biostatistics
Joe Gerald, Associate Professor, Public Health Policy & Management
Amy Glicken, Senior Project Director, University Initiatives
Stephanie Griffin, Manager, Research Laboratory & Safety Services
Bruce Helming, Assistant Director, Campus Health & Wellness
Steve Holland, Chief Risk Officer, Risk Management & Safety
Jim Knepler, Professor, COM Pulmonary Critical Care
Bonnie LaFleur, Research Professor, Pubic Health, Bio5
Maggie Murphy, Manager, Research Laboratory & Safety Services
Mark Nichter, Regents Professor, Medical Anthropology
Kristen Pogreba-Brown, Assistant Professor, Epidemiology and Biostatistics
Cynthia Porter, graduate student, Epidemiology and Biostatistics (not pictured)
Jamilah Shubeilat, COM Infectious Disease
Jeff Silvertooth, Director, Cooperative Extension Services
COVID 19 Testing Team
In late Spring 2020, following the horrific outbreak of COVID-19, it became apparent that the University of Arizona had the expertise to develop a highly specific and sensitive antibody test to determine who has developed immunity against the virus that causes COVID-19. An IRB-approved statewide research study was launched and the COVID-19 Testing Team of exceptional lab specialists, clinical research coordinators, project managers, software engineers, communications specialists and other experts from diverse disciplines and backgrounds was formed to support the immunologists and virologists who developed the test.
To support the university’s goal to bring students and employees back to campus for Fall 2020, the newly formed Testing Team was tasked with the monumental goal to stand up a comprehensive virus testing program by August 2020. To ensure students and employees would take advantage of the opportunity to receive the voluntary test, it was essential that the process was easy and convenient. This required tremendous coordination of scientists, MDs, public health experts, project managers, laboratory teams, IT professionals, facilities management, communications experts and many others.
Through a great deal of hard work and collaborative effort, the team opened a massive antigen testing site in McKale stadium to administer tests to all of the dorm students and return their results within 1 hour thus ensuring that no student with a current infection moved into the dorms. Any student who tested positive was moved to an isolation dorm and received appropriate care and guidance. Because many of the students and their families were leery about returning to campus, all of the team members made a special effort to make the students and their families feel safe and welcome. The environment was calm, relaxed and cheerful and the students experienced a pleasant, albeit unusual, Wildcat welcome.
The success of the McKale reentry testing gave the team the confidence that they could support the testing needs of the campus whatever they might be. They opened sites on demand, established sophisticated paperless processes, implemented unanticipated mitigation strategies and adapted to the changing environment, without hesitation.
Mike Badowski, Associate Research Scientist, Senior VP Health Sciences
Rosemary Brandt, Director, External Communications, CALS
Erica Castillo, Research Nurse, Senior, Senior VP Health Sciences
Jennifer Craig Mueller, Senior Clinical Research Manager, Banner Health (not pictured)
Brian Cunningham, Director, Project Logistics, Office of Strategic Initiatives (not pictured)
Jim Davis, Manager, Infrastructure Services
Gina Delgado, Coordinator, Clinical Services (not pictured)
Taylor Edwards, Associate Staff Scientist
Hagan Franks, Manager, Software Engineering
Amy Glicken, Project Director, Office of University Initiatives
Bruce Overland, Director, FM Maintenance Services
Nina Pereira, Director, Residential Education (not pictured)
Elvira Perez, Nurse, Campus Health Service (not pictured)
Dana Robbins-Murray, Director, Administrative Services
Alex Robie, Project Director, Office of University Initiatives
Cindy Rupp Valdez, Principal Enterprise Applications Business Analyst
Ali Santander, Assistant Director, Marketing-Communications
Jenn Schilling, Analyst, Data III
Janice Simcoe, Director, Brand Equity (not pictured)
Ryan Smith, Project Manager, Office of Strategic Initiatives (not pictured)
Terry Smith, Specialist, Biomedical Informatics
Lori Tochihara, Coordinator, Administrative Services, Office of Strategic Initiatives
Jessica Thornburg, Director, Operations, Office of Strategic Initiatives
Maria Gordon, Senior Manager, Clinical Research (not pictured)
Raymie Grimm, Assistant Director of Event Planning
Jeffery Hanna, Clinical Research Coordinator, Public Health Practice & Translational Research
Josh Hill, Assistant Director, Housing Assignments
Brandon Jernigan, Research Specialist (not pictured)
Julie Katsel, Senior Director, Local and Community Relations
Colleen Kenost, Director, Strategic Operations, UAHS Research
Shoshana Mayden, Associate Director, Web Management
Meaghan Miller, Manager, Communications, Office of Strategic Initiatives (not pictured)
Mary Nielsen, Research Manager, Banner Health (not pictured)
Tim Nitz, Leader, IT Program
Lori Van Buggernum, Project Director, Office of University Initiatives (not pictured)
Sabrina Vasquez, Assistant Vice President, City of Phoenix and State Relations
Julia White, Assistant Director, UAHS Engagement and Events
Michelle Yung, Software Engineer
Todd Wickizer, Software Engineer, CyVerse
Randi Jo Willmeng, Project Manager
Gary Windham, Principal Enterprise Systems Architect
Tanya Zepeda, Database Specialist (not pictured)
The Department Award recognizes a University of Arizona department for excellence in the management of its people and resources creating a culture of learning and a satisfying work environment.
Department of Surgery
Department Head, Taylor S. Riall
The Department of Surgery is a forward-thinking department that holds onto the traditions of clinical excellence, advancements in research, and highly regarded education, yet able to do so in an environment that is inclusive, warm, and fair. The faculty, residents, and staff come from all walks of life and enrich our department with their own life and cultural background. The amalgamation is an environment that we take pride in and are devoted to protect and advance.
The department encourages and accepts the need for a balance between life and work commitments–Our department implemented a Wellness Committee in 2018 and we had a special COVID Wellness Committee form in 2020 to provide extra support during the difficult and unprecedented times caused by the pandemic.
The innovation of our team is undeniable and I loved watching folks find ways to encourage the Front Line Workers during COVID. Our staff came up with wonderful initiatives to offer their support. They partnered with local restaurants to donate food to our clinical providers and residents who were on the front lines and working long hours in the hospital. They transformed our shared space in the COM by decorating it with pictures from our employees’ kids who drew superhero “Thank You” cards for us. It was heartfelt and I loved how even our youngest members of our team found ways to support us.
We have phenomenal team members that continue to set a high bar of excellence for themselves and our department. Every one of our employees knows that in Surgery, our job is o show up on someone’s worst day to perform at our best.