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A closer look at this year’s Administrative Improvement Award winners

April 29, 2021

Recipients of this year’s Administrative Improvement Awards were honored during a virtual awards ceremony on April 8 as part of the Office of Strategic Consulting’s annual Showcase event. (Showcase is a free event that highlights the many faculty and staff improvements and innovations implemented across campus each year.)

The Administrative Improvement Awards, sponsored by the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration, recognize exceptional performance in administrative work across the university, in academics, research, student services, outreach, or general administration. This, the ninth year for the awards, brought the second-highest number of nominations — a testament to the incredible work that has continued on campus throughout (and despite) the COVID-19 pandemic.

The chancellor and the vice chancellor for finance and administration, who were both attending the Board of Regents meeting on the day of the awards, each shared their congratulations and appreciation to all winners and nominees via a pre-recorded video message.

Vice Chancellor Laurent Heller said, “The big stuff that really makes a difference in people’s lives frequently is happening at the unit level. These are contributions from staff and teams working in schools or colleges, departments, administrative divisions, on the ground looking at the real issues, the real challenges, and finding ways to innovate without a bunch of resources.” He continued, “That’s the Wisconsin Idea in action, that’s what our administrators do every day, and that’s what the Administrative Improvement Awards take a little moment to recognize, acknowledge, and thank staff for.”

At the end of the awards program, Chancellor Rebecca Blank said, “Thank you to this year’s nominees for finding a way to continue collaborating and innovating in the midst of a challenging time. … Your commitment to thinking in new ways about how to do your work has helped us build a strong culture of innovation and to demonstrate that we are effective stewards of this great public university.”

More about the 2021 Administrative Award winners:

Toni Hofhine
Administrator, Division of Geriatrics and Gerontology, Department of Medicine, School of Medicine and Public Health  

Hofhine initiated and implemented two large and highly impactful risk management projects for the integrity of clinical-trial data and associated collected biospecimens. The first project converted paper-based clinical-trial data collection and storage systems to an electronic system, resulting in improved workflows for staff conducting participant visits. In addition, it significantly reduced data entry errors, reduced time-to-completion of data packets (from an average of 98 days to 53 days), and saved 75 pieces of paper per study visit.

Hofhine also developed and implemented a biospecimen freezer risk management program. The Division of Geriatrics and Gerontology currently has 38 biospecimen freezers storing biospecimens in support of over $120 million in research grants. The risk of freezer failure, while low, would be catastrophic for the research programs.

Several strategies were implemented to eliminate or mitigate identified risks, including:

  • Creating emergency storage space by disposing of biospecimens that were out of compliance with the Institutional Review Board (IRB) participant consent forms.
  • Developing an organized emergency plan that allowed for the transporting of biospecimens to emergency backup freezers.

The result of Hofhine’s leadership has been a reduction in both waste and risk in clinical trials. During the COVID-19 pandemic, two freezers failed; because of the risk management plans in place, those biospecimens were saved.

Physical Plant Construction Project Delivery Team
Pamela Barrett, James Bogan, Christopher Bruhn, Lindsey Honeyager, Brent Lloyd, Craig Mayer, Pete Nemmetz, Amy Zabel Pietz, Ryan Pingel, Doug Sabatke, Ash Sadek, and Mark Wells

A 2016 report from the Administrative Process Redesign office highlighted customer frustrations with in-house construction services. Construction projects were taking too long to complete, customers felt uninformed about project status, and a large backlog of work had developed.

This team set out to improve project delivery processes to increase customer satisfaction, increase transparency, and improve the overall speed of delivery, all while staying within the established budget.

The team redesigned the end-to-end process for the delivery of construction projects, with a focus on uninterrupted design and construction. The results have been notable. In Fiscal Year 2020, 232 projects were completed, valued at $9.8 million, representing a 39 percent growth in construction value from the previous year. In addition, a significant number of older projects were completed and cleared from the backlog (42 of the 232 projects were two years old or older), resulting in a 42 percent reduction to the project backlog.

Cultural Linguistic Services WhatsApp Initiative
Yangbum Gyal, Shuwen Li, Eloisa Negrete-García, Parwat Regmi, Anabel Rodríguez, Carmen Romero-Gonzalez, and Jzong Thao

Several years ago, in an Administrative Process Redesign study of internal communications, UW–Madison employees shared with Cultural Linguistic Services (CLS) that they did not always receive important information on a consistent and timely basis. Creating and sharing campus information in multiple languages was a challenge. In addition, it was noted that some employees lacked technology skills or regular access to a computer, especially at work. As a result, employee communication channels such as email, newsletters, and websites were not reaching a portion of UW–Madison’s diverse employee population.

One outcome of that study was the Chancellor’s Statement of Values for Employee Communications that called for a stronger sense of equity, inclusivity, and respect in campus communications.

Responding to this call, the CLS Interpreter, Translator and Trainer team initially established phone lines that provided employees with news in five languages. The phone lines required employees to call in to check the news each week and listen to the entire recording from beginning to end. Maintaining the content of these phone lines required an estimated 12 hours per week of CLS staff time. Due to this system’s cumbersome nature, it was seldom used, and often information was not timely.

This year, CLS replaced the phone lines with WhatsApp, which sends timely, essential information directly to employees’ mobile devices in their preferred language.

Because this information can now be pushed out through an app, the time it takes CLS staff to create the content has been reduced from approximately 12 hours per week to 2. And, as perhaps one initial measure of success, no employees have unsubscribed to date.

Transportation Services COVID-19 Response Parking and Transportation Team
Peter Armstrong, Isaac Knoflicek, John Rinaldi, Troy Ruland, Steven Tan,  Sue Thalacker, Dar Ward, and Carolyn Wolff  

COVID-19 has created unprecedented challenges for parking and transportation on the UW–Madison campus. Between March 16 and Sept. 1, 2020, Transportation Services suspended permit requirements in many parking lots and refunded over $6 million in parking and transportation fees.

As the public health situation evolved and the campus prepared to reopen for the fall 2020 semester, Transportation Services needed to adjust parking and transportation operations.

The team developed new and expanded parking and transportation offerings that included flexible and short-term parking options, curbside permit pick-up, and expansion of virtual business processes. They also added new supplementary trailer buses to meet the overflow demands caused by passenger restrictions required due to COVID-19.

As a result of these efforts:

  • The new multiday passes and flex permits helped offset the lost revenue due to a 23 percent decrease in annual base-lot permits sold.
  • At least 857 in-office customer service transactions were avoided by implementing curbside pick-up and virtual business processes.
  • There were 4,800 rides reported on the trailer buses to handle the overflow on key service routes during peak times.

Other Nominations Also Noteworthy

In addition to these award-winning initiatives, there were 23 other nominations (10 individuals and 13 teams), which ranged from developing a tool for calculating, documenting, and forecasting accurate pay plans for faculty and staff affiliates in a research institute, to rapidly developing effective virtual solutions for students in clinical medical rotations, to providing a user-friendly, cost-effective way to issue Wisconsin Voter ID-compliant cards, allowing students to vote in the national elections in November. And these are just a few examples. All of the nominations highlighted innovations and administrative improvements that were noteworthy, especially in a challenging year.