On Dec. 16 the 2020 Governor’s Honor Awards event celebrated the state workforce’s accomplishments that significantly contributed to the advancement of the commonwealth’s strategic goals, mission, and overall administrative excellence this past year. 

Virginia Tech had nine employees and two teams nominated for this year’s award. One Virginia Tech employee was selected as a winner in the category of Creative Customer Service Category. Congratulations to Joe Griffitts, director of Hokie Passport Services, part of the Division of Finance.

Griffitts received the Governor’s Award for consistently surpassing expectations to deliver tremendous results for Virginia Tech. He spearheaded technological innovation and automated processes to serve students more efficiently. His out-of-the-box thinking allowed the university to safely deliver outstanding orientation and ID card services for students despite the COVID-19 global pandemic.

Additionally, Griffitts actively creates positive change for inclusion, diversity, and civic engagement with his employees and those he serves. He thinks ahead and anticipates challenges, and consistently overcomes them through strong leadership, a collaborative spirit, and an adaptable approach to problem-solving. Griffitts puts Virginia Tech’s motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), into practice in all that he does.

More information about Griffitts and his accomplishments will be published in the Virginia Tech Daily in January 2021.

The following Virginia Tech employees and teams were also nominated for the 2020 Governor’s Award.

Individual Nominations:

Brandon Epperley, facilities coordinator for Human Resources; nominated for the Pandemic Response category:
In March 2020, Epperley responded to the pandemic with a servant attitude. Epperley helped Human Resources (HR) quickly move 100 percent of the division’s employees to telework. In August, when the university moved to modified operations, Epperley developed well-thought-out plans for at least 25 percent of HR’s workforce to perform on-site operations in a safe and effective environment. Epperley considered concerns that employees had about leaving a quarantined environment to work in a shared space. He addressed those fears in the division’s facilities document presented as a model for other facilities across the institution. His commitment to developing an updated emergency plan, given the division’s changing demographics, is ready if needed.

Leigh Ann Flinchum, benefits analyst for Human Resources; nominated in the Champion of Change category:
Flinchum advocated for change while aligning with HR’s goal to provide the highest level of service. Serving as a benefits analyst for the university, she is the primary contact for approximately 7,250 employees enrolled in health insurance. Gauging the volume, Flinchum realized the need to implement change to increase efficiency. She began addressing inquiries from employees regarding the status of their health insurance forms, a paper format. This change resulted in HR receiving the paperwork electronically and employees receiving electronic notifications confirming their information was received. Flinchum increased efficiency and service for HR and provided a tool for benchmarking and reporting.

Ludwig Gantner, director communications and emergency technologies for Information Technology; nominated in the Pandemic Response category:
During the pandemic, Gantner went well beyond his normal duties to integrate data from multiple services administered by multiple units, including agencies external to Virginia Tech. He stretched his team's talents and experience to provide rapid enhancements and updates to an active service while maintaining a high degree of skill and attention to detail. The university community can see real-time, specific metrics related to campus infection rates, receive alerts regarding individual exposure, and track their health daily.

Steven Lee, program director for Network Engineering Operations, part of Information Technology; nominated in the Personal and Professional Excellence (Individual) category:
Lee led a team that designed and installed outdoor wireless network access for students, faculty, and staff to decrease indoor congregation risk as part of the university’s COVID-19 response. Blacksburg was one of the first communities in the nation to use the internet for commercial/consumer purposes. The efforts required to provide infrastructure to accomplish the seamless access most people expect has not significantly decreased. Implementing access in outdoor locations would have been a major project under any circumstances. Doing so during a pandemic with such a short timeline is a major accomplishment for any technology unit, and Lee has continually provided this type of leadership.

Keith Nunn, project manager for the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost; nominated in the Pandemic Response category:
Virginia Tech began preparing for fall 2020 semester classes in late winter and early spring. That planning evolved over the summer while maintaining a commitment to provide some degree of in-person class instruction to all students. It was determined that in order to provide a safe classroom experience, most of the seating stations would need to be removed from the classrooms, thereby prohibiting students from sitting near each other in groups. The university leased a 55,000-square-foot warehouse in Roanoke, Virginia, to store general assignment classroom furniture, library furniture, atria seating, and some departmental classroom furniture. Nunn managed the efficient transfer of thousands of individual items and kept them in a well-organized fashion that would allow selective retrieval when required. The schedule was tight and the challenge was immense but Nunn completed the work on schedule with his commitment to doing whatever it took to accomplish the task.

Stacey Poertner, systems administrator and training analyst for Human Resources; nominated in the Innovative Spirit category:
Supervisor data has not been maintained consistently in the university’s people system of record, Banner, largely due to an overly complex process. To compensate for the inconsistency, many departments relied on manual processes to determine supervisors, resulting in extra manpower, delayed results, and often inaccurate data. Realizing an opportunity for much-needed improvement, Poertner recommended a simple yet easily managed solution and planned and executed the project with an expansive team. In addition to managing the project schedule and activities, Poertner created an electronic form in Banner to significantly reduce the number of steps involved in maintaining supervisor information. Poertner’s innovation makes accessing accurate and timely data possible. This project provided the ability to populate, update, and report on the name of the supervisor for all employees at Virginia Tech.

Heather Snidow, office manager for University Building Official, part of Campus Planning, Infrastructure and Facilities; nominated in the Administration Excellence category:
Sponsored by the newly hired University Building Official, Snidow supports a refreshed collegiality culture among her team. Her actionable accountability and customer-centric work processes have improved existing programming beyond those specific to her function alone through responsive creativity and intentional thinking. When faced with complex, challenging, or critical issues, she has proven to be continually resourceful, reasonable, and responsive. With considerable skill and relational capacity, she has become well known on campus for her sensitivity to others’ needs. Snidow is capable, confident, and committed to Virginia Tech's mission of extraordinary service.

Sue Teel, executive assistant for Human Resources; nominated in the Innovative Spirit category:
Teel moved from an administrative assistant serving one leader to an informal leader of an administrative team, serving as the point on several strategic HR projects that have helped move the division’s transformation forward and provided support to enable HR to serve as a leader through the pandemic. This work provided new and creative development opportunities for the HR team’s valuable members and allowed HR to support new initiatives without adding new headcount. Projects she was involved in included: Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) audit, shift to telework in response to COVID-19, PageUp Learning Management System (LMS) launch, and broad institutional outreach and consultation to support organizations and individuals through the pandemic.

Team Nominations:

Housekeeping Cleaning and Disinfection COVID-Response Team, part of Campus Planning, Infrastructure, and Facilities; nominated in the Pandemic Response (Team) category:
Team: Robert Santolla, housekeeping area manager; Justin Hurt, housekeeping area manager; Jarrod Alls, quality control assistant; and Andy French, housekeeping operations coordinator
In response to the public health emergency created by the COVID-19 pandemic, this team was instrumental in the fall 2020 semester re-opening preparation for the Virginia Tech campus. This dedicated team identified opportunities and installed hands-free dispenses for hand sanitizer, soap, and paper towels in all educational and general facilities on campus. This led to 1,900 total hand sanitizer stations across campus. This group also worked tirelessly to develop and implement enhanced COVID-19 cleaning and disinfecting frequencies for the housekeeping staff to follow. The new operational plan deployed over 80 electrostatic misting devices and trained housekeeping staff to use the equipment properly. This enhanced approach was shared as part of the re-entry package promulgated among the university community to ease fears of returning to campus.

Dining Services, part of Student Affairs; nominated in the Creative Customer Service (Team) category:
Team: Steve Swannell, food production manager-Owens; Gabe Petry, assistant director-Owens; James Zeisler, executive chef-Owens; Katey Carr, assistant director-ABP/Burger 37; James Risley, operations manager-ABP; Mitchell Akers, assistant manager-ABP; and Timothy Dunn, operations manager-Dietrick

Last March, Virginia Tech switched to remote learning to slow the spread of COVID-19 at the university. As a result, Dining Services was required to create a new service model based on pickup and meal delivery under a very short timeline. Despite the challenges, the team provided exceptional customer service. The model offered some comfort to students separated from their families during the pandemic’s early stages – living out our university’s motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve).

A list of this year’s 2020 categories can be found here. For more information about the Governor’s Honor Awards, visit this page.

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