Library/HR Group to Receive the 2012 UTSA Team Spirit Award

Apr 03, 2012

By Stephanie Sanchez, Communications Specialist

A group of library and human resources staff will receive the 2012 UTSA Team Spirit Award at the University Excellence Awards Ceremony on April 10.

The staff are being recognized for their teamwork on the implementation of the hybrid TA (teaching assistants) Orientation Program.

UTSA President Ricardo Romo’s prize patrol surprised the multi-department team March 23 during a meeting setup to announce the award. This is the first year the University has a prize patrol to surprise award recipients before the ceremony.

The award-winning group includes library staff Greg Longoria, Systems Analyst; Kim McMahon, Senior Administrative Associate; Patricia Verdines, Learning Technology Coordinator; and Heather Williams, Instructional Designer, as well as HR staff Henry Barrera, Frank Erazo and Anne Jett.

On the day of the award announcement, the prize patrol was led by Dean of Libraries Krisellen Maloney; Kerry Kennedy, Vice President for Business Affairs; and Rebecca Luther, Communications Coordinator for the Office of Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, into the large conference room in the Dean’s Suite in the John Peace Library.

“Surprise!” Dr. Maloney told the team. “We really realize the partnership and commitment that went into this program. … There is so much transformation going on at our University, and you are all part of it.”

Mr. Kennedy was carrying a bundle of bright blue and orange balloons, and the prize patrol’s videographer held a camera with a bright flash, documenting every moment of the announcement. The group first looked shocked then gasped and laughed.

After the announcement, Mr. Kennedy said the team helped transform the University’s TA orientation, which previously took an extensive amount of in-person time.

“A lot of the TAs were saying, ‘We’re busy with research. We’re very busy with teaching. We’re very busy doing our responsibilities. We don’t have the time to dedicate to such a long program,’” he said. “The dean brought the focus from the library; they knew all the material. … They then needed to engage HR because they had all the software and programs in order to put it online, and make it web-based.”

Mr. Kennedy said the team created an efficient program, making it flexible but still giving the TAs all the information they need to be effective on campus.

Revamping TA orientation was truly a team effort. In addition to the online component built by Verdines, Williams and Longoria, the HR staff play an important role by enrolling TAs in the program, monitoring their progress and providing access to completion certificates. The project also involves in-person orientation and follow-up sessions, coordinated by McMahon.

The group has worked really hard on the program since April, Williams said. She said they dedicated countless hours to ensure the program was informative and entertaining.

She said the project continues to evolve.

“It’s a fun project. We’ve gotten a lot of creative control and made some really cool interactive online content,” she said. “We’ve moved on to train more people in other areas of the University. To me it’s a compliment when you’re given more work to do.”

Williams said she was confused during the award announcement. She said she didn’t know what was going on and, for a second, she thought the conference room had been double booked.

“I’m proud,” she said of receiving the recognition. “We worked really, really hard on this … from conceptualization all the way to it coming to life – developing it, planning it, building it. Not only to see it accomplished but to get thanked in an honorable way, is nice.”

Longoria said he was shocked. He said the team was called to a meeting but weren’t told what the meeting was for.

“We were wondering and trying to figure out what was going on. (We thought) we were in trouble or something was moving around,” he said. “Then the bright light came in and Dr. Maloney had a microphone in her hand. I didn’t know what was going on. I thought we were getting Punked and Ashton Kutcher was going to pop into the door.”