From Melody's Desk

November 19, 2018

Dear team,

As we take a break to spend time with our friends and families for Thanksgiving, I wanted to let you know how much I appreciate all that you do. Every day your efforts are appreciated by your managers, your colleagues, faculty and staff in the schools and units, students and families, patients, donors, and visitors to the University. I have been struck this year by the notes of appreciation that have been shared with me from others outside UVAFinance, as well as the full board of “shout outs” that each of you share with your UVAFinance co-workers each month. I see statements like “I am extremely thankful”, “you are a life-saver”, “I will forever be in gratitude”, “I can’t imagine having to do my work without her”, “a most valuable member of the UVA team”, “your team has been beyond helpful”, and so on.

I know that there have been many challenges this year as you have worked long hours to meet deadlines and answer requests, learn and master new tasks and systems, adjust to unexpected complications, and spend much of your time problem-solving. It can be easy to get caught up in the day to day trials, but I encourage you to take a few minutes today to step back and look at the big picture to reflect on the positive impacts that you have had on UVA and our community. You have touched and improved the daily lives of so many and for that, I am most thankful.

Thanksgiving is also a great time for you to take an opportunity to pledge to the 2018 Combined Virginia Campaign (CVC)! In 2017 we had 34 UVAFinance team members contribute nearly $17,500. So far in 2018, we have had 10 team members contributing $3,400. I know that we can do better than this, so I encourage you all to take time to make your pledge to help the more than 1,000 charities that serve persons in need throughout Charlottesville, Virginia, the US, and the world. Remember, it is not how much you give but that you give that makes a difference! You can pick up a red envelope from Stacey or utilize the online form through the CVC website.

I hope you all have a restful and safe Thanksgiving!

PS – You can find great shopping sales and benefit the CVC at the annual Cavalier Computers and Bookstore holiday sale from November 26 through December 1. If you make a $10 CVC contribution at the register, you will get a $15 UVA Bookstore gift card!

October 24, 2018

Dear Colleagues,

The October 12 kick-off event for Finance Strategic Transformation (FST) left me feeling truly grateful for all the people who have agreed to be a part of our upcoming workshops or to serve a role on the FST Checkpoint Team, the Advisory Group, and the Steering Committee.

You can view a  video of the kickoff as well as the
presentation slides on our online community: 
We will not be able to make this a successful project without the thoughtful, collaborative, and active engagement of these team members. Now, as we embark on this journey together, is a good time to think about how we will interact with our stakeholders and how they will interact with us.

Our Pledge to the FST Stakeholders:
  • UVAFinance seeks to be the valued and trusted financial partner that the University community turns to first. FST is an important step in delivering this vision by working with you to develop critical skills, improve service, re-imagine business processes, and deploy technology.
  • We will communicate frequently, clearly, and directly through a variety of methods: FST meetings, Business Officer Council and Fiscal Administrator meetings, the online FST community, and the UVAFinance blog. Invite us to come into your team meeting and we will work out a time to join your team for a conversation about FST.
  • We will involve and support our stakeholders as we design for the future. We will seek your frequent engagement but will also be conscious of competing deadlines and major events in order to avoid direct conflicts. We will engage with the University Project Portfolio to determine where we can make schedule adjustments to ease demands on time and energy.
  • We will maintain strong governance and accountability to you and the senior leaders of the University.
  • We will challenge the status quo, seeking best practices from the UVA community, the Deloitte professionals, and through our professional associations and peer institutions.
  • We will assess the potential for consistent functionality and harmonized business practices.
  • We will apply enterprise thinking that assesses the needs of the University as a whole but will respect and recognize local requirements.
  • We will align with institutional data strategy standards and governance, to help ensure the data integrity, accessibility, and definition that are needed in a modern workplace.

Our Ask of FST Stakeholders:
  • We ask that committee members and workshop invitees commit to attending and actively engaging in order to make sure that we hear broadly from the UVA community. We ask that you be familiar with available resources in the FST online community and website so that you can re-direct your colleagues to resources. If you cannot answer a question asked locally in your school or unit, ask these questions on the community (someone else probably has the same question) or forward these questions to the FST team.
  • We ask that you help us know when we have asked too much, but balance this with the understanding that we are just as frequently asked why we can’t deliver new services and tools more quickly. There is a healthy tension between the desire to quickly improve service and technology and the concern that too much is happening.
  • We ask that you be vocal and frequent in expressing support and advocating for the project. If you feel you cannot support and advocate for the project, talk to us directly about this.
  • We ask that you have and that you encourage your colleagues to have patience in the process and to know that we are striving to support and enable the University to be the best it can be. We won’t have all the answers immediately, we may take detours, we may pause or reverse course. But we should keep you informed and you should hold us accountable for that.
  • We ask that you help us to eliminate rumors and squash back channel whispering. If there is an unanswered question or a concern, ask it directly. If we don’t have an answer, trust that we are working on a solution.
  • We ask for grace and understanding that we will not be perfect, we may forget a communication, we may not be consistent in an answer. Mistakes will be made, but they will not be intentional and we will learn from them.
  • We ask for compromise and collaboration. We will not be able to make everyone 100% happy, but we will listen… and if we make a decision that is completely counter to your request, there is a reason. Ask us what that reason is and understand that we have to meet the requirements of a diverse audience.

Again, I thank you for joining us on this journey! I look forward to working with each of you.

February 22, 2018

Dear Colleagues,

Since his arrival in August, Vice President for Research Ram Ramasubramanian and I have been collaborating closely for additional improvements and the optimal organization for research administration. Based on our observations, industry best practices, and consultant recommendations, we are moving forward with the realignment of the Office of Sponsored Programs to report to the Vice President for Research (VPR).

For the past two years, UVAFinance has been focused on building a community from previously disparate organizations. We look forward to extending that community, that network, to the VPR.

At a recent visit, Pres-elect Ryan asked the VPs: What is one thing that doesn’t cost anything that we can do to make UVA stronger?

Answers given included: better collaboration, working across boundaries, build institutional trust. All of these are great answers, but Rick Shannon, Executive Vice President for Health Affairs, summed it up most succinctly: build commitment to a common mission.

This re-alignment represents all of those thoughts. OSP will reside with the VPR, with a common alignment of the research mission, building a more cohesive, stronger research support community, and UVAFinance will continue to be part of the extended family and supporting network. We will all work together with a commitment to being valued and trusted partners, extending that foundation even beyond UVAFinance.

OSP will begin to report to the VPR this spring. Given the Post-Award Accounting Team’s emphasis on financial compliance, accounting, and financial systems, we will establish a dotted reporting line through the AVP for Finance Operations, Jerry Burke, to the Office of the Vice President for Finance. This is particularly important as the University undergoes a finance transformation, emphasizing service delivery, process improvement,
and strong financial accounting systems. OSP will remain located in Carruthers Hall.

OSP has many notable achievements in its recent past, in the form of ResearchUVA, Juice, improvements in Oracle, stabilization of the pre-award queue, and much more. A number of important objectives remain as we continue to strive to have a best-in-class research administration function, and UVAFinance looks forward to working collaboratively with OSP and the VPR to see those goals become reality.

October 26, 2017

Dear Colleagues,

You may have heard that finance will be one of the next areas of emphasis as UVA continues its goal towards organizational excellence. Just as UVA is committed to innovation in the classroom and lab, this fall, we will begin a multi-year effort to transform to the workplace of the future. This project will include modernizing our job skills and daily tasks, enhancing the great service we provide to our stakeholders and implementing state-of-the-art technology to provide excellent financial support, solve problems and build stronger connections.

The purpose of my message today is to share with you what we know about the upcoming journey as we move forward together into UVA’s third century.

The Finance Strategic Transformation
We describe the upcoming work in this way because it most accurately reflects what we want this process to be:  “strategic” because we will identify the best and most impactful ways to improve how we support education, research, and patient care in a modern-day, streamlined, and dynamic workplace, and “transformation” because it’s a re-imagination of where and how we deliver services, what technology we utilize, how we are connected across the entire University and how we think of our roles on teams.

The journey we’re undertaking will be adapted to finance and to UVA; it is not modeled after any existing transformation. We are just beginning to plan and develop how future service will be delivered, what a future financial organization will look like, and how we will invest in your professional development. We haven’t defined the entire process now from start to finish, but will communicate with you and all of our stakeholders frequently. 

Here’s a quick rundown of what we know now about the Strategic Transformation:
  •    We will develop and manage the skilled and professional financial workforce needed for the future, enabling our finance teams to grow professionally. This is not a force reduction.
  •    We will optimize service delivery and strengthen relationships within the finance community across Grounds while identifying the best place for financial work to take place, wherever that may be located.
  •    We will streamline business processes to improve outcomes and eliminate steps that do not add value. It’s about saving time and effort, enabling us to focus on mission-critical activities.
  •    We will implement and support technology that will better enable us to do our jobs and allow us to deliver excellent service, to grow strategically, and to responsibly steward UVA’s resources.

I know you probably have questions, some that will not have answers yet. We will learn a lot more as we begin to plan this work. And I promise we will keep you up to date both in the UVAFinance blog and on the newly refreshed VP Finance website when it goes live later this year. You can email me and we will look to address those in future communications.

UVA has experienced a lot of transition lately and although the result is desirable and best for the University, it can still be challenging to get there.  I’m glad we have an extended team of finance professionals across Grounds that I can count on to share input and ideas as things take shape.  In fact, we can’t do it without you – we’ll need your participation and innovation to make this process successful and your patience and collaboration as we determine the best path forward.

So, as we embark on this journey, please join me on the ride.  It may be bumpy and the path may not be clear from time to time, but I am confident that together, we will become our best.

Thanks for all you do!

July 13, 2017

Dear Colleagues,

Launched April 17, ExpenseUVA has been live now for almost three months.  Last month, we invited all of those who had a hand in its development, testing, and rollout to a celebratory reception at Carruthers Hall. 

The successful launch of ExpenseUVA is definitely a reason to celebrate.  The system streamlines and automates a labor-intensive and paper-based process, and reduces the amount of time it takes to receive reimbursement, which is great!  Beyond those benefits, though, we sought to celebrate and honor the collective effort given by people from all roles, all over Grounds, to make this rollout successful. 
  We could not have succeeded in this launch without the guidance, feedback, and unflagging support of our Ambassadors, the Core Team, Associate Deans, unit chief operating officers, the Organizational Excellence team, and finance professionals across Grounds.  There were bumps along the road, and the process wasn’t easy, but you stuck with us, and we are very thankful.  

ExpenseUVA is just a case in point of how our colleagues from all across UVA support us with their guidance and feedback.  As we work to deliver excellent service and improve the processes that affect you, it is great to know we can rely on your partnership.

In the coming months, we will continue work to deliver new functionality and improved processes and services (more on ResearchUVA’s major launch of the electronic Proposal Routing Form to come!) throughout UVAFinance.

Once more, thank you all for joining us in this massive work of collaboration. Our work is not complete – we will continue to improve the system to solve the challenges you face in the field. We invite you to keep the conversation going – I look forward to what we will achieve in the next fiscal year.

PS: ExpenseUVA training is available online and on demand! Access it and other helpful materials (including the database of all Ambassadors, who are ExpenseUVA experts in your area) here!

May 4, 2017

Dear Team,

This April, I had the privilege of addressing attendees of the Spring 2017 Fiscal Officers of Colleges and Universities State Supported (FOCUS).  I shared with the group that one of the major changes underway at UVA is the HR transformation project we know as Ufirst.   My remarks were sparked by a book that Kelley Stuck, the new Chief Human Resources Officer who is leading this change, recommended to me:  The Future of Work, by Jacob Morgan.

Morgan describes future employees, future managers, and future organizations, focusing in particular how work will change with new generations entering the workplace. This is important, because the changes are coming quickly, and, in some ways, already here. In just three years, millennials (those born between 1977 and 1997) will make up over half of the country’s workforce (they already represent around half of the workforce in MRP, SFS, and OSP).  At about the same time, the next generation, born around the year 2000, will be coming to work, and both groups have very different expectations of communication, collaboration, and learning.

What will we do to prepare ourselves for the future state of work?

Starting with our Appreciative Inquiry process, we have begun the process of creating a culture of community, breaking down our traditional organizational groupings into a more connected, larger team:

We have re-organized our administrative, IT, communications, financial, and process improvement teams to work in a more matrixed manner.  We have a biweekly blog, where we share information about new employees, organizational successes, and finance news.  We are focused on employee engagement, collaboration, service excellence, and rewards and recognition.  We have renovated spaces to allow for collaboration, discussion, and exchange of ideas.  We hold regular gatherings, monthly UVAFinance days, and have division-wide training sessions that mix team members together. 

These are just a few steps we have taken to learn to be an organization of the future, and they are steps that have allowed this team to become more close-knit and collaborative.

I would add that we need to continue to explore, fundamentally, why we are here and how we can better enable the University’s mission to deliver exceptional education, research, and patient care . . . what role can we finance play in UVA achieving that mission?  How can we deliver on the promise to be the valued and trusted financial partner that the University community turns to first?

To do this, we will need to make an investment in time, energy and money in three key areas:

·       People:  How do we deliver training and development to current and future employees that Morgan describes as accessible anytime and anywhere, open and transparent, and collaborated and communicating in new ways?  In addition to conferences, formal educational experiences and online experiences, we have created a Management Development Program to look at specific skills needed to be a manager.  We are looking at competency-based hiring and performance evaluation.  We have partnered with a Darden faculty member to create a Leading a Lean Transformation certificate program to instill a culture and provide training on real tools to improve processes.  Next, we want to develop a curriculum to create business analytical skills.  We have held mandatory training on respectful workplace, multi-cultural fluency, and IT security.  We regularly hold lunch and learn sessions and have developed UVAForward, an annual conference for administrative employees.

·       Processes:  How do we transform from the group that has a focus to enforce federal and state regulations  to one that enables innovation, creativity and discovery while still maintaining compliance, data integrity, and accuracy? We have implemented an incentive-based resource allocation approach to provide information and insight into revenues and expenses at the school level.  We have been learning how to eliminate waste and transform core processes.  We are getting trained on COSO, in order to develop a robust, effective, and appropriate internal controls structure.  We are updating policies and developing a template for standardized operating procedures.  We are working with IT and the provost office to develop an institutional data strategy to provide and govern the balance between compliance and transparency, standardization and flexibility.  We are beginning the process to design a chart of accounts that provides data and information as needed for an executive or board level, but also provides flexibility for data analytics desired by a dean or faculty member.

·       Systems: How do we ensure that core transactional systems can deliver functionality in a way that supports desired service delivery and support the future organizations that Morgan described as connected, adaptable, evolving, and constantly innovating? We are implementing a data warehouse and business intelligence tool, UBI, and an online support community, UBIC.  We are developing our own research administration platform and faculty portal, ResearchUVA.  We have implemented ExpenseUVA, a travel and expense management tool.  We will have WorkDay payroll, and are beginning initial thoughts around labor distribution.  We are nearing the selection of a tool to take our budget and planning process out of excel spreadsheets, and partnering with IT to make minor adjustments that will have a big impact on our current financial systems.

There are lots of changes, but with change comes opportunity and uneasiness as we move to the unfamiliar, which is understandable!  It will take a careful balance of paying attention to our people, to our processes, and to our systems, to make this transformation into the “future workplace.”  I am confident that the UVAFinance Team is up to the challenge.

March 23, 2017

Dear Team,

It was great to spend the afternoon with the UVAFinance team at this past Friday’s First Annual Appreciative Inquiry Showcase – I enjoyed the conversation, the great food (and light-hearted competition with our Chili Cookoff ) and, most of all, the celebration of what we’ve accomplished so far, since our appreciative inquiry journey began.

Over the past year, you have participated in committees, projects, work teams, and you have done your own individual work to help move us in the direction we set out with our Mission and Vision.  I am so proud of all we have accomplished, and I hope you are, too. 

UVAFinance Mission & Vision (click to enlarge)
2016/17 Progress (click to enlarge)

I hope you got a chance to visit the posters that showcased the work done by the AI committees.  If you didn’t get a chance to take a look, or if you’d like to revisit them, go to the UVAFinance Flickr site.  They’re posted there, along with pictures from the event. 

As I mentioned on Friday, we have very ambitious goals for 2017 and forward.  Below, you can see the specifics that we have in mind for reviewing, upgrading, and improving core business practices and implementing technology to support our work.  Let me stress to you again that amid those priority areas of people, process, and technology, it’s the “people” part that is the most important.

Click images to enlarge

Without continued development of valued and high-performing teams, with members who focus on getting things done and finding solutions, we cannot be successful.  I hope you will think about how you can be a part of building a strong, engaged team that works collaboratively. 

Consider the following opportunities available to you:

We have an ambitious agenda set out for the coming year.  It will require every one of us to change our work habits and find ways to work smarter and better, which may be uncomfortable at times.  Even so, I am excited to join with you in delivering results that drive the work this great University does in education, research, and healthcare.

We are the foundation and we will enable the future.

I am proud of everything we have done and all the progress we are making to be the valued and trusted business partner that people turn to first.

PS:  I’ve recapped many of the main points from my talk on Friday here, but if you missed the event, you can view my recorded presentation here.

February 17, 2017

Dear Team,

It feels like we just rang in the New Year, yet here it is, already February.  We’re more than a month in to 2017 and time is flying by:  the holidays are a distant memory, the semester is in full swing, and we are as busy at home as we are at work. 

Hopefully you are still on track for any new year’s resolutions you may have set personally.  Now is also the time to set our professional resolutions for 2017. As you work with your manager on that task, I thought I would share with you the 2017 UVAFinance priorities that I recently presented to Pat Hogan. You can find among these priorities, goals that apply to all of us: preparing and learning to be ready for the work of tomorrow; applying process re-design to your daily work; developing a clear and concise standard operating procedure to help others understand a work procedure. 

Use these as inspiration:

Many of us should also include a 2017 goal related to using UBI for our reporting and analytical need.  Your UBI adoption goal may be related to completing training, posting questions in the UBI User Community, converting your Discoverer reports to UBI, helping a co-worker learn how to use UBI.

Still stuck for goals? You can use our UVAFinance vision and core values as inspiration.  How can you become more of a valued and trusted financial partner to someone in a school or unit?  Where can you improve quality of your work to further become an impeccable source of information? How can you provide a clearer and quicker answer to provide excellent service?  Where will you develop an innovative approach that eliminates waste and non-value-added work? What problem can you collaborate with a colleague to resolve? And how can you be a part of a valued, high-performing teams?

I can’t wait to see all we accomplish in 2017!

December 8, 2016

Dear Team,

I’m so glad to finally be writing you from my new office in Carruthers Hall!  There are still boxes to be unpacked, but already I feel at home.  Thank you to everyone who has come by to say hello and check out the new space.   I’m excited to be here with the UVAFinance team, working with you, advocating for you, helping you to solve problems, and identifying collaborative opportunities.

In the new suite, you’ll find (beginning nearest the front entrance of Carruthers) Stacey Rittenhouse, Linda Leake, myself, Nicole Ferretti, a space reserved for the Assistant Vice President for Finance Operations, Disha Venkatesan, Kelly Hochstetler, Greg Ball, and Brandi Van Ormer.

Please don’t be a stranger; this office welcomes visitors!

Other new second-floor spaces and places include the new vending area and sink (no more washing your utensils in the bathroom sink!) between the men’s and ladies’ room on the east side of the building and a new lactation room near those bathrooms. 

You’ll also be happy to know that our collaboration rooms in the middle of the second floor are now open and available for scheduling.  Did you know that all of our new and remodeled meeting spaces have Crestrons?  These handy digital pads outside of each room allow you to see if the room is available, and to reserve it right then and there.

The second-floor renovation of Carruthers is Phase Two of a three-phase plan.  Still to come are the upgrades to the first floor, which include addition of another large meeting area, upgrade of printer and copying spaces and the former CafĂ© Carruthers area, the external auditors’ room, and the IT support spaces.

There are also still a few loose ends we’re working on tying up for Phase Two, including full implementation of the A/V equipment in our meeting rooms and collaborative spaces, introduction of new, centrally-located announcement and collaboration boards, furnishing/establishing a receptionist area, and the installation of the glass front wall on conference rooms CARR-1 and CARR-2.

I know the renovation process has been less than convenient; thank you for your patience and flexibility. I hope you’re enjoying the new spaces (and the coffee!) already.  
See you around the building!


P.S.  Have you heard about UVA’s planned Memorial to Enslaved Laborers? There are several ways to get involved:
       Attend the next public meeting on the memorial to enslaved laborers Jan. 23 at 6 p.m. at the Jefferson School African-American Heritage Center.
       Visit the website, which will be populated with information later this week.
       Take the survey to contribute ideas about the memorial here.
       Follow @uvamemorial on Instagram.
       Become a community ambassador to visit other local groups or send ideas to

P.P.S.  Don’t forget to contribute to the Commonwealth of Virginia campaign!  The organization with the highest CVC participation wins a pizza lunch! 

UVAFinance Vision: the valued and trusted financial partner that the University community turns to first.

Impeccable source of information * Service excellence * Innovative action * Collaborative partner * Valued, high-performing teams

October 27, 2016

Dear Team,

This past Friday, I had the opportunity to attend the Multicultural Fluency class offered to all our team and it was simply terrific. The conversation was enlightening, sobering, thoughtful, and open.  I appreciated everyone’s observations and participation and hope that all have gained through this session. Tabitha Enoch and John Alexander are terrific in leading a conversation that can be uncomfortable in a way that is approachable.  We have another session scheduled on December 1 from 1:30 – 4:00 in Carruthers Hall (Carr-1). If you have not yet attended the session, we very strongly encourage your participation in this very important conversation.

During the class, we learned of a recent disturbing incident at Barracks Road where a racial slur was yelled from a passing car towards one of our UVAFinance team members. This is not the first such incident On Grounds this fall. I encourage everyone to watch out for our colleagues to help create a safe environment. If you witness such an incident, please try to snap a picture of the car or catch the license plate. Victims are generally shocked at the incident and aren’t able to get identifying information quickly. Then, report the incident via the UVA Just Report It system. This type of behavior can simply not be tolerated, and we must all take a role in ensuring all our colleagues and students are safe and not threatened.

I also wanted to provide an update on the ongoing search for a leader of our controller/financial administration team. The first search was unsuccessful, and I have thought long and hard about the type of person needed. After reflection, I have decided to revise my approach and am seeking an Assistant Vice President for Finance Operations (AVPFO); the scope of this position will include oversight of procurement, accounting and financial reporting, payroll, tax, internal controls, and accounts receivable. Most importantly, the AVPFO will envision and implement the transformation of core business practices at the University – to include those most critical steps of buying goods and services and paying people, among other finance and accounting activities. This search has begun and, if you know of great candidates and transformational leaders, I encourage them to apply at Jobs@ posting number 0619784.

Finally, I want to remind you to vote on November 8th. Our managers will be flexible to make sure you can vote without taking leave.


UVAFinance Vision: the valued and trusted financial partner that the University community turns to first.

Impeccable source of information * Service excellence * Innovative action * Collaborative partner * Valued, high-performing teams

To see previous posts from Melody, please click here.