CU Innovation and Efficiency Award winners rose to year’s challenges

Collaboration key to achievements across system
By Staff

Despite a global pandemic, innovation remains alive and well at CU, as evidenced by the remarkable submissions to the 2021 CU Innovation and Efficiency Awards Program. The university-wide program is designed to recognize employees who re-engineer operations, enhance communication, build employee engagement, improve customer service, or otherwise make CU work better.

The Office of University Controller (OUC), which administers the program, recently announced the winners of this year’s cash awards. They are two CU system-led, cross-campus collaborations and three campus-based team projects from CU Boulder, CU Denver and the CU Anschutz Medical Campus.

The grand prize – the University Controller’s Award for Excellence – went to Billing Automation, a University Information Services (UIS)-led effort that proved that cooperation is the key to overcoming challenges. This initiative revolutionized the previously highly manual, multistep process required to generate sponsored project invoices for the university. Headed by UIS grants application manager Ryan Day, the team included Linda Warren (also from UIS), Sonya Lee (CU Boulder), Melinda Hamilton (CU Colorado Springs) and Koffi Gnatsidji (CU Anschutz Medical Campus). They were recognized for their creativity, ingenuity, cost savings and efficiency. Read more from UIS.

In addition to the $1,500 grand prize winner, four winners of $1,000 cash prizes were announced by the OUC. Not surprisingly, COVID played a role behind many of the submissions and award winners, with teams across CU responding to the challenges of remote learning and remote work in stellar fashion.

In Electronic Consults: A Valuable Treatment Option for Patients and Providers, Matthew Thompson and John Thomas (CU School of Medicine at CU Anschutz) were recognized for implementing a program that allows primary care providers to send non-urgent medical questions to a network of specialists. Their work has resulted in over 7,500 avoided in-person medical appointments, which saves patients co-pays, time off from work and unnecessary specialty visits. It has proved to be especially beneficial during the pandemic by preserving in-person care for those patients most in need.

In Engineering Cloud Computing, John Franklin, David Long and Brandon Scovronski (CU Boulder) won a prize for their herculean efforts on behalf of students in the College of Engineering and Applied Science. The college – which relies heavily on complex, hands-on lab and computing resources – was dealt a severe blow during the pandemic when its labs were shut down and students went remote. Thanks to the efforts of this team, however, students are able to access, from anywhere in the world, the lab and specialized resources they need to pursue this critical component of their education.

In LynxConnect Goes Digital, the CU Denver team of Jessica Godo, Sarah Trzeciak, Meghan Mitchell and Leah Fitzgerald developed a way to continue to provide services when the pandemic shut down their offices. Before COVID, much of their work with students had been conducted through informal, drop-in visits. Now they offer services – such as career counseling, study abroad guidance and undergraduate research opportunities – digitally. Their new virtual front desk and waiting room allow students to “drop in” and receive personalized, real-time support from LynxConnect’s staff of peer advisers.

Finally, the Personalized Post Award Work Centers project – another cross-campus initiative involving UIS – was recognized for its development of custom grants pages in PeopleSoft. Now, individuals who are tasked with managing data and tracking the progress of a grant award can complete their work more efficiently and accurately. The project team included Samantha Fildish, Linda Warren and Bryce Oakes (CU system), Stephanie Rosario (CU Boulder), Melinda Hamilton (CU Colorado Springs) and Ginger Acierno, Margaux Johnson and Julie Burger (CU Anschutz Medical Campus).

OUC congratulates all the 2021 winners, semi-finalists and submitters for jobs well done during a year of unprecedented hardship. Thanks to your efforts, you kept the CU mission on track and kept students and employees motivated.

To learn more about current and past submissions, visit the CU Innovation and Efficiency Awards website. OUC hopes you’ll consider sharing your own innovations during the 2022 program.