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FOA’s STAR award recipients shine bright

For 245 FOA staff members, taking pride in stellar success came with a cash reward

Quick Summary

  • STAR awards provide flexibility to recognize UC Davis staff members who go "above and beyond," whether in effort or impact.
  • 21% of all eligible FOA employees received a STAR award, including at least one in every unit.
  • Anyone can write a nomination for a STAR award, though manager approval is required.

Last year, 284 STAR awards were presented to staff members and teams throughout UC Davis Finance, Operations and Administration. Officially part of the UC systemwide program Staff Appreciation and Recognition Plan, STAR awards honor going “above and beyond” in one’s work — which in a division as diverse as FOA can mean emergency storm response, inclusive leadership, systemwide payroll innovations, and so much more.

The honors went to 245 staff members with an average cash award of $717 each (including 35 exemplary employees who received two or more awards).

"The criteria for the STAR awards program are not well defined, but that gives needed flexibility in recognizing achievements that go ‘above and beyond,’” said Blair Stephenson, FOA chief operating officer.

“I sincerely hope that FOA employees are proud of their great accomplishments, as recognized by these STAR awards,” he said.

Extraordinary efforts for influential impacts

STAR awards can be made as group awards or as individual awards, and about 25 of FOA’s STAR Awards in 2022-23 went to groups of employees working together. Some of those group awards were very large and cut across units, for example:

  • 19 staff members from Administrative Innovation and Technology, Campus Planning, Design and Construction Management, Business Partners, Facilities, Human Resources and Safety Services were honored for heavy lifts to improve security and improve FOA systems to comply with UC’s Information Security Policy 3, or IS3 policies.
  • 13 employees from Admin IT, DCM and Business Partners were honored as critical contributors to the Capital Program Management and Accounting development team, helping to launch the e-Builder platform for UC Davis.

Other group STAR awards had fewer recipients, but with accomplishments that highlight the myriad ways that FOA teams make a difference to the university, such as:

  • Developing a nine-month program on inclusive leadership.
  • Tested and solved problems related to end-to-end data flow for Aggie Enterprise systems integration and development.
  • Quickly replaced two large, underground pieces of critical infrastructure for agricultural and fisheries research, after an unfortunate fish kill and a separate failed irrigation system.
  • Launched a pilot program to resolve payroll cases that improved services to employees and furthered collaboration between the UCPath Center and many campus teams throughout the UC system.
  • Developed exceptional responses to UCOP and UC Davis leadership recommendations to improve campus safety.

The remaining 100 or so awards went to individuals for a wide variety of extraordinary efforts and significant impacts. Two specific examples were:

  • Tyson Mantor for serving as the point person 24/7 during three months of extreme weather events, beginning on New Year’s Eve 2022, coordinating grounds staff response in this historic weather event that garnered national news coverage.
  • Randa Wilbur for leading the campuswide Staff Experience Advisory Group, which includes key campus leaders, with tremendous creativity and dedication that has led to substantial efforts to elevate staff experience.

While accomplishments vary widely, some common themes in FOA’s STAR award nominations include highlighting employees who:

  • Worked extraordinary hours to achieve desired outcomes.
  • Covered for colleagues on important projects during extended absences.
  • Identified a process that resulted in significant savings.
  • Avoided costly delays in a project.
  • Solved problems under difficult circumstances or short notice.
  • Made influential contributions to a project with a high level of impact on campus operations.
  • Deployed ingenuity on a project that improves the university.

Trends among FOA’s STAR awards

In recent years, more FOA employees have received STAR awards as a way to honor exceptional work and success. In 2022-23, at least one employee in all 12 units of FOA received an award — with 21% of all eligible employees receiving one.

Last year FOA units invested about $191,000 in STAR awards for employees, and an additional $12,250 in awards were given to FOA employees from nominating departments outside of FOA — including honored employees from Human Resources, the Police Department, Finance, Safety Services and Budget and Institutional Analysis.

“Typically salary savings are used to fund the STAR program. In FOA, this has been a very affordable program for its impact,” Stephenson said.

Fine print for STAR awards

Who’s eligible to receive a STAR award: Eligible employees include those who are policy-covered (PSS, MSP, career or contract) or career employees represented by CX or K3 unions. Represented employees are eligible for awards under the plan only if the applicable collective bargaining agreement authorizes participation in the STAR Plan. Employees must also have earned a performance rating of “Fully Achieved Expectations” to be considered. About 15% of FOA employees were not eligible, based on their bargaining unit or other type of employment status.

How much cash comes with a STAR award: Among FOA recipients, $500 was the most common STAR award amount this year ($717 was the average), with cash awards varying from $200 to $4,000. The STAR award program requires approval from both a department head and the FOA Vice Chancellor's office for awards above $500. Funding for the awards typically come from local payroll accounts. The STAR program also limits cumulative annual awards to an employee to $10,000 or 10% of the recipient’s base salary, whichever is lower.

Write a nomination this year

Within FOA, STAR award nominations are most commonly written by managers for employees within their units, but a few FOA teams also honored employees in other units — including the Vice Chancellor’s office, FOA Divisional Resources, AdminIT, DCM, Campus Planning and Safety Services.

Stephenson emphasized that all managers and supervisors should feel empowered to nominate eligible staff members.

Furthermore, STAR award rules do not limit who can write a nomination, so technically anyone could write a nomination. But a nominator must get an endorsement of the nominee’s immediate supervisor, so non-supervisory employees are encouraged to consult with their manager or team about preferred processes for jumping into a nomination process.

“I’d like to see those employees whose work goes above and beyond and meets program requirements be considered for a STAR award,” Stephenson said. “My hope is that we continue to use this tool to recognize our employees’ excellence and contributions in making the university better every day.”


Get started with a STAR award nomination >

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