The Ufirst Project

Team Feature

Meet Michael Latsko, Senior Director of Strategic Initiatives

photo of Michael Latsko, UVA HR’s Senior Director of Strategic Initiatives

Learn more about Michael Latsko, UVA HR’s Senior Director of Strategic Initiatives.

Q: What are you most excited to be working on now?

A: Since my work on the talent selection/transition process for the Ufirst project, I’ve been helping Kelley assemble her leadership team, and then helping the AVPs assemble theirs. I have a long to-do list with “develop new HR strategy” at the top.  I’m probably most excited to get to work with the new communications team to build on Kristie Smeltzer’s excellent stewardship of the function for the past year plus. The team has exciting plans for new UVA HR branding and messaging, as well as a new website!

Q: What song would be your personal anthem/theme song?

A: Make your own kind of music (even if nobody else sings along),” popularized by Mama Cass Elliott in the late 1960’s (let’s see many Google searches this response generates!).

Q: What are you usually doing on the weekend or during time off?

A: Sundays are busy.  I have been the choir director and organist at Grace Episcopal Church in Keswick since 2007 (and before that at another church for 14 years).  Rehearsals start at 930a for the 11a service; I usually wrap up duties by 1p.  Then from 6-7p I’m “on the air” hosting “The King of Instruments” or “Evensong,” a weekly classical music radio program for WTJU. This summer will mark my 25th year of doing that.  Consequently, Saturdays are as low key as I can make them – generally a trek to the City Farmer’s Market in the morning, followed by a leisurely breakfast, puttering in the yard, and doing lots of errands.

Q: What is your proudest achievement?

A: Following the outcome of a monumental U.S. Supreme Court ruling, both of my parents walked me “down the aisle” to marry the love of my life in a service sanctioned by the Episcopal church, presided over by my rector at Grace Church, in the presence of our family and friends, at a favorite venue of mine and Cesar’s on a perfectly beautiful September day, followed by delicious food, wine and a raucous party.

Q: What is something that would surprise us about you?

A:  While on a business trip to Tokyo in the early 1990’s, I sang karaoke with a live piano player in a geisha bar. No, I did not sing “Make your own kind of music.”

Change: The New Normal

photo of Fredrick Martin, Senior Director, Change Management, UVA HR

Hear from Fredrick Martin, Senior Director, Change Management, on his experience with change and what that means for UVA HR.

I’m often asked what do I love most about my job and my response is, “I love watching an organization unleash and harness the power of change through innovation, creativity, and sure grit”. Change is often viewed as a bad thing and any disruption to the organizational norms will undermine the culture. Change is the “new normal” in any industry whether it’s technology, health care, sharing economy marketplace, or higher education. There was a time when organizations wanted to be more adaptable to change but being adaptable is no longer enough. An organization now has to hardwire “change agility” in the DNA of its culture.     

Power of Disruption

Change or disruption can provide the space for individuals to explore, create, and shape their environment in ways that they haven’t been able to do before. We can reshape how we interact with our customers, the community and key partners, operating as a cohesive body of one and setting the standard for how HR services are delivered in higher education.

Seizing Our Unique Opportunity

The journey toward UVA HR is one that is historic in nature as we are transforming our service delivery model and the experiences we create for those we interact with each day. During this time of change, how can we leverage the disruption in order to create an extraordinary experience?  Together, we have created a great foundation and achieved great success, but the journey has truly just begun. We will encounter lots of change during our journey. But in all of this, many key factors remains the same. Our incredible people, our spirit, our commitment to our customers, our belief in the transformative power of people. It’s why I come to work inspired every day. It’s why we’ve accepted the challenge, and why we’re evolving every day!

Rise and Grind,


Launching the Solution Center

Infographic showing stats on the numbers of customers the Solution Center has served.


Hear from Marcus Hamilton, HR Analyst, Quality & Innovation, about what it took to launch the new UVA HR Solution Center.


What goals did you have and did you meet them?

At launch, our primary goals were to have established performance baselines and maintain service levels while expanding our support to the entire organization. Now faculty, staff, and team members are going to one place instead of two: one team, one place to call, one way to get your problem resolved. Making that transition seamless is difficult, but the team worked tirelessly to make it happen. I’m happy to say they succeeded.

Post launch, our goal was to identify quick wins and longer term continuous improvement opportunities. We have learned a great deal in a short time, and we have already instituted changes in staff scheduling and training resources, for example, based on that data.


How did you come together as a team?

We focused on sharing knowledge. We all came from different backgrounds and thankfully everyone was willing to freely share their knowledge and to make each other comfortable to seek clarification if needed. That openness has led to close bonds that make providing good service easier and dare I say, more fun.


Best part of being the first for the HR transformation?

We definitely developed a sense of camaraderie as we as ventured out first. It gave us a heightened sense of purpose and commitment to making sure it went smoothly so we could serve as proof that it could be done well. And since we had the benefit of going first, we are ready to support the other HR teams as they stand up.



What are you most proud?

I’m most proud of the team’s willingness to take on so many changes at once and still maintain—and in many cases improve—service.


What I am most excited about?

I am excited for the new technology we have in place, which allows us to interact with customers across channels in an integrated way and gather data to drive continuous improvement. We have been able to quickly implement process improvements with a richer and more immediate feedback loop that allows us to serve our customers better every day. It also allows us to report out on the team’s amazing work!


What’s next for the team?

Supporting the launch of the remaining UVAHR teams, continuing our ongoing improvement efforts, and preparing to provide post-Workday-go-live support.


Meet Bryan Garey, Assistant Vice President for Talent

Bryan Garey, Assistant Vice President for Talent

Q: What are you most excited to start working on in your new position?

A: Talent is at the heart of what HR is about: sourcing, selecting, retaining, and developing great people are essential to the value we add to UVA. And, it’s exciting to lead a new team to find ways to make a difference in moving the University forward. From the candidate experience to the hiring process to onboarding to performance management, I hope we can make processes easier for customers and the positive results of the work more obvious and with greater impact. I am excited by the challenge and grateful for the opportunity to serve UVA in this role.


Q: What song would be your personal anthem/theme song?

A: I love Bruce Springsteen so I will pick his truly great song, Born to Run. Beyond the literal story of the song, I find it’s a call to action, of breaking free and living in the moment while moving forward to make things better. And, it’s full of energy!


Q: What are you usually doing on the weekend or during time off?

A: Trying to find a little extra sleep which seems so elusive these days. I also enjoy seeing friends, hitting a winery, working out, and running errands and doing chores. Church is usually part of the weekend and sometimes a hike in the woods or a camping trip. I like weekends for variety and fun and they are all very different for me.


Q: What is your proudest achievement?

A: My two girls, Virginia and Evelyn. Va. is a 2 nd year UVA student and Evelyn is a high school junior. They are great kids…and also have a wonderful Mom.


Q: What is something that would surprise us about you?

A: My theatre background may surprise some, but I have found this rewarding on a personal level and even helpful in my HR career. I love to travel and hope to be fluent in Spanish someday. I also continue to study the piano, taking up lessons about 5 years ago. It’s slow going, but very enjoyable. I like to learn new things and challenge myself with new experiences.

Meet Adam Weikel, Assistant Vice President for Service

Adam Weikel, Assistant Vice President for Service

Q: What are you most excited to start working on in your new position?

A: I am equally excited about WHO (HOO) and WHAT. There is no doubt that the University of Virginia and UVA Health System represent a special place to learn, live, and work. Steeped in history; distinguished among peers; and internationally recognized as a leader in higher education and healthcare. I can’t imagine anyone who wouldn’t want to be part of such an impressive community!  We all know that the people make the organization and I love how you all have the exceptional ability to celebrate the past while building the future. I am most excited about getting to know and work with all of you as we build the future HR organization.


Q: What song would be your personal anthem/theme song?

A: I have an eclectic taste in music, so this is a tough question. This song is a bit obscure (even for Parrot Heads ) but I suppose “It’s My Job” by Jimmy Buffett speaks to my general outlook. The lyrics are about individuals in challenging occupations who take pride in their work. It ends with the realization that we all have an important and unique role to play if we are going to achieve collective success. 


Q: What are you usually doing on the weekend or during time off?

A: Spending time with family and enjoying the great outdoors. I also consider myself a DIY weekend warrior and frequently find myself working on some type of home improvement, landscaping, or woodworking project.


Q: What is your proudest achievement?

A: I take great pride in creating opportunities for others. I attribute my professional achievements to the talented teams that I have had the privilege to lead or have been a part of. Coming from the public sector (Government), it has been extremely rewarding to connect people and families with the services they need, and to measurably improve efficiency and efficacy along the way.


Q: What is something that would surprise us about you?

A: I am a wanna-be-homesteader. I would love to grow all my own food and live off the land.

Meet John Kosky, Assistant Vice President for IMPACT and Decision Support

a photo of John Kosky, Assistant Vice President for IMPACT and Decision Support

Q: What are you most excited to start working on in your new position?

A: The opportunity to be part of a major HR transformation of this magnitude and to provide leadership and vision in designing and implementing tools, services, and resources that will make us all great decision-makers. UVA is on the cutting edge within higher education, and that is my comfort zone.


Q: What song would be your personal anthem/theme song?

A: “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” from Monty Python’s Life of Brian – it is sort of how I approach life. Let’s be positive, have a great sense of humor, and not take ourselves too seriously. Enjoy life!


Q: What are you usually doing on the weekend or during time off?

A: I have many hobbies that occupy my time ranging from reading to trekking, but largely most of my down time outside of Fall semester is spent traveling. My wife and I (and our 2 Doberman children) believe in working hard and playing hard, so when the time allows, we are on the road and experiencing all the world has to offer. Our most recent trips were Iceland and Peru, with Antarctica, Nepal, and South Africa the next to come. Fall semester is all about the college football season and we travel to most or all of the games to root on our UGA Bulldogs!


Q: What is your proudest achievement?

A: Being the first in my immediate family to graduate college while serving in the military. I’m a first generation citizen on my father’s side and from Native American roots on my mother’s side, so being able to accomplish many life goals, mostly unattainable to my family, have been my proudest moments.


Q: What is something that would surprise us about you?

A: We own and operate a small 400-acre farm in the North Georgia mountains, with chicken, cattle, pigs, etc. This is our little sanctuary and we escape there often. Second, I am a major culinary nerd / foodie / wine freak so I love to get very creative in the kitchen cooking using various techniques like sous vide, spherification, complex baking, etc.

Let's Remember "Why"

Dr. Richard Shannon addresses Ufirst team leads at a planning retreat

Ufirst Project Team Lead Retreat, August 2015

The Ufirst HR Transformation Project began with a hypothesis in the summer of 2015 – we could improve the delivery of administrative services across the University.

What began as the Hackett benchmarking study across multiple functions soon proved that we needed to explore this hypothesis. While there were many options, UVA intentionally chose to focus on Human Resources (HR).  The rationale came down to this:

  • The faculty, staff, and team member experience was essential to the UVA mission
  • The current HR experience left much to be desired


photo of a Ufirst event at Bavaro Hall to host the UVA Community and explain the project

Ufirst Community Kickoff January 2016

We understood that data alone wouldn’t mean anything if we did not genuinely engage the University community in “co-building” a shared vision for UVA HR. From this understanding came a small project known as the HR Strategic Design Initiative, which evolved over the course of the next 18 months into the large-scale Ufirst Project. The need for change was clear:

  • Getting basic HR work done was harder than it should be
  • There were sometimes more than 15 ways to do the same HR task and all were complicated
  • Many HR teams struggled to keep pace with the volume of work in their schools and units
  • The HR technology was painful to maintain and the user experience was worse
  • The quality of HR data was very poor and answering basic HR questions took weeks
  • There was growing distrust between “central HR” and the schools and units
  • There was minimal sharing of good HR practices across Grounds
  • Finger pointing and unhelpful behaviors heightened the pain/frustration felt around HR services
  • The cost of HR was growing rapidly while the perceived value of HR was falling faster

As the reasons “why” were compelling, the attention of the University then shifted to answering the question of “what” – what would great HR look like?  The answer to that question, we needed to work across Grounds in uncommon ways:

  • The Academic Division, Medical Center, and University Physicians Group worked across entities and degrees of codified autonomy on a shared vision for HR
  • The voice of Deans, Administrative Associate Deans, faculty members, and Health System executives were as important to the design as the perspective of HR 
  • Equal respect was paid to both how you get to the answer (inclusive approach essential in the Academic Division) and the quality of the answer (outcome focus in the Health System)
  • HR leaders from central units (UHR, MC HR, and UPG HR) worked hand-in-hand with HR leaders embedded in the schools and units


Ufirst Project Subject Matter Resource Session

Subject Matter Resource Session, December 2016

After multiple design sessions and countless hours of spirited debate (yes, even CavMan was in on the action), design principles and agreement on the service delivery components became the building blocks for the future:

  • A single HR leadership team that serves the Academic and Health System divisions
  • An HR solution center that is the transactional engine and quality & innovation hub
  • A set of centers of expertise to provide specialized HR services to the University
  • The introduction of HR service partners who will solve the most complex people issues across Grounds
  • The investment in contemporary, cloud-based HR technology to enhance the delivery of HR services

The Ufirst team thanks all faculty, staff, and team members at the University for their hard work and dedication over the past 3 years. While no one thought it would be easy, the belief that it would be worth it kept everyone going. It is remarkable to think that the original vision for great HR at UVA will be a reality in a few short months!

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