Colleagues share impact of 2022 Shared Values award winner — and she shares how to get the most from UAB

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rep jamye hester 413pxJamye Hester, administrative projects specialist in the Center for Clinical and Translational Science, is the 2022 winner of the President's Award for Excellence in Shared Values.

Jamye Hester loves to cruise to the Caribbean — her favorite destination is the Turks and Caicos islands; but in her nearly 24 years at UAB, she has learned that not every day will be smooth sailing.

In December, freezing temperatures cracked pipes in the Shelby Biomedical Research Building, causing a massive flood that left two dozen research staffers needing an emergency relocation so they could continue to support clinical investigators across campus. The year before, a different crisis came up over the holidays. Staff turnover had reached a critical level, requiring interviews and paperwork right before Christmas. Then there was a time when a new staff member, planning her first large, very important event, ran into trouble. Could Jamye help?

The answer to that question, Hester’s colleagues say, is always yes. As the administrative projects specialist for the UAB Center for Clinical and Translational Science — UAB’s largest NIH-funded center, Hester has a wide portfolio. She is the human resources officer for the CCTS and the UAB Informatics Institute, manages operations, maintains facilities and equipment in locations spread across campus, organizes and manages meetings for the CCTS’ partner institutions in three states, and helps coordinate a full roster of seminars, conferences and training sessions throughout the year.

Glue, engine and “front door of the CCTS”

Over the past 15 years, the CCTS has secured more than $123 million in competitive federal funding and supported collaborative research at UAB and 10 other institutions in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. You will not find Hester’s name on any of those grants, but her fingerprints are all over the CCTS. Colleagues describe her as the glue holding the center together, the engine that makes it go and, because she is usually the first point of contact for those calling or emailing the center, “the face of the CCTS.” That face is invariably friendly, too. “She can address a colleague’s questions with a warm smile while simultaneously responding to a unit’s flooded office space,” said one co-worker.

Hester was one of five employees chosen as third-quarter 2022 honorees for the UAB Shared Values in Action Program and one of 14 selected overall in 2022. Honorees are employees whose work consistently exemplifies and embodies UAB’s shared values of integrity, stewardship, collaboration, accountability, respect, excellence and achievement, and diversity and inclusion.

Now, Hester has been selected by UAB President Ray Watts for the 2022 President’s Award for Excellence in Shared Values. She will be honored in an online presentation Feb. 24. Hester says she is humbled and was completely surprised that her colleagues nominated her. “There are so many great people who do an amazing job here at UAB, and I’m sure many more deserving of this award than me,” she said.

“Jamye knows”

Reading her nomination letters — and there were lots of them, far more than one typically sees — it is clear that this is not true. A small sampling of comments will make that point:

  • “I have been amazed at her willingness to tackle the most difficult situations.”
  • “An excellent mentor — she makes you feel like you can do anything you set your mind to.”
  • “Her drive to improve UAB is contagious.”
  • “You do not find co-workers like this.”
  • “Embraces a role that goes far beyond her official role in the CCTS.”
  • “Truly makes it possible for our associates to thrive at UAB.”
  • “Never turns away anyone who is in need of advice or assistance.”
  • “Many employees shy away from being the ‘go to’ person for a complicated organization as being too hard or too much work, but Ms. Hester embraces and excels in this role.”
  • “Leading by example, she pushes us all to reach for the best.”
  • “Has a remarkable talent to relate to anyone.”
  • “Can be relied on completely to do the right thing and follow through.”
  • “The ultimate collaborator.”

“In every part of life, there are people to call when you have a question about something,” a former colleague wrote. “Jamye is that person at UAB for me. She is the question-answerer for HR questions, event questions, managing physical space questions and administrative system questions. We haven’t worked in the same org for several years, and she is still who I would call with any of these questions. Jamye knows.”

Hester’s colleagues paint such a strong picture that the Reporter decided to seek out some advice and assistance for the benefit of the entire campus.

Reporter: So many of your nomination letters mention your desire to go above and beyond and to see the CCTS and UAB as a whole get better. Where do you find your motivation?

Hester: “I’m honored that they feel that way. I think you come in every day and try to do your best. Hopefully I have helped someone or the university or the CCTS further its mission. After almost 24 years, UAB is my home away from home. I can’t imagine being anywhere else. Our oldest is here now in nursing school and will graduate this year, and we are so proud of him.”

Reporter: You have worked at UAB a long time; but as one letter writer mentioned, you still bring “an excited fresh perspective” to your work. What keeps it fresh for you?

Hester: “There are many aspects to that: my values that I have been taught and the experiences that I have had here at UAB. I learned early on that you are best going in with a positive attitude with everything. That makes it much easier to be able to help. If someone is feeling overwhelmed, you can say, ‘Let’s look at this a different way.’ One of the great things about UAB is there are so many options of what you can do.”

Reporter: Several of the letters mentioned that you do onboarding for new employees in CCTS. What is something about UAB or how it works that you think everyone should know?

Hester: “Because we are such a large and complex institution, it can be easy for new employees to feel overwhelmed. First, I think everyone should know that UAB is a fantastic place to work that offers incredible benefits.

“I think there are a lot of people who don’t know who their HR representatives are. [Find a list here.] If we can’t answer your question, we know how to get them to the person who can.

“There are a lot of people who don’t know about the UAB Employee Perks Program and the Employee Assistance and Counseling Center and the resources that are available there. Another one that is really important is the Employee Emergency Assistance Program. I have seen that help a lot of our staff in hard times.”

Reporter: Do you have any advice for employees (new or old) who want to get to know UAB better?

Hester: “The first thing I would say is to spend some time on the website — there is a lot of information out there. I try to make myself knowledgeable about all that we have going on at the university, as well as at the CCTS, so that when someone has a question or a problem, I can help.

“I would also recommend trying one of the walking trails. You will get some exercise and meet a lot of people that way.

“And then I would certainly recommend to staff to get connected to the Staff Council. I served for six years — two as a representative and four years as an alternate. But you don’t have to be a representative or an alternate to come to the meetings and to join the committees and participate. It is a great way to get to know more about UAB and to work with people that you would never have the opportunity to meet in your normal role. If you have an issue and want to bring it to someone’s attention, look up your Staff Council representative and email them.”

Reporter: Are there any development resources (classes, other training opportunities, volunteer positions, etc.) that you would recommend to fellow employees?

Hester: “The Campus Learning System and LinkedIn Learning have a multitude of resources to learn a new skill or perfect what you are already doing. If an employee is having trouble or needs more guidance, I go there and find something that can help.

“I think a lot of staff are not aware of the Benevolent Fund and all that it does for our campus and community. We volunteer with Habitat for Humanity and Blazer Kitchen in the CCTS and Staff Council. And again, those are great ways to meet others from around campus and see how you can help and get involved.

“The monthly forums that the Staff Council has held have been really beneficial in my work as well.”

Reporter: The campus has changed greatly in your time at UAB. What is your favorite new addition?

Hester: “When I started at UAB, I was in Student Accounting in the old Hill Center. The new Hill Center and the Campus Green and the football stadium are all great, but mine is one that is not ready yet: the Altec/Styslinger Genomic Medicine and Data Sciences Building. This will be the first time the majority of our staff will all be under the same roof."