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The Secretary's Diversity & Inclusion Excellence Awards Program

VA established the Secretary’s Annual Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Awards Program in 1988 to recognize EEO achievements associated with legally-protected classes established by EEO laws. In FY 2009, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion (ODI) redesigned the awards program as “The Secretary’s Diversity and Inclusion Excellence Awards Program” to align with the three goals of VA’s Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Plan for FY 2009-2013 endorsed by Secretary Eric K. Shinseki on May 22, 2009.

In alignment with President Obama’s Executive Order 13583 on Establishing a Coordinated Government-Wide Initiative to Promote Diversity and Inclusion in the Federal Workforce, the Department produced a revised VA Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Plan for FY 2012-2016. The criteria for the Secretary’s Diversity and Inclusion Excellence Awards are aligned with this plan.

 

Make A Nomination

Thank you for considering making a nomination for the Secretary’s Fourth Annual Diversity and Inclusion Excellence Awards Program!

Before you begin the nomination process, please read Assistant Secretary for Human Resources and Administration Gina S. Farrisee’s Call Memo (PDF).

  1. AWARD CATEGORIES
    1. Nonsupervisory Employee
    2. Manager/Supervisor
    3. Team
  2. NOMINATION
    1. Anyone can nominate any individual or group for a Diversity and Inclusion Excellence Award. Nominees should be individuals or teams who have achieved outstanding results through unusually effective leadership, skill, innovation, and perseverance in the areas of diversity and inclusion. While special acts or other one-time achievements may be considered, these awards place emphasis on effective, sustained efforts, and significant achievements worthy of recognition within the twelve months prior to the nomination submission. This justification will serve as the principal basis for selection of the award recipients.
    2. Nominations must be submitted for only one of the three categories listed above and submitted using the Nomination Template. The narrative should clearly highlight individual or team accomplishments in one or more of the three following criteria. These criteria align with the goals of VA's Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Plan for FY 2012-2016 (PDF, Word):
      1. Build a diverse, high-performing workforce that reflects all segments of society.
      2. Cultivate a flexible, collaborative, and inclusive work environment that leverages diversity and empowers all contributors.
      3. Facilitate outstanding, culturally competent public service and stakeholder relations through effective leadership and accountability.
  3. ELIGIBILITY
    1. Any VA nonsupervisory employee, manager/supervisor, or team who meets the criteria may be nominated. Please note that individuals and teams may include equal employment opportunity (EEO) program practitioners (for example, EEO program managers, counselors, investigators, and special emphasis program managers).
    2. The nominee (or, in the case of a Team category nomination, ALL members of the Team) must pass a security check. Nominees who do not pass this security check by close of business Friday, June 13, 2014, will not be considered. Nominees who have had prior findings of discrimination, adverse actions, harassment or other improper behavior will not be considered. Nominees who are under investigation will be considered as long as no adverse findings are presented as of the date of the awards ceremony. In the event that one team member does not pass through the security clearance process, the head of the sponsoring organization must decide whether to proceed with the nomination without the team member or whether to withdraw the nomination. That determination must be made by close of business Friday, June 13, 2014.
    3. Prior recipients of the Secretary’s Diversity and Inclusion Excellence Awards must wait until one complete awards program cycle has concluded before they are eligible for nomination in ANY category.
    4. For a nominee to be eligible, the deadlines outlined under section IV must be met.
  4. DOCUMENTATION AND PROCESSING
    1. How to Apply
      1. The nominator must complete the Nomination Template and gather any supporting documents which serve as direct evidence to support the nomination. Supporting documents may include workforce statistics and graphs. Please do not include photographs.
      2. The nominee must complete the VA Form 0235 (Security Check for Candidate Requiring Approval of the Secretary). In the case of a Team nomination, each Team member must complete this form.
    2. Complete nomination packages are to be processed and approved as indicated below (NOTE: Because VA Form 0235 contains sensitive information, it must be submitted via encrypted email. If you do not have encryption capability and will need to fax or mail this form, contact your Administration/Staff Office coordinator who will instruct you as to how to proceed):
      1. Veterans Health Administration (VHA) employees and teams:
        • Field nominations must be endorsed by the Medical Center Director, or designee, and then submitted to the VISN Director, or designee, for concurrence and approval.
        • OR
        • Program and Service Office nominations must be endorsed by the respective Program Officer of Service Director, or designee, for concurrence and approval.
        • AND
        • The nomination package (including the completed nomination template, supporting documents, encrypted VA Form 0235, and endorsements) must be submitted by close of business Friday, May 30, 2014, to David Rabb, Diversity & Inclusion Office (10A2G), at David.Rabb@va.gov for coordination and submission of (1) VA Form 0235(s) to the Security and Investigations Center (SIC) and then (2) the entire package, including SIC-approved VA Form 0235(s), to the Under Secretary for Health for concurrence and approval.
      2. Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) employees and teams:
        • Nominations must be endorsed by the Facility Director, or designee.
        • AND
        • The nomination package (including the completed nomination template, supporting documents, VA Form 0235, and endorsements) must be submitted by close of business Friday, May 30, 2014, to Lois Scoon, VBA Office of Diversity Management and EEO (20M2), at Lois.Scoon@va.gov for coordination and submission of (1) VA Form 0235(s) to the Security and Investigations Center (SIC) and then (2) the entire package, including SIC-approved VA Form 0235(s), to the Under Secretary for Benefits for concurrence and approval.
      3. National Cemetery Administration (NCA) employees and teams:
        • Field nominations must be endorsed by the National Cemetery Director, or designee, and then submitted to the MSN Director, or designee, for concurrence and approval.
        • OR
        • Program and Service Office nominations must be endorsed by the respective Program Officer of Service Director, or designee, for concurrence and approval.
        • AND
        • The nomination package (including the completed nomination template, supporting documents, VA Form 0235, and endorsements) must be submitted by close of business Friday, May 30, 2014, to Perdita Johnson-Abercrombie, NCA Office of Diversity Management and EEO (41), at Perdita.Johnson-Abercrombie@va.gov for coordination and submission of (1) VA Form 0235(s) to the Security and Investigations Center (SIC) and then (2) the entire package, including SIC-approved VA Form 0235(s), to the Under Secretary for Memorial Affairs for concurrence and approval.
      4.  Nominations for all other VA employees and teams must be submitted through the appropriate organizational heads by close of business Friday, May 30, 2014.
    3. Complete nomination packages that have been approved according to the guidelines outlined above in section IV, paragraph B, must be received in VA’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion (ODI) by close of business Friday, June 13, 2014, from the Administration/Staff Office coordinators to Yvonne Rannels, ODI, at Yvonne.Rannels@va.gov. A complete nomination package will include the completed nomination template, supporting documents, encrypted SIC-approved VA Form 0235, and endorsements by the appropriate Under Secretary, Assistant Secretary, or Key Official. NOTE: Because VA Form 0235 contains sensitive information, it must be submitted via encrypted email. If the Administration/Staff Office coordinator does not have encryption capability and will need to fax or mail this form, contact Ms. Rannels who will instruct you as to how to proceed.
    4. A screening committee will review all nominations and recommend finalists for consideration by the Secretary.
  5. AWARDS
  6. Each individual recipient will receive an award and a personal acknowledgement of his/her accomplishment from the Secretary. Recipients of team awards will be recognized as a group and the award will be presented to the respective facility or organization.
  7. INQUIRIES
  8. For assistance with the process, questions, and/or further information, please contact Ms. Rannels at (202) 461-4007 or Yvonne.Rannels@va.gov.

Third Annual Awards

  • Dr. Rory A. Cooper, VA Senior Research Career Scientist and Director, Human Engineering Research Laboratories, VA Center of Excellence in Wheelchairs Picture of 2011 awardees and Associated Rehabilitation Engineering at the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System (Manager/Supervisor): Dr. Cooper is being recognized for his commitment to mentoring students with disabilities (emphasizing Veterans and their children), to improving VA and the University of Pittsburgh to better support Veterans with Disabilities, and to the people with disabilities and Veteran communities. Dr. Cooper developed a transition program for Veterans—Experiential Learning for Veterans in Assistive Technology and Engineering (ELeVATE)—which pairs Veterans with disabilities with professional mentors to excite them about engineering, technical, and healthcare careers. For Veterans who are more interested in a vocational track, he created FATe, Fabrication of Assistive Technology. Dr. Cooper also believes in cultivating a diverse workforce by filling the educational and training pipeline, having established creative formal and informal curricula and training initiatives for students across the educational pipeline as young as middle school. Dr. Cooper was instrumental in creating the Armed Forces Amputee Care Program as well as the U.S. Army and VA Rehabilitation Research and Development Service “State of the Science” Symposium Series. He co-edited the U.S. Army textbook “Care of the Combat Amputee” for the Surgeon General of the U.S. Army and edited the “Warrior Transition Leader Medical Rehabilitation Handbook” for the U.S. Army. Dr. Cooper has been awarded the Distinguished Public Service Award (the Army’s highest award) from the Secretary of the U.S. Army, and received several other awards from the Army and Marine Corps for his contributions. In 2011, Dr. Cooper was inducted into the Pennsylvania Military and Veterans “Hall of Fame”, and awarded the Pennsylvania Meritorious Service Medal by the Governor. Dr. Cooper increases the quality of life of persons and Veterans with disabilities, is a leading researcher who mentors by example, and a person who helps others become successful by providing them with courage to follow their dreams.
  • Dr. Laura Johnson, Clinical Psychologist, Director of Diversity Services, and Transgender Veteran Liaison, Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial Veterans Hospital, Bedford, Massachusetts (Nonsupervisory Employee): Dr. Johnson is being recognized her work in providing for culturally competent public service. Though primarily her work is with the psychology service, she was given the title Director of Diversity Services and has begun to work outside of the service in support of the mission of diversity and inclusion. Dr. Johnson created and facilitated a therapy group for Transgender Veterans. She continues to supervise trainee facilitators of this therapy group, allowing the hospital to provide a rarely available training experience and to usher more culturally competent clinicians into the field of psychology. Dr. Johnson was named the facility's Transgender Veteran Liaison, and in this role is directly responsible for meeting with transgender Veterans to discuss their healthcare needs and VA resources. She also ensured broader cultural competence training for hospital staff. She coordinated a day of training open to all mental health staff (psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, nurses, and peer providers) called “Do Ask, Do Tell: Working with LGBT Veterans.” Dr. Johnson worked with community stakeholders to form collaborations beneficial to Veterans and, as part of the Multicultural Advisory Committee, she created a list of diverse professional organizations to provide to human resources, the Chief of Staff, and the service chiefs with the goal of ensuring a diverse candidate pool for the hospital’s workforce. Dr. Johnson is a dedicated staff member who consistently strives to provide better access to high-quality VA care.
  • The Equal Employment Opportunity Committee at the Harry S. Truman Memorial Veterans’ Hospital in Columbia, Missouri (Team). The team members are (in alphabetical order): Machelle Dykstra, Leigh Anne Fleck, Vicki J. Freelon, L. Stephen Gaither, James E. Grady, Sara Hake, Veronica Ramnarine, Darlayna Scott, Annette Velasco, Michael E. Whittier, and Paula D. Williams: This team is being recognized for their work in championing a diverse and inclusive workplace through collaborative opportunities, leadership development, succession planning, and diversity awareness activities. Truman VA's Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Program is the 2012 recipient of the Columbia Values Diversity organization/group award. In 2009, the Committee collaborated with human resources to host a disability employment networking event. As a result of this initial outreach event, Truman VA established ongoing relationships with several community resources that have resulted in successful hiring practices. In addition, Truman VA's EEO Committee provides ongoing training opportunities for supervisors and staff on hiring people with disabilities, using schedule A hiring authorities and reasonable accommodations. Truman VA's EEO Committee strives to achieve an inclusive organization that functions as a responsible community partner by pursuing opportunities to work with local schools, community-based organizations, and professional associations to expand outreach to diverse communities, broaden opportunities, enhance access, and promote cultural awareness. Truman VA's EEO Committee regularly participates in other local recruitment and career fairs and connects with a diverse range of cultures, generations, and backgrounds within the community to increase awareness of VA career opportunities and health care services. Committee members also participate in facility and VISN LEAD programs, Leadership Columbia, the Technical Career Field program, and have completed VHA coaching/mentoring training in order to develop themselves as leaders and role models, and to champion these programs to others. The EEO Committee’s ongoing commitment to building a diverse, high-performing workforce; cultivating a flexible, collaborative and inclusive work environment; and facilitating outstanding, culturally competent public service exemplifies VA’s goals to promote diversity and inclusion in the Federal workforce.

Second Annual Awards

  • Terry Gerigk Wolf (Manager/Supervisor): Mrs. Wolf is being recognized for her outstanding leadership and commitment to fostering a Picture of 2011 awardeesdiverse workforce and an inclusive work environment at VAPHS. Under Mrs. Wolf’s leadership, VAPHS is active in succession planning and has enacted numerous programs to ensure that employees can bolster their professional skills. Mrs. Wolf also supports flexible scheduling to help employees enhance productivity while accommodating their educational and personal goals. In addition to being a tireless advocate for educating employees, Mrs. Wolf is also greatly concerned with communicating with all VAPHS stakeholders. Her management style champions communication, which she sees as vital to ensuring that all employees feel included and engaged in the conversations at VA Pittsburgh. She uses a number of innovative communication methods to promote a culture of open communication and inclusion among her 3,704 employees. These include a “Director’s Page” on VA Pittsburgh’s Intranet site—which includes a compliments page, blog, message board, and an archive of every all-employee email message sent from the Director’s signature. Mrs. Wolf is a VA leader whose actions serve as a model for diversity and inclusion excellence as she continues to make invaluable contributions to furthering the Department’s goals in these areas and to ensuring equal opportunity.
  • Novella Brown Scott (Nonsupervisory Employee): When it comes to the diversity and inclusion arena, Picture of 2011 awardeesMs. Scott has embraced the concept of shared leadership in her role as a Vocational Rehabilitation Specialist within the CAVHCS, Mental Health-Residential Rehabilitation Treatment Program (MH-RRTP). She shines as a beacon of hope to encourage Disabled Veterans that they can be positive contributors in the workplace and has dedicated herself to conveying this message to them as well as to CAVHCS staff, stakeholders, communities, and even potential employers. Ms. Scott was instrumental in the development of various programs and initiatives to aid homeless and unemployed Veterans and Disabled Veterans, such as a “Ready to Work” training and skills program for unemployed Disabled Veterans. She also helped to develop the first MH-RRTP Women’s Focus Group and the first MH-RRTP Annual Prom in an effort to recognize the service of women Veterans and promote positive awareness of homeless Veterans seeking employment by ensuring participation of positive community leaders. Ms. Scott worked to remove the stigma and barriers associated with the equal opportunity employment of homeless Veterans and coordinated various trainings to understand disabilities, decrease stigma, and emphasize the desire for community employment by people with disabilities. Ms. Scott is a hidden treasure within the walls of CAVHCS and is the manifestation of the organization’s leadership drive to meet the vision of the Department of Veterans Affairs to create and sustain a high-performing workforce by leveraging diversity and empowering employees to achieve superior results in service to our Nation’s Veterans.
  • VISN 16 Diversity Advisory Committee, South Central VA Health Care Network, Ridgeland, MS (Team): Picture of 2011 awardees The VISN 16 Diversity Advisory Committee is being recognized for their outstanding efforts to promote diversity and inclusion throughout the entire South Central VA Health Care Network. The Committee took creative action knowing that a diverse workforce and an inclusive work environment are essential to a high-performing organization. They developed, signed, and executed a Diversity Contract aimed at creating and sustaining a high-performing workforce by leveraging diversity and empowering all employees to achieve superior results in service to our Nation’s Veterans and leadership accountability in these areas. The Committee also created a Diversity Web page to facilitate communication: the VISN Director can post monthly messages and all employees can submit ideas for improvements and share thoughts about how to create the best workplace cultures. Their proactive commitment also led them to establish the goal of critically evaluating their VISN data and to identify opportunities for continuous improvement in the areas of representation, recruitment, and retention. The VISN 16 Diversity Advisory Committee serves as a model of excellence for their creative and innovative approaches to VA’s diversity and inclusion goals.

First Annual Awards

Picture of 2010 awardees

Caption: Georgia Coffey (far left) and Ralph Torres (far right) with the 2010 Diversity and Inclusion and Alternative Dispute Resolution Excellence Award recipients.

  • Adam Walmus (Manage/Supervisor): Mr. Walmus is currently the new director of the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center in Houston, Texas. He was recognized as the former director of the VA Medical Center in Muskogee, Oklahoma, for his focus on cultural diversity awareness that helped to ensure that a wide-range of perspectives was incorporated when addressing issues and concerns related to the delivery of high-quality care to America’s Veterans. In addition, Mr. Walmus made participation in the Student Career Experience Program (SCEP) a high priority, increasing the number of students involved in the facility’s program from just five in fiscal year (FY) 2006 to 25 in FY 2009, the highest number of SCEP interns among all VA medical centers!
  • Jeanette Goff (Nonsupervisory Employee): Ms. Goff, Medical Support Assistant at the VA Sierra Nevada Health Care System in Reno, Nevada, was recognized for her creative ideas on educating and training an employee with visual impairment to perform the work of a medical support assistant. In addition to working directly with the low-vision employee, Ms. Goff worked with call center team members to identify unspoken assumptions, differing values, and initial resistance related to working with persons with a visual disability. As a direct result of her efforts, the low-vision employee can now perform competently and professionally the functions of this job, and the call center team members know what people can do is much more important than what they can’t do.
  • Office of Health Information Management, Medical Record Technicians unit at the Charles George VA Medical Center in Asheville, North Carolina (Ryl Giacchetta accepted on behalf of the Team): Ms. Giacchetta accepted the team award on behalf of the Office of Health Information Management, Medical Record Technicians unit at the Charles George VA Medical Center in Asheville, North Carolina. The unit was responsible for translating medical care services provided to Veterans into billable codes recognized by third-party health insurers. Over the past three years, members of the coding unit have overcome individual differences in order to become a unified team, working together efficiently and effectively to focus on their shared goals. In addition to deliberate efforts to build camaraderie, the coding unit has benefited from increased training and expanded communications, both internal and external. The performance of the coding unit has also improved as a result of increased flexibility in how, when, and where work gets done. Their accuracy rate has climbed from 75 percent to 90 percent, and other facilities are now asking them for assistance with their coding concerns.