Employee essay contest winner meets with President Wagner

By Leslie King | Emory Report | June 26, 2015

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In a one-on-one discussion, Campus Services supervisor Gerald Coleman shared his thoughts on "What’s good at Emory?" with President James Wagner. Emory Photo/Video

"What is good at Emory?" Campus Services supervisor Gerald Coleman’s winning essay on the topic earned him a one-on-one meeting with President James Wagner earlier this month.

The Employee Council sponsored the contest, which sought short essays about what is good about university departments or creative ideas about how to make them better. The theme drew on 19th-century Emory President Atticus Haygood’s famous plea to "stand by what is good and make it better."

Coleman's essay was read aloud at the Employee Council Town Hall Meeting in April and he met with Wagner on June 17 to share his ideas. Wagner and Coleman met privately, then were joined by Employee Council leaders and Campus Service managers.

"We were talking about the sorts of things that were going to keep Emory on the top of its game," Wagner said of the one-on-one talk with Coleman.

"It was a great contest, imagining what’s good and what’s positive about Emory," Wagner told the group.

Coleman’s essay focused on the mission, vision and values of Campus Services. The ideals he wrote about "really are in the psyche of the culture" at Emory, he said.

"It’s great to see your essay and to see that others agree that it was accurate. I appreciate what you wrote," Wagner told Coleman.

Karen Salisbury, chief of staff and director of customer relations and support in Campus Services, expressed the division’s appreciation for Coleman’s thoughts.

"We’ve worked really hard on the mission, vision and values and to see it articulated in that way really felt genuine," she said.

Coleman noted that Campus Services has over 800 employees and the essay contest offered a chance to share their goals with the wider university community. "The mission, the vision and the values are truly inspiring. I thought it would be a good opportunity to let others know what was going on in Campus Services," he explained. "We’re really just doing some great things there and I was inspired to express that.

"The current leadership has come with a new energy and a new vision for the department, a new way of doing things. And their energy is inspiring," he added.

As a supervisor in Campus Services, Coleman’s primary role is to oversee the custodial staffs for five academic/multi-purpose buildings. He holds a master’s degree from Northwestern University in change management. 

Coleman began working at Emory not quite two years ago, coming from Chicago, and has several other Emory connections. His father graduated from Emory in 1969, a time when there were few African American students on campus. His aunt graduated in 1981 from the School of Law and his wife did her post-doctoral work at the School of Medicine. "So all I have to do is find a program and get a degree and I’ll be Emory, too," he joked.

Wagner praised Coleman’s essay as "very affirming."

"We have people who want to join a place that aspires to that mission," he said.

What is good at Emory?

By Gerald Coleman

On sweltering summer days and frigid winter mornings we are here. During spring’s beautiful blossoms and fall’s fascinating foliage we are here. Roaring generators churning throughout dark nights, scalding steam billowing from building tops during crisp evenings, and construction cranes rising high are some of our hallmarks on campus. At any time our engineers, horticulturists, police, painters and custodians, among other talented individuals, stand ready to serve and protect our campus, students, faculty and staff.

At Campus Services we are inextricably bound to Emory University’s overarching mission. Advancing our Mission, Vision and Values, therefore, enables us to marshal our resources to provide Emory with preservation, beautification, conservation and innovation. For example, our waste-water recycling project is cutting-edge and saves the university millions of dollars. Moreover, we have reduced the campus’ energy consumption by 25 percent, a goal set in 2005 to be accomplished by 2015.

At Campus Services we have entered a transformational culture change under the guidance of Matthew Early, our vice president of Campus Services, and his senior leadership team to infuse our division with our new Mission, Vision and Values. These components have guided our steps on the path of operational excellence while simultaneously providing Emory with a first-class service organization.

Our Mission, Vision and Values statement is distinguished and reads eloquently. Its aesthetics are welcoming and promote an abiding mindset to our over 800 proud men and women employed within our division. Our Mission is succinct, our Vision inspiring, and our Values uplifting.

Furthermore, our Values mantra, "Do The Right Thing, Do It The Right Way, Do It for the Right Reason," is like an angel on our shoulder encouraging us to return lost wallets, pocketbooks and laptop computers, among other precious valuables, to their rightful owners. Predominately, our staff already embodies these characteristics; nonetheless, we can safely claim in these instances and too many others to enumerate our Mission, Vision and Values subliminally influenced our staff’s decisions.

When an organization goes through change it can have adverse effects on the workforce and productivity. On the one hand change is rebuked because the old ways work nicely for some. On the other hand change is needed because the organization has become stagnant, wasteful and unfocused. It takes a bold and focused leadership team to drive an organization to its maximum potential and that is what we have at Campus Services.

Therefore, the boldness and focus of our Mission, Vision and Values initiative is taking our organization to greater heights. I cannot say our past was supremely better or worse than our present or our future but our organization is definitely reaching greater heights with our new Mission, Vision and Values.