The DELTA Finance and Business Office includes Associate Vice Provost for Business Operations Jessie Sova, Julie Bunting, Jamie Dunlap, Cindy Galle, Angela Hallman, Stacy Somers, Julie Talton and Erica Wisecup.
When challenged by the COVID-19 pandemic, DELTA kept going.
As we’ve adjusted to working from home, juggling a new work/life balance, and facing the pandemic, our DELTA colleagues worked hard to try to keep us safe, healthy and comfortable. When we faced trials like supply chain issues, canceled travel and enhanced stress, we faced it as a team.
The DELTA Finance and Business Office, led by Associate Vice Provost for Business Operations Jessie Sova, played a major role in helping DELTA keep working. When the campus closed in March 2020, they immediately got to work to make sure DELTA could not only keep running but meet the unprecedented demand for our services.
While DELTA’s technical support team remained on campus for the duration of the pandemic, most staffers transitioned to work remotely when COVID-19 first gained traction.
“Being DELTA, we were already light years ahead of campus when it came to teleworking and having everything in place for that, so we had an advantage that other university departments did not,” Sova says.
Still, DELTA faced challenges. First, we needed to make sure DELTA staff were outfitted with the technology to work from home. Technology Support Analysts Robert Holloman and Scott Leonard reported to campus to manage technology check-outs and ensure everyone was equipped to be successful.
Like many people in 2020, DELTA also experienced travel disruptions due to COVID-19, and the Finance and Business Office had to address travel cancellations. With help from the university Finance Division, they canceled conference registrations and reimbursed staff members.
Under direction from the Finance Division, the Finance and Business Office kept careful biweekly financial reports, consistently tracking dollars from April 2020 to January 2021.
“We had to report weekly on every expense, every revenue lost, every penny as it related to or it was impacted by the pandemic,” Sova says.
She and her team assessed what resources DELTA needed to get NC State’s courses online and realigned existing resources to make it happen. This became even more challenging when faced with a supply issue impacted by the pandemic. DELTA ordered new Mediasite recorders to meet the need for academic continuity and classroom recording. When this order fell behind in shipping, they adjusted their reporting and reallocated that funding for the following fiscal year. While that was a big challenge, securing the funding for those recorders as well as a large sum for the transition from Mediasite to Panopto, NC State’s new enterprise video management system, was a big win.
DELTA also received support from the UNC System Office, which provided $30,000 to move two chemistry courses online, including the development of the course materials, learning objects, and related assessments. Lead Instructional Designers Yan Shen and Jakia Salam worked collaboratively on a planning team to define the overall strategy and curate materials.
As all of this took place, DELTA staff were making their way through a challenging time. When we needed people to lean on, we leaned on each other, and the Finance and Business Office helped to make these connections happen.
DELTA communed for a series of virtual gatherings every week to check in, talk and have fun with each other. Donna Petherbridge and former Vice Provost Tom Miller came up with the idea of weekly all-DELTA staff check-ins to ask questions and share important information in a safe and open setting. The DELTA Activities Committee also hosted Thursday night trivia games and Wednesday morning Coffee Chats to boost morale and fill the absence of in-person events and celebrations.
HR Consultant Angela Hallman found creative ways to prioritize wellness and team spirit at a distance. In addition to DELTA’s first virtual awards ceremony, Hallman arranged virtual wellness activities such as yoga sessions and meditation. Her hard work paid off when DELTA received Gold Level Wolfpack Wellness certification.
“We had activities to step away from the machine, step away from the Zoom meetings and do some self-maintenance, which was quite wonderful. Without all those folks, there’s no way that we could have been as effective and as seamless … we weren’t reactive, we were proactive,” Sova says.
Returning to Campus
DELTA didn’t waste any time getting ready to make a return to campus. Sova represents DELTA and the McKimmon Center on the university’s operations committee, which includes University Housing, Student Health Services, Human Resources and more campus units. Sova also sits on the DELTA Pack Planning committee, which was originally formed to address natural disasters and emergencies. Petherbridge, Sova, Christine Belledin, Jonathan Champ and Jeff Webster worked together to examine what “back to work” looked like and what DELTA needed to be prepared.
In May 2020, the Pack Planning team began sourcing the personal protective equipment (PPE) and sanitizers DELTA would need to eventually come back to campus. Finding enough PPE to adequately stock each workstation during a period of extreme demand was challenging. Accountant Stacy Somers worked with University Procurement and Business Services to ensure each employee would have the resources to feel protected and comfortable upon our return.
Sova also gathered spreadsheets for DELTA, NC State Entrepreneurship, and the McKimmon Center to determine what it would look like to come back and what safety measures we would need. Who would be remote? Who needed to be on campus? Hallman reviewed administrative leave guidelines and temporary work policies. Along the way, the Finance and Business team consulted DELTA managers as much as possible to keep their best interests in mind.
When the university announced a full campus reopening in July 2021, Sova and Hallman coordinated DELTA’s phased return to the office with the help of HotDeskPlus, a hoteling software to keep track of who came in and out of the office.
“Christine Belledin came up with the idea of hoteling software [in May 2020] to ensure physical distancing parameters were met and for contact tracing, just in case someone tested positive, we knew who else was in the building. It was a wonderful idea, and I think we’re going to continue with the hoteling software and come up with something more robust in the future,” Sova says.
HotDeskPlus was chosen out of several options because it was reasonable in price with DELTA’s desired features. Webster worked on integrations, Sova gathered floor plans in all the buildings where DELTA staff work and Belledin uploaded them and defined workflow.
Sova and Petherbridge sit on the university task force for flexible work and plan to advocate for DELTA staff in the ongoing discussion about what the future of work looks like at NC State.
“[The university] really looks to DELTA because of our best practices. They’re taking information from what we’ve done and putting that in the mix to try to come up with what’s good for NC State,” Sova shares.
While there is plenty from the pandemic everyone would like to leave behind, DELTA has a lot to keep around.
Flexible work schedules and telecommuting are likely to stay in various forms, with explorations into space sharing and collaborative space organization. These decisions will be made over time with team input, and the ultimate goal is to make sure DELTA has happy team members.
Above all, Sova credits the successes of the past year to her team.
“I learned so much about my team and how blessed I am to have the team I do. All of my team members –– Jamie Dunlap, Cindy Galle, Julie Bunting, Stacy Somers, Julie Talton, Angela Hallman and Erica Wisecup, all the folks in McKimmon and Abby Smith over at the Wolfpack Investor Network –– are wonderful. Finance and Business Services could never have done any of this without them and their efforts, and I’m so grateful,” she says.
“Who knows how to manage units in a pandemic, right? They don’t teach us that in graduate school, and they don’t teach us that in manager leadership schools, but they do teach us how to be collaborative, how to listen, how to show vulnerability. I was able to do that with my team, and we all worked on it together, and we then worked with other teams like the DELTA Pack Planning Team, the university operations team, our colleagues across the campus and its central offices,” Sova adds.
Sova ultimately credits DELTA’s team spirit and culture with getting us through tough times.
“How special DELTA is. DELTA can do anything. I think DELTA can meet any challenge, no matter what it is because of our culture, our collaborative spirit. I think that campus is very lucky to have DELTA.”