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Letter from Leadership

Dear colleagues,

As we round out the third year of Operational Excellence, I am pleased to share our annual report for the 2020 – 2021 academic term and recognize the accomplishments and exceptional members of our community that have contributed to an outstanding year. Over the past year I have been reminded time and time again how lucky we have been to have such incredible campus partners. Throughout 2021 our small team was pulled in countless directions, responding to some of our university’s most critical issues including Carolina’s response to COVID-19, Classroom Operations, Student Registration, the Future of Work, transformation in the Adams School of Dentistry and other strategic initiatives.

I’d especially like to thank members of our Steering and Advisory Committees. In August of 2021, after reviewing our current and future opportunities, we decided to transition from working with a campus Steering Committee to establishing a smaller Advisory Committee. The Operational Excellence Advisory Committee, comprised of faculty and administrators with subject matter expertise, partners with the OE team to provide key institutional knowledge as well as data-centered, financial, and operational perspectives. Thank you to Associate Vice Chancellor of Finance and Budget Steve Agostini, Chief of Staff to the Chancellor Amy Locklear Hertel, Associate Professor in the UNC School of Medicine Lukasz Mazur,  Adjunct Assistant Professor in the UNC Kenan-Flagler School of Business Stevie McNeal, Director of UNC ITS Enterprise Reporting & Analytics Rachel Serrano, and Professor of Operations and Sarah Graham Kenan Scholar in the UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School Bradley Staats for agreeing to serve on this invaluable committee.

Overall, the 2020-2021 academic year was one of transition for OE. I want to thank Joe Canady, Jason Derrick, and Sarah Leck for their years of service to Operational Excellence. This year Joe  left the OE team to serve in a different capacity in the Office of the Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost, Jason has transitioned  to a role within the Office of the Vice-Chancellor for Research, and Sarah started a new role in Greensboro, North Carolina. We wish them all the best in their new roles and are excited to see all they accomplish!  This year we were also fortunate to see our small team grow. In July, former Chancellor’s Fellow Nick Sengstaken stepped into Sarah Leck’s former role as Program Coordinator for Operational Excellence and Strategic Initiatives and we welcomed Amie Sigmann back to UNC-Chapel Hill in a temporary position as the Program Coordinator for the Carolina Together Ambassador Program. Furthermore, in October, Liz Billings joined our team as a part-time Continuous Improvement Consultant and Suzie Baker came aboard as our new Transformation Manager. We’re so excited to have them on our team and can’t wait to see all they accomplish with Operational Excellence.

This year we also announced Meagan Solloway, chief operations manager for the UNC Adams School of Dentistry Dean’s Office, as our first Operational Excellence Resident. The new OE Residency Program is a four-to-six-month professional development program designed for individuals seeking to gain a better understanding of the Transformation and Continuous Improvement processes. Residents will work directly with an OE Transformation Manager to plan, facilitate, and participate in design teams, engage with faculty and staff from across the university, and learn the ins and outs of the OE toolbox. The OE Residency Program’s application is open now on the Operational Excellence website to all staff currently employed by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

As with every year, our team is proud to be defined by our high caliber of work and the services we provide. Coming out of the challenging yet successful academic year that was 2019-2020, OE began 2020 by instating a new service: project and change management. This service offering allows OE team members to properly respond to high-priority issues facing the university. Operational Excellence supported initiatives utilizing project and change management (including the Lab School Support, Carolina Together Testing Program Coordination, and Democracy Promotion) have centered around working with stakeholders to develop and implement appropriate and thoughtful solutions. With our new project and change management service, OE is excited to provide continuous quality improvement across campus through meaningful and time-sensitive projects.

While not an official service of OE, benchmarking research became an important tool to our team throughout 2021. OE team members frequently looked to colleagues at Carolina as well as those at our peer institutions to discover and affirm best practices. Throughout 2020, team members examined effective COVID-19 procedures and related academic policies, unit structures, strategic objectives, and various operational efficiency measures to advance Carolina’s key mission of teaching, learning and research.

Most importantly, in 2021 we continued to engage in a diverse portfolio of new and ongoing projects with numerous units across campus. Members of the OE team are supporting administrative excellence in areas such as the Adams School of Dentistry, International Student and Scholar Services, Office of Human Resources, Office of the University Registrar, Office of the Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost and the Office of the Chancellor. The main section of this report details the goals and status of each new and ongoing engagement.

Thank you, as always, for joining us on this journey to operational excellence throughout the University. I look forward to sharing even more success stories with you over the next year.

Rick Wernoski
Senior Vice Provost for Business Operations 

Rick Wernoski, Senior Vice Provost for Business Operations

Year at a Glance

October 2020
After 17 weeks, Jason Derrick and the Exchange Visitor (J-1) Design Team held their final design team meeting. 

November 2020
Operational Excellence Data Use & Literacy project unveiled a new home for University-level dashboards, the Carolina Analytics Portal at, led by Candace Reynolds.

January 2021
Mieke Lynch works with Dr. Amir Barzin to open seven temporary pop-up collection sites and three permanent on-campus collection sites opened to Carolina students, faculty, and staff as part of the Carolina Together Testing Program in accordance with the start of the Spring 2021 semester. 

March 2021
Candace Reynolds began meeting virtually with the Adams School of Dentistry Patient Scheduling Design Team, the first of two phases of that project. 

July 2021
Mieke Lynch reconvened several members of the Student Registration design team to revisit registration changes and plan for implementation in October 2021.  

August 2021
To assist those returning to campus, Rick Wernoski and Nick Sengstaken work with Dr Steven King and the Reese Innovation Lab to position Health Greeter Kiosks at heavily trafficked campus locations 

September 2021
The Carolina Together Ambassador program begins to offer full-day staffing coverage of the asymptomatic COVID-19 testing center at the Student Union, to provide more organized and efficient access to the center.

October 2021
The Adams School of Dentistry project is completed. Suzie Baker and Candace Reynolds begin the Future of Work design team.

November 2021
Changes to undergraduate registration, developed by the Student Registration design team, were implemented for Spring 2022 registration which ran from October through November 202


The Operational Excellence team led projects across campus this year using approaches from the OE Service Model. Click the dropdown tiles below to learn more about each engagement. 

Service: Design Team & Advisory and Project and Change Management
Project Lead: Candace Reynolds 

In 2021, Operational Excellence Transformation Manager Candace Reynolds began working with the Adams School of Dentistry (ASOD) to increase patient volume in the student clinic. This project had two phases – patient scheduling and admissions.

For the first phase, Candace led a team that designed and piloted two patient scheduling processes for the summer clinic, both of which outperformed the previous process. The selected new scheduling process, which leverages student capacity for scheduling, launched with the fall clinic. Candace also improved student and patient communications by implementing a new process that allows students to receive MyChart messages directly from patients. Due to these changes, the percentage of follow‐up appointments scheduled during visits increased from 36% in Spring 2021 to 62% in the pilot.

The second phase of this engagement focused on increasing throughput for patient admissions. Candace worked with ASOD staff to identify core issues and implement a series of improvements throughout the process. The patient registration survey was redesigned to address routing issues and improve the user experience. Admissions capacity was increased by working with the Chief Dental Officer to implement super screening weeks when faculty and student schedules allowed. From August to October, the number of screening appointments scheduled increased by 77% over the previous model. A new admissions model was also implemented to screen patients through central admissions (with defined exceptions) to determine the appropriate provider level. This eliminated the need for each resident clinic to have a separate admissions screening process. The result is a more streamlined process, more accurate provider assignment, and more patients for the student clinic. Along with this, the patient assignment process for the student providers was redesigned, working with the Care Coordinators and the Admissions team. ASOD students require experience with many procedures to graduate and the redesigned process increases equity in patient assignment. In the fall, these combined efforts reduced the admissions backlog by 3,000 and brought over 650 new patients into the student clinic.

In addition, this nontraditional OE engagement also included several other efforts. The first aimed to reduce the ASOD’s dependency on an external call center. The patient scheduling and communications work, as well as piloting an internal phone support service were key to reducing school-wide use of the external service. These changes resulted in savings of over $30,000 a month. Beyond that, Candace managed the relationship with Epic support to extract data that will enable building dashboards for continuous monitoring of key metrics. To increase build continuous quality improvement skills within ASOD, Candace also provided coaching to several staff members.

Service: Design Team
Project Lead: Candace Reynolds and Suzie Baker
OE Resident: Meagan Solloway

Transformation Managers Candace Reynolds and Suzie Baker partnered with leaders from Human Resources, Equal Opportunity and Compliance, and Finance and Operations to launch an 8-workshop design team project in October 2021. This project presented an opportunity to re-imagine work at Carolina, leveraging what the University learned during the COVID-19 pandemic. To help inform this project, a survey was shared with all permanent, full-time, non-faculty employees in early October that aimed to capture the community’s feelings towards the University’s Flexible Work Location Pilot Program as compared to their pre-pandemic work experiences. The Future of Work project sought to build upon what was learned from the pandemic and the Pilot Program, in order to establish guardrails for exploring and implementing flexible work arrangements beyond the existing pilot and telework policies. The project was guided by two essential priorities: to support an exceptional employee experience by providing flexible work options while upholding a world-class on-campus experience for our students.

The Future of Work design team, comprised of 13 members representing diverse perspectives from around the institution, met weekly to help define the options for remote work as well as to develop tools to support equitable and consistent decision-making about work arrangements. They developed a two-part playbook to guide decision-making about flexible working arrangements and offer resources to maximize successful implementation. The playbook provides guardrails that include options for remote work locations based on job categories and factors that balance opportunities for flexibility while fostering an engaging on-campus student experience. The playbook also includes resources and guidance about work schedule options, communication and collaboration, IT security and best practices, equipment, and guidance for supervisors. In late December the project team completed a draft playbook for consideration and feedback.

Service: Design Team
Project Lead: Mieke Lynch

In November 2019, Transformation Manager Mieke Lynch partnered with the Office of the University Registrar to bring together a diverse group of 15 individuals from across campus to improve the registration experience for more than 19,000 undergraduate students at Carolina. The Student Registration Design Team quickly discovered that undergraduate students were frustrated by the lack of transparency surrounding how registration appointments were assigned, felt rushed by the registration schedule, and had identified that the way registration appointments were assigned hindered the ability of transfer and dual enrollment students to register for the classes they needed to graduate. The team collaborated with various campus stakeholders, benchmarked against peer institutions, and developed creative solutions to address these challenges and create a registration process that is more transparent, alleviates feelings of being rushed, and makes access to classes more equitable.

After collecting and integrating feedback from stakeholders, some of the changes to how undergraduate students register for classes include but are not limited to:

  • Undergraduate students register for classes in two distinct waves. In Wave 1 students can register for up to 12 credit hours. In Wave 2 students can register for up to 17 credit hours.
  • Longer appointment times.
  • Created a formula to assign registration appointments in a way that is more equitable and transparent.

After an initial delay due to the onset of the pandemic, the new registration changes were implemented in October 2021 for Spring 2022 registration. While anecdotal feedback has been positive, the team is continuing to track and evaluate the impact of these changes so the registration process can continuously be improved to enhance the registration experience and needs of Carolina’s undergraduate students.

Service: Advisory & Project and Change Management
Project Lead: Nicholas Sengstaken & Amie Sigmann

In June of 2021, in line with Operational Excellence’s new service of Project and Change Management, OE Team members began providing support to the fifth Strategic Initiative (entitled “Promote Democracy”) of UNC’s strategic plan, Carolina Next: Innovations for Public GoodThe pan-university goal of Promote Democracy is to make Carolina—the nation’s first public university–the beacon for principled and effective democracy worldwide. As expected, some initiatives of the Carolina Next plan were able to implement widespread changes immediately after conception, while others, like Promote Democracy, required some more deep-thinking and strategic planning to build infrastructure and a means to transformation. Seeing an opportunity to promote the University’s mission of teaching, learning and research, Operational Excellence leveraged resources of the Carolina Together Ambassador Program to bolster the staffing and programming of Strategic Initiative 5. At this point, Mary-Rose Papandrea, strategic captain of Promote Democracy and Samuel Ashe Distinguished Professor of Constitutional Law, and Nick Sengstaken, Program Coordinator for Operational Excellence and Strategic Initiatives, formed processes for ongoing collaboration between the initiative and Operational Excellence. In Fall of 2021, Amie Sigmann, Program Coordinator for CTA and Joshua Romero, Chancellor’s Fellow, joined as administrative staff. Since these collaborations began, sizable progress has been made to tackle the ambitious and far-reaching objectives of Strategic Initiative 5. Through this partnership, the websitedemocracy.unc.edulaunched to promote existing democratic events on campus and disseminate information on voting. In addition, various professors, administrators, and key voices on democratic issues across campus have been invited and begun to serve in advisory groups for the three prongs of Promote Democracy – Civic Engagement, Civil Discourse and Interdisciplinary Research. While supporting this Democracy Initiative, OE has been able to assist by facilitating visioning exercises in advisory meetings, producing content for the website, and otherwise engaging in project and change management to help propel ideas into infrastructure. 

Service: Project and Change Management
Project Lead: Mieke Lynch

The Operational Excellence team is currently playing a critical role in establishing a new UNC System Lab School in partnership with the School of Education. The UNC System Lab School initiative aims to provide enhanced educational programming to students in low-performing K-8 schools and create partnerships with local school districts. This will promote evidence-based teaching and school leadership, while offering real-world experience to the next generation of teachers and principals. Once a partner school district is identified, work in the space will include facilitating collaboration with campus partners to establish all operations and programming for a new Lab School. 

Service: Design Team
Project Lead: Jason Derrick

As Operational Excellence’s first-ever virtual design team, the J-1 Exchange Visitor Design Team, led by former Transformation Manager Jason Derrick, partnered with leaders from UNC Global and International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) to develop a playbook to codify best practices and add structure, clarity, and consistency into the J-1 Exchange visitor process. In partnership with the Office of Research Information Systems, a new electronic case tracking system (Global Applications) was also developed which introduced additional process enhancements. These improvements, which were designed in 2020, were rolled out to campus in August of 2021 alongside associated trainings.   

The Carolina Together Ambassador Program (CTA) exists to provide a dynamic community solution to evolving operational needs on campus related to COVID-19 and Carolina’s return to a more normal campus experience. CTA supports the universities response to COVID-19 by combining customer service, event management, and building operations support  which promotes positive health behaviors and the COVID-19 Community Standards. Most importantly, ambassadors help to make Carolina’s campus friendlier, safer, easier to navigate, and a bit more like “home.”

Spring 2021: Over the course of the Spring 2021 semester, Carolina Together Ambassadors (CTAs) provided a “friendly face” to students navigating a campus like no other. During this time CTAs strived to help students navigate changes to campus operations – such as new classroom locations, one-way doors, and a modified instructional schedule – and promote COVID-19 health and safety protocols. With over 3000 hours logged, CTAs offered customer service support, answered questions, and assisted with wayfinding at three COVID-19 testing sites, 15 academic buildings and two university libraries. Beyond that, CTAs aimed to promote Carolina’s COVID-19 Community Standards and protocols. This was primarily done through one of the most popular and successful outcomes of the ambassadors’ work: the Golden Ticket program. This initiative was designed to incentivize healthy behavior on campus (such as mask-wearing, hand washing, and physical distancing), reward community members following the COVID-19 Community Standards and support local Chapel Hill businesses struggling due to the pandemic. Thanks to the support from the Carolina community, ambassadors were able to award over 1,250 Golden Tickets. This resulted in 65 gift cards to local businesses being distributed. In the Spring of 2021, the CTA program was staffed by a combination of work-study students, student and staff volunteers, and athletic event management staff (many of whom were alumni or community members). The diverse makeup of the CTA team helped build a sense of community on campus during a particularly isolating time. On one occasion, Paul Ensslin, a member of UNC’s Athletic Event Management Staff, Carolina Together Ambassador, and UNC School of Journalism and Media Alumni, was able to navigate first-year students through a maze of Carroll Hall construction to their first in-person course at Carolina (while reminiscing about his favorite undergraduate courses housed in that same building years earlier). Due to the evolving nature of the pandemic throughout the Spring, the roles and responsibilities of Ambassadors changed frequently. The program began by providing support to students returning to the classroom amid the pandemic. CTAs were posted at 15 university buildings throughout the day and redeployed based on class schedules and traffic flow. As new challenges were identified, CTA redesigned itself to match the campus’ need. The first example of this came as ambassadors stepped in to provide customer service support and community standard promotion at UNC’s Davis and Health Sciences Libraries. When the campus’ COVID-19 testing sites experienced long lines and wait times, ambassadors were redeployed again to manage traffic flow, answer questions, and prepare community members for testing. Due to a lower-than-expected number of in-person courses, as the semester progressed CTA began to shift away from academic buildings and to “mobile ambassador” shifts located in high trafficked areas on campus such as the PIT and Polk Place. This support, mixed with an ongoing presence at the Testing Sites and just two select academic buildings, allowed ambassadors to optimize their impact despite reduced campus operations.

Fall 2021: In the beginning of the Fall 2021 semester, CTAs played a pivotal role in welcoming the Carolina community back to campus, by supporting University-sponsored events such as the Week of Welcome, Smallfest, and more. Additionally, in Fall 2021 the CTA program launched an event staffing request process, so that on-campus departments, centers, and other organizations could request the assistance of CTAs at their events to promote and incentivize mask-wearing and other healthy behaviors and assist with other customer service needs. Using this process, the CTA program was able to support a wide array of university events, including music department performances, ceremonies at Memorial Hall, 2020 Commencement, and VIP seating experiences for football game attendees. Throughout the fall of 2021, the CTA program continued to adapt to reflect new and ever-changing campus operations and needs. As students settled into their classes and daily schedules, CTA’s site locations evolved to include primarily mobile shifts to help de-densify campus dining hall locations, to promote mask-wearing in indoor spaces such as the Carolina Union and provide a sense of togetherness and welcoming for campus visitors at the Old Well. As in the previous semester, CTAs were deployed to the Student Union Testing site location to direct line traffic, streamline access to testing, and address any questions or concerns. During the fall semester, the CTA program was staffed by work-study students  and a few highly dedicated Athletic Event Management Staff members. Altogether, CTAs worked over a combined 2,000 hours over the course of the Fall 2021 semester! In Fall 2021, the Golden Ticket program also expanded to incentivize COVID-19 vaccination and thank UNC faculty and staff for receiving the vaccine and reporting their status to the university. After activating their Golden Ticket, ticketholders became eligible to win a variety of prizes, including UNC Student Store gift cards, Carolina Dining Services meal vouchers, or other special university experiences. Over the course of the semester, Golden Tickets prizes were distributed to over 250 lucky winners! On any given day of the 2021 academic year, there were over a dozen ambassadors working at various locations around campus with one primary question displayed: “How can I help?” We hope that if you saw an ambassador at one of their many locations across campus, you stopped and said hello or asked a question about the community standards or campus in general. If you were lucky, you might have even won a Golden Ticket prize!

As we entered the second year of the COVID-19 Pandemic, Operational Excellence again took center stage supporting the University’s pandemic response. In addition to the work outlined as part of the Carolina Together Ambassador Program (including Community Standard promotion, vaccine incentives, and community building), 2021 saw OE team members leading to facilitate the work of the Roadmap Implementation Team, manage University building operations, and advance the Carolina Together Testing Program.

Roadmap Implementation Team Facilitation & Communications Support:
During the Spring of 2021, as Candace Reynolds transitioned to conduct her work in the Adams School of Dentistry, Mieke Lynch and Nicholas Sengstaken stepped up and began providing additional support to the Roadmap Implementation Team. This included the continued assistance with communications efforts, including the Student Care Hub, Carolina Together Website, and COVID-19 Dashboard.

Carolina Together Testing Program:
The Carolina Together Testing Program (CTTP) was created to facilitate safe in-person learning during the pandemic. The CTTP involved the creation of the University’s own lab, three collection sites, a Cluster Response Testing Team, the HallPass web application and seven short-term pop-up collection sites. Transformation Manager Mieke Lynch worked closely with Dr. Amir Barzin to facilitate collaboration and coordination with campus partners to ensure that the right parties came together to operationalize such a massive project comprehensively and efficiently. Additional support for CTTP included training and managing staff and volunteers, responding to incoming questions and comments, creating campus-wide communications, and facilitating the ongoing evolution of the program in response to new information and guidance regarding COVID-19.

Classroom Operations:
Building on the success of last year, Rick Wernoski and Nicholas Sengstaken continued supporting a cross-campus effort in collaboration with the College of Arts & Sciences, Office of the Registrar, ITS, Facilities Services and other key groups to optimize classroom operations to promote safe instructional, learning, and studying environments. The Classroom Operations Team applied the University’s evolving community standards to the classroom setting and reimagined the configuration, technology, and usage of classrooms and other spaces. This, leading up to the Fall 2021 semester, also included the management of Building Access across campus, strategic student-designed technological solutions (including Ultraloop and Health Greeter Kiosks) and traffic flow in and out of buildings.