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Photos of Together We Will nominees
Winner and nominees from UW Facilities reflect on work

Congratulations to custodian Evalina Taganna Romano for being one of the winners of the UW Together We Will award for 2022. She and the other winners from across the University will be honored at the 52nd annual Awards of Excellence reception at Meany Hall on Thursday, June 9.  The Together We Will Awards serve as a temporary replacement for the Distinguished Staff Award (DSA) program, which will be back next year.

In addition to Evalina, seven other UW Facilities employees were also nominated for the award this year:

  • Amanda Grace, Program Coordinator, Regulated Materials Office
  • Cesar Escobar, Systems Engineer, Business Information Technology
  • Ellen Perry, Gardener Lead, Maintenance & Construction
  • Liz Penttila, Organization Development Specialist, Maintenance & Construction
  • Matthew Johnson, Custodian, Building Services Department
  • Mayes Battle, Custodian, Building Services Department
  • William Russell Brown, Industrial Hygienist 2, Regulated Materials

We asked these employees to give voice and share a few insights on their work. Interviews have been edited for length and clarity. Some nominees could not be reached in time for publication or chose not to submit answers for this blog post.

Together We Will award winner

Evalina Taganna Romano, Custodian

What is a favorite aspect of your job or working for the University in general?
I am proud to be part of the University because it gives me work and helps me to support my family. I like that I can help students by cleaning their surroundings so that they can focus on their studies.

What motivates you each day — any word of inspiration or advice you’d like to share?
Seeing my co-workers motivates me every day. We are always happy to see each other because we laugh and talk early in the morning. We bring coffee and food for each other during our break time.

I will miss the students and the other people in my building when I retire one day. I have worked the longest out of many of my co-workers and I have appreciated our time together. Especially during the pandemic times, it is important to find ways to be happy while being at work.

What’s the most interesting aspect about your job that people would be surprised to learn?
[Working in the Art building], many art students ask me to be a part of their projects like photography and portraits, and they show these for their exhibits. I am happy that they think of me and that I’m important to them. Of all the people in the building, they picked me. Students have given me things that they make like earrings, pins and a wine glass. Some students bring me souvenirs when they travel.

When I was working the night shift, a student didn’t have money for the bus. So I gave her money and she paid me back the next time she saw me. It’s important for me to help other people.

What does this recognition mean to you personally and/or professionally?
This is very important for me and my work of over 33 years as a custodian. This is the first time that I’m recognized like this. It is meaningful to be selected and I’m happy that they recognize me for all of the years I have worked at the UW. I wasn’t expecting it. Maybe it’s because I’m always caring for students and staff. I always try my best to help. Makes me feel very happy and it’s hard to believe.

Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
I’m very proud of [my daughter, Evalynn Fae Taganna Romano] for what she did in helping custodians.* I’m sure her dad would be proud too. She cares about all of the custodians and we are very fortunate.

*For more on Evalynn Fae Taganna Romano’s work advocating for custodians, see her website.

Together We Will award nominees

Amanda Grace, Program Coordinator

What is a favorite aspect of your job or working for the University in general?
I love the people and the relationships that I’ve build over the years. I’ve been here 18 years as of April.

What motivates you each day — any word of inspiration or advice you’d like to share?
I do my best not to let anything get me down, even if I’m having a rough day I always try to answer every phone call with a smile. At times, I fake it until I make it. Even if you feel sad, smiling kind of gets you going in the right direction.

What’s the most interesting aspect about your job that people would be surprised to learn?
For me, it’s the moving parts when scheduling safety training. It’s like a game of mental Tetris. I have to consider people’s shifts, what are the workloads for the different departments and keeping certain people together in training.

What does this recognition mean to you personally and/or professionally?
Sometimes I feel like the work that I do is either behind the scenes and isn’t seen. I wonder if people dread when I call because I’m calling to ask if someone can spare a body to attend a training session. Being recognized is always appreciated, it feels good.
 

Cesar Escobar, Systems Engineer

What is a favorite aspect of your job or working for the University in general?
Learning how complex and interconnected the facilities are here on the Seattle campus.

What motivates you each day — any word of inspiration or advice you’d like to share?
I am motivated by the fact that I can make a difference in a co-worker’s day when a solution to a complex issue is resolved.

What does this recognition mean to you personally and/or professionally?
It made my day when I found out that co-workers expressed positive thoughts about my involvement in their work day.

 


Ellen Perry, Gardener Lead

What is a favorite aspect of your job or working for the University in general?
As a gardener I get to be outside every day and see our landscapes change through the seasons.  

What motivates you each day — any word of inspiration or advice you’d like to share?
I truly enjoy gardening and the opportunity to practice creative stewardship of the landscape. 

What’s the most interesting aspect about your job that people would be surprised to learn?
There is a tremendous amount of variety in our work. Not only do tasks change with the seasons (watering in the summer, leaf pickup in the fall, snow removal in winter, weeding always), the type of work we do can be different every day too. Sometimes we are on our hands and knees weeding a newly planted bed, other times we are in a lift truck trimming a tree, and yet other times we are patrolling for litter or clearing a sidewalk.  There is always something new to figure out.

What does this recognition mean to your personally and/or professionally?
It is an honor to be recognized by my co-workers who all work very hard, are knowledgeable and committed, and are always willing to lend a hand or share a joke.
 

Liz Penttila, Organization Development Specialist

What is a favorite aspect of your job or working for the University in general?
Definitely the people I work with! There’s so much talent in the Facilities department – both job skills and everything else. I’m constantly finding out about new skills and talents my coworkers have.

What motivates you each day — any word of inspiration or advice you’d like to share?
I try to remind myself that every day I can do some kind of work that helps someone else. Maybe I help a client get an air purifier or help streamline a work process that makes a peer’s work easier, or maybe I can just offer an ear and a cup of tea to someone who is struggling. Helping other people reminds me of my purpose and helps me keep moving forward.

What does this recognition mean to you personally and/or professionally?
Like anyone, I’m proud to have received recognition for my efforts. I really believe that I owe my success to every single person in my organization trying their best throughout COVID to work safely, communicate well and help each other do our best. Every single person has done exceptional things over the last two years, in and out of the workplace.


Matthew Johnson, Custodian

What is a favorite aspect of your job or working for the University in general?
My favorite aspect of the job has to be detail project work when we have the time, though I also take a lot of pride in being able to service the School of Social Work.

What motivates you each day — any word of inspiration or advice you’d like to share?
Finding motivation can be tough, though seeing or hearing that I’ve made a positive impact almost always lifts my mood; I just want to be happy and make others happy. I sometimes spend breaks outside with the crows or other campus critters for an extra boost. I find it’s a little easier to smile after feeding a squirrel or crow an unsalted peanut.

What’s the most interesting aspect about your job that people would be surprised to learn?
The most interesting aspect that goes most unseen would have to be clean ups from transient drug users or vandals and how long it takes to make sure everything is safely managed before our buildings open. It’s unavoidable in the city, but know that we’re doing what we can to keep you all safe.

What does this recognition mean to you personally and/or professionally?
This recognition lets me know that I really have made an impact, and that I need to keep it up. As someone who has struggled with self-worth a good bit through his life, things like this remind me that I’m doing okay.  Aside from that I’d just like to wish everyone well. Take care, and stay safe out there!