“His Kindness is Selfless”: Honoring Outstanding Staff at UVM

Tiffany Delaney, at left, and Mike Cross
Tiffany Delaney, at left, and Mike Cross

“His Kindness is Selfless”: Honoring Outstanding Staff at UVM
The University of Vermont Our Common Ground award recognizes staff members who exemplify the qualities of UVM’s Our Common Ground, the statement of aspirations and shared values for the UVM Community. This year, two members of the Larner College of Medicine community received the award: Tiffany Delaney, MA.Ed., director of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, and Michael Cross, custodial maintenance worker. The following are remarks made on their behalf at the awards ceremony.

Remarks from Amy Schumer, M.D.’17, honoring Michael Cross
Good morning friends, colleagues and guests.  It is an honor to be speaking to all of you today about this incredible man, Michael Cross.  I met Mike almost four years ago as a first year medical student.  He has been at the University of Vermont since 1976 working in the role of a custodial maintenance worker.  Currently he is responsible for the care of a space where over 400 hurried medical students trample through daily.  His supervisor writes, “Mike has quietly performed his custodial duties and takes great pride in his work. He regularly has years with perfect attendance and still looks forward to coming to work every day. [He] has embraced the growing diversity of our staff and does his best to make [each co-worker] feel welcome.”

One of my peers shared  “even when as a boneheaded 4th year, attempting to wave hello, I dropped a coffee and a breakfast sandwich over a just mopped floor. instead of lashing out, cursing, or even looking upset, Mr. Cross kindly told me to stop flailing and that everyone makes mistakes.  His job can be thankless, and I know of times where we have certainly made it harder.  Despite this, I’ve never detected anything other than sincere warmth in our interactions.”

Without a doubt, Mike does an excellent job at work.   But what makes him exceptional are the countless examples of how he goes above and beyond his required duties.  He makes meaningful and lasting connections with everyone he meets.  He knows the name of almost every single medical student and where most of us are from. He sat by me as I opened the test results of our hugely anticipated Step 1 exam.  He is a kind judge during the annual College of Medicine Talent show.  He has helped students move boxes.  He helped out with a silent auction to raise funds for the UVM Cancer Rehabilitation center and not only contributed valuable goods that resulted in hundreds of dollars raised, he enthusiastically volunteered to attend, set up, and stay late to deconstruct everything. He makes all students feel at home, despite how far away from home they are.

One classmate shared, “While I was studying for the first part of my licensing exam, I ran into him almost every day when he came to clean the study rooms. I told him when I was taking the exam and it became a ritual that he would come by, tell me good luck and that I only had a certain amount of weeks or days left until the big day.”

And these are all things not part of his job description nor were they asked of him.  His kindness is selfless.  He cares deeply about the people he works with and treats everyone he crosses paths with as a close friend.  Mike is generous, respectful, hardworking, and sincere.

Simply put, the impact Mike has made on this community over the past forty years is reflected by the innumerable moments in the day when he sees a student and asks them about their day, points them in the right direction, or sits with them as they read the results of an important test.  His dedication to the improvement of our daily lives is marked by astounding sincerity and warmth.  One cannot picture the University of Vermont without Mike, and even those that may not know his name know his smiling face and his encouraging words.

Remarks from Diane Jaworski, Ph.D., professor of neurological sciences, regarding Tiffany Delaney

Tiffany may not think of herself as such, but she is an artisan. She displays Adaptability, Resilience, Tenacity, and Inclusion as a Student Advocate and Nurturer.  In both her previous role as Director of Admissions and her current role as Director of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion at the Larner College of Medicine, Tiffany has strived to recruit students of diverse backgrounds. She has worked tirelessly to retain students by creating an environment of justice, respect and responsibility that acknowledges and validates their contributions to the College and Medicine.

Tiffany is the embodiment of the principles of Our Common Ground.  She developed a Our Common Ground diversity presentation given to College of Medicine applicants on the interview day to demonstrate that the University of Vermont firmly believes that diversity and inclusion are drivers of academic excellence and necessary to address health disparities.  In addition, she developed several Our Common Ground activities for medical student orientation focused on the principles of openness and respect for ourselves and others, integrity, justice, innovation and responsibility that sets the tone for the incoming medical students.  Tiffany empowers student to enact change.

However, change can be difficult, so the key to ensuring their success is Tiffany’s tenacity, resilience and adaptability.  She was essential in creating the College of Medicine’s first explicitly gender neutral restroom and private changing room adjacent to the anatomy lab to ensure students were not forced to change in gendered communal changing spaces.  These resources allow students to feel respected, acknowledged, validated and safe.  Due to her initiatives, the Larner College of Medicine is now a recognized leader for openness and inclusivity of transgender students in practice and not just theory, where all our students can achieve their true academic potential.

Tiffany’s impact is not limited to medical students. Her work has also cultivated and supported members of the College of Medicine faculty, staff and the broader UVM community through collaboration with the LGBTQA Center, the ALANA Coalition, the Women’s Center and the Division of Human Resources, Diversity and Multicultural Affairs. In 2014, her work helped UVM earn its first Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) award from INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine.

Tiffany’s impact at UVM cannot be overstated.  She is respected and highly sought after by students, as well as faculty and staff.  People like Tiffany, who devote themselves to the nurturing and cultivation of life-long leaders, make our community great and a place that others want to join.

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