Campus Life

Academic Affairs Announces ‘Idea Contest’ Winners

Winning ideas included a virtual reality diversity experience and carnival-themed games that ask multiple-choice, diversity-related questions.
By Jasmine Johnson, Texas A&M University Division of Enrollment & Academic Services February 12, 2021

a light bulb lit up with the words "Big Idea"
The Ideas Contest subcommittee was formed in response to an item in the 2016 Academic Affairs Climate Survey.



The Academic Affairs Climate and Diversity Committee (AACDC) announced the winners of its “Idea Contest,” which awards one-time funding for ideas that could benefit Texas A&M staff to promote climate, efficiency and/or effectiveness in their work groups, offices and departments or impact the university as a whole.

“All of the IDEAS contest’s winning proposals exemplify the Academic Affair’s initiative for diversity,” said Patricia Johnson Alexander, AACDC liaison for the Ideas subcommittee. “This contest reflects that all employees have a voice and can be heard, and each can contribute and simultaneously advocate for the achievement of Texas A&M University’s commitment for diversity.”

The winners are:

Best Overall Group Proposal
“Virtual Reality Diversity Experience”
Nate Poling and Brandon Cooper (Center for Teaching Excellence) and Shelby Vaughn (Texas AgriLife Extension) cowrote the proposal that would bring state-of-the-art, immersive virtual reality training aimed at increasing empathy and improving perspective.

Best Overall Individual Proposal
Academic Affairs Orientation
Proposed by Dr. Suzanne Droleskey, executive director of the Public Partnership and Outreach Effectiveness. She proposed a macro-level orientation program for all staff new to the Division of Academic Affairs that would facilitate broader understanding of the Provost’s goals and division structure, networking across office boundaries for new staff, a stronger sense of teamwork and better retention of staff within the division.

Best Improving Diversity Award
Rachel Scholz won for “The Different Carnival,” suggesting diversity and its impact on employees, departments and the university as a whole would best be taught in an entertaining way based on a carnival theme with games that ask multiple-choice, diversity-related questions.

Best Workplace Innovations/Resources Award
The Academic Affairs Recruiting Office—Jill Caruso, Brooke Fletcher, Jovana Guillen and Tara Hunter— won proposed obtaining access to a LinkedIn recruiter as an innovative, intentional and proactive staff recruitment approach.

Best Workplace Innovations/Resources Award Runner-up
John A. Flores Jr., Scholarships and Financial Aid, proposed having junior-level members on student-focused committees.

Best Workplace Innovations/Resources Award Honorable Mention
Alexis Ramos and Tiffany Tigges from the University Writing Center for “Movement Consultations,” which would enable their center to offer a consultation option that incorporates the research-proven benefits of movement to the composition process.

The Ideas Contest subcommittee was formed in response to an item in the 2016 Academic Affairs Climate Survey. The goal was to establish a contest allowing any level of division staff to submit innovative ideas that will improve diversity, work/life balance and/or innovation. The first contest was held in 2018 and two of the winning proposals were selected to receive additional funding from the Provost’s Office and were implemented division wide.

The prizes range from $250-$500 cash awards.

Media contact: Jasmine Johnson,

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