VCU president receives Chief Executive HR Champion Award

Michael Rao speaking at a podium
VCU President Michael Rao speaking at the university's 2019 service awards reception. (Kevin Morley, University Marketing)

Michael Rao, Ph.D., president of Virginia Commonwealth University and the VCU Health System, has received the 2020 Chief Executive HR Champion Award from the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources.

The award honors a president or chancellor of a higher education institution or system who has demonstrated significant support for its human resources function. The association will offer an $8,000 contribution to VCU’s endowment or a scholarship fund of Rao’s choice.

On Jan. 1, 2018, VCU launched a revitalized human resources plan titled Great Place: HR Redesign. The initiative was designed to support the success and careers of employees, helping VCU hire and retain talented individuals who provide the highest quality services to students, patients and the community.

Rao challenged the HR department to create a plan with a focus on areas such as career development and advancement, market- and merit-based pay, and work/life enrichment through employee wellness programs and enhanced benefit and leave packages. At the end of 2019, 78% of VCU’s staff were enrolled in the new HR plan created as a result of Great Place: HR Redesign, demonstrating the trust employees have in the new initiative.

“The Great Place: HR Redesign is a shining example of Dr. Rao’s support of human resources and, ultimately, his commitment to innovation at the university,” said Cathleen C. Burke, VCU assistant vice president for human resources. “Dr. Rao’s visionary leadership propelled HR from a transactional department to a strategic business partner. This change led to VCU’s unique ability to recruit and retain top talent by supporting the institution while placing the focus on the employee.”

The College and University Professional Association for Human Resources provides leadership on higher education workplace issues to its more than 2,000 member institutions and organizations around the country and abroad.

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