DHS News November 2013
7th Annual Case Competition Tackles HR Issues
A team of graduate students from the University of
Pittsburgh (Pitt) and Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) took first place and the
$3,000 prize in the Department of Human Service (DHS) 7th annual case
competition, held Nov. 9 in the Human Services Building, Downtown.
Aston Armstrong, of Pitt’s Graduate School of Public and
International Affairs; Andrea Thurau of Pitt’s School of Social Work; and
Maureen Washburn of CMU’s H.
John Heinz III College won the competition, operating as Team Birmingham. Three other
teams took 2nd, 3rd and 4th place, winning $1,500, $500 and gift cards, respectively.
challenged teams to develop a three-year recruitment and retention plan to meet
the department’s desire to build a modern human services workforce while
meeting a range of employment challenges.
devised strategies to improve one key workforce characteristic -- talent,
diversity or commitment – for one targeted workforce segment – front line,
support or leadership. Teams had to think creatively; develop a timeline;
ensure their plan extended to providers and contracted workers; offer a process
of evaluation; and finally, make a 20-minute presentation using PowerPoint and
verbal arguments before a panel of judges to convince them of the viability of
The judges and the winning team.
teams had from Wednesday evening, Nov. 6, when they received the challenge
issue, to 7 a.m. Saturday to prepare their case.
Sixteen people from DHS staff and leadership, provider
agencies, foundation partners and subject matter experts served as judges.
Those included Pat Valentine, DHS Executive Deputy Director for
Integrated Program Services; Erin
Dalton, Deputy Director, Office of Data Analysis, Research and Evaluation;
Jacki Hoover, Assistant Deputy Director, Office of Children, Youth and
Families; and Jamie Regan, DHS Director of Human Resources. John Sawyer, DHS
Manager of Government Affairs and Public Policy, served as emcee.
Birmingham’s proposal created a Leadership Ladder Program, intending to win and
retain talent by capitalizing on desires expressed by 100 Pitt and CMU
students, ages 22 to 30, in a team-conducted survey that indicated top
attractions in a career are to make an impact, have intellectual challenges and
opportunities for advancement.
team examined best practices in recruitment and retention in three out-of-state
counties as well. Its plan tapped academic partnerships for training, field trips,
case studies and research and looked to established employees for mentoring and
training sessions. It also suggested DHS as a whole plan more networking
events, a speakers’ series and additional training opportunities.
Birmingham’s plan allowed employees to earn points with trainings, conducting
research or spearheading projects; or spending and tracking time with a mentor.
Incentives included greater flexibility in work hours; recognition and awards; and
opportunities for promotion into leadership. Semi-annual reviews, charting of
progress on the Leadership Ladder and setting measurable targets for six-month increments
were also plan components.
praised the plan for its comprehensiveness and ability to be adjusted to
different settings. They also praised team members for their energy and ability
to think on their feet during the question period following their presentation.
Team members said they welcomed the competition’s exercise
of their intellectual and creative skills while offering the chance to meet and
network with DHS staff members and support partners. “Participating in
the Case Competition took me outside of the CMU bubble and gave me the chance
to collaborate with smart folks from across disciplines,” said Maureen
Washburn, who said she plans to work in human services. “I am most passionate about issues
related to children and youth, particularly housing, mental health, and foster
“I had such a great time sharing my
ideas with my group members and we all got so excited when one of us had a
great idea to contribute to the project,” said Andrea Thurau, who is earning a
master’s in social work and certificate in gerontology. “Our group made sure to
laugh with each other, dance when we were tired, and have fun with this
opportunity to share our ideas with the great nonprofit leaders in Pittsburgh.”
Andrea plans to “work my way up the ladder
to administration and oversee a community program for elders. “
John said reports are being
prepared following the competition and discussions are under way as to how to
incorporate suggestions into DHS operations and policy.
The competition is supported by the
DHS Human Services Integration Fund. A
committee of seven from the Office of Data, Analysis, Research and Evaluation
and the Executive Office planned for it over a period of three months. Their
work included recruiting students and preparing the case and background in
consultation with DHS stakeholders.
Other finalists were:
Second place, Team Rankin, $1,500: Susanna
Ronalds-Hannon, Carnegie Mellon University, Heinz College; Stephen Sumpter, Duquesne University, School of Business; Maria Wallace, Carnegie Mellon
University, Heinz College; Qian Zhu,
University of Pittsburgh, Social Work.
Third Place, Team
Smithfield, $500: David Clarke, Duquesne University, Social and Public
Policy; Chad Dorn, University of
Pittsburgh, Education; Tiffany Smith,
University of Pittsburgh, Social Work; Yiqun
Sun , University of Pittsburgh, Social Work.
Fourth Place, Team
Homestead, gift cards for each team
member: Aviva Diamond, Carnegie Mellon University, Heinz College; Deborah Garofalo, Duquesne University,
Social and Public Policy; David Streeter
, University of Pittsburgh, GSPIA; Stephen
Zumbrun, University of Pittsburgh, School of Law.
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