UTD Earns Honors for Leadership Development Program, Sustainability – News Center


The University of Texas at Dallas Office of Human Resources recently was named the recipient of a national innovation award for its BRIGHT Leaders program. It was just one of several recognitions the office received this year.

From left: Office of Human Relations employees Casey Hennigan-Williams, Jillian McNally, Colleen Dutton, Howard dePass Jr. and Ellen Ammons.

The 2023 HR Innovation Award from the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources (CUPA-HR) was given Aug. 8 via a virtual ceremony. The award recognizes innovative thinking in higher education HR, especially models that other universities can implement.

“This national award recognizes our efforts to address the need for leadership development for faculty and staff at UT Dallas — for every employee at any level of position,” said Colleen Dutton, chief human resources officer. “The concept and vision for this type of leadership development program is new and created in response to our changing work environment. The award recognizes our efforts and unique program design and highlights the creativity and adaptability of the employee relations and talent development team.”

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, HR planned to implement a cohort model leadership training program, Dutton said. However, when it became clear that the work environment would not be the same once the pandemic was over, they successfully pivoted to a program that allowed everyone in the campus community to participate instead of only one group at a time.

“We scrapped the cohort model and the traditional thought process for leadership development and came up with something completely different,” she said. “It’s been an exciting 18 months since BRIGHT Leaders was launched in February 2022, and participation from staff, faculty, and even students, has exceeded our initial expectations.”

The program will continue to evolve and offers a variety of learning opportunities and resources in various mediums, including Lessons from Leaders, the BRIGHT Leaders Book Club, Getting to Know You, Spotlight on Staff (SOS), Teaching Leadership Compassion (TLC) and the new BRIGHT Leaders Pathways launched in 2023.

“UT Dallas prides itself on being innovative and creative, which carries over from our labs and classrooms to our administrative units,” said Rafael Martín PhD’20, vice president and chief of staff. “Colleen and her team have done a great job promoting the value of leadership to our campus culture.”

The office also has been recognized by other organizations this year:

  • Pensions & Investments bestowed an Eddy Award to UTD for its 2022 virtual benefits fair, which was a collaboration between HR, the Office of Communications and the Office of Information Technology. This is the second time in three years UTD has won this award.
  • Dutton was named the Ogletree Deakins HR Professional of the Year, which was presented by the North Texas Chamber of Commerce in March.
  • The Employee Wellness Program at UTD placed first for medium-sized institutions in the UT System Spring Forward Physical Activity Challenge. This is the sixth time in the last eight years UTD has won an award for employee wellness participation.

Sustainability Efforts Earn STARS Gold

The University of Texas at Dallas has been recognized as a top performer by The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), earning the organization’s gold rating.

The organization’s Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS) measures and encourages sustainability in all aspects of higher education. UTD received gold certification for the first time in 2020. The designation is valid for three years.

Gary Cocke, director of sustainability and energy conservation at UT Dallas, said he is especially proud of the campuswide effort that is reflected by the gold rating.

“Universities are uniquely positioned to substantively effect positive change. UT Dallas is doing just that by modeling sustainability in our operations, educating about challenges and solutions in the classroom, driving innovation in the lab, building culture with our students, and sharing expertise with our community,” he said.

AASHE’s STARS program is the most widely recognized framework in the world for publicly reporting comprehensive information related to a college’s or university’s sustainability performance. Participants report achievements in five overall areas: academics, engagement, operations, planning and administration, and innovation and leadership. UT Dallas is among only five universities in Texas with a gold rating and the highest-rated university in North Texas.

Accolades is an occasional News Center feature that highlights recent accomplishments of The University of Texas at Dallas faculty, students and staff. To submit items for consideration, contact your school’s communications manager.


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