Department staff earn awards for cultivating wellness and sustainability

The University of Wisconsin–Madison Department of Biochemistry has long fostered an inclusive, supportive, healthy, and environmentally conscious community. Two recent staff awards in cultivating wellness and a green office showcase that commitment.

In late 2019, wellness efforts led by payroll and benefits specialist Bre Sinotte, with assistance from program assistant Megan Pierce, resulted in a Light of Well-being Recognition for the department from the UW–Madison Office of Human Resources. Grants and procurement specialist Morgan Wendt, along with Pierce, spearheaded efforts to make Biochemistry’s office space more environmentally friendly and received Platinum certification, the highest recognition, from the UW–Madison Office of Sustainability on January 31.

The Light of Well-being Recognition highlights offices who have instituted successful employee wellbeing strategies and made significant strides in creating a healthy, inclusive, and engaging workplace culture. The group accepted the award at the campus Wellness Symposium.

Sinotte says that about two years ago they wanted to take additional steps to help promote wellness among the department’s office staff. Her group started with meditations and outdoor nature walks and the activities grew to a paper plane contest, ladder golf, and yard darts.

“It started small, but it took off,” she explains. “We can all get stressed throughout our day, but we are allowed 15-minute breaks at work and most people either don’t know about them or don’t take them. These kinds of activities encourage us to take them. They are one of the best tactics for making sure we get up and move, which is good for both physical and mental health.”

Photo of three biochemistry staff involved in the project.
From left: Morgan Wendt, Bre Sinotte, and Megan Pierce. Photo: Robin Davies.

Biochemistry also has an interest in limiting its impact on the environment. That’s why Wendt began to pursue ways the department office could become greener. This led to purchasing greener and more recycled products and increasing awareness of proper recycling in the office with more helpful signage. To earn their Platinum certification, they also partnered with a nonprofit to do a donation drive of supplies for Domestic Abuse Intervention Services. Biochemistry is the only department currently with this level of certification.

“For example, we now use 100% recycled paper, and we feel it’s worth it,” she says. “With help from leadership we were able to institute important changes like recycling and even composting in the office break room, as well as the break rooms on every floor of our building.”

Their certification comes from the Office of Sustainability, which offers certification for offices, labs, events, and Greek life. The Green Office Certification program helps campus offices like Biochemistry’s become more sustainable workplaces. It is designed to give UW–Madison employees the information and tools they need to learn about sustainability, better understand the impacts of their practices, and create healthy and sustainable work environments.

“What I enjoy about this department is that leadership is very supportive of all of these initiatives,” Pierce says. “They encourage us to get outside, take breaks, and take care of your mental health, as well as recognize the importance of taking care of our environment and how that investment can be valuable.”

Read about other staff updates from the UW–Madison Department of Biochemistry:

New Joint Advising Hub to Support Biochemistry and Microbiology Majors

Woonghee Lee of Markley Lab Earns Grant to Improve NMR Computation

New Biochemistry Optical Core Manager Joins Department as Campus Resource