GW hires new vice president of human resources

The University filled the vacancy of its top human resources executive this week, a move that dovetails with its mission to establish itself as a top employer in academia.

Sabrina Ellis emphasized the top priority in her new role will be to raise the visibility of GW as an excellent place to work, echoing a goal voiced by University President Steven Knapp in December.

Chosen after a months-long nationwide search, Ellis assumed the role of vice president of human resources Tuesday. She will supervise the University’s personnel records, benefits, staff recruitment and learning, compensation, client services and equal employment opportunity programs.

“GW is an institution of exceptional academic quality; my goal is to build an HR infrastructure that mirrors the excellence that is apparent across the University,” Ellis said. She plans to develop more specific plans after familiarizing herself with the University.

The top HR position was vacant for five months after former Chief Human Resources Officer Louis Lemieux resigned in July to return to the private sector.

“Her experience in human resources management, faculty and staff development, employee engagement and information technology will enhance the University’s capability to respond to the complex and diverse needs of its workforce,” Executive Vice President and University Treasurer Lou Katz, who ran the search, said.

Ellis previously served as assistant vice president and chief human resources officer at the City College of New York – an experience she said taught her how to build a high-performing team. Before her time at City College of New York, she was a human resources director at New York University, where she earned her bachelor and graduate degrees.

In her former position, Ellis worked closely with the provost to combine hiring processes for faculty and administrators under one umbrella. She also redirected discussions of tenure and research activity through human resources – benefits that schools often funnel through academic offices.

Ellis also implemented a PeopleSoft personnel software system, which streamlined City College of New York’s digital records.

“The most important lessons I’ve learned over the years is the importance of listening, showing compassion and always treating others with dignity and respect. In my view, the best workplaces are those that incorporate these principles,” she said. “When it comes to HR, everything starts and ends with people.”

City College of New York President Lisa Staiano-Coico called Ellis’ appointment to GW “an important acknowledgement of the caliber of our staff here at City College” in a statement. During her time at City College of New York, Ellis expanded on-campus student employment and expedited foreign employee visa processing, Staiano-Coico said.

Ellis will assume the title of vice president – a change in name only from chief officer, Katz previously said, although Ellis will assume a new place in Knapp’s cabinet.

Knapp said in December that he hoped the new HR executive would help “build internal trust” and a “culture of fidelity” at the University, as well as facilitate benefit selection and training opportunities for faculty and staff.

Ellis declined to comment on the resignation of the University Counseling Center’s director, John Dages, after he faced charges of mismanagement from former employees – a complaint handled by the human resources office. She also declined to say if the center would be a priority in the early stages of her tenure at the University.

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