According to his direct reports, Ellsworth “Skip” Fuhrman does everything he can to help his employees find and maintain a positive work life balance.

On Oct. 18, Fuhrman, department chair and graduate program director of the Department of Science and Technology in Society in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, was recognized for his efforts in living, and promoting a healthy work life balance. Fuhrman received the inaugural “Spotlight on Supervisor Award,” presented by Hokie Wellness during the day-long Finding Balance conference. Fuhrman is also a sociology professor.

“Being nominated for, and receiving, this award was a huge surprise,” Fuhrman said. “I make it a priority to help my colleagues find ways to make their lives easier because it’s the right thing to do."

Second only to compensation, work-life balance now ranks as one of the most important workplace attributes, and employees who feel they have a better work-life balance work 21 percent harder than those who don't, according to a 2009 Businessweek article.

“Work/life balance is an integral part of keeping our employees happy and healthy,” said Cynthia Rutherford, director of wellness. “Dr. Fuhrman’s willingness to accommodate the individual needs of his employees in a way that allows them to successfully balance their work and personal responsibilities strengthens employee loyalty and productivity.”

“I was extraordinarily pleased that there was so much support for this very important issue,” said Sherwood Wilson, vice president of administrative services. “It is encouraging to see how our winner and all of our nominees clearly support their employees’ work life balance.”

In nominating Fuhrman, several of his employees cited his “family first” philosophy.

Assistant Professor Matt Wisnioski says he knew all about Fuhrman’s commitment to work/life balance even before his first day of work at Virginia Tech in 2007.

Not only did Fuhrman helped Wisnioski’s wife find a teaching position with Montgomery County Public Schools, he also helped the couple secure day care for their first child and arranged for a teaching release and modified duties so Wisnioski could care for his second son and complete his tenure package.

“Dr. Fuhrman has been a blessing of the highest order,” said Wisnioski.

In 2007, Fuhrman helped Ashley Shew pursue a part-time tenure-track position, allowing her to manage her young family and sustain her career.

y“Few new professors get this option, ever hear about this option, or would feel comfortable even discussing it,” said Shew, an assistant professor in the department. “He’s a great guy and we consider ourselves very fortunate to have him as our leader,” said Shew.

Fuhrman has been at Virginia Tech since 1975. He has a bachelor’s degree from Millersville University and a master’s degree and doctorate from Penn State University.

The “Spotlight on Supervisor” award recognizes Virginia Tech faculty and staff supervisors who promote work/life balance through consistent recognition of and responsiveness to their employees' professional and personal lives, incorporating important job demands along with team needs.  The award is open to faculty and staff supervisors who are nominated by their employees.

Those supervisors who were nominated encourage work/life balance through a number of positive management practices; humanizing the work environment by treating everyone with dignity, respect and integrity; promoting teamwork while also being sensitive to an individual’s personal needs; and having a positive leadership style which empowers others and recognizes contributions of staff.

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