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Staff Fest brings Emory employees ‘together again’ on the Quad

Asked what she would tell colleagues about Staff Fest 2022, Denise Powell, senior recruiter for Emory University’s human resources department, had a clear message: “Come! Talk to your manager and do what you have to do to get here!”

And come they did. More than 3,000 university employees turned out Friday, May 13, for Staff Fest’s return to the Quad after two years as a virtual event due to COVID-19. Traditionally held on the Friday after Commencement, Staff Fest celebrates the relentless hard work and commitment of all university employees and retirees throughout the past academic year.

A few sprinkles of morning rain did little to dampen the anticipation, and luckily, the clouds parted above the Quad just as the festivities commenced, rejuvenating everyone with the first rays of the summer sun. This year’s theme was, appropriately, “Together Again,” and many attendees proudly sported T-shirts emblazoned with the slogan.

volleyball tournament winner

Team Biology United of the Department of Biology claimed the 2022 Staff Fest volleyball tournament title (see list of team members below).

Emory University President Gregory L. Fenves addressed the excited crowd of employees, noting that “what you have all gone through over the past two years is truly amazing and inspirational.” Given that Staff Fest had to be held virtually in 2020 and 2021, he encouraged everyone to not just have a good time, but “three years of a good time!”

A good time it was indeed as employees from across Emory’s workforce gathered to enjoy games, food and friends. Whether they work in research labs, dining facilities, administrative offices or other campus locations, workers came out to enjoy the company of peers and colleagues who they may not have seen during the pandemic. They were treated to a barbecue lunch catered by Jim N’ Nicks, beverages provided by Coca-Cola and a multitude of other snacks and treats.

Some took part in formal contests including a volleyball tournament, 3K fun run/walk and the new “Chalk the Walk” art contest; others enjoyed dancing, Zumba, a rock-climbing wall, basketball, a football toss and giant games of Jenga, checkers and Connect 4.

As a newer employee attending her first Staff Fest, Lynn Adams, a registered nurse from Emory Student Health Services, spoke of how fun the day was and described Emory as the “best place in the world to work.”

chalk art during Staff Fest 2022

Julie Cofer and Taylor Ackerman of Advancement & Alumni Engagement won the inaugural "Chalk the Walk" contest with their work illustrating "Better Together."

Found serving epic dance moves in front of the event DJ, another Emory Student Health staff member, referral coordinator Maria Tortocion-Johnson, said the best part about Staff Fest is “dancing with people you don’t know” and that “this is the time” to get to know others in the community you have not had the chance to meet before. Her dance partner, Nina Acosta, executive administrative assistant for Campus Services, explained that having “everyone together” is what made Staff Fest so great this year.

Staff Fest is also known for the inclusive and competitive spirit it sparks on the sport courts. Whether in the volleyball tournament played by groups from many different departments or the 3K fun run, all came out to show their skills.

Eagerly watching the volleyball tournament with a cold popsicle in hand, Caroline Watson — a research faculty member in the School of Medicine’s Department of Neurology — said she came to "watch Anne Roberts from the Australian National Volleyball Team" play. Roberts, a senior research specialist in biochemistry, confirmed she played for Australia "a lifetime ago" before moving to the United States for college; she and her teammates ultimately placed third (see winners below).

For many attendees, Staff Fest 2022 felt like coming home. Friends reunited for the first time in years, colleagues finally met in person, and strangers became family. Attending his first Staff Fest, Russell Griffin, who joined Emory last May as director of diversity and inclusion education and outreach, said the most exciting thing to see at the event is “diversity and community, in that order.”

Griffin’s message to everyone attending Staff Fest summed up the spirit of the day: “Talk to each other, enjoy each other and love each other.”

Staff Fest 2022 competition winners

Chalk the Walk

Winner: Advancement & Alumni Engagement (Julie Cofer and Taylor Ackerman)

Volleyball Tournament (click to see team members)

Sonia Hayden (captain), Dieter Jaeger, Sandra Mendiola, Doug Terry, Elizabeth Gleason, Paja Sijacic, Anna Oeur, Julia de Amorim and Dylan Holder

Carlos Magana (captain), Gerald Searcy, Juan Duarte, Leonard Mendez, Kelly Ferguson, Royce Butler, Arion Mershon, Kofi Frimpong, Alvin Simpson and Brandon Miller

Chih-Yu Chen (captain), Kristal Maner-Smith, Eric Ortlund, Jun Ahn, Peter Buch, Anne Roberts, Blaine Roberts and Xueyun Liu.

Fun Run/Walk (click to see winners in each division)


  1. Sarah Wolber
  2. Kristina Bowen
  3. Kallie Monroe



  1. Sarah Lohsen
  2. Brittany Verras
  3. Yun Hang



  1. Robin Mitchell
  2. Kirsten Wehner
  3. Nichole Arnett



  1. Anita Renahan-White
  2. Venus Henriques
  3. Melissa Cobbs


  1. Alfonso Bayon Fernandez
  2. Christopher Avery
  3. Christian Tan



  1. Dacheng Fan
  2. Brian Cheung
  3. Ryan Coleman



  1. Levin Arnsperger
  2. Yonas Teklemariam
  3. Dyke Crane



  1. Qin Hui
  2. David Goetsch
  3. Terry Klemensen

second and third place volleyball tournament teams

The 2 Weeks Notice team from the Division of Animal Resources (left) placed second in the 2022 volleyball tournament. Mass Spec-Tacular from the School of Medicine Biochemistry and Core Labs (right) placed third.

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