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Staff Spotlight: Samson Abebe and Jennifer Belda

Article_Employee Spotlight

Samson Abebe and Jennifer Belda from UCLA Transportation were recently named the department’s Employees of the Year for 2020-2021, with each also earning an Everyday Hero award from the California Public Parking Association for their efforts this past year.

UCLA Ronald Reagan Medical Center, one of the largest hospitals in Los Angeles, faced incredible challenges while caring for thousands of patients during the pandemic. Abele, a member of UCLA Transportation’s Medical Center Valet Operations team, played a critical role during a chaotic time. 

With the emergency department heavily impacted by COVID-19, the hospital established a tent outside to triage people coming in to help reduce the risk of infection by identifying and sorting patients before they entered. As the parking operations supervisor on-site, Abele acted swiftly to move valet operations and staff out of the way to allow medical personnel to do their job, helping provide a safe environment for the healthcare workers, patients and UCLA Transportation staff. 

Abele is always the first to step up to the plate and take charge of meeting departmental needs. He has trained and mentored new senior supervisors, providing employees with the tools and resources required to run a successful operation. He also created a training manual, documenting his job knowledge and experiences to share with others. He’s kind and incredibly hardworking – genuine leadership material.  

When the pandemic closed the university to all non-essential personnel, Jennifer Belda, an administrative analyst, was instrumental in keeping the formally in-person customer service unit running entirely remotely. 

She promoted the use of Microsoft Teams for internal communications, bringing multiple units together to share information, troubleshoot problems and develop solutions. She also produced a triage and prioritization plan, including internal follow-ups, to quickly answer customer service questions.  

In addition, Belda spearheaded efforts to onboard the student staff hired remotely, making them feel welcome and part of the team – encouraging productivity. She created a training program for their supervisors and ensured the students had access to all the necessary systems to perform their jobs. 

Belda also managed the transition from an in-house vanpool program to a partnership with external vendors. Her leadership led to the successful communication of all service details to vanpool participants. Her part in the transition allowed the department to see huge savings as well. Belda also implemented a new e-gift card process, allowing the department to continue providing benefits to sustainable commuters during the pandemic. These actions demonstrated an exceptional focus on customer service.