Campus News

Why UK Staff Member Joanna Ashford Has the 'Heart to Step Up'

Joanna Ashford, Mark Cornelison | UK Photo.
Joanna Ashford. Mark Cornelison | UK Photo.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Oct. 20, 2021) — What makes UK the university of, for and with Kentucky? 

The answer is our people.  

We are a community full of individuals who sacrifice for the greater good. During the past year, those sacrifices have been magnified as the University of Kentucky continued its missions of teaching, service, research and healing. There are so many people who worked behind the scenes to make the impossible, possible. In this new UKNow series, we hope to honor some of those employees who had the “heart to step up,” despite the many obstacles presented to them while working during a global pandemic.  

This month, UKNow talked to Joanna Ashford, who works as the recycling coordinator in UK Facilities Management.

UKNow: What is your role here at UK? 

Ashford: I am the recycling coordinator for the university. I oversee recycling and waste minimization efforts (like composting, new recycling efforts and campus engagement opportunities).  

UKNow: What’s the best part about your job?  

Ashford: Every day is completely different. Some days are full of meetings with partners all over campus, while other days are spent walking through UK HealthCare placing containers and identifying new material to recycling. I never know what to expect. From waste audits, to tours at our recycling area at Vaughan Warehouse and everything in between. Every day is a new opportunity to push our recycling and waste diversion goals further. 

UKNow: How did your role change due to COVID-19? If you could tell yourself one thing pre-COVID, what would it be? 

Ashford: COVID-19 changed operations for everyone. I was fortunate enough to do my work from the safety of my home during the first year of COVID-19, but my job looked different. Interactions with departments were different, outreach opportunities with faculty, staff and students shifted and our health care system was working nonstop to make sure we stayed safe. I was able to spend time developing new ways to communicate our programs to all of campus — check out — and focus on ways to improve our programs when campus life looked more like pre-COVID times. If I could tell myself one thing pre-COVID, it would be to be flexible. Things seem to change so quickly from day to day and a little flexibility goes a long way! Also, invest in Zoom!  

UKNow: What inspired you during this past year?  

Ashford: With a year as crazy and dynamic as 2020, its important to see inspiration in all areas of life. I owe so much gratitude to the health care workers that cared for my family and to the researchers that developed a vaccine to keep my family safe. I think I will always look back on this time and be inspired by their tireless work.   

UKNow: What did you learn about yourself and/or your community this past year? 

Ashford: COVID-19 has taken away a lot from so many, but for me, it gave me perspective. It is so easy for me to get caught up in the daily grind and routine that I forget the important things in life, like my family. This past year has really helped reshape my priorities and focus. 

“Joanna loves what she does at UK and it shows in so many ways. Even during the changes brought about by COVID, Joanna continued to make improvements with her creativity and enthusiasm," said Tim Clark, UK's facilities services director associate. "She is an invaluable member of the facilities team.”

We hope to highlight different employees from across campus in the “Heart to Step Up” series. If you know someone who went above and beyond during this past year, please email us.

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.