April 2023: What's News

  • DFA Luncheon 
  • Staff Recognition
  • Celebrating Staff Service 
  • Occasions for Appreciation 

A Word from Kurt

Division colleagues,


As the days warm up and sun begins to set on another academic year, I encourage everyone in the Division of Finance and Administration to reflect on what we have accomplished and how we continue to deliver vital and effective services to UC Merced. 

Teams across the division have made thoughtful, iterative improvements to how we deliver our services to campus. This is allowing us to transition boldly to a stance that’s more pro-active than reactive. We are taking the necessary steps to give our campus partners a shared responsibility of ownership for the smooth running of financial and budgetary processes, centralized administrative support and campus purchasing. We’re all in this together.

As the summer months approach, I know DFA will stay busy. We have a fiscal year to close, a full schedule of summer conferences, and more. And, of course, we need to prepare for the next academic year. All that said, please be sure to set aside time for yourself. Kick back. Enjoy your family. Take a road trip. You’ve more than earned it.

On a related note, I hope you will take part in the events May 15-19 that honor UC Merced staff. The Celebrating Service and Staff Excellence breakfast is scheduled for 9-11 a.m. Monday, May 15 in the Lakireddy Grand Ballroom, followed by Staff Appreciation Week events. Enjoy. 


Take care, 

Kurt Schnier 

Interim Vice Chancellor and Chief Financial Officer 

Let's Do Lunch!

The Division will hold a DFA Staff Appreciation Luncheon 12:30-2 p.m. Tuesday, May 16 in the California Room. The event will celebrate the incredible work our teams have accomplished this academic year. We also will honor colleagues who have reached UC service milestones.

Everyone is welcome. Please help with a head count by shooting us an RSVP.  


Staff Recognition

  • Congratulations to Terri Harris, CBS2 Executive Director, whose job title is now Associate Vice Chancellor of Centralized Business Services. The designation reflects the continuing development of CBS2 and the refinement of centralized business services at UC Merced, with CBS2 working closely with other DFA departments and units, along with campus partners and stakeholders.

  • A heartfelt “bon voyage” to Chris Robinson, Director of Student Billing Services and Campus Cashiering, who is retiring after 12 years of service at UC Merced (and more than 25 years of service to higher education). We thank Chris for his tireless efforts to ensure student success. 
  • Director of Travel and Expense Management Tracy England has been appointed Interim Director of Student Billing Services and Campus Cashiering. The position oversees billing and collection of all student accounts, encompassing tuition fees, housing, dining and other services.

Welcome Aboard

We have recent additions to the DFA family: 

  • Natalie Gaglioti – Center for Business Services and Solutions 
  • Peggy DeMass - Center for Business Services and Solutions 
  • Melinda Farmer – Transportation and Parking Services 
  • Ericka Banks – Financial and Accounting Services 
  • Danelle Gates – Financial and Accounting Services 

Seminar Offers Insight into Creating Effective Work Culture

Ready to try some new thinking for work-life balance and the discussions about hybrid schedules? Register to attend a presentation by Jenn Lim, a workplace expert, executive coach and author of “Beyond Happiness: How Authentic Leaders Prioritize Purpose and People for Growth and Impact.” Lim is scheduled to appear 11 a.m.-noon Tuesday, May 2 in the Lakireddy Grand Ballroom. Registration via the UC Learning Center is required; registration is limited to 250. The first 200 in the door get a free copy of Lim’s book. 


Celebrating Staff and Service Milestones

Staff Appreciation Week is coming up. There’s a full slate of activities and fun May 15-20, ranging from an ice cream social to pet therapy to settling into a massage chair (!).

The week kicks off with the Celebrating Service and Staff Excellence Awards breakfast event, starting at 9 a.m. Monday, May 15, in the Lakireddy Grand Ballroom. The event honors 143 staff members who have worked at least five years for UC as of the end of 2022, with special recognition to those with at least 20 years of service.


There are 16 milestone honorees from DFA, including one in the 20 Year Club – TAPS Assistant Director James Nardello. 

20 Years

James Nardello

15 Years

Karin Groth

Alicia Bellusci

Michelle Snyder

Carla Hunt

Melanie Cooper

Rosalva Barriga

10 Years

Brian Chambers

Jennifer Di Salvo

Lori Callaway

Tracy England

Allison Calistro Yazzie

Michael Knutson

5 Years

Eddie Torres

Maribel Lugo

Eli Vargas

Here are a few more words about James ...

Every day on the job, James Nardello hears music. It might be the structured score of a Cat Tracks route schedule or the free jazz of scurrying carts at a special event. It could be the R&B purr of a well-tuned fleet van or the thrash metal of a parking ticket dispute. 


“In my mind, there’s an analytical side and the other is the artistic side,” says Nardello, a self-taught musician and high-energy guy who works as Assistant Director for Transportation and Parking Services, or TAPS. “My artistic side just grabs hold of things that need to get done. I need some level of structure to go back and revisit the things I’m grabbing hold of. But it works for me to have a ton of different things that need my attention.” 


Nardello’s 21 years of service with the University of California includes three years with UC Santa Cruz and 18 with UC Merced. Alongside TAPS Director Karin Groth, Nardello orchestrates a team of staff and student ambassadors who keep parking lots maintained, provide event support on campus and offer CatTracks fixed route service and other alternative transportation options to the campus and Merced community. 


Nardello taught himself how to play guitar 35 years ago. He also can play piano and perform percussion. A decade ago, he was in a band with some UC Merced colleagues that played gigs around town and won a Staff Appreciation Week talent show. He’s also an adept one-man band. Google his name and you might run across a video of him singing a Tom Waits love song with acoustic guitar for a Merced coffee shop’s pandemic-era concert series. 

Founding staff member James Nardello signs a poster at an event marking 20 years since the groundbreaking of UC Merced.

 A well-maintained transportation operation is its own kind of performance. Nardello notes that, for visitors to UC Merced, a parking lot is where the university makes its first impression. Are directions to it clear? Is the lot tidy? Is it easy to find a space, and to pay for it? 


“We are the first experience,” he said. 


As for citations, well, they happen, and working to ensure the process goes smoothly for TAPS and the cited driver is a big part of his job. And when there are disputes – if the atmosphere in the TAPS front office becomes, as Nardello puts it, elevated – “I’m often your de-escalation specialist.” Using empathy deployed with a natural affability and backed by years of experience with citation angst, he brings down the temperature. 

In 2000, Nardello left the Gold Rush city of Sonora to take a job selling computers and accessories at the bookstore at UC Santa Cruz, where his future wife, Heather, was a student employee in financial aid. In 2003, both of them saw the UC going up in the Central Valley as an attractive opportunity. Heather was hired in UC Merced’s financial aid office; James put in a couple years of customer service with a Merced air conditioning company until the university was able to hire him as bookstore assistant director. His office was at the Castle complex as the bookstore came together in the library building under construction on campus. 


“There were no doors, and mice running down the hallways,” Nardello said. “You had to put on a construction helmet to walk from your car into the building.” 


In 2012, he made the key change from bookstore to TAPS, assuming his current role as Assistant Director. It’s a role that keeps him on the move, racking up frequent traveler miles on foot and in carts and other fleet vehicles. 


“From day one, it’s been all about the people,” Nardello said. “I have absolutely loved the people I work with, my colleagues and the students. To be able to see the progress at the university over the years, the improvements, it’s been an unbelievable experience. 


“For our team here at TAPS, when we see our students graduate, we’re out there with the pom poms. And we follow up to see where they’re going. That is what helps me wake up every day, knowing we made a positive difference.” 

Schedule a Visit with Kurt

Interim Vice Chancellor and CFO Kurt Schnier is holding office hours every other week from 2 to 4 p.m. The office hours will provide an opportunity to connect with Kurt to discuss any topic of your choosing. Each session will be scheduled for 20 minutes.

To sign up for a meeting, send an email to dofa@ucmerced.edu to reserve a date and time.

Occasions for Appreciation

  • Wednesday, April 26, is Administrative Professionals Day. Offer an extra thanks to the people who keep our teams running in ways great and small. 
  • Teacher Appreciation Week is May 7-13. Take a moment or two to thank a teacher who touched your life. We know the week will be celebrated for the staff at the Early Childhood Education Center:
  • Danielle Waite
  • Mouang Saechao
  • Amanda Pia
  • Linda Murillo
  • Nou Yang
  • Jennifer Carrero
  • Maribel Lugo
  • Dierdre Johnson
  • Samantha Mata
  • Zina Kumetat

Mark Your Calendars

Let's Hear From You

Do you have questions? Feedback you want to share? Something for the next newsletter? Reach out via our Comment Box or by emailing us at dofa@ucmerced.edu

DFA Update is a staff newsletter for the Division of Finance and Administration. Here is an archive of previous editions.