Lu Handles All Payroll and Benefits Queries in Unique Times

Mar 26, 2021

Starting a new position can be stressful and overwhelming under normal circumstances. But doing so during a global pandemic—when a vast majority of work occurs remotely—makes it all the more complicated.

As one of the first points of contact for people joining the University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies (UMIACS), Vivian Lu says that in addition to processing the necessary paperwork for payroll and benefits, part of her job is to make incoming faculty, students and staff feel more at ease.

“Navigating the ins and outs of a new company or organization can be such a challenge—not only in terms of getting acclimated to your new role and new co-workers, but also in dealing with all of the forms needed for enrolling for benefits and taking care of other administrative matters,” she says. “I love helping people, and want to make our newest members feel as comfortable as possible when they join us, especially during a time like this.”

Before joining UMIACS, Lu worked on campus in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering as coordinator of payroll and benefits for almost 15 years. While she enjoyed her time there, Lu says she wanted to make a change in her life and career.

“I think that coming to UMIACS will bring some new challenges, including helping me to learn and make some new friends,” she says.

Lu’s job keeps her busy, she says. Day to day, she’s responsible for maintaining all of the electronic and hardcopy records needed for payroll and benefits for the more than 300 faculty, graduate students, support staff and hourly employees that are in UMIACS. She also is in charge of visa processing for foreign visitors.

A typical day consists of communicating with both current and incoming members of UMIACS to answer questions regarding payroll and benefits, and then coordinating her responses with other academic units and payroll and benefits specialists at the university.

Lu adds that after everyone started working from home due to COVID-19, her day-to-day tasks became more heavily dependent on email, phone calls, Google hangouts, Zoom and other social media to keep connected with other people.

What she enjoys most about being a member of UMIACS is the team spirit among the rest of the administrative staff in the institute.

“We work as a team, knowing our own role in the team and helping each other when needed,” Lu says.

Emily Hartz, executive director of administration and operations for UMIACS who is Lu’s supervisor, says Lu is a talented employee and fits in well with the UMIACS support staff.

“Vivian is incredibly kind, diligent and meticulous,” she says. “We are very lucky to have her.”

Lu says she cannot wait for the day when in-person operations on campus resume, so she can better serve the institute’s growing research community.

“I am always happy to meet with newcomers and then do my best to help them settle into UMIACS and the university,” Lu says. “And our administrative staff is always here to help all of our members, whether they’re new or have been here for 20 years or more.”

—Story by Melissa Brachfeld