The University of Iowa

Finance and Operations Women's History Month Features

F&O Celebrates Women's History Month

March is Women's History Month, an annual declared month that highlights the contributions of women to events in history and contemporary society.

Women’s History Month had its origins as a national celebration in 1981 when "Women's History Week" was born, with the first event taking place on March 7, 1982. In 1987, after being petitioned by the National Women’s History Project, Congress passed another bill designating the entire month of March as “Women’s History Month.”

To celebrate, Finance and Operations is recognizing some of the dedicated women who work in and lead our departments.  Featured employees will be added below on a weekly basis throughout the month.

Meet the Women of Finance & Operations

Meet Adele

Adele Simone Vanarsdale is the director of campus project planning. She first came to the UI in 2012 and was a senior project manager with Design and Construction before she moved to Campus Planning and Development seven years ago.

Adele’s favorite part of her job is working with people to understand how they work and to offer ways in which the physical environment can be configured to support and promote their needs.

When asked what empowers her in the workplace, Adele shared her belief that the innate quality of empathy is the intangible difference in a successful project. “When people feel that you genuinely want the best for them, it is much easier to work through solutions when difficulties arise.”

Adele’s advice to women hoping to make an impact in the workplace is to seek out a mentor or someone in your discipline you can discuss work-related situations with and to “trust your gut.”

Meet Lynne

Lynne Finn is the associate vice president of Facilities Management and has been a part of the organization for eight years.

When asked about her favorite part of the job, Lynne shared how grateful she is to work at Facilities Management, an organization where people care about their work and are proud of their individual contributions to Hawkeye success. The best part of the job, says Lynne, is the employees she gets to work with each day.

When it comes to being empowered as a woman in the workplace, she is inspired by and proud of people who, despite any barriers, persevere to follow their calling. “It is important that all of us do everything we can to eliminate barriers, lift each other up, and help us all succeed.”

Lynne’s advice to anyone looking to thrive and make an impact in their field is to set an intention to learn every day from your experiences and the people around you. “Everyone has something to offer: knowledge, insight, or perspective.”

Rachel McGuire
Meet Rachel

Rachel McGuire has been in the role of assistant vice president and university controller since 2021 and has worked at the University of Iowa for just over 10 years. She began her career in the Controller’s Office and has worked in several different areas during her time at Iowa, including central accounting and finance for UIHC and the Department of Pediatrics in the Carver College of Medicine.  

When asked about her favorite part of the job, Rachel shared it was the opportunity to collaborate with so many talented individuals within Finance and Operations as well as across the entire organization.  “I am constantly learning from others at the University of Iowa, which aids in my continued growth as a leader. Having the opportunity to work with others from diverse backgrounds shows me different perspectives when we are looking for creative and effective solutions to questions.”  

Rachel feels empowered by her colleagues, family, and friends, and uses that strength to pursue success for everyone across the organization in each interaction that she has.  “I feel very privileged to be in the position that I am at the University of Iowa and to work with so many great people.”  

Her advice for those looking to make an impact in their field is to have confidence in your skills and talents and do not be afraid to show them.  “It doesn’t require an outgoing personality, but rather taking the opportunities that are presented to you, or that you create for yourself, and showing your strengths in anything you do.”

Sherry Miller
Meet Sherry

Sherry Reynolds-Miller began working at the University of Iowa as a student employee in 1991, first in the Business Office and then in the Scholarships Office.  During her 25 years at Iowa, she has utilized her talents in multiple areas like Accounts Payable, Purchasing, and Travel. Sherry has been in her current role as senior business analyst in Finance and Business Information Services for the last six years.   

Sherry’s favorite part of the job is having the opportunity to do project management and business analysis.  With the help and support of the whole team, she says she gets to participate in the creation of systems through understanding customer business needs and helping them to determine viable solutions.  “I really enjoy working with such a wide array of customers, learning about new challenges, and having the opportunity to make improvements,” says Sherry.  “It's gratifying when you can help others make a difference.”  

When asked what empowers her in the workplace, Sherry emphasized that being a female leader in a male-dominated environment helps her draw on her ability to build and foster relationships as well as be understanding and empathetic to others.  “I often have a different perspective or approach when exploring solutions that perhaps wouldn't exist otherwise,” she shared.  

Sherry’s advice to other women looking to make an impact in their field is to be confident, find your voice, keep learning, ask questions, and, most importantly, look out for each other.  “You don’t have to be loud to be heard, but be willing to speak.”

Julie Sychra
Meet Julie

Julie Sychra is the director of Building Operations & Maintenance for Facilities Management and has been with the organization for over five years. 

When asked what her favorite part of the job is, Julie shared that she loves being able to work with so many different individuals across campus and collaborating to make processes better for everyone. 

“I try to bring my whole self to work, and encourage others to do the same,” says Julie.  “I've been fortunate over the course of my career to have leaders who model and encourage bringing your full humanity to the table – with all the diversity of identities, as well as diverse life experiences.” 

Julie’s advice to women looking to make an impact in their field is to “follow your joy and your path will unfold.”

Lucy Wiederholt
Meet Lucy

Lucy Wiederholt will celebrate 38 years of service with the University of Iowa in September of this year. She currently serves as associate director and chief of police for Campus Safety. 

Lucy shared that her favorite part of the job is working with all the amazing people she has met over the span of her career at Iowa. 

Lucy said there were significantly fewer women working in law enforcement, both in Johnson County and across the country, when she began her career.  “While that decreased my mentor pool,” said Lucy, “it forced me to truly lean into my vision of what I wanted my career to look like and how I performed my job.” 

Lucy’s advice to women looking to make an impact is to be true to yourself and always strive to make the path easier for the women who follow you.

Maria Sanchez
Meet Maria

Maria Sanchez currently works as a community outreach officer for the University of Iowa Police Department and has been with the department for five years.     

Her favorite part of the job is the opportunity to be a part of change, including engaging the community by providing training on personal safety, implicit bias, and more. Maria noted it is rewarding to know that she is teaching potentially life-saving tools.   

“When we are out in the community, we engage all walks of life, and knowing that I may be the first police officer someone encounters is very important to me.”   

When it comes to being empowered in her work, Maria said she is always asking herself what else she can do to reach more members of the community and educate them about her field.  “I keep in mind that we live in a very diverse population, and some people may come from a community of trauma. Approaching situations through a women-of-color lens has helped me engage my community by understanding the needs that need to be addressed.”   

Maria’s advice for women in her field looking to make an impact comes from a Frida Khalo quote: "Nothing is absolute. Everything changes, everything moves, everything revolves, everything flies and goes away.”  Maria added, “Keep humble and count your blessings – we as women are too hard on ourselves, and we forget how far we have come.” 

Jessica Voelker
Meet Jessica

Jessica Voelker is an associate director for Finance and Operations Human Resources and has been at Iowa since 2008 in different roles, including her initial position with the Business Services HR team.  Jessica shared that she has had some great opportunities during her 14 years here and has been able to work with all F&O departments and staff in one way or another.   

Jessica’s favorite part of the job is having the opportunity to make a positive impact on employees, whether it is on an individual level or organization wide.  “Making a positive impact gives me a sense of purpose and helps me to feel fulfilled in my career.”   

She feels most empowered by her family and colleagues, and shared that she is fortunate to have an incredible support system in both her personal and professional endeavors.  “They help me feel supported and empowered as a working mother, which is something that is very important to me and something I feel passionately about. We’re also about to welcome our third child, a baby girl, into our family in the next few weeks. That alone gives me a new view and perspective on empowering women in the workplace.”   

Jessica’s advice to other women looking to make an impact in their field is “Believe in yourself, advocate for yourself, find your voice, and use it.” 

Sujatha Shetty
Meet Sujatha

Sujatha Shetty, senior business analyst, has gained invaluable experience working across multiple departments at the UI from the Budget Office to Purchasing and Grant Accounting. “This cross-functional experience has allowed me to develop a deep understanding of the various applications and processes at the university and has helped me provide impactful solutions.”   

Sujatha’s favorite part of the job is the opportunity to deeply understand an individual’s challenges and use her expertise to provide effective solutions, as well as getting to engage with diverse backgrounds.  “I am able to broaden my own knowledge and approach problems from new angles,” she said.

Sujatha feels empowered by her work and family support systems, as both have helped her achieve personal and professional goals.  “Working alongside some of our women leaders has been particularly inspiring,” she said. “It has provided me with valuable insights into women's leadership at the university and has helped me perform my duties more effectively.” Sujatha also deeply values the university’s commitment to diversity and inclusion, as it fosters a sense of belonging and creates a safe and inclusive environment for all.    

Sujatha’s advice to women is to believe in yourself and your abilities, noting that it is important to recognize your value and have confidence.  She added, “Women should look for mentors with experience and insight in their field. Allies can also be important in navigating workplace challenges and advocating for them in professional settings. Lastly, prioritize continuous learning and development to stay current and further your expertise.”

Abigail Johnson
Meet Abigail

Abigail Johnson is the team lead for laundry production in Laundry Service and has worked there for five years.   

Abigail’s favorite part of the job is learning from her peers and getting an inside look at the management processes within her unit.   

When it comes to being empowered in the workforce, Abigail said, “Being a woman gives me a chip on my shoulder. Whether it’s true or not, I feel like there is a bias simply because I am a woman, and that motivates and pushes me to prove that bias wrong.”   

Abigail offers this advice to other women looking to make an impact in their fields: “Always know your self-worth and know that you are capable of more than you believe. Don’t let anybody stop you from becoming the person you’ve always wanted to be.”