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University of Michigan Innovation Partnerships
University of Michigan Innovation Partnerships

2021 Outstanding Service Award


Q&A with Lisa Johnson – Jessica Soulliere Outstanding Service Award Recipient

For her can-do attitude, infectious positive energy, and willingness to help anyone and everyone, Lisa Johnson was awarded Innovation Partnerships’ Jessica Soulliere Outstanding Service Award. The award is named for our late colleague, Jessica Soulliere, who was a trusted and valued member of Innovation Partnerships with an exceptional work ethic and commitment to service.

We sat down with Lisa to discuss her role at Innovation Partnerships and how she felt when she received this award.

Let’s start with the basics, how long have you been at Innovation Partnerships?

I was hired as an office manager in 2005. In that early role, I was responsible for administrative staff workflow, team building, process improvement, assisting with internal and external events, and creating an inspiring workplace. One highlight during that time was helping create the downtown space for the inception of Ann Arbor SPARK.

What is your current role at the office?

As Project Management and Administrative Manager I am part of the growing business operations team and assist with administrative operations, including event and marketing activities, space utilization, human resources and organizational initiatives. I also serve as one of some twenty unit administrators, a group of UMOR administrators organized to help communicate procedures and policies, exchange ideas, and brainstorm process improvements. My colleagues at UMOR have been great partners over the years – they bring a wealth of experience to our collaborations making my job much more fulfilling, and fun.

Tell us a little bit about your background prior to Innovation Partnerships

I came to the office from (fka) Tullis-Dickerson & Co., a healthcare venture capital firm headquartered in Greenwich, CT. The firm was looking for areas with alot of research but minimal venture capital to grow their portfolio. They opened branches in Santa Fe, NM and Birmingham, AL and I was hired as an office manager to open a branch in Ann Arbor. Before that, I was the technical specialist for a graphic design firm that designed, printed and fulfilled personalized benefit plan summaries for the major auto companies.

What do you most enjoy about working at Innovation Partnerships?

I enjoy working with this team. It truly is a unique team. I work with some of the best people I know, you can always find someone giving generously of their time and support, or making someone laugh, which makes for a really enjoyable and engaging workplace. I enjoy working in a service unit where you can visibly see the difference the team is making. I find it satisfying to troubleshoot or problem-solve to help make things more efficient and effective. I am motivated by finding ways to make someone’s job easier, if I can. It fulfills my purpose of helping others. I enjoy the variety of work and challenges in my particular job and the growth it offers. My supervisors encourage me to go beyond what I thought I was capable of and make my job very rewarding.

What is your favorite memory of Jess?

My favorite memory would be the many moments where Jess would sit in my office, usually first thing in the morning, and we’d talk about parenting, or how our kids were doing, or our health; she had an honesty and openness, and deep caring for others well-being that I admired so much. She was a remarkable person with a strong determination and sincerity that had an everlasting influence on me and everyone she met.

What were the emotions you felt when you found out that you were selected for the JSOSA this year?

Initially, I was in disbelief, because I don’t think I make a difference in the office as my colleagues who are visibly helping change the world. Then, I felt super nervous to receive all the attention yet overwhelmed with joy hearing all of the kind remarks. And finally, I was so incredibly honored to be recognized alongside my amazing colleagues and previous award recipients: Drew Bennett and Chuck Cole. I am ever-inspired by them both. It also gave me an opportunity to reflect back on what an amazing person Jess was and how those of us who knew her are better humans for it. So, in that way it has been a gift which lifted me up.

Anything else you want to share with our readers?

I’m grateful to be a part of this team and to serve the U-M research community. And thank Kelly for creating this award so we can remember Jess in this way. It’s a beautiful way to remember that our actions and words can lift the spirits of those around us and affect people for years to come. In the spirit of Jess – Relentless Forward Progress!