SSO Service Desk Team Celebrating their 10 year anniversary
Carmen Valladares (fourth from the left) with the SSO Service Desk Team Celebrating their 10 year anniversary.

Temporary Opportunities for Work Program

Quick Summary

  • Due to the creative and thoughtful efforts of various departments and the TOW program, UC Davis was able to suspend operations during the pandemic and retain our talent in essential roles.

The Davis campus suspended operations at the start of the pandemic, but kept what makes UC Davis so great - our employees.

Staff experience logo, Improving our workplace
The TOW program was one of many UC Davis pandemic-related efforts aimed at making UC Davis a great place to work. The Staff Experience Survey returns on Mar. 28 for Davis Campus staff to share feedback that can make UC Davis an even better place to work.

When the pandemic hit, the national unemployment rate soared to levels that haven’t been seen since the Great Depression. Operations on the Davis campus were suspended leaving many employees working in food service, event planning, sports/entertainment and other departments, without work to perform.

At the same time, immediate help was needed in new, essential roles like contact tracing and COVID-19 testing support as UC Davis and UC Davis Health worked to stop the spread of COVID-19.

To protect employees' jobs, UC Davis launched the Temporary Opportunities for Work (TOW) program to address budgetary, staffing and other operational challenges by offering temporary reassignments to underutilized staff in other schools, colleges and divisions. 

Throughout the pandemic, the TOW program, combined with intra-departmental efforts, helped save almost 200 staff positions. With campus fully operational, and departments once again managing pre-pandemic service levels, the TOW program was retired in early 2022.

"When UC Davis suspended operations, we needed to think quickly and creatively about ways to protect our employees. The TOW program, combined with the efforts of various departments, kept staff working in essential roles that allowed us to be stronger together in the fight against the spread of COVID-19."

-- Christine Lovely

How TOW Supported Aggies

One of the first people to benefit from the TOW program was Carmen Valladares, an employee who planned events for Conference and Event Services. With all in-person events canceled, the department has no events to plan and Carmen’s director signed her up for the TOW program.

“Everyone involved did a great job of communicating with me to understand where my strengths would best be put to use,” Carmen explains. She was assigned to a temporary role at the HR Shared Services Organization (SSO) Help Desk in August 2020 where she used her knowledge of computers and passion for helping others to get SSO customers answers to important human resources matters. When a career position was posted with SSO, Carmen jumped at the opportunity to stay on permanently.

"I immediately loved my new position and I didn't miss out on pay or have to worry about being furloughed—which was such a weight off my shoulders considering everything else that was happening in the world. UC Davis really delivers on their commitment to support employees, even under the most challenging circumstances.”

-- Carmen Valladares, Shared Services Organization 


Michelle Belden worked as the Coordinator at Aggie Surplus from 2007 up until the storefront shut down due to COVID-19 safety guidelines. The TOW program placed her in a temporary position at the Genome Center where she was able to repurpose her knowledge of UC Davis systems and expertise in purchasing and billing.

“I went from knowing my workplace like the back of my hand to being somewhere totally new, so it was nice to have my department’s full support in helping me adjust. Every day, I am inspired and motivated by the work being done around me. To contribute to something like this—that's not helping just our community, but the whole world—it's great.”

-- Michelle Belden, Genome Center

In March of 2021, Michelle was ecstatic to be hired on permanently at the Genome Center, where great strides continue to be made in genomics and bioinformatics.


Some employees, like Mark Beluso in Conference and Event Services, were reassigned to multiple positions as the response to the pandemic evolved. He moved into a temporary position with Safety Services performing contact tracing, where he used his communication skills and tech background from event planning to compassionately reach out to hundreds of people with COVID-19 and their close contacts a day, which helped stop the spread of COVID-19.

“Being a part of the solution to a worldwide pandemic was helpful in dealing with the strain of being in such a chaotic work situation, and I have TOW to thank for that.”

-- Mark Beluso, Conference and Event Services

As vaccines were released, Mark moved into another temporary position with Healthy Davis Together working at the vaccine clinic. He comments, “Both moves felt like a good fit. Using my skills in new contexts helped me become a better, more well-rounded employee.”

Mark has since moved back to his permanent position with Conference and Events Services, saying he is “grateful for the wonderful experiences, and happy to be back.”


How UC Davis Puts Employees First

The TOW program wouldn’t have been possible without the creative thinking of so many departments across UC Davis, which committed to keeping UC Davis staff employed in roles serving the community.

UC Davis employees are remarkable and the TOW program helped prove that we're in this together. To learn about other ways UC Davis puts its people first, visit:

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