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The 2022 Women of UD

Katie Overholser

Katie Overholser



The view from Katie Overholser’s desk has changed a bit over the past two years. Before the onset of COVID-19, Overholser saw her job in Procurement as primarily working with suppliers and supply chains, and, she says, “For a long, long time, those were things that I kind of took for granted.” After the pandemic arrived however, Overholser says, “I see my goal and our team’s goal as finding ways to keep our campus safe.” She remembers strategizing with her colleagues back in March of 2020, and they decided the best course of action would be for each of them to “take a piece of the pie that we knew would be important during the pandemic and we divided the work based on our skillset. I took PPE.” She also remembers the team predicted that the focus on their areas would last perhaps four weeks. She quickly became aware that was misguided. “We started to see a lot of sourcing issues right off the bat. People were buying up things like crazy. It took from March all the way through August to prepare to come back for the big campus opening that we were hoping to have for Fall 2020.”

Overholser had a solid idea of what she needed to keep the campus community safe. “Clorox wipes everywhere. I wanted a sea of Clorox and Lysol wipes because they were so recognizable. Well, that didn’t happen.” Suppliers were telling her then it would be 18 months before items were available, and she knew her best option would be to source whatever substitutes she could. She consulted with UDRI researchers, who produced a specific list of chemicals and agents to kill coronavirus. Working with the office of Environmental Health and Safety, her team determined the best solution for cleaning surfaces was alcohol wipes, which they were able to source from a diverse supplier base, including local, minority- and women-owned businesses. “We were able to partner with a local company to fabricate a custom wipe stand based on campus feedback from staff and faculty and it was amazing, because it was really on a last-minute deadline. We were literally putting stands in the classrooms when classes were going to start the next day.” Eighteen months later, Overholser is still dealing with unknowns and obstacles. As the pandemic has changed, and especially most recently when Omicron came about, the University was seeking quantities of Level 3 and KN-95 masks. Overholser and her team were able to draw on their experience of the past 18 months and relied on existing suppliers to source needed masks for the start of the spring semester. “There have been moments in the last 6 weeks that have challenged us in regard to testing and masks, but overall I would say things are much calmer. I think people understand now that we might have to make substitutions or we might not get items right away, but we’re going to get you something.”

For Overholser, this type of adaptability and acceptance is indicative of innovation and strength. Her life has demanded a different type of strength through acceptance: learning to live with Crohn’s Disease, an often-debilitating inflammatory bowel disease. “For the better part of 15 years, I’ve dealt with a disease that has been flaring. I've been hopeful for new treatments to help, failed on treatments, and ultimately undergone two surgeries.” Since her diagnosis, Overholser has gotten married, purchased a house, and added two dogs, Luna and Penny, to the family, so there have been bright spots, including, she says, a life experience that “taught me to be more compassionate for my staff. I’m there for them. Living with Crohn’s has definitely made me a better leader.”

She is grateful for the opportunity she’s had to work with amazing women leaders in her time at UD, including those in Retail Operations and Procurement. “These women have helped blaze the path and I am lucky to have their guidance and support.” She’s making personal growth as a leader a priority by participating in the Emerging Leaders program with the Center for Leadership. “I want to position myself in a leadership role where I know that people can depend on me. UD has truly made me the leader that I am, and I want to give back in every possible way.”

Overholser believes she can be a positive force for the University, even in these times of uncertainty. “I know what we’re up against because higher education is evolving, and it was changing before the pandemic, but I think UD is seeing those changes and trying to adapt to them.” She is encouraged because she believes the University is addressing issues of diversity and inclusion head on, and has a more focused vision and planned approach on how to incorporate these values at the department level to make measurable progress. This sends a strong signal, she says, because it is in keeping with UD’s Marianist roots and reinforces its commitment to the community. “I think we’re in a very unique climate and community at UD, which I love, and the process of the past couple of years has allowed me to make so many connections whether it’s admins, directors, deans, VPs at all levels. These connections really give me the strength to continue to move forward, and to try to make the process better for them, too.” Overholser goes back to her stated goal of keeping the campus safe. “I feel like that’s what we’ve been able to do. And I didn’t know it was going to be in my job description two years ago, but here we are – still going.”