Meet Anna Stroup-Holladay, executive assistant and contact tracer
Anna Stroup-Holladay is the assistant to the chair of the School of Computational Science and Engineering in the College of Computing. In addition to supporting the chair, she takes meeting minutes, keeps committees running, and coordinates special projects and event planning.
Like most people though, Holladay’s daily routine has changed during the pandemic.
“One of the biggest changes is that a lot of the things we did before went away. For example, in the span of 10 days I had to reschedule 20 in-person interviews and make them all virtual. Making everything online was trial by fire,” she said. For now, the interview process is virtual.
Over the summer Holladay read an email from the Institute asking for volunteers to help with contact tracing when students came back to campus.
“I’ve always been a joiner,” she said. “I knew that a lot of my routine paperwork, such as travel reimbursement, was going away because of the new travel restrictions. So I spoke with my supervisor, and instead of taking more training classes I decided to do volunteer work and help with contact tracing as part of surveillance testing. Where I was filling out travel reimbursement forms before, now I’m calling people and filling out questionnaires.”
Holladay said it has been a very interesting experience. She is one of about 50 people on campus helping with contact tracing, including volunteers from Georgia Tech Athletics and the Georgia Tech Police Department. It is led by Dr. Benjamin Holton in Stamps Health Services. A couple of team leads disseminate the work to volunteers.
Holladay calls students, faculty, or staff who have tested positive.
“At first we were taking down the information by hand and filling out forms. Now we’re tracking information with the Qualtrics app, and it has become much more streamlined,” she said. “Georgia Tech is one of the only places in the U.S. doing contact tracing at this level.”
The calls are completed within 24 hours after the positive test results are confirmed.
“But you can’t just rapid fire questions at them. It’s up to you — the person calling — to create a rapport with the student, faculty, or staff person you’re talking with. We have a list of questions and a script to follow to gather the information.”
Holladay said it’s important for her to keep informed about the latest guidelines so that she is sharing the right information with the people she contacts.
Working in the School of Computational Science and Engineering also made Holladay want to volunteer with contact tracing because some of the school’s professors are already working with Covid-19.
“Aditya Prakash is working with the CDC doing Covid-19 tracing. Srijan Kumar is doing some work on how bias and discrimination have increased during the coronavirus pandemic. So, being part of CSE and seeing what they are contributing made me feel that I can contribute in my own small way by doing this,” she said.
Her Regular Job
Holladay came to Tech in 2015 after working for a boutique executive search firm. She likes being able to work on a variety of projects.
“The most rewarding part of my job is taking the small things that would have fallen through the cracks and making sure that they actually happen,” she said. “I was one of the leaders for helping get our office moved over to the Coda Building and then getting everything set up that makes a building a ‘home’ for the school. Then, when we had to make Covid-19 changes I came in to measure for social distancing so we can keep our students safe.
“Another great part of my job is being able to be the face of this school and the correspondent for faculty searches. Computer Science and Engineering is a growing school so we’re constantly on the search for the best and the brightest in the field, and I am the liaison for all the travel and logistics and welcoming people to Georgia Tech.”
A few months ago Holladay helped plan the virtual retirement party for the school’s founding chair Regents’ Professor Emeritus Richard Fujimoto.
“It was a unique challenge to find an adequate way to celebrate the founder of our school virtually,” she said. “Our new chair, Haesan Park, and I put on our creative hats and pulled out all of the stops. There was a whole committee of faculty and staff who got together to properly honor him. We had musical performances, karaoke, slide shows, and all kinds of stuff. It was a real challenge to make the context fit and show all of the ways he has touched people’s lives. But it was a lot of fun.”
Away From the Office
When she’s not working for Georgia Tech, Holladay enjoys camping, playing with her puppy, working with the arts community, and running a micro-wedding business.
She likes camping in the mountains, especially Georgia’s Tallulah Gorge State Park and Pigeon Mountain.
During the pandemic she got a new puppy, a Maltese named Bonnie.
“She is amazing. She’s all teeth and fluff, a little white mop running around that wants to chew on your toes. She’s learning commands, and we do dance party moves.”
Holladay also is involved with the Burning Man community in Atlanta. Burning Man is an annual event held in the Nevada desert. Since 2013 she has been involved with the Flashpoint Artists Initiative, the organization responsible for overseeing the creation of Georgia’s two Burning Man events. She has helped plan events and served on the board of directors. The Initiative’s events provide access to funds for public arts, and the festivals are a vehicle for that.
Holladay also plans custom micro weddings with a twist — the couple is completely hands off. She and her husband started Sweet Grass Weddings in 2015 after getting married in their own tiny wedding.
The person getting married contacts Holladay and shares information about what kind of wedding they want. Then they show up at the wedding with everything done for them — décor, cake, officiant, photography, flowers and whatever else is needed.
“If you want a dog at your wedding we’ll bring a dog cake and a bandanna for your dog. If you want to have a memorial to your grandmother, bring me a picture of your grandmother. We take what people want in a gigantic wedding and shrink it to a two-hour event but all of the details, personality, and luxury are still there. It’s lot of fun, and we’ve done more than a hundred weddings,” she said.