Announcing the 2022 Excellence Award Winners!
Andrew Heald and Natalia Roman Alicea
Beginning in December 2021, Andrew Heald and Natalia Roman Alicea created an orientation program for refugee students from Afghanistan and Ukraine, providing support for students who have experienced violence and loss in their home countries and helping them to create a home at Brown. The two-week orientation, offered through the Global Brown Center for International Students, included sessions on academics, residential life, dining services and health and wellness, and connected students with a variety of campus resources.
Bringing in refugee students was previously unprecedented at Brown. To create this program, Andrew and Natalia collaborated with other offices and departments and established relationships with outside organizations that are involved with supporting refugees, strengthening Brown’s connection to the Providence community. Each student came with their own set of needs, and many had endured loss, separation, violence and trauma, making their integration into a new campus and new country even more difficult. In the face of these challenges, Andrew and Natalia worked tirelessly to provide individual and group support in order to ensure that these students would be successful at Brown, including organizing trips to familiarize the students with locations in the community. When the orientation program ended, they remained available to the students throughout the academic year.
Thanks to Andrew and Natalia, these students have fully integrated into Brown’s campus, and are thriving as a part of this community. Many have decided to stay and matriculate at Brown. Andrew and Natalia are continuing to work with external organizations to make sure that Brown is open to receive and care for displaced students in the future.
Office of the Dean of the College
Hanna Exel was instrumental in maintaining the operations of Pre-Health Advising through the 2022-23 medical school application cycle, when Brown saw more than 185 medical school applicants — higher than any previous cycle — and during a time of unexpected staffing transition. As program coordinator, Hanna liaised with the Health Career Advising Committee to ensure the timely submission of applicant advising materials; communicated with all medical school applicants to complete their dossiers and submit their applications; connected pre-health concentrators with advisors; and, most remarkably, managed to accelerate the submission process for institutional letters of support.
Hanna designed and spearheaded an application management dashboard that streamlined the efforts of a team of nine advisors to oversee the entire application process, from composing, commenting on and finalizing letters of support for applicants to shepherding the submission of application materials. As a result of Hanna’s efforts, all of the applications were submitted early or on time, students felt more at ease in the course of a stressful process, and the team was able to reduce the turnaround time of letters of support from 58 days to 37 days.
In addition, as the manager of the process, Hanna built positive relationships with stakeholders, including graduate student staff at the Writing Center, staff at the College who stepped up to assist with the process and dozens of Brown faculty who write letters of recommendation for applicants, as well as the student and alumni applicants.
Office of the Vice President for Research
Brittany Pailthorpe plays an integral role administratively supporting the Office of Research Strategy and Development (ORSD) and has a keen eye for dissecting and understanding complex processes, and making them easier and more efficient. She single-handedly orchestrated a complete change in management of Humanities Research Funds (HRF), which the office awards annually to support faculty research in the humanities and social sciences. Brittany condensed a two-step process for the department chairs into one, reducing the time required for the submission process, fixed issues with the submission forms based on feedback and created a standard training module for department managers. Brittany also developed a system that allowed the vice president for research to more quickly review allocations and funding disbursements and made it easier for the finance group to move money into department accounts. This work allowed the office to increase investment in the program, making more funding available to faculty.
Brittany’s influence does not end with the significant HRF process improvements. As staff adopted a flexible work schedule and more staff worked remotely, she organized a department technology inventory system to quickly assess what equipment has been distributed and better plan aged-out replacements. Brittany has also been critical in reimagining the Office of the Vice President for Research’s Celebration of Research event; designed and launched a website to meet gaps during the early part of the COVID pandemic that is now a critical resource for award recipients; and developed a playbook to support all ORSD virtual events. Brittany’s efforts prove there are always new ways of doing business that positively impact all constituents.
BioMed Planning and Analytics
Biology and Medicine
With a drive toward excellence and a passion for customer service, BioMed Planning and Analytics has been able to deliver innovative tools and efficiency solutions with a wide-ranging impact on the Division of Biology and Medicine. The division has become incredibly reliant on the team to provide critical analyses that enable data-driven decision-making as well as operational enhancements to increase efficiencies across multiple departments. As a result of these efforts, processes are streamlined, reporting and analyses are enhanced, audit risks are minimized, and departmental staff have more robust and efficient tools at their disposal.
One example of these improvements is the creation of an expense tracker, which provides departments and principal investigators with an efficient way to forecast and reconcile grant accounts, allowing data to flow in an automated way rather than be entered manually. The team also developed a faculty salary tool, in collaboration with BioMed Faculty Affairs and Human Resources, that analyzes faculty salaries against Association of American Medical Colleges benchmarks across several critical factors. The tool allows Faculty Affairs to efficiently report accurate data while helping to assess equitable and competitive salary offers for prospective faculty recruits. Other improvements include the construction of a new financial projection model to better estimate year-end financial results and the creation of a new Clinical Faculty Database that more efficiently tracks faculty appointments at the medical school.
The Planning and Analytics team juggles competing projects simultaneously while providing exceptional customer service. They are analytical in their approach as well as flexible and thoughtful to the needs of a growing division that requires accessible and accurate data.
Atrium Implementation project team
Finance and Administration
Thanks to the Atrium Implementation Project Team, Brown now has a simplified card and meal plan management system that allows students to change their plans online rather than in person — eliminating approximately 2,500 in-person visits each semester. This process included several important steps, led by core members of the team.
Christina Downs spearheaded the detailed process of identifying all past and current Bear Bucks accounts going back 26 years, helping to ensure that funds in 20,684 inactive accounts could still be claimed. Mike Leitao ensured that the meal and Bear Bucks online portal was correctly configured and set up the new kiosks around campus, which sell guest cards and allow Brown cardholders to add value to their accounts.
The Dining team of Kelly Murphy, Diane Lovell and Tony Antetomaso was responsible for verifying that the meal plan rules were correctly configured and the resulting billing file was accurate. Marla Pearsall from the Bursar’s Office was involved in configuration, implementation and testing to ensure that charges were appropriately applied to student accounts. Nanyeli Garcia and Alex Vergez trained Dining’s cashiers on using the new point of sale terminals and continue to troubleshoot and ensure all new cashiers know how to use the system. Greg Silva worked with the Dining team on the configuration and testing of credit card transactions at all locations. Steve Tompkins was the technical lead on this project, assisted by John Rice, who joined the project in the spring. Rob Buckley entered faculty, staff and student information, helping to ensure that those participating in summer programs had meal plans assigned when they needed them.
The new system was launched this past summer and has already saved substantial time for students and staff, as well as paved the way for delivering new services in the future.
Financial Operations Team
Finance and Administration
The Financial Operations team within the Office of Financial Strategy and Planning, consisting of employees Mary Levesque, Paula Ferreira and Ivy Hall, efficiently and effectively helps academic and administrative departments understand Brown’s financial policies and processes and, in their primary function, initiates financial transactions on behalf of those departments. In FY22, the team processed close to 10,000 transactions, with 83% being completed within two business days — all while being down an FTE during the fourth quarter (and busiest time of year).
Throughout the pandemic, the team has continued to efficiently and effectively process financial transactions to keep University departments humming. The team has also assisted departments that weren’t in their normal portfolio but that had a recent vacancy or had decided to eliminate a position within their department. The team met with the department leads and talked through what was needed in terms of financial transactions and helped provide clarity on certain financial policies or processes. The team helped create efficiencies for the University by translating policies and/or process changes throughout the pandemic, helping to ensure that financial transactions were completed quickly, with appropriate documentation.
Jeffrey Powers and Steve Meunier
The Applications Engineering team, consisting of Jeffrey Powers and Steve Meunier, provides oversight and management for building automation systems on campus and supports the Facilities Management team on many levels, including providing technical support for the trades divisions regarding HVAC and building automation issues. Working with the Office of Sustainability, the team has identified and made improvements to systems to save energy and improve performance — helping the University to meet its carbon reduction goals. They also have worked to replace obsolete controllers and update obsolete pneumatic systems to modern control systems, resulting in significant energy and cost savings to the University.
The team has developed an in-house training program for employees in the trades to be able to troubleshoot and diagnose problems with equipment via the building automation system. They also have provided programming to use the building automation system for predictive maintenance, which allows Facilities to identify when systems require preventive maintenance based on actual run time instead of just a calendar schedule. This team also was instrumental in integrating the building automation system into Planon to generate work orders based on actual mechanical or environmental conditions on campus — improving overall workflow and allowing faster response for repairs.
In January 2022, the Office of Information Technology (OIT) and the Office of University Communications (OUC) embarked on a project to change hosting platforms for both University and departmental websites. As part of this massive effort, close to 200 sites — including the flagship homepage, brown.edu — would be migrated over a six-month period. The most significant portion of this work for the OIT team involved building out a suite of management tools that would enable the OUC team to work more effectively.
Rather than standing up additional infrastructure to manage the new Drupal Cloud environment, Emily Kasbohm suggested the novel idea of continuing to leverage investment in an existing platform, GitHub Actions, to accomplish the needed functions for OUC. She was able to use her existing GitHub knowledge, combined with superior software engineering skills, to rapidly build out more than 15 different automations. Her work has dramatically reduced the engineering complexity around managing Drupal Cloud and empowered the OUC Web and Digital team to be more efficient in their work. Building on an existing platform makes the environment easier to support for Web Services, while also serving as an automation exemplar for the rest of the Enterprise Applications group in OIT.
Ernie Harris took over the lead plumber position at the beginning of the year. Since transitioning to this new position he has worked diligently with new hires to make sure they have everything they need to serve customers across campus. He has developed a tight bond with Division 02 staff so they feel comfortable coming to him with questions, and he is often coming up with new ideas to streamline processes.
Ernie is willing to take phone calls off hours when needed, answering staff questions and calling in vendors when required. He worked tirelessly to assist the manager of plumbing and electrical while the plumbing supervisor was out on medical leave. He was also instrumental in setting up the pilot program for truck inventory with Stores Operations for Facilities. They created a barcode scanning label system on all the shelves in the Division 02 vehicles. Ernie came up with an idea to create books with barcode labels in them that staff could just scan to order materials. This has made it easier to order materials and to make repairs quickly for customers. Ernie also has been extremely helpful to the Planon team, finding solutions to problems that arise with the Division 02 team members on the Planon mobile application.
After joining the newly reunited Office of Corporate and Foundation Relations (CFR) in July 2021, Alyssa Mefford played a significant role in creating new business processes, building relationships with stakeholder units across the Division of Advancement and developing relationships with partners across the University and beyond. Alyssa stepped into a role that was vacant for more than one year and quickly took on new responsibilities and soon began to partner with her manager to improve the team's operations.
She helped during the onboarding of several new deans by creating academic funding reports that provided a fuller understanding of how corporations and foundations support research and strategic initiatives in their academic areas, and where the opportunities exist to scale. Alyssa also has refined CFR’s gift accounting and compliance processes, data tracking and annual metrics report, which shares accomplishments with University leadership.
While Brown continues to navigate challenging processes related to corporate and foundation giving and grants, as well as aging systems, Alyssa is working toward addressing some of these most pressing issues. She helps to ensure that faculty and staff experience a high level of quality customer service and the University is positioned for excellence and success.
As an employee who joined the Office of Residential Life just over a year ago, Kris Tangen was a major contributor to the success of the first-year orientation program this year. Kris co-chaired the planning committee for first-year orientation and worked with campus partners to create an innovative schedule, planning 48 total events in the seven days from move-in to Convocation, programming that encouraged community building within the Class of 2026.
Kris created new events that introduced students to aspects of campus not usually incorporated in orientation, such as the first-ever pep rally planned with Athletics. It was a huge success, with a full house at the Pizzitola Sports Center and a line waiting to get in. Kris continues to work with athletics to involve more students in attending events. He also planned the first "Brown Runs Target" event, hiring buses to take first years to the Seekonk Target, which closed its doors to the public and opened solely for Brown students.
His accomplishments include an outstanding training program of peer mentors and a thoughtful plan for activities and education that enabled first-year students to learn Brown values and find community, belonging and support in their first days on campus.
As program manager of residential operations in Brown's Office of Residential Life, Stephanie Norris brings enthusiasm, attention to detail, a strong work ethic and incredible customer service to her work. Stephanie's impact can most clearly be seen during her work during Commencement and Reunion Weekend 2022, which brought in not only the usual guests but also hundreds of Class of 2020 graduates and their families.
The office introduced a new housing reservation platform this year and, while the new system brought many improvements, it also brought frustration to some guests who struggled to adapt to the new technology. Stephanie created a test user and taught herself how to navigate the form as one of our guests would — using this perspective to suggest process improvements and helping countless guests make their reservations.
Stephanie again came to the rescue during the weekend when, due to a technology issue outside of her control, check-in lines across campus grew long, and guests grew unhappy. Stephanie kept guests calm and even offered them parts of the edible arrangement she had received for her birthday while she worked to resolve the issue. Throughout the weekend, it was Stephanie's hard work, positive attitude, and service with a smile that kept things running smoothly, and smoothed things over during difficult moments.
Julio Reyes and Renata Mauriz
Campus Life and Student Services
Over the past five years, Julio Reyes and Renata Mauriz have created and developed the FLi Scholars Program (FLiSP) out of the Undocumented, First-Generation College and Low-Income Student (U-FLi) Center. FLiSP is a year-long student development and community-building cohort program for first-year students, providing individualized strengths-based advising, a comprehensive understanding of campus resources and affirming communities of support.
Julio and Renata built this program from the ground up and provide advising and support for U-FLi students. Through their individualized support and community building, Julio and Renata have made Brown’s resources more readily accessible for students who have been historically excluded from higher education. Julio and Renata are very skillful mentors and advisors who understand the challenges that these student populations face and know how to navigate the Open Curriculum as Brown alumni themselves. They are active listeners for their students and have dedicated time to building their own personal relationships with campus partners.
Renata and Julio’s work with the FLiSP cohort over the past five years have resulted in a vibrant and engaged U-FLi community. Students are set up for success and as a result are more engaged across campus and able to more readily access resources.
The Grounds Department members are onsite each and every day maintaining the campus grounds to the highest level, meeting and overcoming challenges with no questions asked. Two specific challenges arose during the January 29, 2022 blizzard and during the double Commencement ceremonies over Memorial Day weekend.
On January 29, the Grounds Department arrived on campus at 6 a.m., ahead of the major snowfall. The snow began coming down at rates of over an inch an hour, and the wind was gusting, creating large drifts and greatly reducing visibility. Over the next few hours, city roads became nearly impassable. Not only were members of the Grounds team plowing their way around campus, they were often seen assisting members of the Brown and Providence communities. Countless vehicles were towed or pushed out of the deep snow in the city streets. They also provided support in plowing roads ahead of Brown EMS to ensure they could respond to any calls.
The second major challenge the Grounds Department faced last year was to help pull off the double Commencement ceremony celebrating the classes of 2020 and 2022. Arriving at midnight on Saturday morning, the Grounds Department began the monumental task of cleaning up after the Campus Dance and ensuring that the Class of 2020 procession at 9:30 a.m. was not impacted. Once the 2020 ceremony began, the Grounds Department began preparing for Baccalaureate. With a very long day behind them, the Grounds staff members headed home for a few hours to rest before returning the following day to set up for the 2022 Commencement Ceremony. This was a very unique event, and Grounds hit every single one of their deadlines to ensure that all events and ceremonies looked great.
EXCELLENCE AWARD SELECTION COMMITTEE
Special thanks to this year’s Excellence Award Selection Committee who read dozens of nominations for more than 185 staff members representing 45 departments across the University. We could not have done this without their incredible insight, expertise, and hard work!
Tiffini Bowers, John Hay Library
Jeff Cabral, American Studies
Deborah Dunphy, Facilities Management
Robert Eaton, Finance Division
Nancy Freeman, Office of Information Technology
Peter Murphy, School of Engineering
Jessica Porter, Graduate School
Samantha Rathbun, BioMed Human Resources
Margaret Santiago, School of Public Health
Jamie Tyrol, The College