An institution’s culture is hard to define and harder to measure. It’s very hard to draw bright lines between causes and effects. It’s everywhere and mostly unnoticed.
That culture is created one choice at a time, as individuals decide how to relate to their coworkers, colleagues and students – right now, in the moment. Michigan Engineering has defined the values intended to guide those choices, strengthen relationships and encourage bold thinking.
As part of that effort, this fall marked the launch of a Michigan Engineering 2020 Strategic Vision pilot program to reward and recognize staff and faculty who take extra steps to advance the College. The program recognizes those on campus whose achievements embody a forward-thinking approach to fostering College values and building its culture.
“From innovation in mentorship opportunities to creative course design to undertaking of daring research programs, the recipients of rewards under the 2018 faculty incentives program are exemplifying Michigan Engineering values,” said Michael Wellman, associate dean for Academic Affairs and the Lynn A. Conway Collegiate Professor of Computer Science and Engineering.
“Staff have always stepped up to look for ways we can improve! It is great to have an additional way to recognize that effort,” said Deborah Mero, the senior executive director of Resource Planning and Management. “They have done things like create new programs to support creativity, innovation and daring across the College; advance our diversity, equity and inclusion efforts; provide more opportunities for professional development; and streamline business processes. We’re excited to see what improvements they’ll advocate for next.”
Here are a few examples of this year’s faculty recipients:
Michael Flynn, professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, for taking the initiative to make faculty more accountable by developing a faculty report card and personally and proactively identifying and addressing issues between faculty and students.
Chinedum Okwudire, associate professor of Mechanical Engineering, for leadership contributions to diversity and climate. Okwudire co-founded and serves as co-chair for the Dean’s Advisory Committee on Faculty of Color. The committee has initiated monthly dinner meetings for faculty of color to help provide support and also started a lunch program for Mechanical Engineering graduate students of color to provide academic support and mentorship.
Aileen Huang-Saad, assistant professor of Biomedical Engineering, for the development and implementation of an “Incubator” class in the fall term that taught graduate students education theory and had them develop experiential learning modules for undergraduate students as their term projects. The modules were often offered to undergraduate students in the winter term with graduate students overseeing implementation.
Nilton Renno, professor of Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering, for his work as an international leader in the search for life in the solar system, including the development of an instrument to be carried on a NASA lander to Europa or other water worlds. Nilton also took technologies he developed to remotely detect ice on Mars and adapted it to allow airline pilots to know how much ice is on the runway.
Mary Jane Northrop, technical communications lecturer IV, for her dedication to integrating new, targeted pedagogical approaches, including video creation, so that she can capture the attention of the growing population of computer science students.
The following are a few examples of this year’s staff recipients:
Rick Vanden Heuvel, a research development director, for his role in the implementation of the College’s visitor program. The program required the creativity, innovation and daring to craft a policy that was a significant change, to establish buy-in through the College and University for approval, and to create a system that enables the College to effectively implement the new program. He was able to do this with the support and engagement of the many staff on the team who shared in this effort.
Anne Rhoades, a senior human resources generalist, for taking an integral part in developing the staff mission and values for Electrical and Computer Engineering. She worked with her unit administrator to actively engage the department staff to draw out ideas to determine what they value in the workplace, what they value in others, and what qualities and behaviors they should emulate. The ECE staff mission and values are now a focal point, and further professional development in connection to these values is in development.
Mariah Fiumara, the student affairs program manager in the Office of Student Affairs, for working tirelessly with student organizations to develop groundbreaking, comprehensive DEI strategic plans as part of the sponsored student organization registration process. In addition to these formal frameworks, she also collaborated with units across the university to provide innovative, holistic and daring trainings for student organizations, with the goal of creating a more inclusive, diverse and respectful community within the College.
Tony Sebastian, senior director for the Lurie Nanofabrication Facility, for his contributions to collaboration and teamwork. In his time in charge of the support of the overall LNF toolset, he has implemented procedures leading to better and more effective collaborations. They help make sure that staff members work together to establish backup support on equipment, rather than working individually on tools that they are responsible for. His efforts push staff members to work together toward the common goal of providing better service to the community, and as part of the LNF team.
Another new pilot program, this one developed by staff, for staff, will be rolling out in spring of 2019. By providing opportunities and incentives to collaborate across units and departments, the goal is to engage and cultivate the full potential of staff expertise and ideas – activating the full potential of Michigan Engineering through creativity, innovation and daring.