The Office of the Dean for Undergraduate Education (DUE) honored exceptional staff for their contributions on behalf of students, DUE, and the Institute at its annual Infinite Mile Awards ceremony on June 12.
Dean Dennis Freeman hosted the event and presented awards to outstanding individuals and teams in five categories: Communication and Collaboration, Customer Service, Diversity and Inclusion, Innovation and Creativity, and Leadership.
This year’s award recipients are listed below, with excerpts from the awards presentation.
Communication and Collaboration
Melissa Martin-Greene and Michael Bergren of the Undergraduate Advising and Academic Programming Office (UAAP) were honored for their work on the UAAP Web Design Team, which oversaw the complex redesign of the UAAP website. Because UAAP includes a number of different offices and programs — many of which had websites of their own — the process was challenging. Also, several significant organizational changes announced during the UAAP redesign further complicated the project: the Distinguished Fellowships Program and the Assistive Technology and Information Center were moved under the UAAP umbrella, and both Student Support Services and Student Disabilities Services migrated to the Division of Student Life. Melissa and Michael “persisted through many logistical challenges, overcame setbacks, and created a standard for collegiality. The result is a new, modern, well-designed, and accessible website for the UAAP that will better serve our constituents.”
Lauren McKown of the D-Lab in the Office of Experiential Learning was recognized for creating and implementing a robust communications strategy for two programs, the International Development Innovation Network and the Comprehensive Initiative on Technology Evaluation. McKown was tasked with expanding the outreach of these new, groundbreaking programs, which focus on global poverty, to a diverse audience around the world, including students, academics, entrepreneurs, donors, and others. In six months, she created a graphic identity, website, newsletter, blog, and social media presence for the programs, grounded in her masterful ability as a storyteller: “Her communication style mirrors the spirit and values of the programs themselves, exuding empathy, inclusivity, and empowerment.”
Emily Sheldon of the MIT Admissions Office won her award for devoting considerable time and energy to recruiting and enrolling a diverse array of students, in particular transfer students, veterans, and Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) students. Her collaborative efforts to attract ROTC students have contributed to a five-fold increase in the number of students admitted to the MIT ROTC programs. To attract more veterans, Sheldon has met with high-ranking Pentagon officials, organized a visit to Camp Pendleton in California, and forged a partnership with VetLink, which assists veterans with the college application process. Her efforts have paid off: “Many of our applicants and admitted students from these communities specifically cite meeting Emily as the reason they learned about MIT and decided to apply.”
Meredith Pepin of the Global Education and Career Development Office was recognized for going above and beyond the call of duty to serve students as they consider and pursue career paths. She has worked with a number of special cases, such as students on leave from MIT and students with disabilities that might affect their employment search. Pepin has developed a high level of expertise as the director of the Freshman/Alumni Summer Internship Program, and as the academic liaison to several departments, including Architecture, Mechanical Engineering, and Aeronautics and Astronautics. In all of her work as a career counselor, she “epitomizes the kind of care, attention, and service all MIT students should receive. She is able to connect and establish rapport, and to provide a supportive and encouraging process that helps students progress along whatever path they choose.”
Diversity and Inclusion
Latasha Boyd of the MIT Admissions Office won for her outstanding work as a member of the multicultural recruitment team and for her work with the new DUE Diversity and Inclusion Council. “She has been a tireless advocate for increasing diversity in the MIT community by playing a vital role in recruiting underrepresented students and leading workshops to increase the Admissions staff’s cultural fluency." Among her many other efforts in this regard, Boyd has worked closely with the Office of Engineering Outreach Programs to develop a curriculum to educate students of color about the college admissions process, and has coordinated fly-in visits that attract roughly 500 prospective underrepresented students per year.
Tyrene Jones of the Global Education and Career Development Office was honored for her commitment to enacting positive change as a career advisor for students of diverse backgrounds, and for her involvement in the new DUE Diversity and Inclusion Council. Jones is an “insightful, powerful, and positive thought leader” who enlightens and empowers those she interacts with. “In speaking to larger groups, she communicates with non-judgmental empathy, understanding, and respect for all. Her compassion, maturity, and positive aura draw people in who otherwise might be resistant to or nervous about engaging in open and honest dialogues on the tough topics of race, gender, sex, age, and disability discrimination.”
Innovation and Creativity
Jake Livengood of the Global Education and Career Development Office was recognized for developing engaging improv workshops to help students improve their job search skills and enhance their self confidence. Livengood believed improv could be a useful and fun way to help students prepare for networking, job interviews, and job offer negotiations, because it teaches people to think on their feet, respond to unexpected situations effectively, and handle uncertainty. After receiving training in improv, he developed the workshops and began offering them in the fall of 2015. To date, the “Improv Meister of MIT” has offered over 25 workshops on campus and is in high demand to provide trainings for staff at other schools, such as Harvard University and New York University.
Katherine Wahl of the UAAP's Assistive Technology Information Center received the award for developing novel methods to meet the increased demand for accessibility evaluations. On her own time, Wahl found a creative way to use the GitHub platform to share evaluations among ATIC team members and clients. This method of reviewing and disseminating information has two advantages: It gives clients actionable feedback, and it speeds up the process from the evaluation phase to report writing and final implementation. In addition, Wahl collaborated with her colleague, Rich Caloggero, to find ways to leverage his unique expertise in software development so that allows him to provide more direct feedback and suggestions to developers and project team members.
Jeanne Hillery of the DUE Administration was honored for bringing “her creative spirit, her superb organizational skills, and her humanity to bear on the challenging task of planning space changes within DUE.” She skillfully balances the needs of the staff with the parameters of each project and is noted for her thoughtfulness, commitment, and meticulousness. As one nominator noted, Hillery “measures things down to the very centimeter, ensuring there will be no surprises.” Recent renovations of the Registrar’s Office and the Global Education and Career Development Office are a testament to her outstanding administrative skills and leadership.
Elizabeth Vogel Taylor of the Office of Experiential Learning was recognized for her contributions as an advisor, teacher, mentor, and role model for students. Since joining the tight-knit Concourse Freshman Learning Community in 2015, Vogel Taylor offered for the first time in its 40-year history a version of 5.111 (Principles of Chemical Science) geared for students with one year of high school chemistry. In addition, she has been actively involved in a project in Haiti to build local educational resources, particularly ones in the native language, Haitian Creole. Vogel Taylor is “passionate about her field of study and eager to share the excitement she feels about it with as many people, in as many languages and contexts, as possible. She is a great example of the possibilities of MIT leadership at work in the world.”