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MIT's most-excellent staff

Deadline for Excellence Award nominations is Oct. 25 for MIT, Oct. 18 for Lincoln Laboratory.

Talk about an embarrassment of riches: In March, the MIT Excellence Awards honored 15 individuals and four teams from across campus and Lincoln Laboratory — but the honorees that day were only the most visible of MIT’s “excellent” employees.

“By the time the nominations have risen to the level of Institute-wide recognition, they are phenomenal,” says Rebecca Bell, administrative assistant for the Enterprise Forum, who served on last year’s Excellence Awards selection committee. “When you’re at the ceremony you think, well of course these people should win the award. But behind the scenes with the other 100 [nominees], it’s very difficult to choose.”

Nominations for this year’s awards are due Oct. 25 for campus staff, Oct. 18 for Lincoln Laboratory employees. Now in its 10th year, the Excellence Awards recognize exceptional accomplishments by support, service, sponsored research, administrative and other academic staff (they’re not intended to recognize teaching and research). Individuals receive $2,000 prizes, and each team shares up to $10,000.

"The nominations are just astounding,” Bell says. “There’s … someone fantastic sitting in your office — and you should recognize them.”

Professor Seth Teller agrees. “There are so many unsung heroes around MIT, it’s nice to have the community recognize them,” said Teller, who last year nominated administrative assistant Britton “Bryt” Bradley for the Greening MIT award. “I think people really want some acknowledgment from their peers that they’re doing great things.”

Bradley says winning was “awesome,” and that afterward she found more colleagues in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science were coming to her for recycling advice. “I’ve got more people from EECS saying, ‘Hey, you got that award, so you must know the answer.’”

Hsiao-hua Burke, who with her colleagues received a 2010 team award for Fostering Diversity and Inclusion, reported a similar experience. “Now more people know about the Lincoln Laboratory’s Technical Women’s Network” and more people are attending events, she says. “It brought our visibility up ... and that’s a big plus.”

The nomination process is straightforward, according to Kande Culver, administrator for MIT’s Rewards and Recognition Program. The key is to pick a category that aligns well with your colleague’s performance and focus on that category’s criteria in your nomination.

This year’s categories are:
  • Greening MIT
  • Fostering Diversity and Inclusion
  • Innovative Solutions
  • Bringing Out the Best
  • Serving the Client
  • Unsung Hero
Culver also recommends using detailed examples to demonstrate work above and beyond what’s expected. The next step is to submit the nomination using the online form. Up to two other people may submit letters of support.

Bell suggests talking to a range of people who have been positively affected by your candidate to give the nomination depth: “Your perspective and your involvement with this person is probably one of many, and having other people share their experience helps the committee see the big picture.”

This year’s ceremony will be held in Kresge Auditorium on March 1, 2011. “It’s a great event,” says Bob Shin, Lincoln Laboratory’s division head for ISR and Tactical Systems. “Everybody’s there and that shows that it really means something.” Shin nominated the Lincoln Laboratory Technical Women’s Network Planning Committee for its award last year.

“All of us were surprised and excited [to win],” notes Burke, chair of the committee and the Laboratory’s division head for air and missile defense technology. “I think it’s a great way to recognize people.”

“Being at the ceremony and listening to Dr. Hockfield and senior leadership talk about why people are winning, it inspires our community to submit nominations — but also to recognize people on a more-regular basis for their contributions above and beyond,” Bell said. “The hard work that you do is appreciated more than you know.”

MIT’s Rewards and Recognition Program also sponsors Appreciation Awards and Infinite Mile Awards, which highlight the accomplishments of staff at the departmental level. To see who has been honored in your school, department or laboratory, visit the 2010 Infinite Mile Awards website.

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