2014 MIT Excellence Awards to Honor Three DUE Employees

Office of the Dean for Undergraduate Education

The DUE will be well represented at the MIT Excellence Awards ceremony this year. That's because three staff members have garnered awards: Chris Peterson from Admissions; Sarra Shubart from Global Education and Career Development (GECD); and Thomas O’Connor from Undergraduate Advising and Academic Programming (UAAP).

Please join us on February 25 at 3:00 pm in Kresge Auditorium to honor Chris, Sara, and Thomas, along with 41 other recipients, for their exceptional work on behalf of the Institute.  For more information, visit the Excellence Awards website.

Chris Peterson (Innovative Solutions: Collaborating for Results Award)

Chris is a senior admissions counselor in the Admissions Office. In addition to reviewing applications, conducting information sessions, and counseling students, he is part of the admissions communications team. According to one nomination, Chris is exceptional in every aspect of his work: “I have never seen anyone show such dedication, time, and skill when it comes to connecting with students, understanding the culture of MIT, and coming up with amazing creative ideas for telling the MIT story.”

During his time at MIT, Chris has been an innovative contributor to the Admissions website redesign and has developed an “out of the box” yet informative approach to communicating to students via e-mail, blogs, and posts. “The prospective students feel like they know him already—that’s how well he understands and reaches them," one nominator said, adding that Chris's efforts help students feel reassured about choosing to attend MIT.

Chris was also a driving force behind “MIT Imagination,” a one-of-a-kind Admissions video with a Willy Wonka theme. In addition to contributing his vision for the video, he coordinated logistics, edited the final cut, and resolved seemingly insurmountable problems along the way. “Chris has made an impact in so many ways for [Admissions], but I want to especially highlight his creativity, insight, willingness to take risks, and doing all that with a sense of humility and empathy,” wrote another nominator.

Sarra Shubart (Unsung Hero Award)

Sarra ShubartSarra has worn several hats within the GECD office during the past few years; currently, she is an administrative assistant II, supporting distinguished fellowships and study abroad programs. Her dedication over the years prompted her colleagues to nominate her “not for a year’s worth of outstanding work, but for her consistent excellence and years of going beyond the necessary to the extraordinary.”

Sarra has been an invaluable mainstay in GECD at times when the office has been short-staffed because of turnover, maternity or medical leaves, and staff attrition due to budget cuts. Until this year, GECD had not had a single year of a fully staffed office since 2008. Throughout that time, Sarra picked up the slack to keep the office running smoothly. “She is one of those people who consistently stay late to ensure that projects are complete, and take on much more responsibility than their job requires,” one colleague wrote. In 2011, for example, when the Assistant Dean for Global Education left, she took on the work of that position, including managing the Cambridge-MIT Exchange Program application and selection process.

In addition to her “crisis management” skills, Sarra displays an “innovative spirit in all her work, examining how we operate, taking the time to fully understand the need, and only then suggesting extremely well-thought-out plans for improvement.” Sarra proposed and implemented an overhaul of the management system for Rhodes, Marshall, Gates, and Fulbright application materials, converting from a paper system to an electronic one. Sarra’s competence, can-do attitude, and innovative nature led a nominator to conclude, “The value that Sarra brings to our office cannot be quantified.”

Thomas O'Connor (Advancing Inclusion and Global Perspective Award)

Thomas O'ConnorThomas is one of 12 employees sharing the award, chosen for their “tireless work in advancing inclusion at MIT" as members of the Employee Resource Group Co-Leads Team. Currently, there are four Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), part of a Human Resources pilot program that concluded in January. Each ERG focuses on an under-represented group and aims to create a positive work environment and contribute to MIT’s recruitment, inclusion, and retention efforts. These groups include the Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay, and Transgender ERG (which Thomas co-leads); the Asian Pacific American ERG; the Latino ERG; and the African, Black, American and Caribbean ERG.

Thomas and his peer co-leads have given generously of their time to ensure the success of the ERGs. They have organized events geared toward the needs of their members; provided informal mentoring to employees; helped with recruitment initiatives; reached out to employees to ensure they are represented and feel included; and provided valuable feedback and documentation to Human Resources about the impact of the ERG program.

“The twelve ERG co-leads represent the best aspects of MIT: willingness to step up, commitment to moving MIT towards a more inclusive workplace, and the ability to collaborate effectively," said one nomination. "On top of their regular day jobs, the co-leads have all voluntarily added the responsibility of creating, growing, and sustaining these employee organizations. Without their efforts, there would not be any Employee Resource Groups, and MIT would be much the poorer for it.”