Brown’s School of Engineering recently awarded its annual Spirit of Excellence and Dean’s Service awards for the 2022-23 academic year. Tina Garfinkel, Associate Director of the PRIME program won the Spirit of Excellence award, while Executive Assistant Emily Piers received the Dean’s Service award.
The Spirit of Excellence Award was created in 2015 and is given annually to an employee who brings new and innovative ways to do their work, and embraces the vision of the School of Engineering through his or her accomplishments during the previous academic year.
Garfinkel’s efforts have been instrumental in growing the PRIME program from 19 students when she arrived in 2019 to more than 75 full-time equivalent students in the cohort that started this June. For example, year over year Garfinkel has led the charge to achieve annual enrolled student growth targets and increases in application starts to enable even greater selectivity and cohort quality. Her efforts are instrumental in achieving significantly increased master’s program revenue that has enabled faculty hiring as well as other initiatives.
One faculty member said, “The needs of the program are complex and sometimes surprising, and she consistently rises to conquer them. She does so with consummate professionalism and care, never complaining about the pivots and shifts she needs to navigate.”
Another colleague noted, “Tina is very strong in her core responsibilities of program marketing, student recruitment, and enrollment. These processes are both inward and outward facing. They are multi-faceted and require the coordination of many partners across the university. She maintains a sure footing throughout, confidently and consistently accomplishing her many tasks. Importantly, she is never reluctant to learn new skills as required.”
Garfinkel “runs PRIME’s marketing efforts and shapes the ‘face of PRIME’ to our many stakeholders. The impressive growth in the program has been a result of her successful efforts,” said a PRIME faculty member. “She is an extremely hard worker, and generates high-quality assets of all kinds for the program. She shows tremendous creativity in developing new methods for getting the PRIME message crafted and distributed.”
As noted by another PRIME faculty member, “Tina is an absolute joy to work with; exemplary in all aspects! It is always a great thing when you can entrust a team member with the delicate and critical functions associated with outward facing communications. Tina is extremely good in this area, handling interactions with prospective students (future paying customers) and current cohort members with respect, care, and friendliness.”
Garfinkel goes above and beyond, and continually supports all aspects of curricular and co-curricular programming. She works through winter break reviewing and managing the admissions process, and she works through spring break supporting PRIME’s immersion trip to San Francisco. One faculty member said, “She consistently works outside regular hours to support the task at hand to assure excellent execution of our numerous program activities.”
The Dean’s Service Award, established during the 2012-13 academic year, was created to recognize a non-managing employee who has made a specific contribution or provided outstanding service in the School of Engineering. Presented annually, it recognizes the performance of an individual who has been a positive instrument of change, made significant contributions, and who has provided outstanding service to our internal and external constituents.
Piers worked in several areas going above and beyond her normal job duties, and did an excellent job. Most significantly, she was instrumental in onboarding new dean Tejal Desai. Piers worked hard to bring organization, good lines of communication, and prioritization to the interactions of the dean with the entire School over the course of this first year. In addition, Piers took on a few extra initiatives. First and foremost, she spent several hours on the associate dean for DEI search, contributing to the work of human resources, in helping schedule meetings, communicate with candidates, organize materials, and set up meetings with students and faculty. She also took on the work of creating an overview document communicating the parameters and eligibility requirements for the newly created conference travel fund for engineering graduate students and postdoctoral research associates. This involved not only articulating new areas ideas on a new program, but putting them together in a concise way that was clear to students and postdocs. In addition to the overview materials, she created an application form and also coordinated the applications and notified the awardees. This illustrates end to end what excellent, independent work she was able to accomplish during the year.
“Emily is a great representative of the School,” said one senior administrator. “She is thoughtful, inclusive, welcoming, and goes out of her way to help other staff. She frequently makes time to answer questions or help new staff in their day to day jobs, and she is an excellent face of the Dean's office bringing outstanding professionalism to the role.”
Another example of how Piers moved the school forward in tangible ways, was her overhaul of the planning, project management, tracking, and document layout for the Faculty Service Assignments. Piers worked with the dean and associate dean over weeks of planning, and she created an effective tracking mechanism that captured ideas from the dean, and suggestions for each role. She also reformatted the entire Service Assignments document and its accompanying assignments descriptions. She worked with faculty across the school to gather and update the descriptions. Her support of the dean in this area allowed the school to send out the assignments to the faculty and staff much earlier than in previous years.
“Emily is incredibly organized, responsive, and thoughtful in her work,” said one faculty member. “Scheduling seven busy faculty members is like herding cats and Emily was patient, persistent and organized, always with a positive attitude and a smile! She is a great example of excellence in our staff.”