November 11, 2020
By Maureen McMahon
On Tuesday, November 10, 79 members of the University of Chicago Physical Sciences Division attended the first inaugural PSD Staff Awards. The virtual gathering honored staff members nominated by their divisional peers, colleagues, and supervisors for their dedication, hard work, and commitment to the PSD. The EDI Staff Committee (EDISC) organized this inaugural effort and, after a call for nominations in February, received 54 nominations for 34 staff members.
Opening remarks by Dean Angela V. Olinto thanked the PSD staff for their adaptability during these unprecedented times. She praised the staff for excellence across units and called the ceremony a time for well-deserved recognitions.
EDI Director Neli Fanning and Amy Keating, Assistant Director of Development, presented the awards to five winners chosen by members of EDISC. Awardees will receive engraved glass statues and prize money.
The following are the award categories and profiles of the winners.
Bridge Builder Award
This award recognizes a staff person who maintains strong relationships across teams, promoting collaboration and transparency to achieve the best outcome. This individual is someone that others look up to. They are consistently reliable and dedicated to their unit.
The 2020 Bridge Builder Award was given to Alex Filatov, PhD, Director of X-ray Diffraction Facilities, Department of Chemistry. Alex has been with UChicago for six years.
The colleagues who nominated Alex recognized him for actively seeking out new instrumentation and working collaboratively with a number of groups to gain new capabilities for the Division. He is a valuable connector, bringing together many different groups in the Department of Chemistry and at Argonne. His enthusiasm and love of learning mean he is always up for furthering his expertise to help a group. He is known for his willingness to master new systems so that he can better teach students. His nominators said his dedication to the PSD is exceptional.
In a recent PSD staff profile, Alex shared that he was born in the southwest part of Russia, near the border of Ukraine and Belarus, where he finished high school. After receiving his master’s degree in Organic and Pharmaceutical Chemistry at Moscow State University, Russia, he moved to Albany, NY, to pursue a PhD in Chemistry.
Alex enjoys working with a diverse group of people of all ages, races, and nationalities.
“Finding new directions and bringing people together along the way gives me the most satisfaction from the job,” he said.
When he is not tinkering with instruments, Alex loves hiking, camping, traveling, and being outside. He loves spending time with his wife and two energetic daughters. One of his travel dreams is to cross the equator and visit the other half of our planet.
EDI Champion Award
This award recognizes a staff member who acts as a true diversity and inclusion ally and proponent. This individual is a local equity, diversity, and inclusion leader who takes action and shows initiative in promoting EDI in their unit.
The 2020 EDI Champion Award was presented to Carla Strickland, UChicago STEM Education Digital Curriculum Developer. She has been at the University for 12 years.
The colleagues who nominated Carla celebrated her membership on the UChicago STEM Ed Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee (DEIC) since 2016, and her advocacy for diversifying the Center’s staff. Nominators recognized her efforts to improve hiring practices, such as evolving their interview process to include more diverse candidates and questions that highlight non-traditional qualifications. Carla rallies other staff to join events and attend celebrations like the Inclusive Climate staff lunch meetings to discuss articles, blogs, and the implications of their Center’s work. She oversees the catering for these events and partners with minority-owned South Side businesses. As someone who likes to share about her culture and heritage, she invites others to reciprocate. Her leadership addresses small issues, like the requests from a majority women staff to increase the temperature in the office, to the bigger issues like disrupting patterns and practices that implicitly hold back EDI in her unit.
In a recent PSD staff profile, Carla described herself as “a loud and proud Black STEMinist who is passionate about her work in math and computer science education,” and is especially concerned with working towards equity in these fields. Carla grew up in the Caribbean and proudly “represents her Afro- and Indo-Trinidadian culture by bringing that perspective and flavor to every aspect of her life.” She added that she is a #BlackGirlNerd (especially SciFi) who also loves to dance, sing, cook, bake, puzzle, read, DIY, garden, and travel in her free time. She loves her family and one of her great joys is to teach her eight-year-old about their family heritage.
Out of the Box (Rising Star) Award
This award recognizes a staff member recently hired into the Division who shows an innovative mindset. This individual was able to transition into their new role quickly and is successfully making a positive impact in a short time span. Rising star indicates this staff member has been working in the PSD for less than five years.
The 2020 Out of the Box (Rising Star) Award was presented to Sarah Lippert, the Student Affairs Administrator for the Department of the Geophysical Sciences. This is Sarah’s first year working in the Physical Sciences, though she has been at the University for 12 years, previously in the College Dean of Students Office and the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering.
Colleagues nominated Sarah for her excellence on the job. She makes an impact that is felt beyond her department, strengthening relationships with the Office of the Dean of Students, the College, and the Registrar. She is an asset to the Division with a bright future.
In an interview, Sarah shared her passion for working in higher education comes from her time as an undergraduate at Gustavus Adolphus College. There, she held several leadership roles, including orientation leader, co-leader for the Women's Center, and co-leader of the student LGBTQ+ group, Queers and Allies. Her hobbies include knitting and sewing, reading nonfiction, baking, and trying to be funny enough to break into Chicago's stand-up comedy scene.
Keystone Award (Seasoned Veteran)
A keystone staff member helps hold a department, team, or group together, serving as an integral member. This person is someone whom many other staff go to for encouragement, resources, or whom they rely on to “get the job done.” Seasoned veteran indicates this staff member has been working in the PSD for at least five years.
Thirty nominations were submitted for the Keystone Award. In the spirit of this outpouring of recognition, the awards committee chose to honor two members with the award.
The first 2020 Keystone Award was presented to Anne Collard, the Financial Administrator in the Department of Chemistry Business Center. She has been an employee of UChicago for seven years.
Nominators described Anne as a team leader who is always available to share information, listen carefully, and respond thoughtfully. She is great at resolving challenges by looking at the big picture. Her contributions to the training committee include fostering a culture of kindness, inclusion, and excellence. She brings everyone together.
Anne was born and raised on the South Side of Chicago, and Hyde Park has always been home. In an interview, she said she has always enjoyed the brilliant, questioning, learning, and growing atmosphere of UChicago. Before the pandemic, she could be found walking or biking to work in all weather, and rollerblading or biking around Hyde Park and Woodlawn with her husband and child in a bike trailer. Anne enjoys traveling and exploring new areas, while also making the most of all that Chicago has to offer.
The other 2020 Keystone Award was presented to Melinda Moore, the Student Services Administrator for the Department of Chemistry. Melinda said she came to University of Chicago 40 years ago for its academic excellence and chose to stay in the culturally vibrant and diverse place that is Chicago.
Melinda’s nominators described her as an invaluable resource who joyfully and knowledgeably responds to a large volume of inquiries daily. The breadth of her work, from organizing recruitment events to helping graduate students secure housing or answering operations questions, means her contributions are valued across the Department of Chemistry.
In an interview, Melinda said she gives her best effort to help administrative processes. She takes pleasure in knowing her role supports the world-class research in the Physical Sciences Division. Her hobbies are volunteering in the historical neighborhood where she lives, and attending and supporting theater and opera.
Nominations for the second annual PSD Staff Awards will be open in Spring Quarter 2021.
Video presentations about all of the nominees are available on the PSD website.