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Kelly Cormier Selected for College of Engineering Judith A. Pitney Award

Cormier has served as CSE’s UA from the start and has helped to shape one of the most dynamic and influential units at the College of Engineering.

CSE Unit Administrator Kelly Cormier Enlarge
CSE Unit Administrator Kelly Cormier

Kelly Cormier, Unit Administrator for the Computer Science and Engineering Division of the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department, has been selected to receive the College of Engineering’s Judith A. Pitney Staff Service Career Award.

Established in 2006, the award is the highest honor for College staff and recognizes the exemplary work, unique achievements, and significant contributions of a staff member with a minimum of ten years of service in the College of Engineering.

Cormier has served as CSE Unit Administrator since “the beginning of time” when CSE first began functioning as an autonomous unit in 2008, and she has been integral to the organization’s formation, development, culture, and successes.

Cormier joined the EECS Department in 2000 as a research administrator for the Artificial Intelligence Lab after 19 years of prior U-M experience. In 2006, the Computer Science and Engineering Division of EECS moved into its new building (now known as the Bob and Betty Beyster Building) and began to operate in a more autonomous fashion. At that time, CSE Associate Chair Martha Pollack made Cormier the “Chief of Staff” for CSE and she became deeply involved in the intricate planning and negotiations to reorganize EECS into two divisions that would operate as separate de facto departments. In 2008, once that reorganization was complete, Cormier was named CSE’s first UA by Farnam Jahanian, CSE’s first Chair.

Over the years, Cormier has demonstrated a continuing ability to recognize and appropriately respond to the challenges that CSE has faced, while at the same time purposely focusing on the overall success, health, and well-being of the CSE community. She has been a huge factor in successfully guiding CSE from its inception as a standalone division to its position today as one of the largest, most influential, and vital units in the College of Engineering.

Knowing I’d have Kelly to work with was key to my willingness to take the role of CSE Chair, and indeed I can’t imagine being able to run this department without a UA of Kelly’s caliber.

Michael Wellman, Richard H. Orenstein Division Chair of CSE

CSE has grown from a unit with 664 undergraduate and graduate students in 2008, to one that today has nearly 2600 total students. This tremendous growth in the student body has demanded a similar growth in the size of the division’s faculty (now at 90) and staff (core staff now over 40). Along the way, CSE has seen some staff services transition to a shared services model, the Beyster Building has reached capacity, and the Division has experienced a number of changes in leadership. As a result, CSE has been challenged in multiple ways — and in addition to the need for administrative processes and tools required to manage this growth, there has been the very real danger that the unit would lose its sense of community and cohesiveness.

Cormier has been CSE’s constant, stabilizing force, as well as its top promoter, enabler of initiatives, and the glue that has kept the division together through it all. She has responded to all of CSE’s challenges with carefully considered plans, processes, and assignments that take the interests of CSE and the impact to its community into account.

According to Arthur F. Thurnau Professor and Vice Provost for Engaged Learning Valeria Bertacco, “When Kelly sees an opportunity to support a junior faculty member, she secures the resources that person needs. When someone is trying to pursue an initiative that she feels would better the Division, she works to support and enable them.”

Cormier’s office is one of the highest traffic locations in the building, with a stream of students, staff, and faculty queuing up and seeking to solve problems, understand processes, and ask for advice.

Her influence and guidance has been critical for staff hiring and assignments, Division budgeting, faculty research administrator assignments and oversight of the RAs who support faculty in the proposal-writing process, space assignments, center support, faculty orientation, student outreach and engagement, and virtually every other aspect of the Division’s operations.

Michael Wellman, who became the Richard H. Orenstein Division Chair of CSE in August of 2020, says that “Knowing I’d have Kelly to work with was key to my willingness to take the role of CSE Chair, and indeed I can’t imagine being able to run this department without a UA of Kelly’s caliber.”

Cormier long ago recognized that building a vibrant, inclusive, and healthy community is a deliberate and continuous task, and as a result, she has encouraged faculty, student, and staff participation and collaboration in social and community events – and has taken this effort virtual since COVID-19 has become a factor.  She has formed teams to create the popular CSE Bring Your Child to Work Day, the CSE Fitness group, and most recently the CSE DEI Book Club. In addition, Cormier recently designed the half-day intensive CSE New Faculty onboarding program. Cormier is a big reason why CSE has the programs that it does; she listens to and endorses creative and innovative ideas and offers support to help the community grow and build.

Cormier knows that a positive environment and successful Division is dependent on its people. According to John L. Tishman Professor of Engineering John Laird, “I think that Kelly has a super power, which is to find the best people to hire for CSE.”

Cormier provides career support and mentoring for CSE staff, challenging them to be creative, innovative, and daring in their work, and has contributed to the strength of theDivision and the College as a result. She is constantly encouraging staff development and looks for ways to recognize the efforts made by staff, which includes the newly launched CSE Excellence++ Staff Award. As a result, CSE has a high level of staff satisfaction and CSE faculty feel well supported by the staff. Two CSE staff recruited and developed by Cormier have advanced to UA positions at other units in the College and others have moved into additional managerial and leadership roles. One has joined a startup company in a management position. Many others have been retained and have grown within CSE.

Cormier has also made substantial contributions to the College of Engineering through service on a variety of committees, which includes her current participation on the College’s Lecturer Advisory committee; the College’s Staff Telecommuting and Related Resources (STARR) committee; the Beyster Building Addition Design and Program committee; and the College’s Staff Anti-Racism and Ethnicity Training committee. In prior years she served on the College’s Compensation and Classification System Reconfiguration committee as well as on the University of Michigan Research Administration Series committee charged with revamping the structure of Research Administration positions. She has mentored new College unit administrators through her contributions to the College’s UA Workshop series and has participated in the College’s Great to Best Leadership program.

Cormier is a prior recipient of the College of Engineering Excellence in Staff Service Award as well as the Office for VP of Research Distinguished Research Administrator Award. 

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