Paula Pernia awarded Staff Excellence Award for her remarkable contributions as Facilities Manager

As ECE Facilities Manager for ECE, Pernia has exhibited stellar performance over 27 years at the University, while embodying the values of ECE that make it a great place to work.
A headshot of Paula Pernia standing outdoors, wearing a black and white patterned blouse.
Paula Pernia. Photo: Jero Lopera

Paula Pernia, ECE Facilities Manager, received a Staff Excellence Award from the College of Engineering in recognition of her extraordinary efforts in managing the facilities for Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE), which extend beyond the EECS Building to include 140,094 sq. ft. of space in 10 different campus buildings.

“In addition to her responsibilities for the many facilities required for ECE, Paula manages an equipment inventory second only to the hospital, and with a department of ECE’s size, she handles more customers and requests than most,” said Lisa Armstrong, Unit Administrator for EECS and ECE.

Paula’s space survey has been praised by those outside the department and by professionals in the business. “Paula’s survey process sets a gold standard for producing a consistent, accurate survey that would be highly defensible in an audit situation,” said CoE Facilities Director Peg Peterson. Because of its excellence, her process has been praised by 3rd party consultants, and shared with other departments in the University.

The work required to manage the EECS Building alone would be daunting to most facilities managers. ECE faculty require specialized labs for their research, and with new faculty being hired each year, renovations are constant. Paula’s extensive experience has led to reduced costs and expedited service, whenever possible. Space is at a premium, and increasingly faculty are forced to locate their research activities in other buildings. Paula has been praised for working tirelessly to create temporary research lab space so faculty productivity isn’t compromised.

Adding to Paula’s workload is the age of the building. At nearly 50 years old, the EECS building has many shortcomings, which have contributed to two major floods in recent memory. The most recent occurred on Christmas Day, 2022. This was the largest known flood in the history of the University. Despite being on medical leave at the time, Paula managed the situation from home, and ensured that classes were able to start on time the following term. The fallout from the flood resulted in a year’s worth of effort that culminated in replacement of the carpet a year later, also during the holiday. Paula again spent much of her holiday managing the carpet installation.

Another instance where Paula went above and beyond her normal extensive duties was during the pandemic. She was key in planning the partial opening for research activities, and later the return of all faculty, students, and staff.  At times she covered for other units so their staff could remain at home. She would even deliver critical mail to people’s homes.

Paula is a key member of the ECE Safety Committee, and goes above and beyond to ensure lab safety. She often works past normal working hours to assist faculty and students with proper chemical storage and fire and radiation safety, for example, while ensuring that EHS standards are met. 

She is also a consummate team player. Paula readily assists with many of the events occurring in the department. As one example, she provided assistance at every step for ECE’s biannual Family Fun Night. This event attracts more than 400 individuals of all ages, and there are events appropriate to every age group. Paula works hand in hand with ECE’s Events Manager to make sure every detail is considered and covered, and then volunteers to ensure the event runs smoothly.

Finally, Paula contributes to the positive work environment that epitomizes ECE. She is there to celebrate special occasions. She looks after her staff, and has remembered the facilities workers during the holidays by spearheading a monetary gift for each individual. Paula has been with the University for 27 years, and remains a beacon of excellence as a staff member.

“Her empathy for others combined with her unfailingly positive outlook play a major role in making ECE an inclusive and caring division in which to work,” said Becky Peterson, Associate Professor and Director of the Lurie Nanofabrication Facility.

Pernia will receive the award at the College of Engineering Staff Excellence Award ceremony on May 23, 2024.