Chips recognize staff members who go above and beyond

Michelle Kiso did more than organize a three-day event for prospective students last February. The graduate coordinator for the Department of Computer Science even got up at 4 a.m. on a Sunday morning to take two of the students to the airport because the Hilton Gardens Hotel Shuttle wasn’t available.

Talk about above and beyond the call of duty! “Her actions showed how important these candidates are to Computer Science and the Hajim School,” wrote Eileen Pullara, the department’s administrator.

Kiso’s good deed earned her a Hajim School bravo chip, thanks to Pullara’s nomination.

Launched in 2011 by former dean Rob Clark, the bravo chip program “recognizes exemplary work” done by Hajim School and other University staff members in support of the school. It relies on nominations from fellow staff members, faculty members, department chairs, and administrators.
Recipients receive a letter of commendation and a distinctive blue and white Hajim School poker chip redeemable for a gift valued at $25 from the University IT Computer Store or a meal on campus at the Meliora, Douglass, and Danforth dining centers. Some recipients hold on to them as valued mementoes.

As of December 2016, 400 bravo chips had been awarded to 211 individuals, of whom 71 (including Kiso and Pullara) have received multiple awards.

“Our staff really are fantastic,” says new Dean Wendi Heinzelman, who is eager to keep the program going. “They go above and beyond on so much that they do, so this is a nice way to recognize them.”

While the reward is small in dollar value, says Jason Sabel, assistant chair of electrical and computer engineering, he believes it has a long-term benefit by improving employee morale.

“When I nominate someone for the bravo chip I generally let their supervisors know that I gave this to them, and why, in case they are not aware,” says Sabel, who has received multiple bravo chips himself. “We often hear what we did wrong and what needs to be improved and it is good to hear ‘good job’ or ‘thank you’ every now and again, and this goes a long way. Sometimes their ideas or their help can save time and money for the University. This program is simple to use and allows us to immediately acknowledge that person.”

The program is also a good barometer of the cooperation that occurs across multiple departments, both within the Hajim School and across the University.

Last year, for example, the Hajim School undergraduate coordinators, as a group, nominated colleagues in the Registrar’s Office for promptly handling requests to change rooms, raise enrollment caps on courses, and add new sections to help accommodate the school’s increased enrollments.

When the graduate coordinator that Kiso replaced in computer science was not able to stay on and train her, Kiso turned to Michele Foster, her counterpart in electrical and computer engineering, as her “go to” person. “The help she (Foster) has provided to me, even though it was not her responsibility to, is a demonstration of her dedication to supporting student success for all students in the Hajim School,” Kiso wrote in nominating Foster for one of the many bravo chips she has earned.

Similarly, Donna Porcelli, graduate program coordinator in biomedical engineering and another multiple bravo chip recipient, became the “go to” person when a graduate coordinator went on disability in another department. Porcelli answered “many, many questions . . . happily and with a great deal of patience,” her bravo citation notes.

“Donna always answers her phone and you can hear her smile.”

Bravo, indeed.

Click here for recipients grouped by the year awarded.