Infinite Mile Award Recipients | 2021
Melissa Nobles, Kenan Sahin Dean of the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (SHASS), has announced the six winners of the 2021 MIT SHASS Infinite Mile Awards. The awards salute members of the SHASS staff who have made exceptional contributions to their academic units, the School, and the Institute. These colleagues exemplify the spirit of going above and beyond in their roles and work on a regular basis, supporting their teams’ mission in diverse initiatives throughout the School. This year, for the first time, all our award winners are also honored “beyond categories” — under the single mantle of the Infinite Mile Award.
Warmest congratulations to the 2021 recipients!
Watch the video celebration of the 2020 and 2021 awards.
Liam Brenner | Global Languages, Administrative Officer
It is always challenging for someone to join an organization during a transition. Yet Liam Brenner has managed to perform with excellence through two transitions in our unit, as well as the global pandemic. As the administrative officer for Global Languages, he has truly gone the “extra mile” with good humor and dedication. Ever since joining the unit in August 2018, Liam has been absolutely essential to our work. He brings a highly rational approach to the management of the unit, and he has totally revitalized our financial and administrative processes. To provide just one key example, he tackled the challenge of record-keeping and shift the work of headquarters onto the web-based platform SharePoint. This was a huge undertaking that proved invaluable when we all unexpectedly shifted to remote work during the pandemic. Liam gives his all to faculty, lecturers, students, and staff while also providing careful stewardship of the unit’s resources. As one nominator wrote, his “dedication to his job and his attention detail are remarkable, and so are his readiness to help and his ability to answer many different questions.” Above all, Liam’s steady and quiet leadership amplifies the strengths of those around him.
Eryn Heying | School Effectiveness and Inequality Initiative, Executive Director
Department of Economics
This initiative is a research lab based in the Department of Economics. As executive director of this initiative, Eryn Heying shoulders enormous responsibilities, and she does it all with care and enthusiasm. She is always working to help the people she leads to achieve their goals. Eryn’s work requires meticulous attention to a dizzying variety of financial and contractual obligations —including grant management, data privacy and security agreements, confidentiality protocols, and ongoing data sharing arrangements. She oversees a complex and rapidly growing enterprise that involves three faculty principal investigators, millions of dollars in grant money, more than a dozen research associates, and a network of partner organizations. And she does it all with a steady hand. Under her wise and capable stewardship, our research output and funding efforts have grown in scope and ambition — as has our team. As one nominator put it, everyone relies on Eryn for “her astute intellect, her gimlet eye for seeing the big picture and the tiny crucial detail simultaneously, and her extraordinary ability to organize, motivate, and unobtrusively lead a diverse team.” Eryn’s professional accomplishments alone would be enough to qualify her for this award, but what makes her truly special is the way she has created a truly supportive culture. This is something felt by everyone and is the most cited of her accomplishments. Eryn always has time for employees and constantly checks in to see how everyone is doing. We are truly lucky to have Eryn on our team.
Deborah Jamiol | Economics, Administrative Assistant II
Reliable, knowledgeable, and attentive to even the smallest detail, Deborah Jamiol does amazing work as administrative assistant for the Economics Department. Deb has a natural and intense curiosity that benefits all of us. She’s always fine-tuning her skills and sharing her latest discoveries. Whenever a new technology is rolled out at MIT, or a new policy takes effect, Deb will investigate it, test it out, and share her findings with her co-workers. She has been the go-to-source for information on how to manage the new online course materials system, Canvas, and she’s our expert on how to run a remote seminar. In June, she pitched the idea of holding “just staff” Zoom meeting so that we could all get to know some of our new co-workers and catch up with each other. These weekly meetings proved indispensable in the early days of the pandemic when we were still figuring out how to do our jobs well in highly irregular circumstances. This award recognizes Deb’s ongoing hard work and dedication, her professional curiosity, and her generosity in helping others.
Rosabelli Coelho-Keyssar | MIT Brazil Program, Managing Director
Center for International Studies, Department of Political Science
Over the past decade or so, Rosabelli Coelho-Keyssar has nearly singlehandedly built MIT Brazil into the remarkable international program it is today. As the MISTI program that connects MIT to Latin America’s most important economy, it is a critical point of connectivity and outreach for the Institute. For her tireless contributions to this program and the students it serves, it is my pleasure to present Rosa with this Infinite Mile Award. Rosa is unstoppable, kind, creative, and passionate about her work. Not only does she fundraise for internships, she also makes connections with local companies, universities, and nonprofits to ensure placements. While overseeing the logistics of the whole program, she also cares for students like a parent, shepherding them through every challenge. An inspiration to all of us for her amazing dedication, Rosa thoroughly prepares students for their in-country experiences, work that results in extremely high student satisfaction. This year, with all travel shut down, Rosa still found a way for MISTI to thrive. She led and implemented a MISTI Brazil remote internship program for about 30 students, and it was a remarkable experience for all involved. Rosa is always coming up with innovative ideas for events and programming, going above and beyond to make MIT a home away from home. She is involved with the Brazilian Students Association and the Brazil Conference in Boston, and she has personally helped many students to find housing and adapt to life at MIT. All workplaces need more people like Rosa.
Sarah Orzalli | JPAL North America, Senior Grants and Financial Officer
Department of Economics
As Senior Grants and Financial Officer for J-PAL North America, Sarah Orzalli is responsible for much of the financial underpinnings of our work at J-PAL. She develops and submits grant proposals, handles financial reporting, and creates long-term plans. But more than this, Sarah transforms disorder into order, she brings clarity to confusion, and she leaves an imprint of calm competence on every project she touches. She does it all with efficiency and good cheer. Sarah is an excellent manager and colleague who brings positivity and enthusiasm to her work and inspires everyone around her. Her colleagues agree that Sarah is, as one nominator put it: “spectacular, superb — an entire finance and grants department wrapped into one fun and interesting person.” Among her many recent accomplishments, Sarah led J-PAL North America’s efforts to secure funding and launch the MIT Roybal Center for Translational Research to Improve Health Care for the Aging. On another occasion, with only four days’ notice, Sarah efficiently and successfully coordinated the drafting and submission of a complex, two-year, $500,000 National Institutes of Health award proposal for Covid-related randomized evaluations. This involved collaborating closely with two PIs at different universities and coordinating with external partners — it was a “superhuman” effort. What’s more, Sarah has an extraordinary generosity of spirit. Just to give one quick example, she has devoted considerable time and energy to advising and coaching various MIT economics PhD students — a task that is not a formal part of her job. She does it simply because they need the help. We at J-PAL and the whole MIT community are fortunate to have her here.
Susan Twarog | Political Science, Graduate Program Academic Administrator
As the Graduate Program Administrator for the Political Science Department, Susan Twarog is often the first person MIT students meet when they apply and the last person they encounter when they drop off their completed dissertations. And, during all the time they are here, Susan is available to explain policies and procedures, answer questions about course requirements, administer financial aid packages, organize social events, and so much more. She is a cheerleader, mediator, and sage advisor to our students. And, she does it all with a level of professionalism and warmth that is exceptional. Having been at MIT since 1997, Susan commands a mastery of MIT as an institution that serves everyone in the department. She is always a pleasure to work with, embracing her responsibilities with constant and serious resolve. This past year proved to be one of the most challenging times imaginable, and Susan really proved her mettle. She was on the receiving end of one hardball after another as we abruptly switched to online learning, relocated students to their home countries, and then suddenly had them back in the U.S. Through it all, she took the initiative to keep our students informed and was always available to provide guidance. Many have said how grateful they are for her support. And, as if that weren’t enough, Susan has also volunteered to serve on the department's new DEI Working Group, and she helped grad students set up a new mentorship program for underrepresented minority applicants. One nominator wrote, “For Susan, the metaphor of ‘going an extra mile’ does not cut it. Maybe 100 miles comes closer.”