The University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents is honoring Brenda Cullin, academic department associate/office manager in the UWM Department of Economics, with a University Staff Excellence award. Cullin is one of two individual UW System employees and one program chosen for the inaugural awards.
The University Staff Excellence awards recognize exceptional service to the university and are the UW System’s highest recognition bestowed on members of its university staff, according to the announcement from the regents. Award recipients are selected for superior performance resulting in significant contributions to the department and university; use of positive personal interaction to manage work changes; and a consistently innovative approach that improves productivity and work quality. The awards were be given at the regents’ Oct. 7-8 meeting in Oshkosh.
Cullin, who has worked for UWM for 42 years, has served as business manager for the Institute for Survey and Policy Research and, since 2011, as office manager (academic department associate) for the Department of Economics.
Her service and contributions have enhanced the sense of community and equity in the department and more broadly at UWM and in the community. She suggested department cost-saving measures that were adopted, with the savings supporting faculty and graduate-level research. She also helped create a graduate student lounge to provide space for economics students to study and get to know each other.
As co-chair of the African Diaspora Council, which she helped revitalize, Cullin established a scholarship program to support African American students. Over the past four years, the council has awarded $38,000 to 21 students. To date, 19 of those students have graduated from UWM.
Through the African Diaspora Council, she has also helped lead efforts for the past five years to raise funds and gather back-to-school supplies for two Milwaukee Public Schools, whose students faced special economic challenges, especially during the pandemic.
She was the first chair of the University Staff Grievance Committee, completing additional training for that role. She also served on the Chancellor’s Best Place to Work Coordinating Team.
‘Routinely helpful, friendly and kind’
Her colleagues praise the atmosphere she brings to her department. “The graduate teaching assistants see Brenda as routinely helpful, friendly and kind,” said Scott Adams, chair of the Department of Economics. “Many are in touch with her long after they graduate. We are more collegial, compassionate and student-centered because of her.”
Cullin explains her focus: “Priority first is my students! I make sure they have all the necessary tools to succeed in their studies, as well as a work-life balance. In my 40+ years on campus, I have always seen myself as the ‘go-to’ person for advice and counsel around issues on campus that impact the department, the university staff, and African American employees. I often say I am the voice for the voiceless and speak on the mission and vision of the university around issues of diversity and inclusion.”
Other recipients of this year’s inaugural staff excellence award are: Monika Pynaker, network services manager and interim manager of client services, Division of Information Technology, UW-Green Bay; and the You Have Options Program for victims of sensitive crimes at UW-Parkside, led by the UW-Parkside Police.
“The Board of Regents is proud to recognize the first recipients of the University Staff Excellence Awards,” said Regent Michael M. Grebe, chair of the selection committee. “Their outstanding work helps to strengthen not only our UW campuses but also the communities in which they serve, and we are pleased to shine a spotlight on their contributions to fulfilling the UW System mission.”