Tami Paluca, the academic advisor for undergraduate studies and the director of alumni affairs in the Chemical Engineering (ChE) Department, is the 2017 winner of the Dean’s Service Award in the College of Engineering. “Tami is dedicated to undergraduate advising and oversees many vital aspects of the student experience for ChE,” said Dean Tim Anderson. “Highly regarded by students and faculty, she is known for her excellent advice, tireless work, and deep concern for the well-being of our undergraduates. Tami has proven indispensable as we navigate our way through the significant enrollment increase in the department.”
As the Dean’s Service Award Committee commented, “Tami’s nomination package spoke to her strong, consistent effort above and beyond the expected and the significant positive impact she has had on many members of our community.”
The honor adds to the awards hardware that Paluca received in 2015, when she received the Staff Appreciation Award from the Center for Multicultural Advancement and Student Success for “dedication and invaluable contributions to CMASS and the UMass community this year.” In 2012, she was also the recipient of the UMass Amherst Residential First-Year Experience Student Choice Award, presented by the Residential Learning Communities on the UMass Amherst campus.
Paluca is involved with all aspects of the ChE undergraduate program. In that context, in the past she has observed that her most rewarding duties involve working directly with the ChE undergraduates themselves. She has also said that she gets the most satisfaction by making her office and herself available to work through any issue that arises.
In his nomination letter, ChE Department Head John Klier explained that Paluca is the only staff member dedicated to undergraduate student advising and is addressing an undergraduate student population that has quadrupled in the last 15 or so years. Beyond advising, Paluca is responsible for handling all aspects of course scheduling (input, updates, changes, problems), prepping the administration of SRTIs, final-exam scheduling, graduation clearance, and scholarships. She also works with the Undergraduate Program Director on all curriculum issues and performs a variety of tasks related to ABET.
“Tami puts in an incredible amount of extra effort and time to help the students, often helping students well into the evening,” said Klier. “She is dedicated to the success of individual students and on numerous occasions has brought concerns or issues to me which we addressed with the students or parents. The feedback from students is incredibly positive, and she is indispensable as we try to navigate the large student increase. The students and parents really love and greatly appreciate her work and student support.”
Klier added that “In my view, Tami is indispensable, a tremendous asset to our department and the college, and this award would be very appropriate recognition and encouragement for a difficult job.”
Klier’s support was echoed by Associate Dean for Student Affairs and Administration David McLaughlin, who commented that “It is hard for me to imagine how the ChE undergraduate program would function without Tami.”
As ChE Professor Wei Fan aptly summarized all the support for Paluca, “Every student I met in our department highly evaluated her excellent work in student advising. The word that I see many times during our senior survey is ‘Tami is the best, we love her.’ This is because Tami extremely cares about our students.” (May 2017)