Julie Tashjian receives College of Engineering Staff Excellence Award

She has been a great asset to CSE as the Division has faced a changing environment.
Julie Tashjian
Julie Tashjian

Julie Tashjian, Undergraduate Advising Office Manager in CSE, is a recipient of the College of Engineering Staff Excellence Award. This award recognizes staff who have made significant contributions or possess special qualities and attributes that foster teamwork and achievement.

Since joining CSE in 2021, Julie has demonstrated exceptional ability and has had significant positive impact on the undergraduate advising enterprise in CSE.

CSE has by far the largest undergraduate student population in the College of Engineering, serving over 3,000 declared students. This number has been growing rapidly for years, and as a result CSE has made the decision to move from a strictly faculty-based advising model to one in which staff play a much larger role in student advising. Julie stepped into her role as this process was underway, and demonstrated the leadership and insight that has been needed to complete this transformation in a fashion that has reflected new thinking and an approach that is efficient, collaborative, and equitable.

The UAO now includes seven staff advisors, two administrative staff, and coordinates activity for upwards of a dozen faculty advisors across four programs.

According to Jeff Ringenberg,Chief Program Advisor for Computer Science in Engineering, “When Julie joined the UAO, she quickly learned the various nuances of the position and consistently identified areas of improvement within the office. I recall many conversations with Julie where she would question the status quo behind certain UAO workflows with the goal of optimizing the time of our faculty advisors, improving the advising experience of our students, and increasing the overall efficiency of the office. She suggested many ways to innovate the office and ensured that these improvements were implemented.”

In one example, Julie implemented a petition system for more equitable student access to resources. This system created transparency around the course curriculum and how to request a variance to the published program guides. This has greatly improved access for first-gen, community college transfer, and non-traditional students to exceptions and opportunities that previously had been utilized by students from well-resourced schools and backgrounds.

Bill Arthur, Chief Program Advisor for Computer Science in LSA, describes an example of how Julie has created greater transparency in advising processes for greater efficiency. “One concrete example is enabling students in meeting the pre-declaration requirements for the Computer Science major. Bringing relevant faculty and staff together to identify and explicitly document all requirements and options, advisors and students can now access comprehensive and unambiguous information to meet them. One measure of success is the dramatic decrease in the number of students I advise with who are surprised to learn that they do not meet requirements and end up behind in their progress toward graduation.”

In an additional innovation, Julie designed an Honors application and tracking system that has been essential to meeting the rapidly increasing demand for Honors Theses. This process has enabled the expansion of the program and made collaborating with vital campus partners easier.

Michael Wellman, the Richard H. Orenstein Division Chair of Computer Science and Engineering and the Lynn A. Conway Professor of Computer Science and Engineering, said “Julie’s sensitive management of staff has also been a great asset to the Division as we have faced climate challenges, compounded by the pandemic. Transitioning from remote to hybrid advising has also been a complex and sometimes contentious process, which Julie managed effectively and with care. CSE is fortunate to have Julie Tashjian as a department staff leader, and we are delighted to have her  excellence recognized with a College award.”