“After seven and a half years in EEB, Cindy has left us to sail off into her retirement sunset and enjoy her three grandchildren,” said Nancy Smith, EEB department manager. Cindy Carl’s last day was Friday, June 29, 2018.

Carl began as senior secretary before becoming the graduate coordinator for EEB. In those roles, “Cindy worked tirelessly to support the faculty, students and her fellow co-workers in a variety of ways, always with a full dose of laughter thrown in for good measure,” said Smith.

“Due to her work location, Cindy was the first person visitors to the administrative office encountered and she effectively became the ‘front door’ to the department,” Smith wrote in her nomination of Carl for the Outstanding Individual Staff Award – Natural Sciences from the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts. “Every person was warmly greeted with a smile and offer of assistance and she never passed anyone along until she knew for certain they would receive help at the next level.

“In late 2014, when our graduate coordinator position became available, I knew that the best person for the job was right within our own office. Cindy knew every graduate student by name, what they were researching, and had formed a personal connection with each student. She was often the person that the students would confide in, offering them a safe haven and a listening ear for whatever was going on in their lives, whether it involved their graduate studies or not.

“In the four years that Cindy has been in the graduate coordinator position, she has covered open positions three times while never allowing her own responsibilities to suffer. As she made the transition from the senior secretary position to become grad coordinator, Cindy continued to cover many of the duties in her former position until her replacement was hired, all while learning her new job during the very busy graduate recruitment season. Cindy has also assisted with hiring a new graduate assistant twice during this time period, covering those duties along with her own while the position was open.”

“Her natural warmth, interest in people and great personality, coupled with first class logistics and organizational skills made her a great hit and our unanimous first choice when an opening occurred as the EEB graduate program coordinator in 2014,” wrote Diarmaid Ó Foighil, EEB professor and chair.

“As graduate program coordinator, Cindy was responsible for all aspects of the recruitment, admission, and student progress in our Ph.D. program. The large majority of our graduate students are in the doctoral program and they represent a diverse community who work on research projects covering the breadth of biology, much of it international in scope. Graduate students play a critical role in the research and teaching functions of the department and Cindy, more than anyone else, was responsible for keeping them on track, happy and productive. This level of performance takes not just a strong work ethic, but also good judgment and great communication skills. Our students know Cindy cares for them and offered them both a sympathetic ear and informed, practical advice. That backup helped them deal with many of the inevitable setbacks and stresses associated with navigating a graduate program in a leading research university.”

EEB Professor Trisha Wittkopp, wrote, “I have worked closely with Cindy for the last four years since she took over the graduate coordinator role in EEB. A new department chair had just gotten started and I had become the associate chair for graduate studies only a few weeks earlier; we all had a lot to learn. Cindy’s dedication, resourcefulness, and abilities made this learning curve much easier for all of us.

“I had come to depend heavily on Cindy to make sure we meet all the needs of the grad program in a timely manner. She was always on top of what needed to be done, reaching out to the right people at the right time with professional and compassionate communication when needed. The students in the department relied on her not only to make sure they were progressing through the program smoothly but also as a jack-of-all-trades problem solver. Her impact on our graduate program was far-reaching, from the earliest days of a student considering applying to EEB at U-M, through the application process, interviewing, registering for the right courses, making sure committee meetings happen in a timely manner, organizing preliminary exams, helping to disseminate the results, planning thesis defenses, and, perhaps most importantly, helping students navigate the many trials of grad school, connecting them to additional departmental and university resources as needed. While doing all of this, Cindy was unfailingly upbeat, positive, and effective.

“Cindy’s dedication to our students, our graduate program, and the department at large was made clear through her actions every day. She was the first one to step up and pitch in when needed. It has been a joy to work closely with her and my job would have been much harder without her.”

Many students stopped by on Cindy Carl's last day of work to wish her well. Left to right: EEB graduate students Imani Russell, Nia Johnson, Sara Colom, Cindy Carl, Sonal Gupta.

When Kati Ellis, EEB assistant graduate coordinator, was interviewing for her position, she recalled that “one of the most memorable moments of the interview was when Cindy spoke about the graduate students. She spoke so passionately and it was clear that she was truly invested in their success.

“Cindy’s integrity and trust are deeply valued by the graduate students. Oftentimes, students ventured into the office just to meet with her to discuss the various challenges they face. On multiple occasions, Cindy lent a listening ear and provided emotional comfort to students in need. Her ability to be sensitive and genuine to the various issues concerning graduate students is inspiring.

“Aside from her graduate student relationships, Cindy was also a wonderful coworker. She was extremely knowledgeable of departmental and University of Michigan policies. She was the point person for many.

“Over the last six months, Cindy became an essential part of my development in the EEB department. She graciously mentored me on the many aspects of graduate coordination. Her positive energy and guidance made my transition both pleasant and rewarding. She is a joy to be around and an inspiration to the EEB community,” wrote Ellis.

Professor Thomas Duda, former director of EEB’s Frontiers Master’s Program wrote, “although Cindy’s position did not hold direct responsibilities for support of the Frontiers Master’s Program, there were a few times during the past several years when the staff position that is assigned to these efforts was vacant. During times like these, Cindy contributed greatly needed assistance to give support to Frontiers students and to ensure that the Frontiers program continued to run effectively. She also regularly provided more than expected. For example, several years ago, she devoted time over a weekend to support an EEB fall preview weekend recruitment event and participated with faculty and invited recruits at activities on campus and at the E.S. George Reserve, a preserve near Pinckney. This showed her commitment to our graduate program and is an excellent example of how Cindy actively enhanced the collegiality and climate of our department.”

Regarding her selection for the Outstanding Individual Staff award, Carl said, “​It was quite an honor and totally unexpected.”

Most memorable and impactful for Carl as a graduate coordinator in EEB has been “when students graduate – especially the students who started the program when I started working in EEB. It's especially gratifying to see them finish and realize that I helped them through some challenging times on their way to a graduate degree in EEB.”

Her advice for the next graduate coordinator, is “never underestimate the importance of your role in the eyes of a graduate student. Advisors, committee members, research – that is all very important. However, you help them to not worry about more mundane details like funding, benefits, deadlines. Sometimes, a friendly face and a cup of coffee go a long way.”

Carl’s sage advice to graduate students is “​you can do it! However, when things begin to become overwhelming, reach out to the grad coordinator. We know of lots of resources available to help you and we want to help you – even if it's just to talk.”

In retirement, besides “not working,” Carl is looking forward to “cooking more, reading more, hiking and biking more – doing more of all the leisure activities that I currently enjoy. And spending time with our grandchildren!” She and her husband, Leon, are moving to Guelph, Ontario to be closer to their two sons and their families.

“I could not think of a better job for me to have as I enter the 'not working' phase of my life. I am so grateful.”

Compiled by Gail Kuhnlein