Ann Stals, the Woman Behind the Curtain, is honored for her excellence in ECE

Ann Stals is one of four College of Engineering staff members honored with the Staff Excellence Award. She was selected for her exemplary work as the Alumni Engagement and Events Manager for ECE.

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Alec Gallimore, the Robert J. Vlasic Dean of Engineering, presents Ann Stals with the Staff Excellence Award.

Whether you got to trek across the country for a VIP tour of industry companies or you’ve enjoyed any one of a number of celebrations hosted by ECE honoring student heritages and embracing cultural exchange – such as Lunar New Year, Nowruz, or Iftar – you’ve experienced an Ann Stals event.

Ann Stals is the Alumni Engagement and Events Manager for ECE, and this year, she is one of four College of Engineering staff members – and the only EECS staff member – to receive the Staff Excellence Award.

The Staff Excellence Awards Program was established by the CoE as part of a comprehensive initiative to recognize the vital contributions of staff to the College’s success and prominence as one of the nation’s premier engineering institutions. Recipients of this award are chosen based on their exemplary work or special achievements.

“Ann has one of the strongest work ethics I have seen in a colleague,” said Jason Davis, the former ECE Alumni External Relations Manager who worked with Stals for three years. “The only thing that is more impressive than her ability to juggle and execute numerous events and programs at a time, and make each successful at that, is her humility. She is an invaluable member of the Michigan Engineering family.”

Current and former staff members as well as faculty attended the award ceremony on May 16th to cheer very, very loudly as Alec Gallimore, the Robert J Vlasic Dean of Engineering, presented Stals with the award.

“I am proud to have Ann on my team as a beacon of utmost professionalism, engagement, and dedication,” said Prof. Mackillo Kira. “I can completely rely on her.”

[Ann] is an invaluable member of the Michigan Engineering family.

Jason Davis, former ECE Alumni External Relations Manager

Stals brings rare creative vision, attention to detail, and enthusiasm to her role. She has organized and led events of all types, sizes, and locations around the globe.

She was instrumental in establishing ECE Expeditions, which gives students unique career development and networking opportunities. Students are given behind-the-scenes tours of companies ranging from startups to large multinational corporations, all arranged by Stals. Students network with alums, tour labs, and even meet CEO’s and Vice Presidents.

“ECE Expeditions was one of the most meaningful things I’ve done in my college career so far,” said Carol Zhang, a sophomore in EE.

Stals identifies prospective students, learns their interests and career goals, and then works with alumni and other company representatives to plan personalized, substantive visits while also arranging housing, food, and transportation for the students. Stals then chaperones each visit personally.

“The program was fantastic,” said Jongchan Kim, a 5th year PhD student. “Overall, it really helped a lot to broaden my view and deepen my experience about this field.”

Thanks to her leadership, ECE Expeditions was awarded the 2018 Bronze Award for Outstanding Student-Alumni Program by the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education.

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Stals was honored for her exemplary work as the Alumni Engagement and Events Manager for ECE.

Stals also played a key role in creating and launching the ECE Electrify Tech Camps, which fosters high-school recruitment and engagement. Electrify consists of hands-on workshops taught by top U-M faculty and graduate students. In addition to exploring a variety of topics in engineering, students engage in recreational activities, make friends, and explore life on a college campus – and all the non-classroom activities are arranged by Stals. The camps are so popular that they attract students from all over the globe.

Stals also served as program coordinator of the International Program for the Advancement of Neurotechnology (IPAN), a student research program, for three years. IPAN brings students from many institutions to Ann Arbor for a one-week introductory workshop prior to a summer research experience in collaborator laboratories. Participants also travel to an annual conference at a partner institution. Stals managed all logistical and administrative issues, even when things didn’t go as planned. For example, when a student’s passport failed to arrive on time for the trip to Korea, Stals had to arrange last minute housing, food, and activities until the passport arrived. No matter the situation, Stals ensures an invaluable student experience.

Prof. Vijay Subramanian, who’s worked with Stals on multiple occasions, says that attendees praised one of the workshops she helped him organize as one of the best workshops they’d ever attended.

“I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that a large part of the success of this and other events were owed to Ann’s tireless efforts, excellent planning and organizing, and attention to detail,” he said. “During the whole period, she coordinated the staff team helping us and also kept us on track, while always being respectful, cheerful, and collaborative. I believe her excellence should be recognized with many such awards.”

While there are many other conferences and programs Stals manages, she is also responsible for arranging the celebration of cultural events. Stals runs the ECE Lunar New Year, Nowruz, and Iftar celebrations. To ensure that these celebrations are respectful and authentic, she works with students who are members of the community to arrange the activities and food. She hires performers, caterers, and musicians from the community. She also provides educational materials explaining the history and tradition of each event, fostering cultural exchange and appreciation.

These cultural events have received substantial positive feedback over the years, but Davis remembers one student in particular who said that being away from family during Ramadan was very difficult for them, but the Iftar celebration organized by Stals was incredibly comforting and they were very grateful.

“Ann Stals is a staff member who consistently works to go above and beyond to make certain that students in her department are happier, healthier, and feel a part of the University of Michigan,” said David Geroski, the ECE Graduate Student Council President.

Seizing every opportunity to create meaningful ways for EECS alumni, students, and faculty to interact, Stals’ leadership has helped to increase ECE programs’ contributions, sponsorships, and success.

In addition to her professional excellence, Stals is known as a fun, supportive, compassionate, and patient coworker. She’s always willing to lend a hand and maintains her calm in stressful situations. In her off-hours, she’s an expert at planning Disney vacations, and she’s passionate about public service.

In her acceptance speech, Stals thanked her coworkers and the faculty who have supported her, as well as her family.

“I feel lucky to work at the University but even more so to work with this group of people,” Stals said. “Everything I do is a team effort and would not be successful without the help of the amazing team of people in ECE. This award belongs to all of us and is a testament to how hard we all work every day to make ECE what it is.”

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Stals received a very loud and very long ovation thanks to her ECE colleagues, friends, and family in attendance.