Lisa Armstrong recognized with the Judith A. Pitney Staff Service Career Award for her decades of service to the college and the department

As Unit Administrator for Electrical and Computer Engineering, Armstrong has been a driving force for many of the department’s biggest advancements, and she’s known for fostering a thriving, inclusive, collaborative, and fun environment.

Lisa Armstrong headshot Enlarge

Lisa Armstrong has been awarded the Judith A. Pitney Staff Service Career Award, the highest honor given to staff in the College of Engineering, in recognition of her three decades of excellence and service.

As Unit Administrator for Electrical and Computer Engineering in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Armstrong oversees one of the largest research programs in the College of Engineering (CoE), with facilities that span several buildings including classrooms and offices as well as state-of-the-art laboratory and research facilities. She leads an academic department that consists of over 100 faculty, research scientists, and lecturers, over 1,300 undergraduate and graduate students, and over 90 staff from ECE, EECS-DCO, and the Lurie Nanofabrication Facility (LNF).

Her influence, however, extends far beyond the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

“I am deeply grateful for Lisa’s dedication to her service to the college and the university,” says Mingyan Liu, the Peter and Evelyn Fuss Chair of Electrical and Computer Engineering. “She has been a highly competent, supportive, and effective Unit Administrator, and her deep institutional knowledge has been invaluable.”

She has been a highly competent, supportive, and effective Unit Administrator, and her deep institutional knowledge has been invaluable.

Mingyan Liu, Peter and Evelyn Fuss Chair of ECE

Armstrong is the longest tenured Unit Administrator in the College. She began in 1990 as the administrator for the graduate program in Biomedical Engineering, which later became part of the Department of Biomedical Engineering (BME). She then led the creation of the undergraduate program and two targeted diversity pipeline programs within BME, and managed the creation of the functional magnetic resonance imaging MRI (fMRI) facility.

“Lisa was truly instrumental in launching the BME department, helping to take us from an initial group of two primary faculty to about a dozen faculty, from having no undergraduate program to having achieved ABET accreditation, and from effectively being housed in borrowed space to having two new buildings,” says Douglas Noll, the Ann and Robert H. Lurie Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Professor of Radiology. “I can think of no one more deserving of this award.”

Armstrong joined the department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science in 2006, where she’s overseen several major programmatic changes and has led or been involved in many unit, college, and university initiatives.

  • She was very involved in all aspects of the Gerstacker project and LBME Building as well as several significant building renovations, including ATL and EECS
  • She served on the College Peer Group Initiators Team to bring together common groups of staff across the college to interact on a regular basis, and its impact, such as the formation of ComPeers and the Graduate Student Services Group, continues today
  • She was heavily involved in the planning of the LNF, including benchmarking, setting rates and the cost structure model, and serving on its Internal Review Committee
  • She has served on a number of university and college committees to initiate programs (e.g., RAIN, and the first CoE New Employee Orientation), review programs (e.g., Foundations of Supervision), and to create/streamline processes to reduce administrative burden or to make improvements in the lives of faculty, staff and students

From 2007 to 2008, Armstrong worked with LNF leadership on a comprehensive benchmarking study of academic nanofabrication facilities across multiple U.S. universities.

“Her ability to understand and interpret minute details related to the technical operation of these facilities and the connected research units was impressive and critical in making the study truly comprehensive and accurate,” says Dr. Sandrine Martin, current LNF Managing Director. “The published article has since been used numerous times by the academic nanofabrication facility community.”

Armstrong has long been one of the strongest advocates for advancing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion goals for both the college and the department. In addition to establishing the staff diversity committee, she won the University of Michigan Distinguished Diversity Leader’s Award and Team Award for her work in the student realm.

In related work, she has constantly worked to improve the department’s culture and climate. She led the charge to create the ECE Staff Mission and Values; she supports a wide range of cultural events targeted at the student population, and she encourages everyone to attend DEI-focused lectures and events. Her commitment to such programming has helped make ECE a role model for many other departments.

Above all, Armstrong is known for prioritizing staff and their development.

  • She ensures staff have the necessary resources to attend conferences and workshops to expand their skillsets and resumes
  • She helps staff pursue their own professional goals by growing in their positions
  • She goes above and beyond in making sure everyone is recognized for their hard work and achievements by nominating staff for awards and promoting their work to their supervisors and colleagues
  • She plans staff bonding events, like potlucks and fun games, that bring the entire office together with laughter and friendship
  • She continues to celebrate and support staff who’ve left for other positions
  • She supports a positive work-life balance that allows for flexible scheduling, which became even more critical in the time of COVID-19

“I believe no one really knows all that Lisa does, because she has her hand in so many different areas,” says Catharine June, the ECE Communications Manager. “You would have to look far and wide to find someone who is as committed to their job, or who works harder, or who has made a bigger impact in such a wide variety of areas, than Lisa Armstrong.”