Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering News: Our outstanding state employees

Jeffrey A. Reimer

Jeffrey A. Reimer

By Jeffrey A. Reimer
Chair, Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering
Warren and Katharine Schlinger Distinguished Professor

As I write this column the news media and blogosphere are filled with commentary, not always positive, about public employees. Listening to these comments has given me pause to reflect, in this my last Catalyst column, on the role staff play in bringing CBE to its very high ranking amongst national and international polls.

Many people ask me, “Besides the professors, how many state employees work for the department?” Most of our staff members are funded by research contracts, grants and gifts. The state-supported administrative staff for our 380 undergraduates, 120 graduate students, 19 faculty, and research staff consists of just four people.

Our Student Affairs Office is staffed by Fred Deakin. Fred must administer all the paperwork for the application process of our graduate students. This past year, there were almost 500 applicants competing for 20 Ph.D. and 10 M.S. positions.

When our new graduate students arrive, Fred shepherds them though a dizzying maze of paperwork. In their subsequent years Fred must organize student preliminary and qualifying exams, their appointments as teaching assistants, and the payroll and budget.

CBe’s esayas Kelkile and alum John Jensvold (B.S. ’83, Cheme) of Generon inspect the new membrane gas separators in the department’s teaching lab. Jensvold shepherded the donation and Kelkile installed the equipment.

CBE’s Esayas Kelkile and alum John Jensvold (B.S. ’83, ChemE) of Generon inspect the new membrane gas separators in the department’s teaching lab. Jensvold shepherded the donation and Kelkile installed the equipment.

Esayas Kelkile has dedicated his professional acumen toward running our labs, including the recently completed logistical nightmare of combining ChemE 154 and 157 into a single new course. I just checked this morning: every experiment in 154 is operating optimally. New experiments (such as Generon’s new membrane separation gift) have been deftly assembled, debugged and made ready for the lab.

Esayas’s day begins before 8 a.m., and he is often here well into the evening. He consistently and ably participates in discussions and meetings to advocate for, then implement, improvements in our teaching labs. Did I mention he is one of our alums? B.S. ’96, ChemE.

Patricia “Tricia” Schaible is our “Assistant to the Chair and MSO.” What this often means is that Tricia has to do everything that falls into the cracks between all other job descriptions. Tricia is the person that connects the department to the campus. She is the one dealing with classroom requests, arranging parking, planning faculty retreats, scheduling courses and answering the phone. I recall fondly and with gratitude when Tricia dropped everything on very short notice and flew out to Tennessee to coordinate with hotel staff and then act as hostess for an AIChE reception in Nashville for a few hundred alums. How could the department function without her dedication?

I love the expression “Administrative Officer 4”—it conveys such a sense of military discipline! Kim Eastman holds this title, though most of us know her as the department manager. In industry and business, a.k.a. “the real world,” managers have significant responsibility and authority. At Berkeley, Kim often “manages” with only one of these tools: responsibility.

In these difficult budget times, Kim has the onerous task of crafting a departmental budget that threads through a complex array of accounts. Unless it is strictly an academic matter, whatever goes wrong in CBE is Kim’s headache, and whatever goes right seldom, if ever, results in praise for Kim.

Kim, Tricia, Esayas, and Fred truly make CBE function, each with a fraction of the salary that their crucially important roles should garner. They are our state employees, and we don’t acknowledge their irreplaceable contributions often or emphatically enough.