Infinite Mile Awardees honored

At the annual SA+P Staff Appreciation event, three colleagues were recognized for their unique and selfless contributions to the School and MIT

By Maria Iacobo

“(She) is a wonderful person to work and interact with daily and is one of the reasons that I look forward to coming into the office every Monday.”

That is high praise and was one of many attributes delivered about Janine Marchese in support of her nomination for SA+P’s Infinite Mile Award. Each spring SA+P’s Infinite Mile committee evaluates many nominations and selects awardees — teams or individuals — for significant accomplishments in its departments, labs, or centers. The award is considered the most prestigious staff award given in the School.

Marchese, the senior financial coordinator of finance and administration for the Department of Urban Studies and Planning (DUSP) was one of three individuals feted at a ceremony during the School’s annual staff appreciation lunch. The other honorees were Gearóid Dolan, Technical Instructor in the Art, Culture, and Technology Program and Tessa Haynes, Academic Administrator in the Department of Architecture. Each received numerous letters recommending them for the honor based on their contributions to their department and MIT overall.

Janine Marchese

Marchese joined DUSP in 2005 as an administrative assistant and had grown from a member of the support staff to an “effective leader.” Among her considerable influences, colleagues say she has taken the initiative for organizing many social staff activities since returning to the office after Covid concerns diminished as well as “thinking of new and better ways we can all re-establish our sense of togetherness and community…post-Covid. Janine is essentially on a permanent ‘listening tour’ in DUSP,” according to one nominator.

“[S]he plays a critically integral role in ensuring we operate in a financially sound, and compliant way, which includes having infinite patience and diplomacy in working with our faculty…,” read another nomination. 

Numerous letters cited Marchese’s warmth, kindness, and positivity. 

“Every interaction I have had with Janine…has always left me feeling understood and seen,” wrote one colleague. “Janine is the golden standard of what the Infinite Mile Award represents. Her attitude, knowledge and expertise are the realization of MIT’s values.”

For Marchese, the feeling is mutual. 

“My colleagues in DUSP are what makes it so special to work here,” she says. “We have some really great staff and faculty.” 

In particular, Marchese credits Karen Yegian, her first supervisor in DUSP, and colleague Peggy Bryant for her success. 

“Anyone who knows Karen will know just how special she is,” says Marchese. “And, I have also been very fortunate to have Peggy Bryan by my side throughout my career. She was the one who trained me on the policies and procedures when I got here and still to this day is a great resource of the department.”

Tessa Haynes

Architecture’s Tessa Haynes joined MIT in the summer of 2021 while staff and faculty were still working remotely due to the pandemic. The previous administrator had retired as had another key team member.

“The demand for better student services, as organized administratively and as delivered to students, was high,” wrote one nominator. 

Not only did Haynes step in at a tense time, but her “even-keeled, task-oriented” focus smoothed the return to on-campus classes and supported anxious students. Wrote one faculty member, “On many occasions, we have had students struggling to graduate. When this happens, there is so much anxiety, fear, and frustration on the part of the students. In each instance, I’ve witnessed Tessa’s care and patience, helping to keep a level head, explaining the facts, where focus is needed, while keeping an active listening ear.” 

For Haynes, starting at MIT without the benefit of knowing how things had been handled previously meant she relied on her own judgment.

“My main goal was just to simplify everything,” she says. “People said things at MIT were difficult to understand and everything was always so complicated. My focus was to shorten, simplify, and streamline. I direct my attention to what people need to know and understand and communicate it in a way that is easy for them to appreciate.”

Several undergraduates supported her nomination with examples of her frequent coffee hours and open-door policy which provide a welcome space at a time when students feel most vulnerable. 

“Beyond academic concerns, she takes a genuine interest in our personal lives, including our families, well-being, and comfort,” according to a letter jointly written by students. “Her sincere care for the welfare of all students is deeply felt and appreciated.”

Wrote an undergraduate: “From being one of my biggest cheerleaders and sending me encouragement through email and over zoom, to helping me get grounded academically and making plans for success, to even just reminding me of any deadlines that may have slipped through my inbox. I appreciate Tessa so much for the hours and days she spent dedicated to getting me back on track both with me and behind the scenes.”

Haynes says she is very appreciative of the Infinite Mile Award and the recognition for her efforts.

“It was just so sweet, and I was so honored to hear people say so many nice things about me,” says Haynes. “When I was at BU a lot of colleagues definitely appreciated me, but I didn’t necessarily feel that from my supervisors. Just hearing it said so publicly really meant a lot to me.”

Gearóid Dolan

ACT’s Gearóid Dolan (they/them) joined MIT in the fall of 2021. Similar to Haynes’ arrival, the campus was re-opening to full activity after the pandemic. Dolan accepted the offer of employment without visiting the campus. Moving from New York City to the Boston area, looking for a place to live, and starting a new job would be stressful circumstances for many people. But Dolan says they felt a vibe about the department.

“Even in the interview process, I immediately felt welcomed,” they say. “I knew there was an interesting group of people at this place. I immediately felt at home and that has proven itself to be true a hundredfold.”

Dolan quickly stood out for their many contributions to the department, their colleagues, and  their students. Said one nominator, “There have been many times that I have needed help and Gearóid has been the first person I have turned to. For instance, recently I panicked when receiving an unexpected massive shipment in the loading dock, something well outside of my normal duties. I found Gearóid in their office and without complaint, they left their lunch to help me unload a truck….”

Another wrote explaining that Dolan spends nights, weekends, “and whatever it takes to see our students thrive in their journey. They are always willing to be of service, whether it is last-minute asks from faculty, triaging emergencies, being available for after-hours events, assisting student with making their art possible….”

“Gearóid has become a friend and confidant,” wrote another nominator. “To my great joy and benefit, we have yet to have a one-on-one meeting that doesn't grossly go over time. They are a well-spring of wisdom and life experience that is not easily quantifiable but vitally important to my own success. They have taught me so much about acceptance, variable viewpoints, work ethic, attention to detail, and integrity.”

Dolan says they were overwhelmed to hear the compliments and commendations from their colleagues. “It was amazing,” they said. “It brought tears to my eyes. Everybody was just so nice and so kind. Just positive in every direction. I’d no idea of the depth and volume of the nomination inputs. It was truly awesome.

“I have to say that there isn’t one of my colleagues that doesn’t deserve this award. Everyone is very targeted in the application of their work. It’s a very integrated team. We all cross each other’s borders and help each other out. As a functioning mechanism it thrives on friendship and respect and that makes for a great team.”