View from the Top | Meet SRAI’s Amazing Staff

By SRAI News posted 09-10-2020 10:47 AM


View from the Top | Meet SRAI’s Amazing Staff

From happy times when we were all together!  Left to right: Emily Mincey, Virginia Cunigan, Dilyana Williams (seated), Gina Cuevas, Jennifer Atkison, Debbie Appler, Ellen Quinn, and Evan Roberts. Not in photo, Jim Mitchell.

Meet SRAI’s Amazing Staff

One of the many joys of serving on the Board of Directors has been the time spent working closely with SRAI staff.  They have always impressed me with their skills, but now in the most challenging year the Society has ever faced with the Covid crisis, they have proved that they are heroes.  There have been many Board meetings this year to discuss how we will handle the latest meeting cancellation or other challenges.  This is the honest truth, I have sometimes had tears in my eyes as the staff has described how they are pivoting to online learning, re-negotiating agreements, updating our software platforms, developing new tools, and finding innovative ways to reach our members and be careful stewards of the Society’s finances.  It has struck me how much trouble the Society could have been in, and how hard our jobs could have become as Board members if it wasn’t for our exceptional staff.

I really wish every SRAI member could know and love our staff as much as I do.  In the future, I encourage all of you to seek them out and get to know them in person. For now, we will have to settle for a quick profile.  To keep it fun, I asked each staff member to answer the following questions:  1) What is your role on the staff and how long have you been in it?; 2) What job skill do you possess that you were surprised to learn and is really important and useful?; 3) You are part of a great team.  What part do you play in making the team highly effective?; and 4) What was your favorite read this past year?

Emily Mincey
I am SRAI’s Meetings Coordinator. People may know me from working with our Section leaders, on our Certificate program, or from seeing me at an Annual Meeting. My two-year anniversary with SRAI is September 17th! These two years have absolutely flown by.  I think that one of my best skills is that I can be an extremely collaborative person or work solo when I need to. This is very important with a small office, but also because we work with so many groups and Committees. You have to be a people person to work for SRAI. Flexibility and attitude in our office are key.  I help make the team highly effective by constantly moving forward. There isn’t a lot of time for stagnation when you’re working on multiple meetings per year plus virtual content. I have never been a person who enjoys sitting still, so this is perfect for me.  This may sound strange but my favorite books are usually cookbooks. I spent a lot of this summer cooking through both of Chrissy Teigen’s “Cravings” and “Cravings: Hungry for More.” In terms of a novel, I loooove a good mystery. Ruth Ware’s “In a Dark, Dark Wood” was good to the last word. I cannot recommend these enough!

Virginia Cunigan
My role on the staff is Meetings Registrar, and I will have been on the job 6 years as of December 1. My most useful skills are time management, my ability to work as a team, and customer service. My part in making the team effective has been setting up registration in Abila, opening registrations online, processing registrations, completing registration reports as well as the Accounting reports.  My favorite read this year is “Becoming”, by Michelle Obama.

Dilyana Williams
I have worked for SRAI for over seven years. I started in May 2013, and a couple of days later, I was at the Northeast/Midwest Section Meeting in Providence. I am responsible for SRAI's social media. Additionally, I support the Catalyst and JRA editorial boards in their endeavors to keep the RA community updated through the monthly newsletter and bi-annual journal. My most useful job skill has turned out to be empathy. When you work in a team, it teaches you not only how to communicate with different individuals but how to walk in their shoes, understanding. It is not easy to be empathetic, especially when you have "a bunch" of deadlines; when you are in the middle of a global pandemic, when the only way to communicate is through an email or Zoom, and when you feel that the world is crashing down. When I imagined myself in another person's situation, it helped me build empathy. Among all of the school books that I am reading every eight weeks for a new class, and the children's books that I am reading every night to my daughter, the only way for me to read is by reading articles. My favorite one from this year is Kobe Bryant's 2 Psychological Keys to Success: Two things resonated with me from this article: "I will love you no matter what." and "What happened in the past doesn't impact the next thing you do, or stop you from being entirely present at this moment."

Jennifer Atkison
I am the Meetings & Exhibits Director and I have been working for SRAI for roughly 6 years. Half of my time is spent working with Exhibitors and Sponsors; members probably would notice me running around the exhibit hall at most annual meetings. The other half of my time is coordinating the logistics for section / intensive meetings and working with the SRAI team to organize the annual meeting. One of the fun perks of my job is to design/organize the opening reception each year at the annual meeting. I have found with meeting planning that a skill I use quite often is negotiation and compromise.  SRAI, in general, has an open-door policy and as a small team, the lines of communication need to be open. I encourage team members to communicate openly with each other, sharing their thoughts, opinions, and ideas with members of their team; as well as taking into consideration what others have to say. Communication is essential for keeping track of progress and working together efficiently on tasks. I have to be honest I have not had much time to read this summer, due to the fact that every free moment I chase around my one-year-old son. I would say his favorite books are “The Pout Pout Fish” by Deborah Diesen and “Where’s Spot?” by Eric Hill!

Gina Cuevas
I am a Program Associate for SRAI. I have been in this role for two years since I first joined the team. Working from home has been a surprising and interesting adjustment! I will say that the skill of adaptability, especially in regards to our education and programming moving online, has been a resourceful and helpful tool in trying to understand and work for our members’ current needs.  Communication is key to a highly effective team – and I think the entire SRAI team does a great job of communicating and working together to ensure the highest level of effectiveness and efficiency. I like to think that I work very hard in trying to stay on the same page with my colleagues and our volunteers by consistently communicating with them, and not being afraid to ask any and all questions to tackle a task at hand. My favorite book this past year was “Atomic Habits” by James Clear.

Debbie Appler
I am the Executive Office Administrator for SRAI, and have been in the position for 5 years. When I officially started with SRAI, one job I took over was the logistics for the SRAI Online Webinars. I learned how to use not only our webinar platform for our Live and On-Demand Webinars but also learned other online meeting platforms in the process when we switched platforms. I’m glad I had already learned so much that I was able to jump right in when the pandemic made it necessary to move more events to a virtual format. I’m always happy to jump in and help out on other’s projects as needed. My favorite book this year was, “Homecoming”, by Yaa Gyasi.

Ellen Quinn
I am SRAI’s Chief Operating Officer. I joined SRAI in 2008 as the Director of Meetings. The 2020 Virtual Annual Meeting will be my 13th Annual Meeting with SRAI!  The ability to work remotely and conduct meetings online has been my most useful skill lately. I have always been one to plan for the unexpected on-site, but COVID-19 has required me to quickly adapt our offerings to a new online paradigm.   I work with the team to create a vision for our projects, develop implementation plans, and focus on the execution of those plans.  To that effect, I strive to ensure everyone on the team has what they need to succeed. I enjoy reading The Economist. The articles are to the point and provide me with interesting fast facts about current events. I have a 2 ½ year old and a 7 month old at home, so the days of reading novels are on hold for now.

Jim Mitchell
My role is Manager, Information Technology. I have been in this role for a few years.  The job skills that have served me best this year are perseverance and problem solving. These skills are not a surprise, but they are extremely useful in my role. I approach resolving issues, solving problems and overcoming challenges from different angles.  My part on the team is providing support, which has many facets: implementation of new systems, graphic design, software training, troubleshooting, etc.  My favorite read this year was “Principles” by Ray Dalio.

Authored by Angela Behrend, Senior Grants and Contracts Administrator
University of Virginia
SRAI Board of Directors At Large




09-15-2020 09:41 AM

SRAI HQ is made up of wonderfully dedicated professionals - not an easy task to support thousands of volunteers on a daily basis! We appreciate all you do to give us the support we need to grow the profession of research administration and management!

09-11-2020 04:58 PM

Evan...where is your bio?