By Judy Jamal
The Staff Spotlight series features Earth Institute staff members from across the Morningside, Lamont and the Irving Medical Center campuses. The series is intended to highlight the important work our staff members do to keep the Earth Institute running smoothly and to support our mission of guiding the world onto more sustainable paths. These interviews discuss staff members’ careers, their interest in our institute, and insights that might be relatable and useful for the rest of us.
This month’s Staff Spotlight features Linette Sandoval-Rzepka, who works as division administrator for the Marine Geology and Geophysics department up at our Lamont campus. She recently received the Earth Institute Distinguished Staff Award in recognition of her problem-solving skills, attention to detail, and support of her colleagues, among other accolades.
What was your inspiration to join us at Lamont?
Once my current position opened up, I knew immediately this would be a perfect fit, and I was right. It coupled my research administration background as well as my experience working within a department managing research awards perfectly. I was also drawn to working at the Lamont campus, given its picturesque setting — minus the sightings of bears and snakes!
Would you share a brief background with us?
I started my tenure with Columbia University as an MPA student in the School of International and Public Affairs starting in 2003. After graduating, I worked at some of the major institutions in New York/New Jersey as a research administrator — at NYU School of Medicine, Weill Cornell Medical School, and Stevens Institute of Technology, to name a few. I returned to Columbia and was fortunate to work at Columbia’s various campuses. First, as a project officer at both the Morningside and Medical Center campuses and years later, as a grants manager at the Medical Center campus. I guess I have taken a tour of all that Columbia has to offer. But I must say Lamont has the best view!
What aspects do you love most about your job? Any insights you may wish to share?
I am very drawn to working with our principal investigators (PI) through the proposal process and helping to facilitate and streamline the process. I view my role as someone who can really anticipate the next steps and easily translate what is needed, so our PI’s can submit a successful proposal. I also like working with my PI’s to help manage the financial requirements of their projects. Navigating the variety of systems for federal sponsors and at Columbia can be challenging, so it is always awarding to know that I can provide fluidity to ensure the work is being done.
Any New Year resolutions for 2021?
I do not have any particular resolution, but I hope to bring more calmness into 2021 and be more centered. The world and at times work can come at us fast. I hope to learn better how to confront these changes with more composure and inner peace.
What are your thoughts on winning the Distinguished Staff award?
I am still in awe and honored to be named one of the Earth Institute Distinguished Staff Award recipients for 2020. I realized after been notified of being a recipient that your good work does not go unnoticed. I truly am honored to be recognized! I always want to ensure I’m providing the best service to my division, Marine Geology and Geophysics (MGG). MGG is composed of a great group of people who are extremely supportive and always ensure that I am successful. I must also mention W. Roger Buck IV, the associate director of our division! He sets the tone of our division and ensures we are a supportive and dedicated division.
Any advice for the rest of us on the Employee of the Year award?
Looking back at this year, I can only say that you need to keep doing your best, learn to adapt to the times, and when you least expect it, your work will be recognized!