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By Joe Gettlershare:

Caps, Gowns, Diplomas, and Brookhaven's Tuition Assistance Program

tuition reimbursement program participants

Click on the image to download a high-resolution version. Some of the Brookhaven Lab staff who completed degrees through the tuition reimbursement program from 2015 to 2017: (from left) Beth Lettieri, Christopher Pontieri, Melanie Schander, Benny Hooda, Ginger Blanda, Ruth Comas, Kathleen Walker, Sean Stoll, Bernadette Uzzi, Lawrence Lettieri, Nina Rivera, Erica Lamar, Hue-Anh Pham, Joseph Gettler, Marteenio Samms with Deputy Director for Operations Jack Anderson, and Tuition Assistance program administrators Starr Munson and Monica Jackson

It should come as no surprise that many smart people work at Brookhaven Lab. A number of them—32 current employees, in fact—have been certified smarter after completing college degrees with support from Brookhaven Science Associates' (BSA) tuition assistance program. This benefit program is a perk BSA offers to all staff who work 20 hours or more each week. It can cover up to 100 percent of an employee's tuition cost for college courses toward a degree in accordance with the tuition assistance policy.

The Talent Management group in the Lab's Human Resources Directorate administers the tuition assistance program—specifically Starr Munson and Monica Jackson with Manager Maggie Sullivan. After a conducting a survey among those who participated in the program between 2015 and 2017, 32 respondents reported completing a degree: one earned a Ph.D., 18 earned masters', one earned a graduate certificate, nine earned bachelors', and three earned an associate degree (see who earned what in the list below).

On June 19, the Talent Management group hosted them for a graduation party.

"This is a big accomplishment. On behalf of BSA, we're proud of what you achieved and hope you apply what you've learned here at the Laboratory," said Deputy Lab Director for Operations Jack Anderson while congratulating the graduates. "As someone who knows what it's like to work while also earning a degree, I can understand what you've gone through. Congratulations and be sure your hard work pays off—please speak up as opportunities arise to apply what you've learned!"

Among the attendees were several who recently completed masters' in business administration (MBAs) through a program that was offered on site from 2015 through the spring semester earlier this year through Stony Brook University, one of BSA's managing partners. Although the program will now only be available at Stony Brook's campus and online, Lab staff can still enroll.

The tuition assistance program at Brookhaven has been offered on site for decades. In fact, it dates well before BSA began managing Brookhaven Lab in 1997 and BSA has continued offering the perk all along.

Spotlight on three graduates

Jose Gomera is a nuclear engineer in Brookhaven's Nonproliferation & National Security Department. Through the tuition assistance program, he earned a master's degree from Penn State University.

"Continuing my education has been a benefit for me as well as for the projects I contribute to for our department," Gomera said. "My degrees helped me get involved with more complex aspects of projects and take a lead role in some of those projects. The tuition assistance program has been instrumental to my professional growth."

Before joining Brookhaven, Gomera earned a bachelor's degree from Stony Brook University but you may recognize him from a television commercial because he "got his start" at Suffolk County Community College (see right).

Environment, Safety, and Health Representative Marteenio Samms of the Lab's Safety & Health Services Division was in the cohort of employees who completed the Stony Brook MBA program that was offered on site.

"Going through the program taught me a lot about how organizations work, which helped me better understand how the lab works and how to handle more complex projects," Samms said.

Samms began the MBA program in 2015, when her daughter was six months old. Thanks to her endurance as well as support from her husband and family, she graduated in December 2017. This MBA is Samms' second Stony Brook University degree—she earned her undergrad there too, in public health with a concentration in environmental health and safety. It's also her second master's degree. She earned her first, also in public health but with a focus in industrial hygiene, from Tulane University in 2009, through the tuition assistance program.

Sport Moran is a facility project manager for the Lab's miles-long steam distribution system that provides high-pressure steam for heating and other applications. Before arriving at Brookhaven and its Energy & Utility Division 14 years ago, he worked as an engineer aboard tankers and other large merchant ships, "sailing around the globe, everywhere north of the Antarctic Circle," operating engines and utility systems similar to those on site at Brookhaven. Moran was also in the cohort of Lab staff pursuing MBAs from Stony Brook University and graduated in December 2017.

"The classes in the MBA program aren't directly related to my current job but they gave me insight into how options are considered and decisions are made, how to better manage, how better to coordinate with different departments," Moran said. "It was a lot of work, and thanks to the tuition assistance program, I'm much more knowledgeable beyond technical expertise than I was."

Hats off to the graduates

The 32 Lab staff who earned degrees between 2015 and 2017 through the tuition assistance program, according to the Talent Management group's survey, are:

  • Oleksii Biletskyi, Collider-Accelerator Department: Bachelor's in electrical engineering technology, Farmingdale State College, 2016
  • Kristie Bonti, Biology Department: Associate degree in business administration, Suffolk Community College, 2016
  • Ginger Blanda, Operations Support & Planning Division: Master's in business administration, Stony Brook University, 2017
  • Christopher Bruno, Energy & Utilities Division: Master's in transmission & distribution engineering, Gonzaga University, 2016
  • Ruth Comas, Guest Services Division, bachelor's in organizational management, St. Joseph's College, 2015
  • Scott Davonski, Emergency Services Division: Associate degree in occupational safety & health, Columbia Southern University, 2017
  • Jeff Duff, National Synchrotron Light Source II: Master's in business administration, Stony Brook University, 2017
  • Joseph Gettler, Stakeholder & Community Relations Office: Master's in business administration, Stony Brook University, 2017
  • Jose Gomera, Nonproliferation & National Security Department: Master's in nuclear engineering, Penn State University, 2016
  • Betsy Hanson, National Synchrotron Light Source II: Master's in human resources management, St. Joseph's College, 2017
  • Christine Herbst of the Planning, Performance & Quality Management Office: Associate degree in business administration, Suffolk Community College, 2017
  • Benny Hooda, Radiological Control Division: Master's in business administration, Stony Brook University, 2017
  • Amanda Horn, Stakeholder & Community Relations Office: Master's in elementary education: science, technology, engineering, & math; Hofstra University; 2016
  • Erica Lamar, Physics Department: Bachelor's in organizational management, St. Joseph's College, 2017
  • Beth Lettieri, Radiological Control Division: Master's in organizational leadership, Columbia Southern University, 2015
  • Lawrence Lettieri, Safety & Health Services Division: Master's in occupational safety & health, Columbia Southern University, 2015
  • Sport Moran, Energy & Utilities Division: Master's in business administration, Stony Brook University, 2017
  • Joseph Moskowitz, Radiological Control Division: Bachelor's in electrical engineering technology, Farmingdale State College, 2015
  • Hue-Anh Pham, Collider-Accelerator Department: Ph.D. in organizational leadership, University of Maryland, 2016
  • Michael Poat, Physics Department: Bachelor's in information systems engineering, Stony Brook University, 2015
  • Christopher Pontieri, Physics Department: bachelor's in architectural technology, NY Institute of Technology, 2015
  • Rob Rainer, National Synchrotron Light Source II: Master's in technical engineering, Drexel University, 2015
  • Nina Rivera, Superconducting Magnet Division: Bachelor's in communications, University of Phoenix, 2015
  • Charles Rose, Radiological Control Division: Master's in management engineering, Long Island University, 2015
  • Marteenio Samms, Safety & Health Services Division: Master's in business administration, Stony Brook University, 2017
  • Melanie Schander, Human Resources Directorate: Master's in human resources management, Stony Brook University, 2016
  • Gary Schroeder, Information Technology Division: Master's in user experience design, Quinnipiac University, 2017
  • Kathy Schwager of the Environmental Protection Division: Graduate certificate in fire ecology, management & technology; University of Idaho; 2015
  • Sean Stoll, Physics Department: Master's in mechanical engineering, Stony Brook University, 2015
  • Bernadette Uzzi, Stakeholder & Community Relations Office: Master's in science and the public, University at Buffalo, 2017
  • Kathleen Walker, Safeguards & Security Division: Bachelor's in organizational management, St. Joseph's College, 2017
  • John Wilson, Production Division: Bachelor's in organizational management, St. Joseph's College, 2015

To keep the party going, a graduation celebration for those who earn degrees in 2018 through the tuition assistance program will be held in early in 2019.

Tags: personnel

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