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INI Director To Receive Prestigious Barbara Lazarus Award

March 23, 2012

Carnegie Mellon University's Dena Haritos Tsamitis will receive the prestigious Barbara Lazarus Award for Graduate Student and Junior Faculty Mentoring April 25 at 5 p.m. in the University Center's Rangos Auditorium.

"Provost Mark Kamlet called me to deliver the good news," said Tsamitis, director of the Information Networking Institute (INI) and director of education, training and outreach for Carnegie Mellon CyLab. "I remain amazed and extremely humbled."

Lofty goals: pursued and achieved.

That has been a decade-long mantra for Tsamitis, the scrappy, sharp-eyed innovator who turned a fledgling INI into an educational leader and academic home to happy, thriving Carnegie Mellon students and alums worldwide.

Perhaps that's why this Pied-Piper of student dreams and alumni success stories was chosen as the 2012 winner of the Barbara Lazarus Award.

Not only does she build relationships and cultivate a sense of community, INI alums say she is a leader when it comes to the art of good decision-making.

"Although I graduated almost three years ago, I still go back to my emails from Dena to give myself rejuvenated confidence and enthusiasm to make the most of my life," said Aditi Pendharkar, (MS19) a senior business consultant for London-based Grant Thornton.

And the formula of success continues to grow. Students, alums and junior faculty praise the second-generation American of enterprising Greek parents for leading interdisciplinary technology programs in a department that continues to distinguish itself by the quality of its students and faculty and the caring mentorship of minority and women students.

"She realized that mentorship begins long before a student takes a single step on CMU's campus or even before that student has finished an undergraduate program," said Marullus Williams, president of Limbic Systems and chair of the INI Alumni Leadership Council (MS06).

It is not uncommon for Tsamitis to reach out to alumni or inquire about the health of a student's family. "She was the first person to call after my mother's kidney surgery," said Tyelisa C. Shields, (MS20). Those sentiments are echoed by alums and students from not only the United States, but also from Portugal, Rwanda, Greece and Japan, where the INI has offered programs.

Making things happen is a daily ritual. Like a high-speed sunrise, Tsamitis says she works tirelessly to guide and help students, alums and junior faculty push their limits. "Under Dena's oversight, I was given ample room to exercise leadership as a university representative teaching and advising students outside the borders of the traditional campus," said Nicolas Christin, associate director of the INI and a senior systems scientist for Carnegie Mellon CyLab.

Tsamitis also praised her staff and faculty for their professionalism and hard work in making the INI a successful and rewarding experience for students and alums.

Pradeep K. Khosla, dean of Carnegie Mellon's College of Engineering and Dowd University Professor, praised Tsamitis for her positive influence in global campus activities, scholarship and awards programs, industry and government initiatives and alumni relations programs.

"She emulates what it means to be a mentor, and she instills leadership qualities in students and alumni through her dedicated and personal involvement," said Khosla.

Tsamitis holds a bachelor's degree in Information Science from the University of Pittsburgh, a masters' degree in Education and Instructional Technology from Duquesne University and a Ph.D. in Higher Education Management from the University of Pennsylvania.