PSD Spotlight: Nita Yack

September 16, 2020

September 2020

Nita Yack

PSD’s September spotlight is Nita Yack, Manager of the Department of Computer Science. Nita has been with UChicago for 32 years.

Nita was nominated for the “Keystone Award.” In an arch, a keystone is the last piece to be placed during construction, holding all the stones in position and allowing it to bear weight. In that spirit, a keystone staff member helps hold a department, team, or group together, serving as an integral member. This person is someone many other staff go to for encouragement, resources, or whom they rely on to “get the job done.” Seasoned veteran indicates this staff member has been working in the PSD for at least five years. 

Five members of the PSD nominated Nita. They had these things to say: “Nita is the epitome of a Keystone staff member for the department. She personally attends to so many aspects of department operation and harmony. She was instrumental in our building move, from the high-level planning and operational logistics, to personally looking for mis-delivered items…. Without Nita, the department would literally fall apart. But far beyond that, Nita is always there, always helpful, and always cheerful. She is the department's memory and soul, providing both continuity and energy.”

“Nita is the person you go to for just about anything, and she is constantly looking for ways to better enable, encourage, and support her team. I also had the pleasure of seeing how far-reaching Nita's impact and clout is when working with her on a working group on summer programs. Across departments, roles, and hierarchies, her energy and insights were clearly appreciated, well-taken, and respected by everyone. I can't think of someone more deserving of the Keystone Award for the PSD.”

“Nita cares about the well-being of her staff and her colleagues. She has also created opportunities for the CS staff to get to know one another in both a professional and social setting, helping us to work more closely together.”

“She is also very receptive to feedback and tries to get the most out of the department staff while ensuring the environment is supportive for staff. She arranged a whole host of events ahead of winter break (e.g. ugly sweater day) to get everyone into a festive mood and ensured that all staff were recognized for their hard work with end of year gifts. She is one of a kind! ....From day one, I've felt supported with such a motivated, passionate, and sincere departmental manager.”

“As an international postdoc, I had some serious issues with my visa.... Nita took over the situation to ensure that I would have a proper visa and I wouldn't have to leave the program or had to go outside the country for some period of time until a new visa comes in. Nita took over the situation and arranged every single detail. In less than two months, with minimal input from my side, I had the visa in my hands.”

We interviewed Nita about her interests and experiences below.

Where are you from?

Hammond, Indiana.

What do you enjoy about being a part of the PSD community?

I enjoy dealing with a diverse group of people. I enjoy hearing different perspectives and different ways of solving a problem. I believe this helps me by increasing my productivity and allows us to attract and retain the best talent. The other administrators are a wonderful group and I really appreciate them and the ability to put our heads together and solve problems.

Tell us a bit about you. 

I am a proud grandmother. I have four granddaughters and one more granddaughter due early October, 2020. I have three sisters and two brothers. Two of my sisters work on the campus.

Who inspires you?

My children and grandchildren inspire me. I always look at them and give thanks I have this beautiful, healthy, funny family. They inspire me to keep moving forward and to become a "better me" than yesterday because I want them to do the same.

What is the most interesting thing that you are working on right now?

I have been working on Phase 3 and Phase 4 of our reopening plan. It is very interesting because we want to get back in the building to work but we also want to keep our students, postdocs, faculty, visitors, and staff healthy.

What does diversity and inclusion mean to you?

It is about each one of us embracing students, visitors, postdocs, staff, and faculty from all backgrounds regardless of their race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, etc., and treating each other with respect and facilitating connections with other people so that we can develop new ideas, passions, and directions to make our University and our lives a better place.

What have you seen lately that made you smile?

My grandchildren.

Who had the most influence on you growing up?

Betty Dennehe, my friend's mother.

What three words best describe you?

Dedicated, loyal, fair.

If they made a movie about your life, what genre would it be and who would play you?

Comedy, Goldie Hawn.

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