University of Maryland Honors Two Computer Science Staff Members with Prestigious Awards

Mel Coles received the MVP Impact Award and Caitlin Rudy received the Terrapin Innovation Award for exceptional contributions to the university. 
Descriptive image for University of Maryland Honors Two Computer Science Staff Members with Prestigious Awards

The University of Maryland recently recognized the accomplishments of two Department of Computer Science staff members. Mel Coles, who serves as the department’s special events coordinator, received the MVP Impact Award, and Caitlin Rudy, the program manager of industry partnerships for the Iribe Initiative for Inclusion and Diversity in Computing (I4C), was honored with the Terrapin Innovation Award. These awards celebrate their noteworthy contributions to the department and the broader university community.  

The MVP Impact Award and the Terrapin Innovation Award are part of the University of Maryland's new annual recognition program, designed to honor staff members who embody a Fearlessly Forward attitude. This program acknowledges individuals who have dedicated their skills and efforts to enhance the workplace environment. The awards include a monetary prize of $1,000 and were presented to 26 staff members this year. 

"The success of our department is not just a result of our academic achievements, but equally due to the dedication and innovation of our amazing staff," said Computer Science Department Chair Matthias Zwicker, who holds the Elizabeth Iribe Chair for Innovation and the Phillip H. and Catherine C. Horvitz Professorship. "With their outstanding work, Mel Coles and Caitlin Rudy have been essential in advancing our department's goals. Their contributions, often behind the scenes, are pivotal in shaping a vibrant and inclusive academic environment. We are immensely proud that their efforts and commitment have been recognized with these highly deserved awards."

The award recipients will be honored at a recognition ceremony on January 30, 2024.

Mel Coles

Coles received the MVP Impact Award, which is awarded to staff who have demonstrated exceptional service, remarkable contributions and a commitment to excellence over the past year.  

Descriptive ImageThe award criteria include making a significant positive impact on the team, embodying the university's core values and contributing quality work that often goes unnoticed but is vital for the smooth operation of the department.  

Coles’ work, often behind the scenes, has been instrumental in enhancing the Department of Computer Science's operations, programs and projects.

Her deep connection to UMD, a journey spanning over a decade, has been marked by academic achievements, the forging of meaningful relationships and a commitment to the university's values.

“I am both humbled and honored to win this award,” said Coles (B.A. ’16, sociology; M.A. ’21, American studies). “I was 18 years old when my journey at UMD began, but here I am, 11 years later, with a graduate degree in American Studies, an even bigger community of colleagues and friends and still very much rooted at UMD. There have been so many changes in my life, but I am very grateful that UMD has been an ever-present, enduring and fearlessly constant presence in my life.”

In addition to organizing and facilitating many events throughout the year, Coles led the planning for the department’s 50th Anniversary Celebration in October 2023, which attracted over 500 guests, including alums, students, faculty and staff members, and friends.   

“I do this work because I take pride in my experiences as a former student, current staff member and lifetime alum and use the diversity of my experiences to advance the causes dearest to the constituencies I am beholden to,” Coles shared. “On January 24th, I will turn 30 and celebrate 12 years of birthdays, memories and cherished experiences at UMD. There is no better time to celebrate and express gratitude for how my time here has shaped and prepared me for the rest of my life.”

Caitlin Rudy 

Rudy was awarded the Terrapin Innovation Award for her forward-thinking approach and creative problem-solving skills. This award recognizes staff members who propose solutions that benefit their unit, department or the university, whether these ideas are implemented or still in the conceptual stage.

The award celebrates staff regardless of their length of service, acknowledging the value of fresh, creative ideas that push the department and the university forward.

Descriptive ImageRudy's contributions to the department embody the innovative spirit that her award represents. She encapsulates the idea of moving Fearlessly Forward with her creative and practical solutions to department challenges.

In her role, Rudy helps women, nonbinary individuals and other underrepresented groups interested in tech careers gain resume experience through projects and mentoring.

“Developing and executing Career Launch is one of my proudest accomplishments since joining UMD, not only because it was an innovative program but because we saw such positive student outcomes and internship placement rates,” Rudy said. “I spent 10 years working in the corporate world before joining UMD and have, at times, felt like an outsider. Many of my UMD colleagues have reminded me that my perspective is valuable. Winning this award solidified that for me and boosted my confidence and sense of belonging.”

Rudy's contributions have enhanced the quality of services and programming at I4C, promoting efficiency and improving the workplace environment. Looking ahead, she believes that such recognition can further fuel her commitment to excellence.

“Winning this award is motivating for my future. I won an innovation award in my former corporate life, so winning the Terrapin Innovation Award has me thinking I might be onto something,” Rudy said. “I'm realizing I'm skilled in helping teams innovate and work more creatively and efficiently to reach their goals.”

—Story by Samuel Malede Zewdu, CS Communications 

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