2021 Heller Awards honor outstanding service during a challenging year

April 14, 2021

The Heller community celebrated this year’s Heller Award winners in a virtual ceremony, recognizing individuals who stepped up during a pandemic year to provide outstanding service in teaching, mentoring, teaching assistance, staff service, research, and equity, inclusion and diversity. The awards, given each spring, are nominated from within the school community and determined by a committee of past awardees, students and recent alumni. 

“This event is a highlight of our academic year because it recognizes members of our community for the amazing work they do,” said Dean David Weil. “It’s an opportunity for all of us to acknowledge the different pieces that come together to achieve our mission as a school and as part of Brandeis.”

Robert Dunigan, PhD'04
Robert Dunigan, PhD'04

The teaching award was given to lecturer Robert Dunigan, PhD’04, a senior research associate in the Schneider Institutes for Health Policy and Research, who motivated and supported students in his course on criminal justice disparities during a year of online teaching. Nominators said, “His no-nonsensical approach to the material, empathy for his students, and humor sets the ideal tone for the course,” and “I’m always sad when the clock hits 4:50 pm and we have to sign off Zoom.” In addition, amid racial justice protests across the nation, his insights into the criminal justice system “inspired a passion in myself and many of my fellow colleagues to fight for reform,” wrote another student.

Sarah LaMorey, MA SID/COEX'19, Program Coordinator
Sarah LaMorey, MA SID/COEX’19

Sarah LaMorey, MA SID/COEX’19, practicum program manager for global programs, received the mentoring award. Her team describes her as “our rock, a moral compass, courageous and selfless,” and a faculty nominator said “she dedicates 100% of her energy to students as a mentor.” Student nominators described how they turn to LaMorey to help navigate the stresses of graduate school, helping “to strategize a healthy balance between academics, research and career, that focused on quality and not quantity.”  

Amy DiMattia, Associate Director, EMBA for Physicians
Amy DiMattia

Staff service award winner Amy DiMattia was recognized for her work as associate director of the Executive MBA for Physicians program. DiMattia shared her invaluable expertise in online learning with the rest of Heller as the school pivoted to online instruction during the pandemic—all while balancing the needs of her physician students on the front lines. Nominators called her a “professional force of nature” who “clearly loves what she does.” Another nominator said, “When the pandemic hit, and our cohort was in crisis, I got several phone calls from the EMBA group to check in, to prioritize efforts, and to ensure we were safe.”

Julianna Brill, MA SID/COEX’22, in a sweatshirt that says Brandeis University with the university seal
Julianna Brill, MA SID/COEX’22

Julianna Brill, MA SID/COEX’22, received the teaching assistant award. Every nominator said that Brill goes “above and beyond” in her role, praising her for her weekly digest emails, explanations of course concepts and assignments, and adaptability for last minute changes and logistics. Despite also serving as Heller Student Association co-chair and taking her own classes, Brill was a tireless “advocate, mentor, teacher and ally, helping students make sense of class activities that are both difficult both practically and professionally." In her acceptance remarks, Brill said, “I wanted to be the kind of TA that I was inspired by. Thank you to Heller and Brandeis for providing the first academic setting where I could not only succeed but thrive.”

Finn Gardiner, MPP'18, Communications Specialist
Finn Gardiner, MPP’18

The Equity, Inclusion and Diversity award was given to Finn Gardiner, MPP’18, communications specialist for the Lurie Institute for Disability Policy. Gardiner was honored for his work combining disability advocacy, policy analysis, and visual and written communication to help advance the rights of people with disabilities and those at the intersections of disability, race, gender, sexuality, and other statuses. “Finn’s commitment to diversity and inclusion is evident through everything he does,” said one nominator. Gardiner was also recently inducted into the Susan M. Daniels Disability Mentoring Hall of Fame by the National Disability Mentoring Coalition and Partners for Youth with Disabilities.

Clemens Noelke, Scientist
Clemens Noelke

Research Scientist Clemens Noelke of the Institute for Child, Youth and Family Policy received the Early Career Research Investigator Award. “Clemens is simply a super star, a gifted quantitative researcher applying the most rigorous methods, while painstakingly working with groups and organizations on the ground on applications of the research to improve child wellbeing and equity,” wrote ICYFP Director Dolores Acevedo-Garcia in her nomination letter. “At a personal level, Clemens is an outstanding example of professional integrity and collegiality. Every day he inspires everyone on our team to do a better job.” Noelke led the development of the Child Opportunity Index 2.0 and was recently cited in the New York Times for his work with Dean Weil on wage norms.