Shari Effert-Fanta, PRI’s assistant director for facilities and safety, is the recipient of the 2022 Distinguished Support Staff Award! Effert-Fanta oversees PRI’s many facilities, both on campus and across the state, as well as the safety of PRI staff and students as they work in the field and in the lab; her work impacts everyone at PRI.
"Thank you to all the nominators and letters of support; I am humbled by the recognition and grateful that my support of staff is valued," said Effert-Fanta, "The effort and coordination that goes into providing a safe, comfortable, and operational work environment is not accomplished unilaterally. From the hard work of the facilities and safety team to the efforts of every staff member, it truly takes a village."
The staff nominating her for the award praised her for often going above and beyond and for her effective communication during the COVID-19 pandemic when uncertainty abounded.
“Her wide range of experience in field and laboratory settings and her knowledge of safety protocols, solutions, and compliance requirements gave her the knowledge and skills necessary to tackle many safety issues, but her passion for creating a safe environment for her colleagues is what has made the greatest impact toward improving workplace safety at PRI,” botanist Brenda Molano-Flores wrote.
Many PRI staff praised Effert-Fanta for her tireless work ethic and willingness to go above and beyond to find solutions to both facility and safety challenges. They also noted her thoughtful, compassionate, and collaborative personality. “Kindness goes a long way in working relationships, and Shari combines this with poise, efficiency, creativity, intelligence, and numerous other admirable qualities that allow her to excel in her position,” wrote avian ecologist Tara Beveroth.
Effert-Fanta plays a vital role in PRl's mission and vision because her success helps ensure that staff are able to fulfill their research both safely and efficiently. Many staff provided feedback regarding how she goes to great lengths to truly understand the research goals of individual programs to make sure that any proposed safety measures will complement the over-arching goal of completing the research while seeking the most efficient and cost effective option. This was paramount during her involvement in recent collection-moving events at the Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS), which presented some rather complicated dilemmas that needed to be above all safe but also to move forward quickly and in the least expensive way possible.
"The PRI Center for Paleontology laboratory renovations were complicated from the very beginning, with numerous safety and facility issues arising early in the process," said Sam Heads, director of the PRI Center for Paleontology, "Ms. Effert-Fanta worked around the clock with my team, F&S, and DRS in order to troubleshoot issues at every step and to find workable solutions to the many problems that came up in order to get the project approved and underway. I can say with confidence and without reservation that the project would not have happened without her support and hard work."
In her role as assistant director for facilities and safety, Effert-Fanta has demonstrated her resourcefulness and desire to provide the best possible outcome for PRI staff and facilities. Her persistence, professionalism, and intelligence regarding safety codes have demonstrated that PRI is a serious, premier scientific institution that will serve staff and constituents for many years to come.