Portrait of Patricia Brainard

Pat Brainard: CEE’s Proactive Advocate for Diversity and Inclusion Honored with University-Wide Award

Pat has been with the University of Michigan since 2005 and has spent her time at the university serving as a leader who has long supported initiatives for diversity, equity, and inclusion.

We at CEE are pleased to announce that the 12th annual Distinguished Diversity Leaders Award has been awarded to longtime CEE staff member Pat Brainard. This honor comes as a result of nominations from her esteemed colleagues Yafeng Yin, Stephanie Ford, Michele Santillan, Jeff Scruggs, Sarah Cooney, Jennifer Piper and Kari Bigelow, who acknowledged and recognized her tireless efforts in promoting diversity and inclusion. Established in 2008 to shine a light on staff members who work to promote and achieve a welcoming, supportive and inclusive working environment, this university-wide award celebrates those who embrace the value of diversity and recognize how it helps set the university apart.

Portrait of Patricia Brainard
Department Administrator Patricia Brainard

“I have worked with Pat for the past eleven years, and during this time I have witnessed countless opportunities that she has been engaged to assist the needs of others,” said CEE Departmental Chair Yafeng Yin in his nomination for Pat to the Distinguished Diversity Leaders Award selection committee. “She has created a supportive and inclusive environment by talking openly at staff meetings and retreats regarding celebrating our differences and benefitting from diverse perspectives.”

Pat has been with the University of Michigan since 2005 and has spent her time at the university serving as a leader who has long supported initiatives for diversity, equity, inclusion and positive culture through professional development, trust building and mentoring. She has been the recipient of several additional awards at the University of Michigan, such as the College of Engineering Faculty/Staff Incentive Award for Creativity, Innovation and Daring in 2018, the College of Engineering Excellence in Staff Service Award in 2016, and VOICES of the Staff Recognition (FAST Connections) in 2008. 

Pat’s tireless work in support of diversity and inclusion at CEE and throughout the College of Engineering is apparent to and admired by those who work with her. Since joining CEE in 2008, Pat has worked to develop and manage various CEE programs and initiatives that promote diversity, equity and inclusion within the college. One such program is the Pelham Scholars program, which recruits under-represented students to CEE by providing 2 years of tuition for master’s students who meet the Rackham Merit Fellowship criteria. 

“Pat prepared funding requests to non-corporate sponsors and secured multi-year funding commitments from Rackham and the College of Engineering,” said Yin. “She oversaw the marketing efforts, fund tracking and fellowship assignments. She has presented information about the program to Advancement as they work to secure additional corporate sponsorship.”

“Pat has been central to the administration of the Pelham Scholars Program,” says CEE Professor Jeff Scruggs. “It is not an understatement to say that Pat has enabled us to maximize the impact of this program. She has been an instrumental factor in the continued success of this program. In my interactions with her, what stands out most is her deep desire to see this program reach its full potential, and her deep commitment to its mission.”

Similarly, Pat helped to establish the first DEI staff role in CEE and one of the first in the College of Engineering. Said Yin, “She created the job description and vetted it with the various constituents within the CEE community. Once hired, she connected the DEI Coordinator with a network of contacts with the college and university. She encouraged them to lead the CoE DEI network, liaison with the CoE Office of Culture, Community and Equity team and eventually assist other departments with hiring embedded DEI staff.

Pat’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion extends beyond CEE; her dedication has been recognized by faculty and staff in all departments at the University of Michigan. 

“I have collaborated with Pat for eighteen years both at the Business and Engineering School,” said EHS Senior Ergonomics Professor Sarah Cooney. “She has consistently demonstrated a commitment to accommodating the diversity of all she oversees, encouraging them to feel equally involved and supported in the workplace, working to assure anyone and everyone has access to workplace ergonomics. Pat simply refuses to accept that there isn’t a way to accommodate an employee’s needs. She seeks guidance on how to best facilitate the environment to assure all are comfortable including seeking highly adjustable solutions to meet the variety of needs of those within the community.”

“Pat works diligently to foster an environment of diversity, equity, and inclusion amongst the faculty, staff, and students in the department,” says CoE Faculty Affairs Manager Jeniffer Piper.  “Having worked closely with Pat on HR-related activity in the department, I can speak to her commitment to the organization and the people she works with daily. Pat does not shy away from difficult situations; rather she takes an optimistic approach, always looking for positive outcomes or compromises in difficult situations. Pat’s style is collaborative and compassionate; two traits I value in a department administrator. Her ongoing initiative, leadership, and dedication to the organization deserve recognition.”

Congratulations to Pat for receiving this well-deserved honor. We thank you for your many years of dedication and commitment to cultivating diversity, equity and inclusion not only in CEE but across the University of Michigan. 


Portrait of Mason Hinawi
Mason Hinawi

Marketing Communications Specialist
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering