When Patricia Parkent, director of sponsored projects at the School of Social Work, was named UMB’s June Employee of the Month by President Jay A. Perman, MD, she was asked to sit at the head of the table for the ceremony.
It’s a well-deserved place of honor, say her colleagues in the School of Social Work, where Parkent began the Office of Research Administration in 2006 with just an administrative assistant for support and now boasts 12 employees with research funding exceeding every school on campus except for the School of Medicine.
“It really could be Employee of the Decade from the School of Social Work’s perspective,” said Dean Richard P. Barth, PhD, MSW, one of 16 Parkent supporters on hand for the ceremony June 21. “I did a little bit of calculating to figure out just how much you have done in this decade in addition to hiring the complete staff and building an office from scratch. Looks to me like it’s around 1,500 proposals that have gone out for about $500 million from across your desk. So, thank you for doing all that and doing it with such humanity.”
Indeed, the way Parkent goes about her job is as impressive as the results she achieves. When Perman praised her for being “the major piece” in creating the platform “so that these research grants can be properly presented, properly received, properly expedited, properly monitored,” Parkent gently corrected him, saying, “Well, me and my team.”
“The mark of a true leader,” Perman replied. “You know what they taught me a while ago? A leader gives credit, takes blame,” eliciting laughter from those assembled.
After Parkent received her plaque and was told there would be an extra $250 in her next paycheck, supervisor Gene Severance, MS, associate dean for administration, thanked her for her investment in her colleagues.
“Pat continually works hard at developing the capabilities of her staff and has been outspoken in the need for staff development for both exempt and non-exempt employees,” said Severance, who in his nomination also mentioned the late nights and weekends sometimes asked of Parkent. “You have really invested in them and almost all of them have advanced in their professional careers, have taken on more responsibility because of your leadership. That’s what has impressed me the most.”
Later, after the celebration had ended, Parkent said supporting colleagues is a win-win for both sides.
“Well, the more knowledgeable the staff are the better job they can do,” she said. “It’s important to know all of the laws that we need to deal with, and abide by. If you don’t have them memorized that’s OK, but you need to know where to go to look them up. And then be aware that they exist. I think every one of my staff now has had a promotion,” she said, smiling proudly. “The promotions have been well-deserved, and the staff has been able to move forward as the school’s moved forward. They are great people.”
Parkent couldn’t be prouder of the School of Social Work in general, especially the “warm and fuzzy” projects that cross her desk as signatory for the school. “The stories have to touch your heart,” she said. “A few years back I’m reading a Family Connections proposal where they wanted to purchase a dinette set because the family did not have any furniture. They needed somewhere just to eat their meals. Kids were sitting on the floor.
“This touched me so much that I got ahold of the social worker who was on this case and I said I want to do something for this family. We went to a secondhand shop and I bought them a living room set and told the social worker to give this to them for Christmas. I just wanted them to have furniture. Anybody should have furniture. Those are the stories you come in contact with at this school. With the kind of work we do, it’s so rewarding to serve behind the scenes because you see the good that comes out of it. It’s just amazing.”
And Parkent, who came to UMB in 2001, originally working at the School of Medicine, also thinks it’s amazing she is UMB’s June Employee of the Month. She recalled the little handwritten list of six grants and projects that then-associate dean Jennie Bloom, MSW, gave her when she started. At present, Parkent is responsible for the administration of over 200 active grants.
“We’ve come so far and it’s really nice to feel appreciated,” she said. “There are a few things that I feel like I need in my job, and, of course, money keeps you going. But you want to feel like you’re respected and appreciated and I do feel those things, so that makes this award very worthwhile and meaningful to me.”