When asked the difference between organizing a conference today compared to pre-COVID times, Kerry Riddle laughed.
“Everything,” she said.
So as she helps George Mason University’s Criminal Investigations and Network Analysis Center (CINA) organize the 2021 Centers of Excellence Summit, Riddle, the center’s financial and administrative specialist, said she and her team must learn some new tricks.
“The challenge is engagement, really,” she said of the virtual event that brings together the country’s Centers of Excellence (COE), their federal stakeholders and industry partners. “The goal is to put people together and start a conversation and build relationships and partnerships with people who don’t often get in the same space. Trying to adapt to that and do it virtually is a big challenge.”
If anyone can find a way, it’s Riddle, who was part of the CINA team that organized the 2019 COE Summit and is so integral at the center, “a full description of her achievements the last two years is lamentably impossible here,” Stu Mackenzie, CINA’s science manager, wrote in his recommendation letter.
For her contributions, Riddle is December Employee of the Month.
Riddle’s work profile is extensive. She manages CINA’s budget, coordinates research subcontracts, handles fiscal and purchasing requirements, coordinates events and internships, and provides general support for all operations, including travel, scheduling and equipment.
“Our center is fairly new, yet we’ve been able to establish CINA and Mason’s leadership position in this space,” said Riddle, who is also enrolled in Mason’s MBA program. “I love the energy and creativity that’s part of growing something from the ground up.”
“Kerry is a careful steward with the utmost integrity,” Mackenzie wrote. “She is living proof that we thrive together.”
How she got to Mason:
I joined the team at Mason’s CINA center in June 2018. Prior to that, I’d performed and worked with the Navy bands for seven years, playing the saxophone. I also taught music in Latvia and within Fairfax County schools. In 2018, I felt ready for a new challenge, and working in a higher ed environment like Mason was appealing because of its diversity, focus on growth and innovation, and sense of community.
Best day on the job:
Honestly, any day I get to work with my team; they’re such fantastic people. The most satisfying days are when we get to see the results of our work in action, whether it’s organizing a summer workshop for visiting students and faculty, hosting a large event like the COE Summit, or seeing our research teams hit a new milestone.
What she likes best about working at Mason:
I love the community here. My job often involves seeking insight from people in other departments to help our center navigate different challenges, and I’ve met so many helpful and supportive folks along the way. I also love that our campus is green, open, and beautiful. It's great for a walk to grab a cup of coffee.
What she does when not working:
Spending time with my husband and our dog, and also our family and friends (in pre-COVID times). I love playing and listening to music, and enjoy spending as much time outside as possible, usually long walks and bike rides, or reading out on the deck.