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Pete Pokrandt Awarded Academic Staff Mid-Career Achievement Award

April 6, 2022

The School of Letters and Sciences has selected AOS Computer Systems Administrator Pete Pokrandt for its annual Academic Staff Mid-Career Achievement Award. This award is given for “outstanding performance in position, leadership and service beyond position, and substantial professional competency and the promise of continuing contributions.” While everyone in AOS can agree that Pete meets all of these requirements and then some, please enjoy some excerpts from his nomination letter that truly showcase the bredth of his work at UW-Madison.

“Pete completed his M.S. in atmospheric science in our department in 1992 and then continued for three years as an Assistant Researcher. Owing to his exceptional facility with computer systems and related technologies, he was hired as the department’s information technology specialist (Assistant Systems Programmer) in 1995, with promotion to his current level of Systems Programmer / User Support Specialist III in 1997. In short, he has served as the point person in our department in all matters related to information technology for 27 years, covering a period when the sophistication and diversity of IT systems—and the new challenges they pose to academic users—have grown exponentially. Pete has always remained on top of these developments, including continuously adding new programming skills to his repertoire as these became important in the rapidly evolving technical environment within which atmospheric scientists operate.

“But his role has grown far beyond the nominal responsibilities of the position. As a degreed meteorologist, he serves as a knowledgeable and enthusiastic bridge between the intellectual and academic activities of the department and the technological needs of our discipline. Beyond that, he has become an important player—and one of the department’s most familiar faces—in the department’s outreach activities and in our engagement with alumni. Any of our alumni who graduated after 1995 will know and remember Pete at least as well as most of the faculty. Indeed, Pete is one the longest-serving members of the department, along with just four of our current 18 faculty.

“Pete has been active member of the Unidata project, which facilitates the sharing of data, software, and other technical resources between meteorological and geoscience research centers and departments throughout the U.S. In 2019, he received the Russell L. DeSouza Award, which “honors individuals whose energy, expertise, and active involvement enable the Unidata Program to better serve geoscience. Honorees personify Unidata’s ideal of a community that shares data, software, and ideas through computing and networking technologies.”

“Space limits a detailed recitation of the ways he supports our educational mission, but highlights include 1) meeting with instructors at the start of each semester to ascertain technology needs, 2) maintaining the JupyterHub server that has become the mainstay for computer-based projects and classroom labs and assignments at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, and 3) leading many of our department’s ILM proposals to modernize our classroom spaces.

“Pete is tirelessly taping and live streaming our many extracurricular academic events, from Weather Watch to Department Colloquia to Department Seminars. Last spring as part of a significant outreach effort, he produced daily weather map discussions available to local high schools. This effort was met with acclaim by those schools who regularly incorporated the discussions into their curriculum. Pete is also a regular organizer of Beer Call—a weekly (currently virtual) alumni gathering that includes regular attendance by alumnus and outgoing director of the National Weather Service, Dr. Louis Uccellini. He is also a key liaison for members of the Alumni Engagement Board. These kinds of efforts are clear examples of how Pete’s efforts contribute in this important dimension of our overall department enterprise.”

Congratulations to Pete!