Mary Cotter-Lalli, Director of Sponsored Programs for the Office of Research Administration, has been selected as the recipient of the 2014 Regents’ Award for Superior Staff recipients at the OU Health Sciences Center.
The OU Board of Regents established the award in 1988 to recognize outstanding contributions made by OU staff members whose job performance, service activities and dedication have enhanced the mission of the university.
Cotter-Lalli has been a dedicated OU employee for more than 20 years, with 16 of those years spent on the OU Health Sciences Center campus. In 2007, she joined the Office of Research Administration as Director of Sponsored Programs. Her role in this position entails learning and understanding constantly changing federal, state, university, and sponsor rules and regulations. She was nominated by colleague Adrienne Blalack, who said, “She is one of the most intelligent and knowledgeable people I know, and her knowledge base is far-reaching.”
Cotter-Lalli has held many positions during her service with OU, including purchasing, Continuing Medical Education and the Institutional Review Board. Having worked on the departmental level, in Payroll, post-award grants accounting, and now pre-award grants, there is virtually no topic that her experience doesn’t touch. After joining the Office of Research Administration, she continued to assist the offices where she worked previously. Blalack said, “It would be a challenge to find a department on campus that hasn’t turned to Mary at some point for guidance, and so many turn to her on a regular basis.”
Her broad expertise was called upon in 2009 to serve as Pre-Award Implementation Team Lead for the Peoplesoft Grants software implementation project. This project, which spanned 18 months, required moving many years of proposal and award data from an Access database into the Peoplesoft Grants module. It also involved coordinating processes between the pre- and post-award grants offices. Blalack said, “Mary still maintained her responsibilities in the Office of Research Administration, bouncing between the two roles day-to-day and sometimes hour-by-hour.”
A colleague at the time stated, “I truly believe the successful implementation of this module in the Office of Research Administration was due to Mary’s leadership on this project.” The IT lead on the Peoplesoft Grants implementation project added: “This is probably one of Mary’s most important and prized achievements from an IT perspective. Implementing a software application which uses new tools, new functional language, new functionality, working with other modules within the new system, completely new data entry and reporting system while having to keep up with the old system is a daunting task for anyone, let alone for a
non-technical person but to manage a group of people to do the same tasks – functional, technical, and reporting needs – takes a special person and that’s what Mary is, an outstanding, patient, understanding, and dedicated individual.”
Cotter-Lalli was also called upon by the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Arts to guide them through their file-auditing process. Not only is she a valuable asset to the OU community but also her character and personality are infectious. Blalack also added that she is genuine and generous. A fellow manager said, “Data and results can be generated on many of the things mentioned above; her success is easily measurable. However, it’s the immeasurable that is truly remarkable.”
Cotter-Lalli is described by many as the most valuable member of the Office of Research Administration. Her knowledge of the grants process, databases, and relationships with other University offices is impeccable. She is known as the “go-to” person within the office, from the receptionist to the Vice President. Equally as important as the breadth and depth of her knowledge is her willingness to openly share it with others. Her generosity is matched only by her integrity and commitment to the good work of the university.