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Laura Avakian, senior vice president of human resources at CareGroup, the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center parent corporation, has been named vice president for human resources at MIT, effective October 4.
Ms. Avakian, who directed human resources at Beth Israel Hospital from 1980-96, will manage human resources for MIT's 10,000 employees and will serve on the Academic Council, the top academic and administrative policy-making body at MIT. The Personnel Department and the Medical Department will report to her.
"Ms. Avakian is a truly exceptional individual. She will bring to the Institute's human resource activities keen insight, an energetic, forward-looking approach and a wealth of experience," President Charles M. Vest said in announcing the appointment. "She possesses the warm human qualities and flexibility that are needed in MIT's human resource area, particularly in a period of change."
During her tenure, Beth Israel, a Harvard University teaching hospital, has been honored as one of the 10 top workplaces in the country by The 100 Best Companies to Work For in America, and ranked among the top US organizations to work for by Working Mother magazine for 13 consecutive years.
Executive Vice President John R. Curry, who is responsible for the human resource area, said, "Ms. Avakian brings to MIT expertise on issues involving job satisfaction and productivity, business process change, training and development, diversity, and the balance between work and family." He noted that a diversity assessment program developed under her guidance was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and is now in national use.
"I'm very excited about coming to MIT," said Ms. Avakian. "It will be an opportunity to build on some exceptional work done by Joan Rice, who has a wonderful staff and who built a tradition of personalized human resource service that is admirable. The culture of collaboration, competency and excellence that has been established at MIT allows people to thrive, whether they are professors, nurses in the Medical Department or secretaries in an office.
"I'm also looking forward to continuing some of the work I've enjoyed in career development for people, encouraging diversity, creating a flexible work environment and enhancing family-friendly programs," she said.
Ms. Avakian has been senior vice president for human resources at the health care delivery system since 1996 and was responsible for directing the consolidation of the human resource systems of three different hospital systems. At CareGroup, she supervises the human resource programs and activities of a system with a total of 14,400 employees and 1,700 active medical staff at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and five other hospitals: Mount Auburn Hospital, New England Baptist Hospital, Deaconess-Glover, Deaconess-Nashoba and Deaconess-Waltham.
She has written a number of articles on human resources for publications in her field and has been a guest lecturer at MIT's Sloan School of Management, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston College, Boston University, Brandeis University, Simmons College and Kings Fund College in London. She is on the board of directors of Pine Manor College.
Born in Jackson, MO, about 100 miles south of St. Louis, Ms. Avakian earned a BA from the University of Missouri in 1967 and an MA from Northwestern University in 1968. She taught English at Sacramento (CA) State College and the Hathaway Brown School in Cleveland before embarking on a career in health care human resources at Huron Road Hospital in Cleveland in 1973. She became director of human resources there in 1978.
She served as president of the American Society of Hospital Human Resources Administration in 1994-95 and received the prestigious Award for Professional Excellence from the international Society for Human Resource Management in 1996.
Ms. Avakian, who lives in Hull with her husband, Stephen, was the unanimous choice of a 21-person search committee headed by Professor Emeritus Robert B. McKersie of the Sloan School. She succeeds Ms. Rice, who retired April 30.
The search committee, convened by Mr. Curry, included Patricia A. Brady, senior project director, Office of the Executive Vice President; Sharon Bridburg, special assistant for personnel to the Dean of Students and Undergraduate Education; Regina Caines, special assistant for affirmative action and equal opportunity, Personnel Office; Lee Ann Day, assistant dean for development, School of Architecture and Planning; Allison Dolan, director of I/T staff development and resource management, Information Systems; Professor Bernard Frieden, associate dean, School of Architecture and Planning; Anne Glavin, chief of Campus Police; and Margaret Ann Gray, manager of the Performance Consulting and Training team, Personnel.
Other members of the search committee were Annette Jacobs, executive director, Medical Department; Marc Jones, administrative officer, Department of Chemistry; Wade Kornegay, division head, Lincoln Laboratory; Heather Mitchell, co-convener, Working Group on Support Staff Issues; James Morgan, controller; Doreen Morris, assistant provost; Carl Nielsen Jr., assistant director, Lincoln Laboratory; Douglas Pfeiffer, assistant dean, School of Humanities and Social Science; Robert Redwine, professor of physics and director of the Laboratory for Nuclear Science; Victoria Sirianni, director, Department of Facilities; Professor Kenneth A. Smith, Chemical Engineering; and Anne Wolpert, director, Libraries.
A version of this article appeared in the September 11, 1999 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 44, Number 2).