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Libraries' Michelle Thompson Gumbs Wins 2021-22 NYU Distinguished Administrator Award

by NYU Libraries Communications on 2022-05-02T12:03:51-04:00 | Comments

NYU has announced its 2021-22 Distinguished Administrator Awards, and among the eight winners is Michelle Thompson Gumbs, Senior Geographic Information Systems Specialist. In her seven years with Data Services, Michelle has made an impact in every aspect of the department’s work. 

“I’m very excited and appreciative to be selected for this honor and to represent the Libraries,” said Michelle. “This semester has been extraordinary for me.” Photograph of Michelle Thompson Gumbs, smiling

That might be something of an understatement. Michelle is about to receive her third graduate degree, this one an MS in Human Resource Management and Development from SPS, where she was nominated to be the flag bearer for the Human Capital Management Department's Convocation. She also has an MA in Criminal Justice and an Advanced Certificate in Terrorism Studies from John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and a Master of Geographic Information Systems and a Graduate Certificate in Geospatial Intelligence Analytics from Pennsylvania State University. Michelle’s BA in Administration of Justice and BS in Psychology are from the University of Pittsburgh. She is an adjunct instructor at John Jay. 

Here are a few highlights from the much longer nomination document submitted to the University by Michelle’s colleagues:

Operational Excellence

As the manager of the Data Services team of student consultants, Michelle has implemented transformative changes in how the students are recruited, onboarded, and trained. Among her most notable new initiatives is a career panel during Love Data Week that brings former student staff back to Data Services to reflect on their new careers. This incredibly successful event presents our current students with an array of data-focused career options.

Michelle has provided first-rate support to researchers, faculty, and students across the University as they learn geospatial tools and techniques. Last year, two students who trained with her won the 2021 GIS Spatial Application Award for their project Mapping NYC COVID-19 Community Transmission via Hospital Workers.

Exceptional Service

At the core of Michelle’s service work is coverage and site-wide administration of ESRI’s ArcGISsoftware, which includes managing software and access requests. On a week-by-week basis she handles the most responses of anyone on our team. Michelle articulates for our student workers a vision and philosophy for our service, fulfilling our classic remit to consider ourselves teachers as well as providers. 


Michelle has served on hiring and policy committees for both the Division of Libraries and NYU IT. She conducted research to compare NYU’s GIS support to ten peer universities for benchmarking in 2017 and again in 2020, work that informed IT’s strategic planning for personnel and infrastructure. As a member of the IDBEA Steering Committee, Michelle helped advise the Libraries on workplace climate, hiring and retention, and anti-racism initiatives. 

Diversity and Inclusion

Michelle was a key contributor to Data Services’ Black Lives Matter data collection project. In the wake of repeated incidents of police brutality in summer 2020, Michelle organized a collaborative group of staff and student consultants. She led weekly stand-ups where members outlined their progress in collecting data and provided ancillary materials for use in Data Services teaching. These materials will become part of the library’s permanent collections and will be used by the department to bring a critical pedagogy focus to its instruction.


Michelle’s many honors include a Special Achievement in GIS Award from the ESRI company, and several NYU Research Technology innovation awards. She is a member of NYU IT’s Women in Technology group and encourages others to join as well. She was selected to participate in NYU IT’s Emerging Leadership Program, an experience whose core precept, “Lead from Where You Are,” is an excellent encapsulation of Michelle’s career.


Michelle and her team increased the department’s service efficiency by developing an automated system for issuing ArcGIS software licenses, for which we receive hundreds of requests each year. Michelle also streamlined the labor-intensive process by which we continually screen and hire new students as previous cohorts graduate.

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