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UITS emergency management director Cinda Haff honored with presidential award

Haff receives the E. Ross Bartley award, the highest award given to IU staff members, for 35 years of service, preparing IU for the COVID-19 pandemic

Cinda Haff (center) poses with the E. Ross Bartley award between IU President Pamela Whitten (left) and Vice President Rob Lowden (right).

IU President Pamela Whitten presented Cinda Haff with the E. Ross Bartley award, the highest award which honors Indiana University staff members who demonstrate outstanding leadership, service, and professional accomplishments at the local, state, or national level. Whitten thanked Haff for her exemplary service to IU in a ceremony Monday with the Vice President for Information Technology and Chief Information Officer Rob Lowden and other IT leaders in attendance.

Haff has served as program director for emergency management and continuity planning for UITS for the last 10 years. In nominating Haff for the award, Associate Vice President Dan Calarco lauded Haff’s diligence in preparing IU for the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I credit much of our success in keeping the university running during the pandemic to her preparations,” Calarco wrote. 

Haff will retire from University Information Technology Services (UITS) on June 30 after 35 years of service.

Haff started with IU as an entry-level Cobol programmer working on the financial systems development team in 1986. Haff has held several positions in IT over her career and added emergency management and continuity program director responsibilities in 2012. 

Haff helped IU avoid critical IT system failures and outages by having each service owner create and update disaster recovery plans and business continuity plans. In addition, Haff has run exercises for departments to help them prepare for emergencies. In December 2018, Haff ran a UITS-wide flu pandemic exercise in which participating staff were sent home and forced to figure out how to collaborate via Zoom, an exercise that proved prescient when the COVID-19 pandemic closed IU’s campuses 15 months later.

As a result of this exercise, UITS had plans for how to pivot quickly to remote work and education and the systems necessary for a health-related emergency before they were needed.

“Cinda regularly demonstrated her unique ability in leading diverse staff from multiple units toward a common goal throughout her career, the pandemic was no exception,” Lowden said.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Haff was the point person for nearly all aspects of the IT response. From procuring personal protective equipment for essential staff who had to remain onsite, to the move to online instruction using Zoom, to providing support to testing sites, Haff ensured that all parts of UITS were working together efficiently, and without duplicating effort.

Another way Haff ensured that IU technology was pandemic-ready was an effort in 2017 to maintain and update the website. The site was originally built in 2009 in response to the H1N1 flu epidemic, and in 2017 Haff led a team of UITS staff to flesh out and build upon those plans and gather resources for moving instruction online in the event of a campus closure. Pepperdine University was among the first to use the KeepTeaching materials in response to wildfires that threatened their campus, and as a result, IU developed a process for other universities to use the content. When the COVID-19 pandemic caused universities to shut down, dozens of institutions across the U.S. (such as Stanford, Dartmouth, NC State, Indiana State, Purdue, and many others) reused content that Cinda and UITS staff helped coordinate on KeepTeaching. IU continues to receive attribution by these institutions for being the source of their content, demonstrating that IU is the higher education leader in emergency management and continuity planning.

Haff’s expertise in IT emergency management and continuity planning has been used beyond higher education. Haff and security staff from IU were awarded a grant by the Indiana Secretary of State to help prepare Indiana election officials to guard against physical and cyber threats that might impact the integrity of the 2020 election. Haff helped lead tabletop exercises that educated election officials on how to handle situations ranging from power outages to stolen laptops.  Her work helped ensure that Indiana’s election was free, fair, and accurate.

The E. Ross Bartley Award is named in honor of a valued IU staff member who served as director of university relations and led the IU News Bureau. It is the highest staff award given by the president to a member of the administrative or support staff who demonstrates outstanding leadership, service, and professional accomplishments at the local, state, or national level.

Cinda Haff helps election officials talk through the tabletop exercises.