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2U’s Guiding Principles, Epitomized: Celebrating the Winners of Our 2021 No Back Row Awards

Written by Lauren Liles on Dec 9, 2021

Related content: Life at 2U

Each year, 2U sets aside time in December to celebrate the stand-out employees who bring our mission to life, challenge us to strive for excellence, and have left an indelible impact on their colleagues and the business at large. While 2021 was challenging for the world and for all of us, we could not be more proud of the ways in which employees continued to persevere and found ways to collaborate, connect, and drive forward. Yesterday, we celebrated those passionate and inspirational individuals who go above and beyond during the most uplifting event I could imagine: our 2021 No Back Row Awards.

Nominated by their peers for epitomizing one of 2U’s Guiding Principles, or for reflecting the core edX value of “Build Together,” or for their collaborative achievements recognized through our new team awards—each and every one of our No Back Row Award superstars represents the standards we’ve all committed to work and live by at 2U.

There wasn’t a dry eye in the [virtual] crowd yesterday as the nominators for each award shared why their colleagues are deserving of the accolade. The Zoom room was filled with laughter and tears, excitement and applause, and most importantly humanity—something we can all appreciate in today’s uniquely challenging learning, working, and teaching landscape. Their stories of resilience, empowerment, and the strength of the relationships they mentioned left me, personally, so proud to be a part of 2U. The talent that flourishes across our company, it’s like no other I’ve experienced.

Please join me in congratulating all of this year’s incredible winners for the Guiding Principles they most embody below—and learn how their peers describe the ways they’re collectively helping 2U eliminate the back row in education.

Be Bold and Fearless.

Question the status quo and embrace change.

Andres Rocha, Video Post-Production Producer

“Andres is an outstanding, creative leader. Through his vision and efforts as the global chair of TuGente, he enabled our group to focus on professional and financial development, and made sure we’re all empowered to pursue new events, initiatives, and ideas.”

Vicki Brar, Senior Director, HR Business Partners

“Vicki has worked to transform our culture. The great changes we’ve made wouldn’t have been possible without her challenging the status quo of how we’ve always done things, and showing that there can be a better way.”

Don’t Let the Skeptic Win.

"No" is easy. "Yes" is hard. Fight for "yes."

Milagro Baines, Partner Operations Analyst

“Milagro went above and beyond her job description this summer to help make the Northwestern University Coding Boot Camp a success. Our partner was so grateful for the unexpected amount of work Milagro put in.”

Jeenie Yoon, Course Strategy Manager

“Jeenie goes above and beyond to ensure equity among 2U employees—especially those from marginalized groups. She exudes the confidence and capacity to change minds and engage in useful conversation.”

Give a Damn.

Care about what you do each day.

David Fritz, IT Help Desk Manager

“He brings a calm voice and reassurance to every meeting. He says yes when he can easily say no. He always answers. Dave is knowledgeable, friendly, beyond tech-savvy, and just the type of person who’s going to get it done.”

Joanna Mckay, Director, Central Support

“Joanna takes the time to focus on areas of the business that would improve company processes for employees—and as a result, students as well. She’s always thinking about what to iterate on next.”

Be Candid, Honest, and Open.

Listen to others and offer respectful feedback.

Allison Duchacek, Student Engagement Director II

“As a mentor, Allison is intentional, thoughtful, and open-minded about her feedback and input. She challenges you to see all perspectives and also further understand your own.”

Kate Welk, Director, Communications

“Kate doesn’t hide information close to the vest. She's self-effacing, funny, and down-to-earth. That approach goes a long way toward building trust with others so that they want to be just as transparent and collaborative with her.”

Make Service Your Mission.

Give the highest level of support to our partners and to one another.

Paige Bedard, Student Success Manager II

“Our success is a result of Paige always putting the needs of students and partners first. She starts with yes, and during a year of heightened student anxiety, her team continues to excel in serving our counselors.”

Tawanda Mtemachani, Senior Business Systems Analyst

“Tawanda takes it upon himself to understand business models and tech architectures so that when he supports our work, he has that overall eagle view and can advise informatively on the best approach.”

Have Fun.

Fun is important. Fun is simply better.

Katie Shanley, Placement Specialist II

“Katie is the Fun Fairy! She organizes book club meetings to keep us connected. If we’re having a stressful week, she hosts drawing games to take a break. And when we’re training, she creates trivia games that make it extra enjoyable.”

Jakob White, Course Developer II

“Jakob is the genius behind year-after-year of brilliant, creative, and well-executed 2UBoo videos, bringing joy through his acting, directing, and editing talents. He’s an excellent visionary and leader, and he embodies the spirit of fun.”

Relationships Matter.

Build trust, value differences, and invest the time.

Carla February, Senior Paid Media Team Lead

“During what was a very dark time with COVID, Carla showed so much love and compassion with her regular check-ins. Her gentle ‘touch’ to her management style doesn't go unnoticed.”

Adisa Griffin, Faculty Relationship Manager II

“Not only does he excel at his job, but Adisa is the best teammate you could ask for—always smiling and having fun, but when you need him for support, he’s there in a heartbeat and drops everything to ensure you are okay.”

Cherish Each Opportunity.

Life is short, so treasure every moment.

Poonam Ribadia, Manager, Curriculum Development

“With her forward-thinking leadership and drive for diversity, equity, and inclusion, employees now have a tool showing how to pronounce their names correctly—and increased feelings of respect. That’s huge!”

Trevor Simpson, Senior Specialist, Paid Media

“Trevor approaches every day, interaction, project, and request with enthusiasm and positivity. He energizes and builds connections across the team and has been critical to maintaining morale over the last year.”

Strive for Excellence.

Don't settle for second best.

Teresa Millett, Senior Manager, Systems and Operations Analytics

“Teresa is driven to make not just herself but also her entire team excel through thoughtful analysis and an eye for detail. If she lacks a skill, she dives into it and becomes an expert, every time.”

Ronan Steyn, Senior Manager, Marketing and Video Production

“From managing his team to the mapping out, presenting, and execution of our YouTube playlist strategy, Ronan ensures excellence and has delivered some incredible registration results.”

Build Together.

Just for our new edX colleagues! “Build Together is a value that’s at the heart of edX’s ethos—and now even more so at the heart of edX and 2U combined. The core tenant of this value is a belief that the collective talent and tenacity of our teams allows us to make a bigger impact faster.”—Stephanie Brocoum, CMO, edX

Libby Bowen, Senior Manager of Support

“Without hesitation, Libby is always willing to help other teams beyond her own. She works with so many people to make sure learners, partners, and now enterprises all have a great support experience with edX.”

Ned Elwell, Manager of Marketing Operations

“Ned brings together folks from different teams and always prioritizes collective goals, with a critical focus on edX and 2U integration work, enterprise marketing operations, announcement communications, and more.”

Three Team Awards.

A new recognition category for 2021!

“This cross-functional group has partnered to completely reinvent our prospect contact strategy. The result is a more personalized approach powered by machine learning models that also translates into enormous efficiency.”

“This group supports a wide array of project management needs, leaning into business owner and executive sponsor responsibilities to ensure project progression. Outcomes range from launching a LiveChat for Admissions ahead of schedule to support for 2U’s Career Engagement Network.”

Ben Garner, VP and General Manager; Maimuna Omar, Senior Student Success Manager; and Daniel Williams, Director of Social Impact Partnerships

“These three have been an incredible team. They’ve worked together to ensure that 2U’s initially small program with the University of Birmingham grew with stunning KPIs. Ben, Mai, and Dan have moved mountains and shown how much more we can do when we work together.”


Inspired? Want to be in the running for a No Back Row Award next year? We’re hiring.

Learn more about us.

At 2U, we’re on a mission—to eliminate the back row in higher education and help partners thrive in the digital age. To learn more about who we are and what we do, follow the links below.