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Cengiz Vural Wins University Staff Award

Cengiz Vural (right) receiving the Staff Award from President Powers

Cengiz Vural (right) receiving the Staff Award from President Powers


AUSTIN, TEXAS—June 2, 2011

System Administrator, Cengiz Vural, has been selected by The University of Texas at Austin as a 2011 recipient of the University of Texas at Austin Staff Award. Only 30 people win the award annually, which is approximately one for every 500 staff members. The last time anyone from the Mechanical Engineering Department won the award was 16 years ago. Amy Gilbert, won it in another department in 2008.

Approximately 240 applications were submitted. Four others from the Cockrell School were selected, although Cengiz was the only recipient from Mechanical Engineering. The other recipients from the Cockrell School of Engineering were: Nuria E. Ayala, Senior Program Coordinator, Construction Industry Institute, Annette Perrone, Senior Administrative Associate, Center for Transportation Research, and Janet L. Preuss, Senior Administrative Associate, Wireless Networking and Communications Group.

Bio and Education

Mr. Vural has been with the department for four and a half years as a full-time employee, but began his career here while working on his doctorate in Mechanical Engineering under Dr. Ron Panton. He received his B.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering from Gazi University in Ankara, Turkey, the country of his birth. He received his M.S. from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, and studied several years toward his Ph.D. He received another M.S. in this department. He came to work in here in 1999, first as a student employee.

The university awards ceremony was held Friday, May 13th in the Texas Union Ballroom. The 30 Staff Award winners were introduced first in the ceremony, followed by the presentation of staff service awards. A slideshow highlighting the award recipients with excerpts from their nomination letters were shown prior to the ceremony.

Cengiz Vural at work updating servers.

Cengiz Vural at work updating servers.


Below are portions of his nomination letter:

If you work on a Macintosh or Linux computer, have taught a design class, use the faculty or staff directory, use the HPC (High Performance Computing) servers to process your research programming or homework, ever forgot your password, have had your computer upgraded or patched, needed to set up a community page, used the HelpDesk, appreciated having your data safely backed up, or had some kind of computer problem and asked for technical assistance (except for the PCs in the labs), then you have interacted with Cengiz, whether you realized it or not.

Many of Cengiz's customers contact him upset and in need of an immediate computer solution to a problem. They may have tried to fix it already themselves, but soon realized the issue was beyond their knowledge, so they needed to contact an expert.

In 2008 Cengiz had three assistants who helped him with all these functions, including some of the database programming for the FAR (Faculty Annual Report—the database also used to populate the faculty and staff directories] Cengiz essentially does the work of several people. I doubt that people in the department are aware of any change or decrease in the service he is providing them.

Being the system administrator, it is his job to maintain an efficient, seamless work environment for everyone in the department. It is as common for him to work with individuals on a one-on-one basis as it is for him to be work on backups for the servers. When it's all working right, which it usually is, he makes a hard job look deceptively easy.

What people may not realize is just how much time and effort it takes to keep all this data backed up, make sure all the software patches are done in a timely manner and that they work properly, because they often don't. Then there are the unfortunate situations in which someone inadvertently deletes important files or all of his or her email. He's been able to get a lot of the data recovered in those instances, much to the great relief of his panicked users, after realizing, in horror, what they have done.

The work Cengiz has performed is extremely innovative, and has improved communication among colleagues and constituents. Many people have commented on the usefulness of the faculty and staff directory, as it makes communication with the department so convenient and has streamlined the Faculty Annual Report process. The department is much more dependent on his work than most people realize.

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