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Julie Parsons, events manager for Facilities Management.

Julie Parsons: event manager par excellence

Within easy reach in Juliet Parsons’ office in the Cornell Recycle Center is a four-inch ringed Commencement binder full of maps of Schoellkopf field and stadium, Barton Hall and bus security barriers; contacts across campus; to-do lists and schedules; and placements of podiums, staging, signs and even garbage cans. Another binder holds similar directions for the 400-600 events that occur during Reunion Weekend, organized by each class year’s officers, each using different vendors and venues.

As Facilities Management’s event manager, Parsons is responsible for making it easier for Commencement, Reunion and all other campus event planners to focus on the details of their event rather than the logistics that are similar for every event.

For this, Parsons needs the trust of event planners, and for them to trust her, Parsons needs to act with integrity, one of the skills Cornell has identified as integral to the success of Cornell leaders and staff. At the last Employee Excellence Awards event, Parsons was recognized for individual excellence, her service-minded work ethic and her collaborative ability to work with everyone.

“My role in Facilities Management was created to provide one-stop shopping for Cornell’s event planners, whether you are holding a large event such as the university’s Service Recognition Dinner or one of the many student organization events,” Parsons said. “I meet with event planners to discuss where they are holding their event, what they will need from the Grounds Department if it is an outdoor event and from Building Care if it is indoors, what carpentry or electrical work will need to be done, the number of tables and chairs needed, and any other equipment or service we can provide. I also will suggest cost savings that can be realized by doubling up on orders with other events happening around the same time,” she said. “Then I work with staff from our facilities units and from across campus to make those plans a reality.”

As Facilities Management’s event manager, Julie Parsons is responsible for making it easier for Commencement, Reunion and all other campus event planners to focus on the details of their event rather than the logistics that are similar for every event.

Parsons said that what she most likes about her job are the various groups of faculty, staff and students from all backgrounds she works with. Her award nominators agree.

Brandon Fortenberry, manager of Cornell Catering, said, “She often has to navigate communications between a wide variety of staff,” noting, “It is her incredible ability to work with anyone that makes her so amazing at her job.” Her work is hidden behind the scenes but “her impacts on Graduation, Reunion, Move-in Day and so much more ensure that these events are executed effectively, safely and without the guests even knowing how many times we had to move, reset or change plans to get it just right,” Fortenberry said.

Lisa Bushlow, director of class programs in the Office of Alumni Affairs and Development, said Parsons “spends time and energy to effectively message to diverse groups of people (workers, managers, volunteers, students, guests) in a way that build teams and produces results … . Julie is a conduit for creating successful partnerships.”

Parsons began her career at Cornell 19 years ago, working as an administrative assistant to Rob Osborn, former director of Building Care. She became a data analyst, working with custodial workloads, and worked in Maintenance Management. Each year she coordinates two major events in her division: the Facilities Management Picnic and the Bartels Awards. Graduating from high school in Spencer, New York, Parsons received her associate’s degrees at Corning Community College and her bachelor’s from Cornell in 2006. She plans on graduating with her master’s degree in public affairs next year. “Education is important to me; I believe in the scholarship program the Bartels generously established,” she said.

Lisa Yager, who worked with Parsons on the 2015 and 2017 Presidential Inaugurations, said Parsons is “always willing to do whatever it takes to accomplish a goal … . She is collaborative and ready with a solution for any problem.”

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Lindsey Knewstub