Meticulous About Fun -- Staff Accountant Lends her Energy to K-12 Robotics Competitions

Summer 2013 | Article By Robert Morris

Staff Accountant Lends her Energy to K-12 Robotics CompetitionsSince joining the Tulane engineering staff 12 years ago, Lorrie McGinley has become known for her combination of a no-nonsense approach to her accounting work with an irrepressible, mischievous sense of humor. As Tulane's science and technology outreach to younger students has grown in recent years, McGinley has spent countless hours volunteering with robotics competitions and other events, sharing her same high-energy style with the next generation of science students.

McGinley moved to New Orleans from New England a few years after her daughter, Valerie McGinley Marshall, began working at Tulane in the Stone Center for Latin American Studies. McGinley found her own job as an accountant, and Biomedical Engineering department chair Donald Gaver said she quickly established herself as one of the hardest workers -- and most engaging personalities -- on the staff.

Her official job duties include keeping track of grants and purchases, but Gaver said McGinley is beloved for her straightforward personal style and quick wit.

"She's the first to come in every morning. She's always at her desk, talking to her computer, by 7:30 every morning," Gaver said, referring to McGinley's well-known habit of telling her computer when it wasn't performing up to her expectations. "She's a very hard-working, conscientious employee. She's got a good sense of humor, and she puts everything into keeping track of our business practices in the department."

McGinley said she takes her work seriously, but herself -- not so much. The ribbing, and the devotion, goes both ways.

After Hurricane Katrina, as the School of Science and Engineering began investing more energy into outreach to K-12 students in science and technology instruction, McGinley began volunteering for the robotics competitions. Gaver said the activities seemed to energize her even further, and she has committed herself on evenings and weekends with the same consistency and enthusiasm that she had already established in her day job.

"She's an incredible asset to the school," says Dean Nick Altiero. "She's volunteered for just about every K-12 STEM event we've had."

Much of her work at the competitions focuses on the tabulating the reactions of the judges, McGinley said, but the highlight is watching the students give their presentations.

"I started because they needed a scorekeeper, but now I'm there for all of the tournaments because I just enjoy them so much. These kids are just fabulous," McGinley said.

The competitions forge the values like teamwork, professionalism and cooperation, McGinley said, while increasing the students' understanding of math and physics -- sometimes, without them even realizing how much they're learning.

"I love watching these kids learn while they're having fun," McGinley said. "It's been a great experience for me, and I'm just going to continue doing it as long as I can."

School of Science and Engineering, 201 Lindy Boggs Center, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5764