Julie Drake and Laura Kelly Honored As Outstanding Staff May 1, 2013

The University of Texas at Austin’s Outstanding Staff Award is the highest honor the university bestows on staff, signifying a truly exceptional level of competence, dedication and talent. This year, staff honorees from the College of Education are Laura Kelly, a project manager with the Institute for Public School Initiatives (IPSI), and Julie Drake, operations director at the Fitness Institute of Texas (FIT).


Laura Kelly, IPSI

As project manager for IPSI, Laura leads its charter school quality and educational productivity efforts, as well as IPSI’s internal transitions and projects.  

“IPSI’s charter work presently includes support for the Texas Charter Schools Association’s Quality Framework and Evaluation, which IPSI previously created and launched in 2011,” said Laura. “To support this work, I oversee the development and identification of academic and operational resources and best practices that are then used by charter schools to increase educational quality and school performance.”

Laura also oversees IPSI’s productivity events, which focus on innovative ways to run effective schools and increase student achievement within the constraints of limited resources and leads IPSI’s operational projects.

“Regarding what’s most rewarding about my job, I would have to say, first of all, that it is rewarding because I am afforded the opportunity to research organizational best practices, which are used to support schools and help IPSI continue to grow as a learning organization,” said Laura. “Second, and most important, I have the privilege of working with selfless teammates who daily go beyond the call of duty. The people at IPSI rise to the challenges of the demanding work and inspire each other toward the greater good - solving problems and working on their behalf is the most rewarding aspect of what I do.”


Julie Drake, FIT

As Operations Director for FIT, Julie coordinates and manages the impressive array of Get Fit fitness and weight loss programs that are available to faculty and staff.

“I help teach the exercise portion of our educational lectures in the Get Fit program and many of the exercise classes,” said Julie. “There are 30 exercise classes a week, nine instructors and 15 kinesiology students who help keep this program running.”

Julie also conducts daily fitness testing, including DXA body composition tests and resting metabolic rate tests, and makes exercise prescriptions for public clients, UT faculty and staff, and UT athletes. Additionally, Julie manages the staff and students who work for FIT and oversees all aspects of the institute’s daily operations.

“I’m very lucky to do what I love and to have a job that’s so rewarding,” said Julie. “One of the missions of FIT – one that I believe in wholeheartedly – is to help improve individuals’ quality of life through education. Helping people improve their physical fitness level, feel stronger, reduce pain and decrease their risk of disease by giving them the relevant knowledge and the practical assistance they need is very gratifying to me.

“I also really enjoy working with the undergraduate students who are learning how to become successful personal trainers and fitness experts. I remember being in their shoes and hope that I can be a positive role model for them. I was honored to receive an outstanding staff award, but I should state that I don’t do anything alone – I work with a great team of people in the institute and Department of Kinesiology and Health Education.”
Candidates for the prestigious award are selected and nominated by their work colleagues and peers. To be eligible for the honor, recipients must have had a significant impact on the university through outstanding dedication, skill, conscientious performance, superb customer service and ingenuity. Recognition includes a $1,500 check for each of the winners.

The College of Education is ranked number one (U.S. News & World Report) in the nation among public university graduate education programs and fourth overall.

Last updated on May 2, 2013