A Hollins alumna and member of the university’s Board of Trustees has been presented one of the most prestigious awards in the federal career civil service.
Elizabeth Brownlee Kolmstetter ’85 is among 233 winners from 33 federal agencies selected by President Biden to receive the Presidential Rank Award, honoring “hardworking civil servants who exemplify strength, integrity, industry, and a relentless commitment to public service through their exceptional leadership, contributions, and accomplishments,” said Kiran Ahuja, director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.
Kolmstetter was cited in the Meritorious Executive category for her work with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). An industrial and organizational psychologist, she has been a member of the Senior Executive Service for over 15 years and has more than 25 years of public service. Kolmstetter has pioneered innovative talent management programs at NASA and other agencies including the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), Transportation Security Administration (TSA), and National Skill Standards Board/Department of Labor. In addition, she was selected to serve on special assignment in 2015 to the Executive Office of the President as a senior policy advisor in the Office of Performance and Personnel Management.
After more than six years at NASA in roles including director of the workforce engagement division, Kolmstetter was recently named the first-ever chief people officer at the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), which leads the national effort to understand, manage, and reduce risk to the nation’s digital and physical infrastructure.
“Her extensive experience in [support of] employee engagement, development, and collaboration make her an ideal executive to lead our important work to build an enduring ‘People First’ culture at CISA,” said CISA Director Jen Easterly.
“I am beyond thrilled to join CISA and that’s true for three exciting reasons,” Kolmstetter noted. “First, the purpose of CISA is remarkable; there is no mission more critical for our national security. I have cared deeply about infrastructure security since my time at TSA and cybersecurity from my early work on the Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative at ODNI. Second, in a word, people. Jen is a leader with vision and drive and has built a strong leadership team and really cares about the people of CISA and across the cybersecurity partnership. And third, passion. I am passionate about my work and am energized by the focus of this role on people and culture strategy. I am truly looking forward to working with the great team at CISA.”
After completing her B.A. in psychology and computer science at Hollins, Kolmstetter went on to earn her M.S. and Ph.D. in industrial and organizational psychology at Virginia Tech. In addition to the Presidential Rank Award, she has received the 2020 NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal, the 2010 National Intelligence Superior Service Medal, the 2010 Hollins University Distinguished Alumnae Award, and the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP) 2006 Scott Myers Award for Best Applied Research. She is also a SIOP Fellow.
Kolmstetter is married to Michael Kolmstetter M.A.L.S. ’90 and is the daughter of Paula Brownlee, who served as president of Hollins from 1981 to 1990.