The Power of Recognition: A Conversation with Neal Tanner

December 17, 2022
Anne Kornahrens

The Hertz Foundation believes in recognizing those who think boldly and put their ideas to work — whether in their professional pursuits or through the committed volunteerism that has been a hallmark of the Hertz Fellows community for decades.

After all, every individual plays a unique role in shaping the lifelong experience of being a Hertz Fellow.

In a conversation with Hertz Foundation’s Director of Community Anne Kornahrens, Hertz Fellow Neal Tanner recently discussed his involvement with the community through the Fellowship and Programs Council. A robotics professional, Tanner explained how recognition is fueling connections among fellows and helping to put innovative ideas into action.

KORNAHRENS: How did you become a Hertz Foundation volunteer?

TANNER: Hertz Fellow Carol Burns, deputy director for research at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and chair of the Fellowship and Programs Council, invited me to be a reviewer for the Hertz Thesis Prize, which is awarded annually to Hertz Fellows who publish exemplary doctoral theses with applications to real-world problems. Thesis reviewers play a critical role and make an immediate impact. My experience led to further involvement — first as the leader of the Hertz Thesis Prize review process and now serving as chair of the Prize Committee.

KORNAHRENS: How else have you been involved in the Hertz community?

TANNER: Most recently, I volunteered to be the Community Representative for the Austin, Texas, area as part of a nationwide effort to activate local gatherings of Hertz Fellows. It’s an opportunity to meet new colleagues, learn about their work and explore collaborations. I encourage others to jump at opportunities, regardless of their expertise or where they live.

KORNAHRENS: What is your primary goal as chair of the Prize Committee?

TANNER: The Prize Committee recognizes scientific and technical achievements of Hertz Fellows while also providing meaningful support for ongoing or future endeavors. Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to work with Hertz Fellow Derek Lidow and Hertz Foundation Board Member Carla Newman to reenvision how we support early career fellows who want to explore entrepreneurial careers.

The Harold Newman and David Galas Entrepreneurial Initiative, for example, provides up to $25,000 in funding for in-school and early career Hertz Fellows looking to launch an entrepreneurial venture, with emphasis on collaboration among fellows. It provides assistance as Hertz Fellows are developing ideas and exploring their career path. We recently awarded Jordan Edmunds for his efforts to more effectively maintain and care for technology-enabled fleet cars, vans and trucks, which is critical to the world meeting its sustainability goals. Applicants receive a thorough evaluation and have access to mentoring opportunities with other Hertz Fellows. We accept applications on a rolling basis, so I hope interested Hertz Fellows will submit one today.

KORNAHRENS: We recently awarded the first Raymond Sidney Volunteer Leadership Award since 2019. Tell us more about the award and this year’s winners.

TANNER: It’s great to recognize fellows who you’ve worked with and admire. This year’s awardees — Cameron Geddes, Jessica Seeliger and Shannon Yee — were nominated as a team for their collaboration in strengthening the Hertz community over the past 20 years. Together, they organized activities for in-school fellows, created programs to advance the careers of all fellows and supported the evolution of the Fellowships and Program Council. It’s a perfect way to honor Ray Sidney, who personifies the concept of the “Hertz community” through his mentoring of young fellows, support of the Hertz Foundation’s Summer Workshop and generosity in supporting five endowed Hertz Fellowships.

Learn more about Neal and Anne,

2001 Hertz Fellow
Consultant, tntAnalysis
Director of Community, Hertz Foundation
925.307.5857 |
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