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Mary Lou Chlipala
Mary Lou Chlipala
Assistant to the Chair
Department of Screen Arts & Cultures
Author: James Burnstein, Screen Arts & Cultures
Photographer: Joel Rakowski, Screen Arts & Cultures
“I do not think anyone in the department would debate that Mary Lou was the heart of our SAC family.” — Bhanu Chundu, Class of 2011
Mary Lou Chlipala is the first person students interested in SAC meet when they come to visit the campus. Invariably, these prospective students walk away like Joey Bergren from Wisconsin: “The second I left her office, my family and I knew that Michigan is where I was meant to attend.”
Mary Lou’s office door is always open to help students navigate SAC’s unique curriculum that balances studies and production courses. Whatever questions students might have regarding the major, honors, the sub-concentration in screenwriting, the Film and Video Student Association, applying for grants for their production projects, landing summer internships, or even as senior Barbara Twist says, “life advice”, they all know that Mary Lou is the person to see.
Mary Lou’s dedication to SAC students does not end when they graduate. They know they can count on her to point them in the direction of a job opportunity or simply give them encouragement as they pursue their dreams.
Mary Lou’s commitment is no less to SAC’s faculty and staff. Since she arrived as Program Coordinator in 1998, it’s been Mary Lou’s job to post job openings, schedule the travel and itinerary for all candidate visits, and set up their job talks. Now that Mary Lou serves as Assistant to the Chair, she also handles all tenure casebooks and promotion casebooks for the faculty. It’s no wonder that Mary Lou’s colleagues find their way to her office seeking assistance and support as frequently as SAC students.
Mary Lou has a special talent for bringing SAC’s special projects and events to life. From the semester-ending student showcase, the Lightworks Festival (which she alone always volunteers to judge), to the 2006 Domitor Conference, a silent film conference featuring film scholars and graduate students from around the world, Mary Lou can be counted on to handle every detail large and small. In addition, Mary Lou has coordinated the James Gindin Visting Artist Series since its inception in 1998. Among the many screenwriters and writer-directors Mary Lou has brought to campus for lectures, screenings and master classes, are: Alexander Payne, Spike Lee, Lawrence Kasdan, Nora Ephron, Paul Schrader, John Patrick Shanley and John Sayles. The highlights for all these events can be found in the department’s newsletter that Mary Lou also edits.
Mary Lou is the only person in SAC who can say she is the mother of a rocket scientist! Her son, Justin Edmondson, is a U-M Ph.D in Applied Physics who currently works as a research fellow in the U-M Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic, and Space Science. Justin will be married this summer to Laura Shpiro, a graduate of Loyola Law School, Los Angeles. Mary Lou looks forward to the day when she will be posting the pictures of her grandchildren on her office wall along with the baby pictures of her extended family — the staff, faculty and alumni of SAC.
Department of English Language and Literature
Author: Cathleen Conway-Perrin, Student Academic Affairs
Photographer: Aimee Germain, Women's Studies
Although Jane Johnson taught at a small liberal arts college in Grand Rapids before coming to the University of Michigan, she “grew up in the English department” here, where she has spent 15 years. Beginning in 1982, she worked full-time until the early 1990’s, when she took time off to start a family. While her children were young, she went back to work part-time, and was tapped by the LSA Dean’s Office for special projects like Outreach Staffing Services. She also served as a floating Key Administrator, gaining valuable perspective by working in a wide variety of LSA departments. When the Key Ad position in English opened up, Jane was ready to return to full-time work.
One of Jane’s nominators wrote, “From the moment that Jane took on the position of Key Administrator in 2006, we could sense that we were in experienced, incredibly competent hands.” The other nominators agreed. Several colleagues described Jane’s strong sense of fairness in her treatment of others. ;She was called “the personification of integrity” by one coworker, and others praised her mentorship and her commitment to the growth of her staff. Both faculty and staff spoke eloquently of Jane’s dedicated and creative leadership. She has played a pivotal role in fostering positive faculty-staff relationships, and shepherding the department through major changes such as the implementation of the LEO contract and the shared services projects.
Jane’s current title is Business Administration Lead, and her position covers a broad range of responsibilities. She oversees budget and financials, handles personnel and HR issues, manages an administrative staff of more than 20 people, and coordinates facilities, development, and a host of other duties. While some might find this array of responsibilities daunting, Jane enjoys the wide range of challenges.
Jane likes to challenge herself in her personal life as well. Now that she and her husband are empty-nesters (they have a daughter at Hope College and a son at Gettysburg College), they have taken up mountain biking, hiking, and camping. This sense of adventure is part of what makes Jane who she is and why her department holds her in such high regard. One of her nominators put it well: “Why Jane truly shines as an administrator is because of who she is as a person. I have met few people with Jane’s sense of integrity, her belief in doing something not because it is the easy thing to do, or the popular thing to do, but because it is the right thing to do.” Clearly “the right thing to do” is to honor Jane with a Spotlight award!
Student Services Coordinator
Germanic Languages and Literature
Author: April Caldwell, Romance Languages & Literatures
Photographer: Aimee Germain, Women's Studies
As I looked over the suggested areas of excellence for a staff spotlight nomination, it wasn’t hard to see why Jennifer White was selected; she exemplifies almost every one of them.
“Second only to the key administrator, Jen serves as the most important staff member in our department,” said Kerstin Barndt, Associate Chair and Associate Professor in the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures (GDS).
Jennifer is also one of the warmest and most engaging people on campus. Her friendly genuineness is apparent the moment you enter her office. “Jen creates a welcoming environment in the Department,” said Kader Konuk, Associate Professor of German and Comparative Literature. “She lowers the stress level.”
Jennifer studied communications and marketing at Western University. After graduation, she went to work in the Stephen M. Ross School of Business. In 2001, she married her high school sweetheart, Pete, and within seven years had two sons: Nolan and Drew. Yet even with a busy home life, Jennifer was eager to grow professionally and joined the Slavic Languages and Literatures staff in 2009 in the dual position of the Executive Assistant and Student Services Coordinator (for both Graduate and Undergraduate students). For many, meshing two positions into the workload of one would be overwhelming, but Jennifer managed it with her trademark efficiency and enthusiasm viewing it as an opportunity she couldn’t let pass.
“It was a great eye-opening experience,” she said. “I learned about working with a department chair, promotion cases, events, and the components of student services.”
It was the student services aspect that Jennifer found she really loved. So when the student services position opened in GDS, she volunteered to take on some of the responsibilities while GDS searched for a candidate. Essentially she took on a third job.
“In the beginning, the German faculty was quite skeptical of this model fearing they would have no support,” said one GDS department member. “But they were surprised and delighted by the level of support Jennifer provided.”
In May 2011, she became the new Student Services Coordinator for GDS. This time she volunteered to continue supporting Slavic while they searched for her replacement, which is why more than once her organizational skills were praised. “The ease with which she switches between the various departmental roles is simply remarkable,” Professor Barndt said.
Embarrassed by the compliment, Jennifer attempted to assure me her skills were inflated. Yet, as she described her system that includes detailed notes, email folders, “lots of lists,” and a well-used binder, it was clear they weren’t.
So how does she feel about being selected for the spotlight? “Very surprised,” she said, but added with a smile, “It’s really nice to be recognized though, isn’t it?”
Center for Global and Intercultural Study
Author: Carissa Van Heest
Photo courtesy of CGIS
Once a U-M Spanish concentrator studying abroad in Salamanca, Spain, Jocelyn Kwolek has come full-circle, having just completed her fifth year as the Key Administrator for the Center for Global and Intercultural Study (CGIS). She said one of the things she likes best about working in CGIS is “knowing that what we do has such a transformative impact on students.”
Jocelyn manages the operational side of CGIS, coordinating human resource, financial, and other administrative processes. Jocelyn is responsible for hiring instructors, staff, and program assistants for CGIS’s programs around the world. She also reviews and approves all financial transactions, manages the budget, and supervises four staff members.
Jocelyn’s positive outlook, strong management skills, and patient demeanor has helped her guide her team through various changes during her time at CGIS. One transition in the past year involved consolidating offices in three buildings into one central location in CGIS’s new space in Angell Hall. One nominator noted that “Jocelyn has been the calm mind and caring heart at the center of a program undergoing rapid and challenging transformations.”
Jocelyn said she keeps in mind when facing challenges, “on the other side there will be a positive outcome if you have the patience and diligence to work through them. That’s the reward at the end.” Jocelyn noted that “the more open to new ideas and change you are the further progress you’re going to make.”
Jocelyn said she has focused on improving the efficiency of processes within CGIS. One nominator highlighted that she “developed new approaches to handling the large volume of inquiries, meetings, and orientations for students studying abroad.” Another nominator noted that Jocelyn is “an excellent steward of University resources” and is a “dedicated and conscientious administrator.”
More than one nominator noted Jocelyn’s sense of humor. One nomination letter remarked that “regardless of however difficult any issue that arises may be, she shows a positive and delightful sense of humor that makes tackling that issue a much lighter and achievable matter…She has people’s best interest at heart and when a moment is tense she uses her witty humor and is able to take control of the situation with ease.”
In her spare time, Jocelyn said she enjoys spending time with friends and family and being at home with her husband and their energetic dog. She also enjoys traveling and recently returned from a motorcycle trip to Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula. In the future, she’d like to travel to Italy and Greece along with places closer to home.
As for her definition of success, Jocelyn said “it is seeing the results of the work you’ve done. It’s knowing that the workplace you walk into today is better than the one you first encountered because of what you’ve accomplished.”
Geological Sciences Camp Davis
Author: Cathy Conway-Perrin
Photo courtesy of Christopher Malvica
“How do you find one person to fill a position with the following duties and qualifications?” asked one of Christopher Malvica’s nominators. The position in question is the Program Coordinator for the University’s Camp Davis Rocky Mountain Field Station. The duties include “administrative and operational activities….” as well as “program marketing, student recruiting, admissions and financial aid, staff recruiting and supervision, meal planning, food service, transportation services, facility and landscape maintenance, vehicle and equipment repair, construction planning and oversight, computer and network support, risk management, emergency planning, first aid, and procurement.” In addition to that daunting list of responsibilities, this person is also expected to be available 24/7 in Jackson, Wyoming, from May to September of each year, and must have experience in an academic camp setting. Most of us would have thought it impossible to find all of these qualifications in one person, but then most of us haven’t met Chris Malvica.
Before joining the University of Michigan, Chris had gone to nursing school and worked in a hospital setting for quite a while. He also supported himself by working as a chef for the Ritz Carlton Hotel. Eventually his interests shifted and he became a skilled electrician. He couldn’t have guessed at that time that his unusual skill set would land him an amazing job that would utilize all of his talents.
Chris’s nominators describe him as “dedicated to the Program and to the University,” and “a highly innovative problem solver,” who is a “jack of all trades.” Whether it’s preparing a delicious meal for campers and staff or making sure the Camp complies with complex state, local, and University regulations, Chris is on the job, working “literally anytime day or night when he is needed at Camp Davis.” Chris’s nominators point out that it is partly due to his contributions that enrollment at Camp Davis has quadrupled since its early days; the Camp now hosts upwards of 130 students each summer.
When Chris is not in Wyoming, he’s working here on campus in the Earth and Environmental Sciences department, preparing for the next session at Camp Davis. Chris’s Michigan home is in Chelsea, where he lives with his wife. He has two daughters who recently graduated from Michigan State University.
Asked what he likes most about his work at Camp Davis, Chris cited the location, the diversity of the students, and the fact that every year is different. Fortunately for the students, faculty, and staff, there is one thing that will be the same, at least for the near future: Chris Malvica will be there. With his unique blend of knowledge and abilities, it’s hard to imagine a more perfect Coordinator for Camp Davis.
Administrative Assistant Intermediate
Author: April Caldwell
Photographer: Photo courtesy of Danielle Thompson
There probably aren’t many who would give up the opportunity to live in Scotland, but Danielle Thompson did. More than that, she has no regrets.
“I would never give up this career for Scotland now,” Danielle assured me.
Having seen first-hand the majesty of Edinburgh Castle jutting out over the sharp cliff edge that supports it, I’m surprised. It’s a pretty cool sight. But as the conversation unfolded, it became clear that seeing Danielle in action is an equally cool thing to see.
A native Michigander, Danielle grew up in Canton, but considered Ann Arbor her second home. “I spent a lot of weekends here with my older brother,” she said. “So I have fond memories of Pinball Pete’s and Nickels Arcade.”
These days, Danielle enjoys spending most of her free time at home in Hamburg with her husband, Jeremy and their pets, two cats and two dogs. The one thing that can pull her away from her home-life is live music. Danielle has been to hundreds of concerts, so many she has lost count. Good thing she still has every ticket stub and plans to re-tally that number one day.
In 1998 Danielle started as a temp in the Psychology Department, yet soon began to build a more lasting career at the University. Realizing that her interest and skill set were better suited to information technology, she transitioned from her student services position to a part-time position on Psych’s IT team. Five months later she accepted another part-time position with the Information Technology Asset Management team (UmichITAM).
“When I started in 2003 this was just a 10 hour a week job,” Danielle said.
An amazing fact when you consider that today UmichITAM acquires and manages software licenses for 19 units at the University with over 250 software titles in their library, including Adobe Photoshop and statistical software like MATLAB. In fact, UmichITAM may become part of NextGen Michigan, whose most recent project was the University-wide move to MGoogle.
The demands of a large university might intimidate some, but the challenge only thrills Danielle. She thrives in the dynamic environment, with its coffee klatsch and the in-house popcorn maker that keeps IT minds fueled. However, the fast-pace isn’t the main reason she loves her job.
“I feel like what I do is for the greater good of the University to help faculty, staff, and students do their job better,” Danielle said. “I like that we’re [UmichITAM] here to help.”
Not a surprising statement from someone who believes in offering the best customer service possible.
“It is obvious to anyone that works with her for a while, that she cares very deeply about providing high quality service,” said Christopher Brenner, senior data security analyst.
“She consistently puts customer needs ahead of her own,” said Crystal Borgman, IT asset management administrator. “It is largely because of Danielle’s efforts that UmichITAM has become a model for the rest of campus and a candidate for expansion to serve the wider university community.”
Just as she puts customers ahead of herself, Danielle is also quick to turn the praise she has received from her spotlight nomination toward the UmichITAM team as a whole.
“We’re really part of the big picture here.” Danielle said. “I’m proud of that.”
She is proud of her team and they are very proud of her. It seems that she was right: moving to Scotland wasn’t that great an idea after all.
Senior Administrative Assistant
Author: Aimee Germain
Photo courtesy of Kristin Romelhardt
From the first moment I walked into Kristin Romelhardt’s office in Haven Hall, I could easily understand why she is so appreciated and well-respected within the Political Science Department. Kristin has an engaging demeanor and a gregarious disposition, so it’s no wonder her nominators commended her stellar customer service and ability to work well with whatever is thrown her way.
Kristin has worked in Political Science for the last four years as a Senior Administrative Assistant, but she wears many hats beyond her primary HR role. For many new faculty members in Political Science, Kristin is their go-to contact in organizing their move to the University. Kristin’s attitude and desire to make things as easy as possible for others allow for a smooth transition to faculty life at U-M.
Kristin also has plenty of experience diving in to help wherever needed in her department. With a slew of staff transitions during the past year, Kristin filled in at every turn taking on a varied workload and organizing commencement activities for 500 undergraduate students at a new venue. But as competent as Kristin has proven to be in these varied roles, she refuses to take sole credit for the staff spotlight award. She credits her co-workers and administrative faculty team in Political Science for coming together and working together in the best ways that they can.
Prior to her work in Political Science, Kristin worked in a variety of positions in the Biomedical Engineering Department. It was there that she got experience in student services, faculty support, and coordination of student internships. That’s why, if Kristin doesn’t know something, she’s not afraid to call someone and ask. This particular type of fearlessness is valuable for any department with multiple staff departures when the work still must go on. Kristin has stepped in and stepped up whenever necessary, and her department’s chair and key administrator were effusive in their appreciation for her relentlessly calm and organized efforts.
In addition to being her department’s MHealthy Wellness Champion, Kristin keeps herself busy outside the workplace. She’s run “just a couple” trail marathons in the past, but she’s been occupying herself lately with spinning and weaving. She’s also active in her church and volunteers with childcare to get her kid fix since her children are all grown. Kristin has an education degree, and she’s still putting it to use with childcare. You might also find her in the stands at Crisler Arena cheering on the men’s basketball team.
Congratulations to Kristin for her well-deserved LSA Staff Spotlight honor!
Assistant to the Director
Sweetland Writing Center
Author: Jean Arbaugh McKee
Photo courtesy of Laura Schuyler
Nearly 20 years ago, Laura Schuyler made the transition from the banking world to the world of higher education, and hasn’t looked back since. After a few years in the Office of Undergraduate Admissions here at Michigan, Laura has spent the last 14 years in the Sweetland Center for Writing and is the Assistant to the Director. She seems to thrive in the academic world that is LS&A.
Anne Ruggles Gere, the Director of Sweetland, confirmed what her predecessor told her: “One of the best things about my…job [is] working with Laura Schuyler. That claim proves to be true every day.” Colleagues have praised her for her “sparkling, generous, and giving presence at our university,” as well as a “behind-the-scenes presence” that has contributed to the Sweetland program’s growth and success over the years. “She conscientiously works to solve problems, coordinating the interest of Sweetland and of students,” wrote Paul Barron, a lecturer in the Sweetland program, in his nomination letter. “Yet every time [she] gives the appearance that her work is effortless.”
Laura oversees the organization of the Dissertation Writing Institute and Dissertation Writing Groups that Sweetland hosts, a responsibility that her nominators all mentioned. These programs create communities of graduate students across LS&A who are typically in the later stages of writing their dissertations. Many of the students that participate report “how crucial Laura’s kind but firm hand is in helping keep them at their desks working,” Barron says. In 2008, the program expanded to house 24 fellows in the Writing Institute, which placed “greater emphasis on Laura’s job to coordinate and manage so many critical aspects of this program,” wrote Louis Cicciarelli, another lecturer in the Sweetland program. While Laura credits her organizational skills for nearly everything she does, she also notes how wonderful it is to see the turn-around in students who participate in these programs. Their rate of work production increases, as does their confidence in themselves, but Laura is really amazed at how they all “learn to work as a community when they didn’t think they needed it” in writing their dissertations.
Though Laura does work mainly with graduate students and faculty, she has enjoyed branching out into the world of undergraduate studies with the introduction of Sweetland’s academic minor in writing. She has begun marketing the program to attract students and make them aware of the opportunity amongst the many LS&A options.
When Laura is away from work, she enjoys spending time with her friends and family – and her young great-niece in particular. She is the “apple of our eye right now,” Laura says and sees her nearly every week. Supportive and accessible staff and faculty make coming to work that much better, though. Her appreciation of working in a small department is clearly reciprocated by those who work with her: “She is consistently positive about her work, ready with a smile and a cheerful greeting regardless of how many things are stacked up on her desk,” says Gere. With her papers in neat piles on her desk when I arrived, and the warm smile that greeted me, it’s clear that Laura is ready to take on anything that Sweetland needs.
Newnan Advising Center Front Desk Team
Newnan Advising Center, Front Desk Team
Cathy Cline, Gaylene Opal-Deitering, Lynn Shock and Jessica White
Author: Cathleen Conway-Perrin
Photographer: Hans Anderson
It's probably safe to say that Cathy Cline, Gaylene Opal-Deitering, Lynn Shock, and Jessica White serve more students than any other staff person in the College of Literature, Science and the Arts. Together they are the Front Desk Team of the Newnan LSA Advising Center, which serves all 17,000 undergraduates in the College, plus a number of students from other schools and colleges who are interested in joint degrees, cross-campus transfers, or LSA minors. Their duties go far beyond what a typical front desk staffer might do in other units. Answering phones and checking in students is only a part of what they do. Gaylene’s job title is Advising Services Assistant, and the other three are Information Specialists—a title that reflects their extensive knowledge of LSA policies and requirements, University resources, course offerings, and contacts. All four of them use this knowledge to answer student questions, make referrals to other offices when needed, and help connect students with the appropriate advisor to meet their needs. They do an amazing amount of skillful triage to get at the root of a student's questions or problems, and to determine exactly what it is that they need. This can be tricky when sometimes the students themselves aren’t entirely sure what questions they should be asking.
When prompted to share what they like best about their work, all four staff members mentioned each other, in addition to the pleasure they clearly get from helping students and other staff. "My coworkers make the work enjoyable," said Cathy. "We can lean on each other." Her teammate Lynn agreed, and added, "The willingness of our colleagues to help us means a lot." Working on the front lines of an office that sees so much student traffic can be extremely stressful at times. One nominator wrote that during the Fall 2011-Winter 2012 academic year, the front desk team “fielded 25,859 phone calls, made 25,694 appointments with advisors, and checked in 31,058 students. Responding to that constant stream of phone calls and student visitors with an energetic welcome and a cheery voice merits a prize in and of itself.” The same nominator was quick to point out, however, that even those astonishing numbers do not tell the full story.
Each team member makes valuable contributions to other aspects of the Advising Center mission as well. Jessica, for example, handles Dean’s Certifications and disciplinary checks, manages the Late Drop process, and serves on the SAA (Student Academic Affairs) Orientation Committee. Lynn is the lead for data collection, compiling statistics about student contacts with Advising for various purposes and reports. She also manages advisor assignments for students transferring out of the Residential College and Honors Program, as well as serving on the SAA New Student Committee. Cathy took on a leadership role in creating a Front Desk reference and procedures manual in Google Docs, serves on the SAA G+ (Graduating Students) Committee, and stepped in as a substitute APA (Academic Peer Advisor) when APAs were absent during Summer Orientation. Gaylene is the organizing force behind all major Newnan Center events, including the campus-wide May Advising Conference, the Concentration Fair, and numerous educational workshops. She keeps many of the department web sites up to date, serves on the SAA Professional Development Committee, handles the logistics and coordination whenever there is a search to fill an open advisor position, and coordinates meetings with other departments across campus.
It's not surprising that this group can successfully handle all of these challenges, considering the collective experience they bring to the job. Three of the four have worked at the Newnan Center for more than a decade. Their previous jobs included other positions at UM as well as in the corporate sector and banking industry. A nominator wrote about their current roles, “What is truly remarkable about their work, given the volume and intensity, is the harmony they have developed as colleagues. Sitting side-by-side, they support one another and teach one another and, collectively, are indispensable to the smooth functioning of the Newnan LSA Academic Advising Center.”
The Front Desk Team handles pressure with such grace, patience, and efficiency that many advisors have been known to observe, “I could not do that job.” One of the advisors, who also happens to be a minister, is fond of saying, “Thank God for the Front Desk!” Although we have a wide variety of belief systems among our students and staff, and some might choose a different way to express it, it’s clear that everyone can relate to that sentiment.