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September 29, 2023

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Administrators work with students, balance different roles for their office through dedication

Sometimes the path to becoming an administrator isn’t an intended one.

“My plan was to be a high school band director,” said Sara Bushong, Dean of University Libraries.

After briefly teaching choir, “I found a job in a library and loved it,” Bushong said.

After completing master’s degrees in education and library science, Bushong took a position in the Library’s Curriculum Resource Center. A few positions later, she is the Dean.

“I’m happy the path was that way. I’ve enjoyed all the jobs I’ve had,” she said.

Similarly, Jodi Webb said she never expected to become the Dean of Students when she came to the University to complete a master’s degree in College Student Personnel. Now, she is in her 26th year with the University.

“You never know what’s going to happen,” Webb said.

Webb’s positions with the University have all been in students affairs. She has been a hall director, an assistant director of housing, and director of the First Year Experience Program.

“I was named Dean of Students a few months ago,” Webb said.

Barbara Henry’s plan did not originally include higher education at all, but today she is the assistant vice president for Non-Traditional and Transfer Student Services.

When she was finishing her undergraduate degree in history, her high school was having its 20 year reunion. Henry planned to teach high school social studies, but a graduate student impressed with her papers suggested graduate school.

“That was a really profound moment for me, that someone thought I could go to grad school,” Henry said.

She completed a master’s degree in history at the University while serving as an academic advisor for undecided students, which taught her about aspects of higher education she had not previously known about.

Henry next completed a doctoral degree in higher education administration at the University.

“It was an absolutely phenomenal program,” she said.

Another common theme in administrative work is the variety in their workdays.

“The days are not very predictable at all,” Bushong said.

She said she has an average of four to eight meetings every day.

“I have to carve out time to plan for meetings,” she said,

Sometimesa lot of meetings means staying at work until 7 or 8 p.m.

“My days vary a lot … That’s one of the things I truly enjoy about my job,” Webb said.

Her days include meetings, advising USG and GSS, individually meeting with students and sometimes talking to parents.

“Being an administrator can frankly be really crazy,” Henry said. “The life of an administrator is interesting because it truly is not an 8-5 [job].”

The Non-Traditional and Transfer Student Services office is open later to meet the needs of students who are unable to come in during regular hours.

“We understand that sometimes it’s really hard to get here,” Henry said.

She spends time helping non-traditional and transfer students with their unique challenges in person, over the phone and via email. One of Henry’s favorite parts of her job is knowing the work she does makes a difference in student success.

When she began her job, she was afraid of losing daily contact with students.

“That really hasn’t happened,” Henry said.

In addition to helping students, Henry works with other offices and departments on projects such as training for veteran and nontraditional student awareness and refreshing students’ study skills.

Bushong’s responsibilities include planning for the library’s future, overseeing its budget, working with donors and planning fundraising events and supervising department heads within the library.

“It’s all fun, it’s all great. I love every minute of it,” Bushong said.

She oversees about 100 student employees, and tries to regularly meet with representatives from them. She also meets with members of Undergraduate Student Government and Graduate Student Senate.

“I’m always so impressed with the students I interact with,” Bushong said. “It’s very important, I think, for administrators to stay connected with students.”

For the Dean of Students, staying connected with students is especially important.

“When I feel like I’ve helped a student, it makes you feel good about what you do,” Webb said. “I like working with student organizations and helping them navigate the campus as they plan events. That to me is fun, it isn’t work.”

It can’t be fun all the time, however.

“As I help students, sometimes I have to deliver some bad news or make unpopular decisions,” Webb said. “Sometimes you wish you could do more to kind of fix things for people.”

Webb is responsible for campus activities, multicultural affairs, student conduct and the Center for Leadership, among other things.

Bushong said that if students have an opportunity to talk to an administrator, they should take it.

“They shouldn’t be afraid to do that,” she said.

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