It is always inspiring to meet someone like Melissa Vaughan who is down to earth, honest, and positive about her endeavors and experiences. I was fortunate to interview the Department of English’s Front Office Coordinator, Melissa Vaughan, who has been working for The University of Alabama for a year. In this interview, Ms. Vaughan discusses her experiences as a college student, her position as Front Office Coordinator, and her thoughts on the importance of studying Humanities.
What would you like to share about your work experience and your previous studies?
I moved around the southeast a lot while attending college, so I attended many schools. While in high school, I had dual enrollment and attended Chattahoochee Valley Community College. I then attended Columbus State University, Kennesaw State University, University of West Georgia, Gulf Coast College, and finally Florida State University. I actually never completed my Bachelor’s degree. I changed my major several times and have close to 200 credit hours, though! That’s a lesson in itself. Pick one thing and stay with it!
I started off as an undeclared major then switched to Biology. I decided to specialize a bit more and changed it to Biochemistry. Finally, I was majoring in Nursing when I got married, moved to Florida, and unexpectedly started a family. I was a stay-at- home-mom for 15 years and then took a position as the Truancy and Attendance Coordinator for the Lee County School System. My years working within a large school system and its administration is what provided the experience that the University was looking for in my position.
What are your responsibilities as Front Office Coordinator?
As the Front Office Coordinator, I am in charge of overseeing work orders and maintenance issues, and scheduling our calendar with professors, staff, and with other departments. I book lecture spaces for guest speakers and coordinate logistics and design for classroom and office spaces. In addition to ordering, determining and maintaining the supplies for our department work rooms, I also coordinate with e-tech to manage our computer and technology for the department, manage our department listservs, collate and compile the department directory, and manage the discursive evaluation input. I manage the Strode property, which the Department of English owns, and handle building access for Morgan Hall, and for our spaces in Rowand- Johnson and Biology. Additionally, I manage our student workers who handle our mail and phone systems for general inquiries. Some days, I’m at my desk scheduling meetings and doing emails, and some days I’m all over campus managing something at one of our other spaces.
What experiences during college or previous jobs do you think have prepared you for this job?
Experiences from college and my duties as the Truancy and Attendance Coordinator both help me in this job. The diversity of people that I met in college helped me to understand and relate to the many different types of people with whom I work here on an international campus. Working with a large body of teachers, administrators, students, and parents as an administrator with the Lee County School system taught me time management skills; the value of delegating jobs to the right person; and that, in most situations, patience, understanding, and negotiation will work better than negativity, stubbornness, and power plays.
What do you enjoy the most about this position?
My favorite thing about this job is the variety of tasks it covers. I like that one day I might make a spreadsheet and the next day work with Furnishing and Design to organize an office space. The variety keeps this job from being boring and repetitive.
What is the most challenging aspect of your job?
The most challenging aspect of this job, I think, is the technology coordinator position. I’m not as tech savvy as I’d like to be and I have to rely heavily on IT support for most of my specific tech questions.
What are you hoping to accomplish while in this position?
I’d just like to be completely competent at all of my duties. I’d like to learn as much as I can about all the UA systems so that I can be the very best at my job, as well as have the ability to help others with their jobs.
Why do you think it is important for students to study the Humanities?
I think the study of Humanities is important because it helps to keep us a civil and cultured society. The importance of Humanities is within its name “Human.” Without the finer arts of literature, theatre, music, and art, we would become less than we have the potential to be. The work of other writers and artists opens us up to experiences we might not otherwise have.
What was your favorite Humanities course from your experience as a college student?
My favorite humanities course was probably Introduction to Musical Theatre. Since I was a science major, I enjoyed the freedom of expression and opportunity to learn and perform something that helped an audience visualize a story through song and dance.
Lastly, if you could give any piece of advise to a student majoring in Humanities, what would it be?
With the push to get students involved in STEM programs, I guess my advice to a humanities student would be to do what you love. You’ll be doing something with it for the rest of your life, and you don’t want to be stuck in something you hate, even if the money, prestige, perks may be better in a different career.