Seeing it from all Sides: Sarah Sides Transitions into New Position with Department of English

Sarah Sides with her baby niece by a lake
Sarah Sides with her niece, Charlotte

Most UA undergraduates rarely see Sarah Sides even if they are the direct recipients of her hard work, scheduling their courses and classrooms. It’s easy to wonder how this UA alumna with a bachelor’s degree in marketing and French found herself working in the Department of English but to Sides, her arrival in Morgan Hall is no mystery.

“I love Alabama,” she said. “I’ve always really liked the atmosphere, and I couldn’t think of a better place to work.”

Sides is the Assistant to the Director of Undergraduate Studies, and she is also Course Scheduling Coordinator, a position she started in Spring 2016. Sides was formerly a wireless consultant at Verizon and general manager of Hungry Howie’s. Although her new job in the Department of English is unrelated to commerce, her academic position is not much different from her work in the corporate sector.

“You need marketing skills in any job,” Sides explains. “It’s interesting that I use my background in marketing so much in my work at UA. I helped organize a departmental table at Get On Board Day this August in order to advertise our major and minors, for example. Students were interested to learn our updated major requirements as well as the various potential career opportunities for English degree-holders.”

Sides’ first major project in the Department of English was handling the coordination of Honors Day, along with a committee of English faculty. She helped secure the venue and catering as well as make promotional material and certificates for scholarship recipients.

“My marketing background is more on the creative side than on data and analytics,” Sides avers. “Getting to do more design-oriented tasks is definitely what I enjoy doing, like redesigning the department’s trifold brochures.”

In July, Sides became the English Department’s new PCard reconciler, meaning she handles the funding of business-related purchases made by faculty and instructors. For instance, if someone travels to a conference, she inputs the necessary accounting information to fund their charges for airfare, lodging, ground transportation, etc. She then forms a packet of their bank statement, itemized receipts, and a system-generated report, to submit to Purchasing Services by the monthly deadline.

Another of Sides’ primary duties is the daunting task of course scheduling, which involves securing locations and meeting times for English courses. Sides shares her workload with fellow administrator Melinda Fields, who is responsible for all of the 100-level courses, leaving Sides with 200-600 level courses.

The process of scheduling courses has given Sides insight into many of the procedures that she never understood as a UA student.

“I would randomly have a French class in Bidgood and never know why,” Sides says. “But sometimes, when you’re looking at the time and the class size, you have very limited room resources available from which to choose. It’s also helped me understand faculty schedules and what a professor’s hours look like, which you don’t see as a student.”

Scheduling never stops.

“Our master Excel sheet of classes is a constant working document,” Sides reveals. “It’s about 99 percent hashed out by the time Bama Bound is over, but you never really know.  Once the fall schedule is completely set, it’s time to turn our attention to the spring.” Working in scheduling means expecting the unexpected.

Sides has been scheduling since January, but as someone who enjoys work, she doesn’t mind being busy. What Sides really enjoys, however, is the fact that she’s working on the administrative end of education.

“I was always a teacher’s pet and loved academia, but I never saw myself as a teacher,” Sides explains. “I have almost no patience. I’ve done tutoring in the past, but I never saw it as a career option for myself. What I do love is tech—it’s very cut and dry. I get to do that here while still interacting with students and faculty, and I really enjoy that variety in my position.”

About once every couple months, Sides likes to spend a long weekend at home in Memphis with family. She is the proud aunt of her first niece, Charlotte, born in February, and loves getting to spend time with her and watch her grow. Charlotte has started crawling and enjoys traveling with her parents. Sides is thankful to have a job that grants her the flexibility to travel from time to time and hopes to call UA home for many years to come.