Administrative assistants keep Trinity running on time

You may not see their names alongside quotes in Trinitonian articles or visit their homes during Christmas on Oakmont, but these administrative assistants and office managers are the ones who make things happen on campus. From handling the president’s schedule to managing the calendar of an entire department, these are the unsung heroes that work behind the scenes to ensure that Trinity runs like  a well-oiled machine.

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Photo by Sarah Cooper

Ruby Contreras

Administrative assistant to the associate vice president for student affairs and dean of students

What do you do on a daily basis?

One of the most important things is the calendar — which changes by the hour. I make sure to schedule his appointments for the day — that there are no conflicts or nothing has arisen. It’s kind of like a doctor’s office. You need to keep your appointments or that time could be used for another incoming students or any other administrators. Answering the phone is of course a daily job and keeping up with the paperwork that comes through, budget processing keeping up with daily department purchase orders for the division, travel paperwork. Of course assisting Dean Tuttle with whatever he’s doing.

What are some of the characteristics that your job requires?

Multitasking is the big, big key. I have to be able to start one thing and be able to stop that and start another in case of emerging matters. Prioritizing and multitasking are very important because every day is a different day in the dean’s office. Dean Tuttle is involved in so many programs and that’s taught me to keep up. I am a big fan of working out. My morning starts out at 5 a.m. so I go to the YMCA every morning for about an hour. I just love that jumpstart because it gives me a great way to start my morning with an energetic feel and a positive, motivating outlook. It keeps me on task. There are times when I look at the clock  and say is it really already 11?

Do you interact with a lot of students?

Yes, and that’s one of my favorite parts of the entire job: meeting students, remembering their names and faces so I know how to address them, knowing their concerns. When they come in, I know they’re here for a reason, so I truly want to get them in as soon as possible. That, to me, is the best part of being with the students.

When did you come to Trinity?

I started on December 28, 1988. I worked in admissions for 12 years. Admissions staff is such an admired team. They work so well together. I always used to say that that was the heart of the university because there’s such a big focus on it. At one point in time, I felt like I needed to move on and challenge myself. That’s when I moved to the purchasing office, ordering everything from deodorant to the furniture for Northrup when it was first built. It taught me inventory skills working with them for a bout five years. Then, Ray Sanchez suggested I go to work in the administration office. Carmen Garza mentored me and helped me learn some things about the academic affairs office. A position opened and I applied for it. I think all the skills I learned in the past helped me. If you know at least 50 percent you can learn the other 50 percent. I had the pleasure of working with academic affairs, with Dr. Fischer and Dr. Tynes and Dr. Coltharp, who I assisted. I worked up there for about five years when I noticed that student affairs was a fun place.

When Dr. Lee left the university and Dean Tuttle became interim associate vice president of student affairs I thought that would be a great challenge to work closely with him. I dove in headfirst and it’s been three years since. These three years working for Dean Tuttle have just been very, very interesting. It’s been so fulfilling; I’ve learned so much about the student side that no one on campus can imagine.

Claire Smith

Executive assistant to the president and assistant secretary to the board of trustees

When did you come to Trinity?

I have worked at Trinity since 2004 in a number of different roles, culminating in my current role as executive assistant to President Ahlburg and assistant secretary to the board of trustees since February 2011.

What do you do on a daily basis?

I love my job!  In any day, aside from the obvious interaction with the president and his executive staff, I enjoy the daily engagement with trustees, major donors, community leaders, faculty, students and staff.

What is your favorite part of your job?

One of the most rewarding moments of the academic year is when the students come  to campus in August, some for the first time, many to continue their Trinity journey.   The energy on campus is palpable, everyone is invested in the success of the new academic year, having been busy over the preceding months recruiting new students, planning lectures and events, organizing NSO and beyond, and it all comes together mid-August.  The president plays a large part in welcoming students, faculty and staff back to campus — he helps move students into their dorms, welcomes their parents to his home, meets new faculty who are embracing new careers at Trinity and delivers many speeches.  Making sure he is well-equipped to deal with every aspect of his role is my job, and the new semester is especially significant.  Then, shortly afterward, the Board of Trustees meets to consider items of strategic importance to Trinity, and I am heavily involved with the planning and execution of this event.

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Photo by Sarah Cooper

Amy Johnson

Office manager of campus and community involvement

When did you come to Trinity?

I started at the end of July 2005. I actually started with this department in its first year as a brand new department. So we were focused on developing who we were and how we fit into the university.

What has changed the most since you started working in CCI?

I think the volume of how busy the office is with so many meetings from other staff as well as students has expounded so much from the beginning. Now we have leadership under our roof, diversity, student organizations, service and campus publications. It’s such a large, pulsating atmosphere. It’s growing, which is wonderful because you never know what to expect or who’s calling.

What are some of the challenges you face in your daily routine?

I think one of the toughest things to do, and I think all office managers will tell you, is trying to get faculty, staff and students at the same time in the same place. That’s a fun job to do. It’s so varied — the things that I work — and if you came by tomorrow it’d be something different. My desk is never clear and it’s always telling me what I have to work on next.

What do you like most about your job?

I love the staff that I’ve really grown close to over eight or nine years. I especially appreciate Katharine Martin because we’ve been together since the beginning. I love the variety of things I do every day, the students coming for appointments or just to sit down and chat and the student workers I get to see daily.

I get calls from Dean Tuttle, his assistant, Claire Smith from the president’s office to facilities services so it’s just really across campus I work with people. You’ll probably find that with other office staff as well.

I’m involved Trinity Staff Engagment Committee. The president of the university, Dr. Ahlburg recommended this committee and it’s something I’m really excited about. We do lots of things to help the staff but also to have fun.

What is your favorite memory of working in CCI?

When I first started — seems like eons ago — the students were so involved, during and right after Hurricane Katrina, in coming in sharing photos from Hurricane Katrina and sending us information so that we could pass it along. I love all of the student events like the Chocolate Festival and seeing what it is that students are doing and I really enjoy doing that.

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Photo by Sarah Cooper

Brenda Black

Administrative assistant, office of the vice president for faculty and student affairs

Why did you decide to come to Trinity?  

I’m a little embarrassed to say that I came to Trinity on a job reference from Texas Employment Commission and I remember just going through the motions of the interview … It’s now been 24 years this February: I began in the vice president for academic affairs office (three and a half years), then residential life (three and a half years), then the vice president for student affairs (a month shy of eight years), then back to academic affairs (the past nine years).

What all do you do in a day?  

One day is very rarely like another; it really depends on my boss’s calendar.  My personal workload is heavier in the spring and early summer, finalizing and implementing multiple spring events and getting started on projects for the summer and fall.  Fall is a bit simpler once school starts by decompressing and beginning initial preparations for the coming spring.  As far as my specific work is concerned, I basically live in the future and follow a monthly planner I call my “work Bible” that I would be lost without!  Over the years I have been involved with several committees and undertakings including a year-long Quality of Student Life Task Force, M.E.N.T.O.R.S. (Meeting Employee Needs Through OutReach Services – for new staff), spring and fall family weekends, United Way, crisis management and the Trinity Staff Engagement Committee.

What do you like most about your job?  

To be honest, working directly with Sheryl Tynes is my favorite part of being here.  She is a fantastic role model and I very much appreciate all that she teaches me.  Our combined interactions with — and responsibilities to — students and faculty keep us busy, focused and challenged and we make a very good team!   Additionally, there are three events/programs that hold special places in my heart.  The first is the Honor Awards Convocation during Spring Family Weekend held in Parker Chapel.  Compiling the amazing accomplishments and endeavors of our super students never fails to impress me.  The best part of that ceremony is the end when the attending students stand, turn, and applaud their parents – I cry every time!  Secondly, our A Trinity Summer pre-college program for rising high school juniors/seniors.  Participants are on campus for three weeks living and working with Trinity student teaching assistants/resident mentors, and are taught by various fantastic Trinity faculty who have determined themes such as “Dracula” (and bats), film noir, trash or immigration.  The

program is academically designed to enhance students’ writing and critical thinking skills and while attendees spend the majority of every week day during those three weeks in the classroom, we frequently take them in and around San Antonio to enjoy fun events such as cave exploring or ropes challenges, a bat emergence, Six Flags/Fiesta Texas, Mariachi Mass at San Fernando Cathedral downtown, the Riverwalk, and lots of great off campus restaurants.  Typically there are 11 other staff on campus who work hard to make this program a huge success and it couldn’t be done without them.  Every year several ATS students end up attending Trinity!  Finally, I enjoy coordinating the annual Duke Talent Identification Program (Duke TIP), a national recognition ceremony created by Duke University honoring high achieving seventh graders (and a few special fifth graders) from Bexar and surrounding counties.  Typically 1,700-1,800 students, plus their families, attend this very special event.  Emotions and characteristics displayed as the kids walk across the stage in Laurie in front of their peers and families to receive their special medallions range from limp, sweaty-palmed, head bowed, straight-faced, “I hope no one notices,” to firm grip, jaunty, huge grin, “look at me!” variations.  I suspect a few of these high achievers have ended up at Trinity as well.

What are some of the challenges you face?  

Understanding and trying to (correctly) interpret to others our policies and procedures — making appropriate referrals — ensuring that I meet the expectations and deadlines of other departments — setting a good example … I have grown and learned more than I probably remember, but I guarantee that being at Trinity has improved my skill set and I am grateful for the innumerous opportunities I have experienced and enjoyed and subsequently been able to “pay forward” in my job performance.