Not unlike the scientists of the Prairie Research Institute, Angie Wisehart on any given day can be found digging in something new as an administrative assistant in the PRI director's office.
Unlike the scientists, Wisehart's excavation work isn't done by pick, shovel or dissolved oxygen probe, but over the phone and by computer.
"I'm very organized, so I can find things quickly when a question arises," said the 13-year U. of I. employee. "I try to pay pretty close attention to even the small details."
Wisehart started in 1998 as extra help for the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and was hired permanently by that office within a few months.
Three years later she moved to the Office of the Chancellor and then to the Office of Sponsored Programs and Research in 2005 before being hired at PRI in 2008.
Wisehart was a veritable sponge at those previous jobs, learning how to navigate the institutional obstacles that can keep things from getting done.
That institutional knowledge was doubly important to PRI at the time Wisehart arrived because officials were steeped in the process of moving the state's water, natural history, archaeological and geological surveys, as well as the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center, under university auspices.
"I think it was helpful that I was already versed in university administrative policy and procedures when I started here," she said. "I think that's one of the reasons they brought me in for this job."
The details of Wisehart's job entail day-to-day office management, which includes scheduling meetings, making travel arrangements and Web page maintenance.
Special events like the Naturally Illinois Expo held in March and last fall's Prairie Lightning Symposium bring with them ongoing planning components for Wisehart that can pop up any time.
With some 50 exhibits and a public open house featured (and held in conjunction with events at the colleges of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences and of Engineering), the expo means extra work for everyone.
But Wisehart said those events also present the opportunity for her and co-workers to see up close the groundbreaking scientific endeavors their efforts support.
"You're really able to see what the scientists are doing and it makes you proud to be a part of it, even if in a small way," she said. "I don't have a scientific background, but I find the work they do here very interesting. I would encourage anyone to attend the expo. It's really enjoyable."
Wisehart serves four administrators, all of whom she said are a pleasure to work with.
"The people here are so nice and so friendly," she said, a sentiment that extends to all of the institute staff.
"They're excited about the work they're doing and they love to share their excitement with others," she said. "They make it easy for everyone to understand."
Prior to working at the university, Wisehart was employed as a teller supervisor at Busey Bank, eventually transferring to the student loan department and card services division.
She has lived in Mahomet all of her life, is married and has an 18-year-old daughter who is an avid pageant participant and a 15-year-old son who is heavily involved in sports.
"They keep us really busy," she said.
Still, Wisehart has found time to return to school, where her goal is to earn a general studies bachelor's degree from Eastern Illinois. She said the studies have gone more slowly in recent years as the children became involved in school activities - but she is committed to finishing the degree.
"It's not a top priority for me right now but I want to finish it for my own satisfaction," she said. "With a family, I felt like I couldn't do both as well as I wanted."
What she most enjoys are nice, slow Sundays where she is able to find a good book to curl up with on the couch.
"Sundays are my day and I don't even leave the house if I don't have to," she said.