Although she has been a UI employee for less than a year, Renaé Strawbridge, program administrative assistant, has worked at the Illinois State Geological Survey on campus for more than 18 years.
Strawbridge is a Champaign Central High School graduate and Central Illinois native. Prior to joining the survey, she worked in the Champaign-Urbana area for 8 1/2 years in manufacturing and at other administrative jobs. She lives in Mahomet, is the mother of a daughter and son, Tiffany and Joshua, and has a grandson, Dominic.
A breast-cancer survivor, Strawbridge was featured in print, radio and television ads for the Carle Cancer Center.
Tell me about your job.
I manage, process and coordinate the inventory for the geological survey. Anything that has to do with equipment, I take care of it. The university defines equipment as an item that has a life expectancy of one year or more, and costs $500 or more. For the survey, that means huge pieces of equipment and little itty-bitty pieces of equipment.
I tag the newly purchased equipment that comes through the door, and facilitate the transfer and movement of all equipment between staff members and our locations throughout the state.
Also, I provide back-up administrative services in the ISGS director’s office.
What exactly does the Illinois State Geological Survey do?
We study and map the geology of Illinois. If you want to know what’s underneath what you walk on, the geological survey is the place to come and find out. We study rocks, oil, gas, water, surface water and sub-surface water – anything about the geology of Illinois, we’re the people to ask.
When did the survey become part of the university?
On July 1, 2008, we officially became a division under the Institute of Natural Resource Sustainability at the university. Before then, we were considered an allied agency. We’ve been housed on campus for the past 103 years. Everyone used to say, ‘Oh, you work for the university,’ and I had to say, ‘Technically, I work for the state of Illinois,’ because we were a state agency until last July. Now we’re all UI employees.
What’s the most challenging aspect of your job?
Getting people to get rid of obsolete equipment. Because money and equipment are so hard to come by, once our people get a piece of good equipment, they don’t want to let go of it.
Our scientific staff still uses equipment that’s 20 to 30 years old. Even though it’s an antique by today’s standards, it’s still usable.
What’s the most enjoyable aspect of your job?
The people. We have around 155 employees and this is one of the few positions at the survey that gets to interact with everyone, simply because everyone uses equipment, whether it’s office equipment or scientific equipment. And I get to interact with them in-person, over the phone, or by e-mail. I like helping people.
What do you like to do off the job?
Right now, I’m studying for my associate’s degree in general studies at Parkland, so that doesn’t leave me time for much else. I’ll complete that in May, and I hope to earn my bachelor’s through Eastern Illinois University. That’s my ultimate goal.
I like to read – for pleasure, not for class. (Laughs.) I like to be with friends and family.
Why general studies?
I don’t have one dominant interest. I like learning about different topics and general studies provided me that opportunity. My goal is to eventually work in an area where I can use my abilities and interests in public speaking and interacting with people.
You were featured in an advertising campaign for cancer survivors. What’s that like?
It’s kind of strange. A friend and I were talking the other night, watching the news, and it came on TV. It stopped me in mid-sentence. I didn’t recognize my voice so much as the words that I said and the introduction to the commercial.
I also participate in a cancer support group. Cancer is not only difficult for the patient, but difficult for the family because they feel helpless. That’s why the support group is important and open to anyone. I’ve had life-changing conversations with people there, and it fulfills a desire in me to give back to my community.
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