During Brenda Stevenson’s nearly 31-year career at the UI’s Urbana campus, she’s given her co-workers plenty of food for thought – so much sustenance, in fact, that people sometimes have requested that she quit bringing her homemade baked goods to work because their waistlines were expanding. Stevenson, who said she loves to cook and bake and frequently is told she should open her own bakery, once raised the money to host a family reunion by baking and selling cookies, sweet-potato pie and other treats. Stevenson began her career as a clerk typist in the College of Engineering in November 1975, and transferred to the records office of the Graduate College in 1982, where her initial position was data-entry operator and she later became an admissions and records officer. Since 1999 Stevenson has worked for the College of Law, where she is the registrar.
Tell me about your responsibilities in your current position.
I register the incoming classes, which generally consist of 185 students each year, and monitor the registration. I generate reports for the awarding of academic honors given to our first-, second- and third-year students. I assist the Office of International Programs with summer programs for law students, lawyers and other professionals by processing the registrations and recording courses. I perform degree audits three times a years for the May, August and December degree candidates. I also work with Study Abroad, off-campus programs and with different graduate departments that the college has joint-degree programs with.
Registration is the most-time consuming part of what I do. It includes interpreting and implementing registration procedures, grading and academic policies.
What’s kept you here on campus so many years?
I have always worked really closely with students, which I enjoy.
Did you start at the university right out of high school?
Yes, I received my elementary and high-school education in Chicago. After high school, in 1972, I attended the university for two years, majoring in accountancy.
How did you learn to be a great cook?
While I was growing up, my mother baked daily. When I started showing interest, she let me help make oatmeal cookies. It became an every-Saturday event for us. Seeing people’s reactions to my mother’s cooking was so pleasurable. She bakes wonderful rolls, and she’ll share the recipe but the rolls never turn out as good when someone else makes them. There are some special little things that she does that she doesn’t share, and when you tell her that your rolls didn’t turn out as good as hers, she’ll just smile.
I bake all sorts of cookies, cakes and pies. My favorite dessert to bake is German chocolate cake. I don’t collect a lot of recipes or cookbooks; I have a few standard recipes that I stick to.
How do you stay so trim with all that cooking?
I’ve always been active. I love working out to Tae Bo and aerobics and aim to work out at least 45 minutes per session. My regular work out is to walk around Centennial Park, then go home and put time in on the treadmill and weight bench. I also bowl on three leagues, including the faculty-staff league, a travel league and the Ebonite League, the only black league in town. My average is 177.
What else do you do when you’re not working?
I like to crochet and do needlepoint. I enjoy making afghans. I’m a big kid at heart: My TV stays on the Cartoon Network, Disney and Nickelodeon. I have a big collection of Disney movies. My favorite is “Lady and the Tramp.”