While other vendors on a recent Saturday morning at the Market at the Square in Urbana were quietly loitering in their booths – yawning and bemoaning the dearth of patrons – Laura Battle eschewed the farmer’s market protocol. Amused passersby, accustomed to strolling the aisles and giving only perfunctory glances at many of the displays, would suddenly find a rack of vintage clothing rolling along next to them, steered by a gregarious woman in a flowered hat who rattled red-white-and-blue plastic bracelets at them enticingly. Despite Battle’s guerrilla marketing, sales were disappointing, she said, so it’s a good thing she decided to keep her “day job” as program administrative assistant with the Building Research Council in the School of Architecture. Battle is a 23-year employee of the university.
Tell me about your career at the UI.
I started at civil engineering in 1977 as a clerk-typist III, then worked at the College of Medicine for 12 years and became supervisor of the word processing center. I left there in 1989 after our son Taylor’s birth. When I came back to work after a few years, I went to the College of Nursing, worked there about three years, then went to Residential Life-Housing. I was looking for promotional opportunities and applied for a staff secretary position at the Building Research Council. I’ve been here about three years now and love it. In May, I was promoted to program administrative assistant. I work on grant proposals, accounts, HR appointments, payroll and put out fires.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
The folks at BRC. They’re a really great bunch. The work our researchers and research assistants do is very interesting. I enjoy working with our grads but hate to see them leave because they become like kids to me. I keep getting “empty nest syndrome” over and over.
What’s the most challenging thing for you?
Banner. Before I got promoted, I was just getting the hang of the finance part of Banner, and then I took this position and came into the HR/payroll part.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
My husband, Roger; Taylor; and I are big St. Louis Cardinal fans. We love to go to St. Louis this time of year to the Darkness haunted warehouse downtown. Roger and I bowl in a mixed league on Friday nights, and after a stressful Banner week I get to go throw something.
Taylor’s a freshman at Champaign Central High School, and we love to go to his football games. Taylor has his driver’s permit now, so it’s a new experience – kind of like Six Flags, only wilder. We like to go to movies and watch a lot of TV. When we retire, we plan on selling our house, buying a fifth-wheel and working as ushers at Busch Stadium in the summer and at Disney World in the winter with nails on sticks picking up trash.
We have to get Taylor through high school and into college, the military or the prison system first. I hear they all have good educational programs!
I love doing arts and crafts and going to craft shows. I’ll see something, and think, oh, I can do that, and I’ll go directly to a craft store to buy the stuff. Making plastic beaded bracelets for the market was fun because I could do it while watching TV. Sometimes it was frustrating because I’d get all the beads threaded onto the elastic band and drop it and the beads would fly everywhere. That was pretty entertaining for Roger and Taylor.
I would have done anything – I did do everything – to sell my “voting bracelets” at the market. Of course, some people just stared and walked away and others looked frightened and scurried away!
I’ve done silk flower weddings in the past. I don’t think Roger cared much for having to hold the bouquet and be the “model bride.” I like to crochet and do counted cross-stitch. I love to start new projects but sometimes getting them finished is difficult. I know there are others like me out there, and I’ve thought about starting a 12-step group to work on projects or swap with someone else.