TELL ME WHAT YOU DO AS AN OFFICE SUPPORT SPECIALIST:
I arrange events, track progress of course and curricular revisions, and act as a first point of contact between the university and students, parents and faculty members. I maintain the records for 2,000 students. I file things. Basically I’m the glue that keeps the office together. I update the Web site, and I am the office proofreader.
WHAT IS A TYPICAL DAY LIKE FOR YOU?
There is none. It depends on the time of year. A lot of what we do is based on the annual cycle. There are days when there’s not a lot going on and not much to be filed. At other times there’s no way to keep up and there are stacks of paperwork. At the beginning of the semester, we’re deciding which students get put on probation and which students get dropped. I’m in charge of crafting all those letters, keeping track of those students. There are students on probation who have to return academic contracts – so we track the sending and receiving. I also keep track of the Dean’s List, the James Scholar program, as well as who has turned in paperwork and who hasn’t.
We have monthly meetings, including those committees that review courses and curricula and also meet with chief advisers of different schools and colleges – so it definitely depends on the day and what time of the year it is.
WHAT IS FINE AND APPLIED ARTS?
Fine arts includes all the things we’d normally come to associate with fine arts, like opera, music, theater and dance. Applied arts includes environmental design – like landscape architecture and some other things like graphic design and industrial design.
WHAT’S A LITTLE-KNOWN FACT ABOUT FAA?
(Oscar-winning director) Ang Lee was a theater student here. Not a lot of people know he’s an alumnus. Also, just the fact that we combine the performing arts, visual arts, architecture – students taking (applied arts courses) have no idea they’re in the same cohort as painters, opera performance majors or jazz musicians.
HOW LONG HAVE YOU WORKED HERE?
Five years as of Easter (April 4).
WHAT IS THE BEST AND WORST THING ABOUT YOUR JOB?
The best is that I’ve never dreaded coming to work once, and the worse thing is the (confusing) job title.
HOW DID YOU GET YOUR JOB HERE?
I signed up for a (civil service) test on a lark basically. I took it and I tested for secretary IV. I got 99 out of 100 so I got called in for interviews and I got two job offers in one day. I interviewed here and at the counseling center, and here I am.
WHAT OTHER JOBS DO YOU HAVE?
Currently I also am an instructor of comparative religion at Parkland College. From probably the fall of ’04 until fall of ’09, I was doing three classes a semester, so I was doing two sections of an online class and I was teaching ‘Religions of the East’ face-to-face. On top of a 40-hour job and trying to be an attentive husband and father, one of those had to give. Now I just teach two sections of online comparative religion.
WHERE ELSE HAVE YOU WORKED?
I’ve worked in primarily the areas of books and print before coming to the UI. I worked at Pages for All Ages and taught at Parkland about a decade ago. I lived in San Francisco and worked at a place called A Clean, Well-Lighted Place for Books, where I met my wife, Joanne. We were both booksellers. After that, I worked at Lonely Planet Publications.
BEST JOB EVER:
I’m going to say it’s here – I’ve been here longer than at any other job. My dream is to work out some kind of future career trajectory within this college.
Jason Mierek fast facts:
Little-known, but very important parts of his job: Finding visitors parking spaces and giving campus tours to prospective students and parents.
Important people in his life: Jason and his wife, Joanne, have an 8-year-old daughter, Veronica. The family lives in Urbana.
A family of bookworms? The Miereks worked for several years in bookstores: “It’s no surprise my daughter, who’s 8, has just finished her first ‘Harry Potter’ book.”
Education: B.A., dual major in religion and bio-cultural studies, Illinois Wesleyan University, 1994; M.A., Buddhist studies with a concentration in contemplative religion, The Naropa Institute, 1997.
Interests and hobbies: Reading; playing Wii with Veronica; going to the driving range; hanging out with members of a large social circle of friends; playing ‘Dungeons and Dragons’; being involved with several churches in town, including the First Mennonite Church and the Unitarian Universalist Church of Urbana-Champaign: “I’m into religions the way most people are into (shows) like ‘Lost.’ I can read about them and be endlessly captivated.”
A favorite pop culture experience: In the late ’90s at the original Blind Pig (now Cowboy Monkey), Mierek met and drank a beer with Wayne Coyne, the singer for Flaming Lips before the band hit it big a few years later
Some favorite books: “Moby-Dick,” “Catch 22,” the “Illuminatus!” trilogy, by Robert Shea; currently reading “Don Quixote.”