Tell me about your job.
I work for four faculty [members]: three dairy professors and one swine professor. I love it. They’re great people to work for. I can’t imagine working for anybody else.
The job has really evolved. …Now the professors do a lot of their own typing, so I do a lot more formatting of manuscripts, personal correspondence. I also handle the accounts that they have through the university. I place all the orders for the labs – anything from tissues and paper towels to computers to equipment. I order all the office supplies for the department and maintain the storeroom. I also do desktop publishing for the monthly newsletter.
Unofficially, I’ve been the departmental secretary for the Dairy Club for several years. I work closely with them when they have their banquet, which we just had. I work with the Illinois 4-H Foundation to ensure the scholarship donors’ accounts are up-to-date. I notify the winners and make sure they’re coming to the UI.
What else can you tell me about your job?
We field a lot of phone calls from people with different questions, some of them pretty off-the-wall. Every once in a while we get a call from someone who wants to see the fistulated cow. And everybody’s under the perception that this cow has a Plexiglas window in its side. We get calls from [people at] preschools to colleges wanting to tour the farms but right now the biosecurity issues are a big deal, so they’re not doing much of that.
What do you like best about your job?
I like the variety. I get to work with the students a lot, which I really enjoy.
What’s the most challenging part of your job?
Determining what takes priority. It’s interesting to juggle what comes first and not ruffle anybody’s feathers. So that’s the most challenging part: "Today you’re number one, tomorrow you’re not!" They’re all really good about it and about letting me know when they need something urgently. I like that my professors rely on me: They trust my judgment on things, especially on the layout of documents, how things should be put together.
What do you do in your spare time?
I read a lot. It’s my dream to be a romance writer. I belong to a romance-writers group in town called Prairie Hearts. I’m actually one of its founders, and we belong to the National Romance Writers of America. The group started in 1989. I think there are eight active members right now. We have a monthly meeting. We do writing exercises and discuss market trends and the business of writing. We share our work and critique each other. We have two newly published authors in our group. It’s an inspiration to the rest of us.
What got you inspired to found the group?
Two things: I’ve always read and I’ve always written things. I started out writing poetry and short stories when I was a kid. I’ve always enjoyed reading romances. I guess I’m just a romantic at heart. I read some novels that I thought weren’t written very well, and I thought, I can write better than that. Famous last words!
I have about three chapters done on a contemporary romance I’m writing. I have a friend who’s challenged me to finish the book by the end of the year. I’m basing the novel on personal experiences. I’m finding it therapeutic in some ways, putting things away from me where they’re happening to someone else gives me a different perspective on it. With two small kids, it’s hard to find time to write.
What’s the best part about writing?
The freedom to create: to come up with characters, to come up with ideas and to have fun with it. I have too many ideas, and I always think of them on the way home, and I don’t have any way to write them down when I’m driving. So my husband got me one of these little tape recorders.