Putting in the extra effort to maintain community for students

Martine Kuyken Wigham

Editor’s note: Duck of the Week is a section in Around the O Workplace that highlights UO employees and their work. Each story features an interview with one employee, in his or her own words, with light editing for clarity and length only.

Martine Kuyken Wigham
Program Support Specialist, School of Planning, Public Policy and Management

How long have you worked at the UO?

I have been at the UO for 23 years. I worked at the American English Institute for 20 years before moving to the College of Design in 2018.

Tell us about your work:

I help make the wheels turn by supporting faculty and students. My work consists of scheduling, organizing special events, helping with the curriculum committee and doing paperwork as well as banner access for our graduate students. It’s nothing remarkable, but it’s very satisfying because I want the professors to be able to concentrate on their work without worrying about the administrative details. When the professors are happy, the students are happy, and that’s my ultimate goal. We’re in higher education for a purpose, and it’s not to make a lot of money. We are here because we strongly believe in education, which is what I think I’m doing.

What does your typical day look like?

I don't have a typical day, which is good because I am never bored. What’s routine is one deadline after another. I usually work through lots of emails and do a lot of multitasking, among other things. Communication is most important, so I try to keep up with emails and be as responsive as possible.

The biggest change to me is the lack of human contact with everyone. That saddens me because it is an important part of the student experience. When I am one-on-one with a student, I can close the office door and let them vent if they need to. I know we all feel isolated in this new environment, so I try to put extra effort into my work to be more human.

I also find that I work more than I used to on campus now. With my scheduling responsibilities, I work with such a great team in the Office of the Registrar. I want to recognize the gems on that scheduling team as well as all my partners on campus because I have not been doing this alone.

What do you like about working at the UO?

The campus is one of the most beautiful places you can imagine. I also admire our dedication to higher education as a university. We have so many great initiatives and really focus on the future. I’m grateful to work for the Department of Planning, Public Policy and Management because the emphasis on the future – from the environment to housing for all – is so important in today’s world. We have more people taking PPPM classes because it’s a good complement to the business school, environmental science or landscape architecture. We are a dynamic community with so many different interests. That’s what I like about the UO.

What keeps you motivated?

The PPPM professors are amazing.  it’s an honor to work with them. They have so much compassion, understanding and intelligence of the heart and soul. I feel very lucky and blessed to work in an environment like that.

I have always been motivated by helping people in my life. I am inspired by an excellence in service, and will go the extra mile for students. I feel bad for the younger generation because I did not have to grow up in this political and economic environment. But I am also impressed by what they have done despite that. I wish I could do more for the younger generation, but I’m hopeful for the future.

What is something people may not know about you?

I have had a connection to the University of Oregon since 1977. I was working on a master’s degree in Germanic philology and came to the United States from Belgium for a vacation in the late 1970s. I chose to write my thesis about alienation in German expressionist and beat generation literature. There were books that I was unable to find in Europe, so I came to Eugene to borrow them from the University of Oregon. It's nice to come full circle from that visit to my position here now.

Martine Kuyken Wigham is part of the College of Design.

Do you know someone who should be Duck of the Week? Nominate a UO employee.