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.
How long have you worked at the UO?
About three and a half years. I arrived here in September of 2017.
Tell us about your work:
I am a project manager, which means I support the Lundquist College of Business Dean’s Office in managing projects and process improvement. I've been working at large universities since 2004 and I've never had the opportunity to work as an official project manager outside of the IT function. What I think is great about this is that the UO is hiring people like me who can take a project and organize it. I love it because I get to teach administrative people here at the university about what I do and how I can help.
All of this just goes back to improving our level of function because we're a state university and we are often called to run what we do on thin margins. Especially now, when budgets are super tight, we need to figure out how to solve problems and get things done in an efficient way. I think because of my previous experience at universities, I spend a lot of my time working with curriculum. This consists of curriculum reviews, curriculum management, and assurance of learning. The last part goes over how we measure what our students are learning, how they're learning it, and if they're retaining it. Working hand in hand with faculty to help realize their visions, for how they want to educate our students has been super fun and interesting.
A smaller portion of what I'm doing, but still equally important, is my work with software installation. That sparked an interest in data governance and as a project manager I'm working with Leo Howell and the team that he's assembled to develop a data governance program for the university.
What does your typical day look like?
I think the only thing that's typical about my day is that I’m constantly juggling the priorities in my project portfolio. Depending on what's going on with the university, sometimes priorities change which shifts the timelines of projects I thought I had time for. I had some projects that were put on the back burner since I was pulled in to handle some needs that arose due to the pandemic.
One of my favorite things that I got to do was leading a group that we called our academic and instructional support team. I helped our instructional designer, videographer and another expert that works out of our Portland program organize something to support our faculty in remote delivery. We were able to do this with UO Online by providing our faculty with resources and some expertise on best Zoom practices. We learned ways to improve security within Canvas courses, and developed modules that our instructors could put inside their Canvas courses that would help with various things.
What do you like about working at the UO?
I love the people. I remember the first week I started here, I noticed that the people that work at UO are unlike any other. I see a general willingness to let me come in where there is an issue and dig around and ask questions. I think that desire for this kind of continuous improvement is beautiful and the staff and faculty here are just really phenomenal to work with.
What keeps you motivated?
I am motivated by the fact that we work at a public institution that has tremendous opportunities to do good for society. This is through both the research that is produced at the university and the education that we provide. I am doing what I can to make it more accessible and relevant. The COVID-19 pandemic has allowed us to look at things differently, since it really shook us out of our business-as-usual way of thinking. It's forced us to be creative because these are problems we've never had before. To be a project manager at a time like this where we can really look at completely new problems that have turned our world upside down is an honor.
What is something people may not know about you?
I'm a performer at heart. The way it worked out for me is that when I when I got married, I changed my name and moved to Ohio. Before then, I was working at Northwestern University during the day and then on the nights and weekends running a theater company, performing on stage and in commercials and TV. When I was in Chicago, I had a theater company that I founded with some friends, and I ran that until I moved from Chicago and it continued for a few years past that. It was at that point I needed a break from performing and so I took a break and then right about the time I was ready to get back into it, I got pregnant. I have this life that I lived for so long that a lot of people here don't know about because I also work full time and have a family. I still sing regularly with the Eugene Vocal Arts. That really fills that need for me.
Denita Strietelmeier is part of the Lundquist College of Business.
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