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Dean's Welcome

Dean's Welcome

by Dean Rich Hamerla

Dean Rich Hamerla portrait photo
Honors alumna Lauren Hale and Dean Rich Hamerla

It’s the end of a unique year here in the Honors College (putting it mildly), and it seems that some reflection on the last nine months or so is in order. This, however, seems the common theme in most newsletters today, so rather than talk about how we’ve overcome the hardships that have accompanied COVID19, I’ll address something that goes largely unnoticed.

A college—any college—takes a lot of people doing a lot of different things to make it work. There are the faculty, who teach, mentor, and guide students along their educational journey. There is the staff, who take care of the day-to-day operations, ensuring the needs of the various constituencies that make up a college are met. There are advisors, who ensure that students’ short-term and long-term academic plans meet the requirements that get them to graduation in a timely and efficient manner. There are the people who keep the actual facilities up and running: the custodial employees, gardeners, electricians and facility workers. And, finally, the least noticed but perhaps most important personnel, the student employees.

Since the Honors College was founded in 1997, student employees have been an essential part of the HC family. Indeed, they are often the first point of contact many people have when they enter the College. The “first face,” as the saying goes. Incoming students, their parents, OU tour groups, anyone who visits the College main office is likely to first be greeted by one of our student clerks. If you make a telephone call, you can bet that the first voice you hear will be that of a student employee.

Beyond happy faces and friendly voices, the student clerks are also responsible for a host of office tasks that I’m hard pressed to itemize, even though my office is a beneficiary of much of what they do. This includes filing forms and records, mailing acceptance letters to new Honors students, assisting the faculty with various projects, and stocking the storage room. And they’re here bright and early every morning doing whatever they need to do to keep the place up and running until we close at 5pm, and even then, they can be relied on to stick around to help with the many afterhours and weekend activities we routinely host.

But I think the most important contribution the student clerks make to the College is the way they’re such a part of the Honors College family. I’ve been at OU for twenty-one years and I can remember the faces and names of every student assistant we’ve had during that time. This is easy given the years we spend with them. We tend to hire first and second year students, and they tend to stay with us through graduation. This, I think, speaks to the character of the people we hire, and the environment we maintain, which keeps them willing to come back, semester after semester. (Funny thing; by complete coincidence one of the contributors to this newsletter is Hannah Norton, who was an Honors College student clerk in the mid-teens. Will tells me that she comments how she always thought it fun to work in the front office. Here’s a reminder of her palindrome nickname: HanahracecarkayaktacocatacocatkayakracecarhanaH).

From Crystal and Carley back in 2000, to Ashkan, Alice, Cody, and Jake later on, all the way to Noah and Lauren who work here today, I think it’s safe for me to speak on behalf of all the fulltime staff and faculty in giving a heartfelt thank you to each one.