The Balancing Act: Trent’s Administrative Assistants

OPSEU workers were set to walk out of the university this past July.  The consequences of this action would have been the physical maintenance and departmental organization of our fine institution falling into utter ruin.  Administrative workers are the beating heart of each Trent department.  They make sure that all the information from every direction gets to where it needs to go with little to no fuss.  With the clock striking so close to losing these individuals, Arthur thought it was time to stop taking them for granted. Meet Sandra Sisson and Rosemary Devlin, two of your academic Administrative Assistants:  

Who are you? What do you do? How long have you worked for Trent?

S.S.: My name is Sandra Sisson. I am the administrative secretary of Biology. I am usually the first person that students see when they walk through the door, I am the first line. I work with the students, faculty, researchers, instructors and staff and University administration. I help people get their questions answered. I can either answer them or I try to send them somewhere where they will get the right answer. I work with the Chair to try and ensure that the department works as smoothly as possible. I like to make people feel at ease when they contact the department. I want them to feel respected and I want them to know that they can rely on me to help them out. I have worked at Trent for over 20 years. I have been with the Biology department since 2005, prior to that I worked at the Finance office, the library and I started out at the bookstore when it was down on Charlotte Street.

R.D.: I am Rosemary Devlin. I work as the administrative assistant of the Cultural Studies department and I have been with Trent since 2000.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?

S.S.: The most rewarding aspect is probably convocation. When I see all the faces I have helped over the years, their years here at Trent, I get to see them graduate and go across the stage. That is my number one reward. My day-to-day reward is when I have students come through my office that I send somewhere to get the information they need; they return with a smile on their face and relief in their eyes. It is great to know I can help them and get them along through the next step of their problems.

R.D.:  Dealing with students. I enjoy being respected by students, faculty and co-workers. It is rewarding when a student you have worked closely with brings family to meet you at convocation or when a student gives you a thumbs up and says “you rock!”  In summary, students provide the true rewarding experiences.

What challenges do you face working in a student environment?

S.S.: The challenges of the general environment are to try and balance and get everything done. During the day I have a lot of little tasks that I have to get done and of course I try to help everyone with what they need to have done as well. Another challenge is the demands of the job, there are a lot of them. I have to do several things at once to keep things going, as do most of the secretaries at Trent.  That is probably part of it is the big challenge of the balancing act that we do every day.

R.D.: You have to try to be positive at all times. You have to be extremely flexible and understanding and patient.

What challenges do you face from Trent administration?

S.S.:  I think one of the biggest challenges is the bureaucracy at Trent. It can put me off very easily. I know there has to be policies and procedures and rules and regulations but I find that flogging through it can be really frustrating. I work well with the administration; I have been here long enough that I know most of them and have worked in different capacities with them over the years. We all have good rapport. One of the other problems with the administration is trying to let them know what our needs are to make the department better and trying to figure out how to get all of our needs.

R.D.:  I don’t think that we really face challenges from administration.  I think there are many levels of administration within Trent and I don’t think that the people at one end of the spectrum understand what or how the other end of the spectrum functions. That is the only area of difficulty I see from my position.