“Although it’s not the same as little 10-year-olds, I’m still doing a lot of the same thing.”

Caption (if any) goes here

Division manager, Higher Education Management Program, Graduate School of Education
Length of service:
4 years
Other stuff:
Enjoys gardening and outdoor activities; is working her way through Jane Smiley's "Moo," the program's orientation reading project

Photo by Candace diCarlo

Like any good teacher, Alyse Edwards did some prep work before sitting down for our interview — specifically, reading past Staff Q&As.

“I was reading some of the other Staff Q&As and I’m like, God, I did not do anything deserving of this treatment,” she said.

We beg to differ. Doing your job so well that students and colleagues line up to praise you is certainly deserving of feature treatment. And that, says Edwards’ colleague Steve Feld, academic coordinator in the Graduate School of Education’s Higher Education Management Program, is exactly what happened once he submitted her name for the school’s annual Service to Students Award.

“Nominations came in from everywhere,” Feld said of the letters supporting her for the award. So many of them, in fact, that it might be said that she won this year’s Service to Students Award by acclamation.

But to hear her tell it, she’s just doing her job.

Q. So what is it that you do exactly?
I’m the division coordinator. [Since our interview, she was promoted to division manager.] I basically do all the day-to-day operations of the division, a division of about 130-plus students.

I’m also the academic advisor for all of the master’s students in the program. And I’m also the contact person for anyone that’s interested in our program. Anyone that wants information on our program, anyone who wants to come meet, that wants to speak with other students, I coordinate that and meet with these people.

My days are — there’s no set schedule, I’m meeting with students, talking with students, and maybe paperwork. I’m on e-mail a lot, I feel like e-mail kind of dictates my day to an extent, because I have queries from all over, from current students, from alums, from inquiries…

Q. What do you do with the alums?
First of all, we like to keep track of our alums because we want to know what they’re doing when they leave us, so they can be of a resource for our current students, especially when it comes time to find jobs and job placement.

We will sometimes ask alums to come back and participate in student panels, career panels. We have a reading project that we do when our new students come in. We assign them a buddy or a mentor, usually they’re an alum or a very recent graduate, to kind of mentor the new students along.

Q. Is your own educational background in education, since you serve as an academic advisor as well?
I am a former teacher.

Q. Where did you teach?
I went from New York, less than a year in New York, teaching up there, and then I came here and taught in the Rose Tree Media School District. I was a special education teacher, and the thing that drove me to be a teacher and still drives a lot of what I do is my love for students and my love for learning and my love for interacting with people. And part of this job was — I guess so fulfilling to me was to advise students, work with them on a daily basis, and although it’s not the same as little 10-year-olds, I’m still doing a lot of the same thing.

Q. Really?
Yeah. I help them register for classes, I help them pick out their classes and provide advice about classes, career advice — just little things that we don’t even think about. And I never thought about it because at this point I think, These are graduate students. They should know what they have to do, initiative, responsibility. But a lot of them still need support. And so really that’s what I’m here for — to give them anything that they might need.

Q. What led you to switch from being a teacher to being an administrator?
I was at the point where I was enjoying teaching but was feeling a little burnt out from special education and just wanted to try something different. And I’d always felt that admissions work was really interesting. And so I sent out some resumes and look around and wound up coming here working in the Undergraduate Admissions Office. And after doing that for a couple of years, I was yearning to work with students on a more day-to-day basis. And so now I feel like I’m coming more full circle back to some of the things I was doing when I was in the classroom.

Sometimes you’re with kids all day, and as wonderful as that can be, you sometimes — I found I was in that mode and sometimes I’d come home and I’d still be kind of in that teacher mode and at least here, I’m having adult conversations and that’s real nice. I get to find out about [the students’] lives and talk about stuff outside of work and outside of the program, and that’s fun.

Q. What was your reaction when you found out you had won the award?
I was completely blown away. I had no idea it was coming and they all knew. And it was at a school-wide meeting that it was presented, and they called my name, said it was Staff Appreciation Day and they were going to present the award. So I was up there and then they read this little commentary and I was overwhelmed, completely surprised. It took about a day or so until it really sunk in. It’s very nice to see hard work paying off and to feel appreciated. I know I get that from the students a lot.


Originally published on May 17, 2001