In turn, staff members rely on ASU to provide the best possible career opportunities. That partnership is apparently working just fine as ASU’s approximately 500 current staffers have racked up almost 4,500 cumulative years of service on campus and ASU has twice been named a “Great College to Work For” by the Chronicle of Higher Education.
“The structure of faculty employment with promotion and tenure lends itself to employment at one institution for the duration of a career,” said Kurtis Neal, ASU human resources director. “But I see another trend at ASU. Every year, when we are recognizing 30, 35, 40 years of employment, it’s typically not all just faculty. We have staff in there as well.”
“We have staff that started working here when they were 18-20 years old,” he continued, “and they have created a career for themselves here. They are San Angeloans and they want to be here, and what better place to work in San Angelo than at ASU, at the university that bears the city’s name? We offer a lot of career opportunities for situations like that.”
Regardless of why they choose ASU, staff members do tend to stick around. Over the last three years alone, almost 100 staffers have been recognized for having 10 or more years of service.
“There is a general sense of stability that comes with working for a university,” Neal said. “Our staff also have the opportunity to play a role in supporting the university’s mission of educating students. There is more of a sense of mission and a sense of commitment we offer that you may not experience with a private business. It’s the very nature of our business that sets ASU apart.”
Gayla Trotter will mark her 30thanniversary at ASU in November. Now an academic advisor, she previously worked as an office coordinator and an administrative assistant to the dean of the former College of Sciences. It was her interest in working with students that brought her to ASU in 1984, and ASU students have kept her here ever since.
“When you get a student fresh out of high school and can help them adjust to college life, that is very rewarding,” Trotter said. “I have also worked with a lot of wonderful people, and I have been blessed with three great bosses, Dr. Jack Eli, Dr. David Lloyd and now Dr. Paul Swets. They’ve really made it a pleasure to work here.”
“We’ve had lots of students go on from ASU to do great things,” she added. “It’s fun to think back and remember helping those students along the way. I’ve also been challenged with my different jobs, and that’s a good thing. It has been great learning new things all the time.”
As an academic advisor, Trotter guides students through their degree plans toward graduation. In her previous role as assistant to the dean, she formulated degree plans and handled the college’s final prep for commencement ceremonies. Ironically, she never actually attended commencement until last year when her granddaughter, Ashley Wilson, graduated from ASU.
“She graduated with a degree in physics, and that was a very proud moment,” Trotter said. “Many students have asked me to go to their graduation, but I knew I couldn’t go to every one of them, and I didn’t want to play favorites.”
Another long-term ASU staffer, Ralph Garcia, started working on campus right out of high school in 1989. His dad, Rufino, was already on staff and helped him get a job on what was then called the housekeeping crew. He has since worked in supply delivery, grounds keeping and the carpenter shop, and now performs maintenance at the Ben Kelly Center for Human Performance, University Clinic and several residence halls. He particularly likes working in the residences.
“I get to meet a lot of students and also some parents,” Garcia said. “It’s always changing every year. I deal pretty closely with the resident assistants, too. Everyone is friendly and I enjoy constantly getting to meet new people.”
As much of Garcia’s time is spent outdoors, he has also had the opportunity to watch the campus transform and grow.
“When I got here, we didn’t have the Junell Center,” Garcia said. “We didn’t have the Math-Computer Science Building, the Science III building or the third floor on the library. The University Center has expanded. We didn’t have the Plaza Verde, Centennial Village or Texan Hall residence halls. Rosemont Apartments and one of the high rises are gone. It has been an interesting experience to watch all the changes in the last 25 years.”
The university’s infrastructure has also changed dramatically over the years, and Colegate Spinks has seen that firsthand since 1978. An ASU alum, he joined the IT staff only planning to stay 2-3 years but “forgot to leave.”
“Here at ASU, the work is always different,” Spinks said. “One day you may be doing accounting type applications, then the next day doing a simulation on livestock for the Agriculture Department, and the next project may be an imaging system for someone else on campus. The variety makes it where you really look forward to coming to work to see what is happening next.”
When Spinks first arrived, the university’s IT infrastructure consisted of tabulating equipment and an IBM 360 mainframe computer used mainly for records storage. Now, in-house servers sustain a campus-wide network of computers and applications that run everything from Internet access, email and the ASU website to university finances, payroll and the various records storage, course management and university ID systems.
“I actually installed the first Internet connection at the university in the mid-1980s,” Spinks said, “and that allowed us to use email for the first time. I think that was really the start of the changing perspective toward the computer center within the organization of the university. We became more and more critical to the infrastructure in terms of making it possible for everybody on campus to do their jobs better.”
Interesting work, the chance to help students, family connections and a multitude of other motives have influenced staff members to choose ASU. Many of them have made ASU their career and become integral parts of the diverse society that is the university campus.
“I’ve never seen anything else quite like higher education,” Neal said, “for having all the different types of professionals we have wrapped up in one organization and serving the type of clientele that we do at ASU. These different professions and the mix of people help make ASU interesting and a great place to work.”