Islands of Tranquility
Two assistants to top academic deans explain how they handle the pressure.
Choosing to be friendly, being flexible and finding joy in helping others could be three steps to achieving inner peace, but they also happen to be three personality traits that administrative assistants Rollye Winnig and Dawn Lyons '08 agree are key to their success.
One busy Friday morning, the two chatted in the coffee shop of Coeur de Catherine — exuding a relaxed, in-the-moment demeanor that's impressive, given the demands of their jobs. Combined, Winnig and Lyons support four people: one dean/assistant vice president and three associate deans.
How do you handle working in a high-pressure position?
Rollye: It can get stressful trying to juggle everybody's schedule and work.
Dawn: And they all have varying styles and different kinds of things that they need.
Rollye: Such a wide gamut of activities goes on in our office on a daily basis. The real key for me is to get there early. That way I can get a lot of stuff done without being interrupted, so when there are last-minute requests it's not as stressful for me. Being organized helps a lot, too.
Dawn: I use checklists all the time and keep notes from one year to the next.
How do you maintain your friendly demeanor?
Dawn: You make a decision to do that. It's really easy to be crabby. There's nothing more important than the person who is right in front of me. We also work with students, and it's our priority to make sure they know they are important to us.
Rollye: When students get to our office, it's because they're either sad or mad. I want to do whatever I can to help them.
Dawn: I think both of us are here because we want to make a difference for the students.
It sounds like you need to have a certain philosophy of life to succeed in this position?
Dawn: To be happy in this position, yes, I think that's true.
— Kayla Schaefer
Dawn Lyons '08
PHOTOS BY KAYLA SCHAEFER