Interview by Renee Buesking

Shaina PatelHow did you find your way into Park Hall?

I was looking to come to UGA, for a good couple of years. I’d been constantly applying to jobs on this campus. It didn’t matter where I was, I simply knew I wanted to be here. As fate would have it, I got a phone call from Dr. Ballif, and I was like “That’s exciting!” But I guess it would be Dr. Ballif and Kristie Sartain who found me rather than me finding Park Hall.

We’re getting to know you in your position as an admin. What other activities or interests do you have outside of Park Hall?

’ve done classical Indian dance since I was six and graduated with that art form and I enjoy choreographing dances and teaching kids to adults. A part of that has taught me the discipline to sit down and segue into computer science. It’s two different worlds but in order to code and program you have to have the discipline and mindset to sit down and look at line of code and figure it out. That’s what I did while I was in school. I’m an IT consultant on the side as well.

I’m also a Licensed Optician; I fitted glasses and contacts to people who needed them. I did that for 6 years, which took me all over GA and all over the states.

And that takes me to racing! I initially got into racing through my cousin and I never thought I would do it. A few years ago I got into a bad accident and the car pretty much saved my life. I turned to my cousin and he found a Mini Cooper for me. It’s a lot of fun because you meet people from everywhere. It doesn’t matter; you can meet someone who is a lawyer by day and drifter by night!

I’ve been on tracks, like Road Atlanta and Atlanta Motorsports Park, and have gotten point-bys by people who drive a Charger or a Porsche; passing them is really just the best feeling! It makes people laugh and smile to bond over something that is more than just hobby; it builds a community.

I’ll soak up as much knowledge as possible, whether it’s dancing, coding, or driving.

Who are some of your favorite writers? What are you reading right now?

My favorite writers: Henry David Thoreau and J.K. Rowling, but right now I’m reading The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. I’m about halfway done and I wanted to finish reading it before I saw the movie. It’s fantastic to see it from a perspective down under; you’re in her shoes and you see events from her viewpoint. I’ll pick up that book and I won’t want to put it down. It’s nice to get lost in that world.

Can you tell us about any projects that you are currently working on?

With Dr. Eberle, we’re doing a project called Friends of English where we go back to our young alumni. Park Hall sees so many people and holds many memories for a lot of people. Virtually everyone who goes to UGA comes through Park Hall. So why not keep Park Hall alive? Not just in memory but the physical space as well. The Friends of English will allow young alumni to reconnect with Park Hall and to give back in lots of different ways through presentations and readings. We’re still developing ideas with the Development Office and we want to bring Friends of English up and out there. We know English has so many career options to offer and we want to highlight that to current students and to young alumni.

How are you finding Athens so far?

I love it! I got married last year to the love of my life, who coincidentally is a graduate of the English Department and works at UGA, which is why I wanted to be here as well. After living and breathing and experiencing UGA from my husband's perspective, it made me want to be here, too. I was walking though the quad yesterday and just had to call him and tell him how beautiful Athens was. Even if you’re not in a good headspace you can go outside and see the environment and the people passing and you can feel the beauty and community of Athens. Athens is a true college town; you see the same people everywhere and that gives a sense of community that you don’t get, in the same way, as you get in Atlanta. Going from big city life and coming into the Athens family, my husband’s family especially, gave me a real sense of the history of Athens as a whole.

What is one thing any student coming into your office should know about you?

I’m the type of person who wants to be everywhere all at once; I don’t want to be complacent, and I’m always looking for ways to learn and grow and help people from this position. My role is really a hodgepodge of everything and I love it; I have the opportunity to meet so many new people, and I love to hear their stories.

I put up a sign outside my door that says ‘Come in and say hi!’ because I remember how it feels to not know anyone or not know where to look in terms of finding a class or even to talk to about how I messed up on a test. I really want to make this office a place where students can come in and catch up with me or bounce ideas off of me. I can help out with an administrative task, but if there’s something you feel like you have to get off your chest, just come in here and vent to me.

When my husband was a student in this department, this office was a student lounge and I really want to make this office the same sort of place where students can study or talk. Come in and make yourself comfortable; occasionally, there will be chocolate out front if you need it!