In a Humans of Eddy feature, we asked Sue Russell what she likes most about her job. She answered, “I enjoy the interaction with students and faculty. I’ve really enjoyed advising students and getting to know them better.”
This afternoon the English department will be holding a very special celebration. Sue Russell is retiring this year, and as sad as we are to see her go, we are sending her off with our best wishes at this event, (today at 4pm in the LSC Cherokee Ballroom). To honor Sue here on the blog, we’ve been collecting memories and well wishes from a few people who worked with her over the years.
From Todd Mitchell: Sue Russell is an angel sent from a higher plane of existence to guide us through the bureaucratic forest. She’s been so essential to helping run programs in the English department that it’s hard for me to imagine how we’ll function without her.
Since the first day I took over directing the Beginning Creative Writing Teaching Program eleven years ago, Sue was there to guide me through the many required steps and procedures for hiring, scheduling, and evaluating instructors. And when the CLA switched to the Talent Management System for hiring instructors, Sue became the essential conductor of this new 14-step process. She masterfully keeps track of all the relevant deadlines for all the postings. Without her, this could easily become an annual train wreck. But Sue has kept the process rolling smoothly from the beginning.
How she conducts all this, along with her many other duties, is nothing short of symphonic wizardry. And she does it all while being perpetually clear-eyed, wise, and a pleasure to work with (not to mention her sparkly buttons, or the verdant sanctuary she maintains as her office). Sue has always been available to answer questions, and she seems magically able to right the ship when things go astray. I feel lucky to have gotten to work with her for these past 19 years. She will be well-missed by me, and by countless others who’ve benefitted from her wise organizational guidance, whether they’re aware of it or not.
Thank you, Sue!
From Tiffany Akers: She goes above and beyond in each interaction providing the full picture and then some. No matter where she is at, she is willing to pause and help. As a first year GTA, some of the processes can be confusing. One of my classes this semester is an international section of CO150. International students go through Sue to get approved and paced in the course, and mine has had low enrollment. Sue has taken care to check with me about how late I’d be willing to take new students and reflect on typical numbers, enrollment situations, and international student responses of placement.
She is also a cheerful and warm person who genuinely cares about others. For example, when discussing job applications, she has gone out of her way to show me how to access evaluation summaries. Her actions have left me with the impression that I matter and have directly contributed to helping me be successful in and after grad school.
From Laura Thomas: Although we English department folk are not known for quantitative skills, it is numbers that first come to mind. Sue has improved the lives of innumerable students at the university over many years of shepherding them through the wilds of registration, placement, and all things composition. She has spent countless hours juggling the many files generated by faculty and prospective faculty involved in searches, annual reviews, applications, and tenure and promotion. And who knows how many tears she’s seen and anxieties she’s comforted? How many lost and lonesome GTAs or furious faculty she’s shown endless compassion? As we contemplate her years of service, we must acknowledge we do not have a device that can compute how much we have benefited from Sue Russell’s kindness and competence. We only know that we are a better department because of her.
From Marnie Leonard: One of Sue’s many qualities that I particularly appreciate is her attention to detail. She is thorough in her research when providing accurate data and procedural information, and these often become the backbone for decisions and processes in the department. As an extension of this, she gladly offers additional information and help to enable faculty, staff, and students to accomplish what they need to do. When it seems like so much of the world is on autopilot or intuiting or indifferent, Sue is ever-present in the moment, ever caring.
From Tim Amidon: One of the things that has always stood out about Sue, from the first time I met her via a phone call to set up an MLA interview, was her kindness. She’s an exceptionally kind and thoughtful human. This probably will probably seem like the typical aggrandizing statement that one makes in such letters, but I really mean this without hyperbole. I have rarely in my entire life across various interactions met a person that is kinder, friendlier, or more genuine than Sue. She truly stands out in that regard. When I interviewed here at CSU, Sue was the first and most regular point of contact I had. I interviewed with a lot of places that year, and had a many interactions with people, but the quality of interactions I had with Sue demonstrated that she wasn’t just relaying information, she was actively attempting to ensure that I felt prepared, comfortable, and confident about what was being asked of me and what members of the search committee were requesting. Her professionalism was outstanding because she wasn’t a robotic-agent-of-the-university, but a worker who understands that the human interactions with other humans matter, and they are especially important when they are the first impression an individual will have about an institution and a department. Her kindness and helpfulness is something that persuaded me to take this position, and they’ve been attributes I’ve observed Sue consistently demonstrate within the interactions she has had with colleagues, administrators, and students over three years now. She’s served CSU and our English Department with grace, and I can think of no one more deserving of this honor.
From E.J. Levy: Having been tenure-track faculty at two institutions prior to coming to CSU, I speak from experience when I say that Sue Russell is a treasure, perhaps especially when it comes to navigating the daunting waters of tenure and promotion, a Virgil to all pre-tenure faculty facing the daunting task of compiling a tenure file… At other institutions, the tenure process often seems confusing, overwhelming, even capricious, but Sue’s guidance, clarity, incredible organization, and fundamental kindness made going up for tenure not only painless but interesting. She expertly guides junior faculty (and senior, I trust) through the Scylla and Charybdis of academe. She’s a gem, working hard to make others’ work better. We are in her debt.
From Barb Sebek: Sue and I both started working for the English Department in the 1995-1996 academic year, so I’ve had a long stretch of time to benefit from her dedication, humor, attention to detail, and capacity to cut through the sometimes dizzying array of administrative and bureaucratic elements of our various advising and committee duties. Sue’s particular responsibilities in the department have shifted over the years, so there is hardly a single aspect of department life that she has not changed for the good.
But my main anecdote about Sue concerns something other than the workplace: in 1997 or so, I was walking down the icy front steps from the front porch of the duplex apartment building where I lived, rushing to make it on time to a Graduate Committee meeting. I slipped on the ice and hit my lower back so hard on the corner of a stair that I was unable to move. Somehow, I got up and waddled upstairs to the phone in my apartment. I called the department to report that I would miss the meeting. But’s Sue kind response to the report of my plight made me comfortable voicing how hard it was to move. She rushed over to my apartment to take me to the emergency room. When I was unable to bend to get into her car, we decided to call an ambulance. My memory might be faulty or embellished, but I think that, before we placed a call, a fire engine or other emergency vehicle just happened to be cruising by on Oak Street, a stroke of good fortune. Sue ran to the curb and flagged them down, and they took me to the emergency room. Sue was my hero!
A day or two later, I was still laid up at home, and Sue and her two sons, just little boys then, came over with a bunch of treats, including giant cinnamon rolls and Jelly Belly jelly beans. A saving visit for an injured, solo-living shut-in. Sue made me feel like the department was my family, and that I wasn’t alone.
From Camille Dungy: While I was Chair of the Tenure & Promotion Steering Committee, there was no doubt that we couldn’t have done what we needed to do so smoothly without Sue as our administrator. She has a keen, sharp eye for details, and an organized and efficient manner that allowed us to wade through the often-confusing bureaucratic requirements of that committee without a hiccup. And she always did it with a smile. I appreciate her presence so much!
From Sarah Wernsing: Sue has worked extensively with our incoming and transfer students and has worked seamlessly with the advisors, too. I have so much appreciated that when I have called Sue about a student during a registration session at Orientation, she has been able to immediately help with the problem so that the student could get registered right away. I’ve walked many students up to her office after an advising session when they need help with Composition placement or reevaluation, and she always puts down what she’s doing to greet them and help them immediately. I couldn’t ask for anyone more welcome and helpful to work with.
From Joanna Doxey: Sue Russell is already a star in my world, and has been a lifesaver during Ram Orientation. In the past two years, we’ve seen an increase in our Chinese Partnership international students. They arrive at CSU a week before school starts, AFTER most other CSU students have gone through orientation and registration. I either work remotely with the students and Sue or deliver them at her door to get overrides into composition classes, explain the comp challenge exam, and make sure they have a spot in a class that is critical to their success at CSU. She never acts as though it’s an imposition to walk into her office without an appointment, and the students always leave reassured. When I heard she was retiring, I started to panic, because I don’t know anybody else who could possibly be simultaneously as organized and student-friendly as Sue.
From Airica Parker: When I think of Sue Russell, I think of an open door, a patient ear, and trust. She is caring and dedicated to supporting us and the many students who take English classes. It means a great deal to know that the person helping my students on the technical side of enrollment is so skilled and nonjudgmental. She has often been the first or last line for my incoming or outgoing students, and she makes the process compassionate for them and easy for me, which I think contributes greatly to the success of our students and the flow of our department. It means a great deal to know that Sue’s capable heart and mind are always there for me and my students. Sue gives back to her community in countless ways by being such a responsible and warm person, and she contributes to our department’s productivity by helping to create safe spaces and for helping to streamline evaluation processes. She is also an advocate for teachers’ rights and lives, and she has done her part to keep us all sane and healthy.
It’s strange to try and put on paper just how much Sue has meant to me these past six years. She completed files for me in moments of chaos. She demystified problems. Sue has been a force for good. Her kindness – her intangible and consistent kindness – how do I describe it? How do I describe what it has meant? In the academy, we love to quantify. We love to measure and report, but despite a culture of spreadsheets, the most important parts of what we do still remain unstated somehow – like slants of light bringing the beauty.
Sue Russell’s contributions are beyond expression, but not beyond recognition, so I offer these imperfect words as signs of my living gratitude. Thank you, Sue!
From Pam Coke: I am not exaggerating when I say Sue Russell is the reason I am at CSU. Like everyone else along the hallowed halls of the third floor of Eddy, Sue Russell was my first direct contact with the CSU English department. When I was preparing for my screening interview, Sue kept me updated on all the relevant information I needed to know. Other schools did not. When I was preparing for my on-campus interview, Sue sent me detailed schedules, outlining with whom I would be meeting, when, and where. Other schools did not. CSU was my first on-campus interview, and Sue helped me be able to put my best self forward.
Once I was on campus, Sue was every bit as warm and professional in person as she was via email and telephone. I was getting a preview of how Sue always has an answer for any question. In fact, when I got to campus and was missing a button on my dress the day of my interview, Sue even supplied me with a safety pin!
That safety pin serves as the perfect metaphor for Sue. A safety pin serves two purposes: (1) to form a closed loop in order to secure an object; and (2) to protect the user from the sharp end. Throughout my 16 years in the English department at CSU, Sue Russell has been a safety pin for me and for countless others. She helps us all to form a closed loop and to secure ourselves to all our job responsibilities by walking us through all of the changing forms and procedures we face related to annual activities reports, tenure and promotion, job searches, etc. In doing so, she protects us from the sharp ends of what happens if we don’t follow through with these forms and procedures.
But while a safety pin is merely functional, Sue transcends her job description. She consistently goes above and beyond, walking me through exactly what I need to do to be successful in my job, whether that’s where to put something in my annual activities report or how to complete a section of the Talent Management System during a search. Without Sue, I would not have tenure. She helped demystify the process at every turn. Sue is the heart and soul of this department, and I do not even try to envision what my world will look like when she retires.
For me, Sue Russell is synonymous with CSU. 17 years ago, she welcomed me to Our State, and she has made me feel welcome every step of the way. I am a Ram in no small part due to Sue.
From Matthew Cooperman: For me, Sue Russell is synonymous with the Department of English. She was the first person I met on campus when I came for an interview, and the first person I go to if I’ve got an “institutional knowledge” question about the department. She’s helped guide dozens of job searches–myself, involved in five–and the same kindness and warmth she presented when I first came here she extends to the next generation. I really don’t know what we will do without her. As I write this, I’m trying––unsuccessfully, I’m afraid––to stifle the panic…
From Bruce Ronda: For most of us in the English Department, past and present, Sue Russell is the name attached to emails about annual evaluations, search procedures, hires, tenure and promotion, and a myriad of other procedures. But to a smaller number of people, myself included, Sue has been so much more: a listening and sympathetic person and a devoted team player, dedicated to the life and mission of the English Department. In my years (1991-2017) in the English Department as faculty member and department chair, I came to rely on Sue for her vast knowledge and memory and, even more, for her commitment to the department and its people. Through difficult and easy times, through transitions and staff changes, through many hires, resignations, and retirements, Sue has been there, reminding us of what comes next, what is required, what would be best, would works, and what doesn’t work. I know that my professional, and sometimes personal, life was better because of Sue.
From Louann Reid: Sue works tirelessly on behalf of the faculty and students in the English department and the University Composition Program. She handles some of the most important processes and records in our professional lives—hiring, annual evaluation, tenure and promotion, and STA applications. She is a fierce advocate for non-tenure-track faculty and students who need to enroll in composition courses. She has a big heart, collecting for retirements, flowers, arranging meals for faculty who are ill, and even making more than one application or evaluation PDF for the technically challenged. Her brownies are legendary and she is always available to anyone who needs her.
We will miss her probably more than we know.