When Lisa McHenry ’97 and her co-workers were laid off from their jobs at a church conference center in 2007 following a change in the facility’s ownership, Lisa knew she wanted to find another job that would allow her to make a difference in people’s lives. The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, she thought, would be perfect. “I became who I am here,” says Lisa, who earned a bachelor’s degree in anthropology with a minor in communications from the university. “I liked the idea of working with students and being able to give back.”
UNCG did not have an opening that was right for her at the time, so Lisa went to work at a law firm, still keeping her eye on UNCG’s job listings. Less than a year later, Lisa saw an opening that seemed ideal: The Department of Consumer, Apparel, and Retail Studies (CARS) sought an administrative support associate. It has, indeed, turned out to be a perfect fit: This year, Lisa was honored with the Bryan School Staff Excellence Award.
In her role, Lisa has a broad array of marketing and communications responsibilities that include everything from keeping the department’s website and social media sites up to date to creating promotional materials. She also serves as the department’s graduate secretary, providing program, policy and procedural information to students and prospective students; processing graduate program application materials; and providing customer service to visitors and callers. Ever-curious, Lisa is eager to learn new ways of doing her job better, whether that means going back to school to earn a certificate in web design or combing through the latest Campus Weekly to discover other UNCG programs and services that could benefit CARS students. “I’m always striving to learn new things,” she says. “I love solving puzzles and finding solutions to problems—those ‘Eureka!’ moments. The days filled with ‘Eureka!’ moments are the best.”
Working with talented, driven CARS students is a particular joy for Lisa. “Many of these students are following a dream. They are passionate about what they’re doing,” she says. “It’s exciting to watch them grow as they develop their skills, both creatively and in terms of their business acumen.”
On a typical day—particularly during the fall semester—a large chunk of Lisa’s time is devoted to helping a steady stream of those students with questions and problems both large and small. One student might need a Band-Aid after cutting a hand in the design lab; the next might need advice about taking a short leave of absence after a death in the family.
“I spend much of my day problem solving for students,” Lisa says. “In college, they are encountering many things on their own for the first time. They don’t always know where to go or what to do if they have a problem. I remember how that feels as a student. My goal is to empower them to learn to handle things themselves. I may point them in the right direction or walk them through a process. I try to be an advocate, while helping them learn to navigate on their own.”
In nominating Lisa for the excellence award, Rachel Wilson ’15, then-president of the student-run CARS organization THREADS, highlighted Lisa’s skills at gently helping students develop their own problem-solving abilities: “I first met Lisa about three years ago under unfortunate circumstances. I was trying to register for classes and it was so confusing that I’d done it wrong. With no clue how to get my classes correct and having just been told I would be at UNCG for an additional year, I went outside, sat down and cried. I cried for a while before (Lisa) sat down next to me and asked me what was wrong, not even knowing I was a CARS student. Lisa took me to the CARS office and personally helped me get my classes sorted out and assured me that I was not a failure, that I just needed a little help. That is the sort of thing that Lisa does every day. Not because she has to, but because she has such a big heart.”
By Julie A. Palm