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Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures
Author: April Caldwell, Romance Languages & Literatures
Photographer: Aimee Germain, Women's Studies
As I looked over the suggested areas of excellence for a staff spotlight nomination, it wasn’t hard to see why Jennifer White was selected; she exemplifies almost every one of them.
“Second only to the key administrator, Jen serves as the most important staff member in our department,” said Kerstin Barndt, Associate Chair and Associate Professor in the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures (GDS).
Jennifer is also one of the warmest and most engaging people on campus. Her friendly genuineness is apparent the moment you enter her office. “Jen creates a welcoming environment in the Department,” said Kader Konuk, Associate Professor of German and Comparative Literature. “She lowers the stress level.”
Jennifer studied communications and marketing at Western University. After graduation, she went to work in the Stephen M. Ross School of Business. In 2001, she married her high school sweetheart, Pete, and within seven years had two sons: Nolan and Drew. Yet even with a busy home life, Jennifer was eager to grow professionally and joined the Slavic Languages and Literatures staff in 2009 in the dual position of the Executive Assistant and Student Services Coordinator (for both Graduate and Undergraduate students). For many, meshing two positions into the workload of one would be overwhelming, but Jennifer managed it with her trademark efficiency and enthusiasm viewing it as an opportunity she couldn’t let pass.
“It was a great eye-opening experience,” she said. “I learned about working with a department chair, promotion cases, events, and the components of student services.”
It was the student services aspect that Jennifer found she really loved. So when the student services position opened in GDS, she volunteered to take on some of the responsibilities while GDS searched for a candidate. Essentially she took on a third job.
“In the beginning, the German faculty was quite skeptical of this model fearing they would have no support,” said one GDS department member. “But they were surprised and delighted by the level of support Jennifer provided.”
In May 2011, she became the new Student Services Coordinator for GDS. This time she volunteered to continue supporting Slavic while they searched for her replacement, which is why more than once her organizational skills were praised. “The ease with which she switches between the various departmental roles is simply remarkable,” Professor Barndt said.
Embarrassed by the compliment, Jennifer attempted to assure me her skills were inflated. Yet, as she described her system that includes detailed notes, email folders, “lots of lists,” and a well-used binder, it was clear they weren’t.
So how does she feel about being selected for the spotlight? “Very surprised,” she said, but added with a smile, “It’s really nice to be recognized though, isn’t it?”
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