Sitting behind a mahogany desk in the John M. Long School of Music office, “Miss Rhonda” wears a lot of hats figuratively, and sometimes she literally wears a tiara.
Students visit departmental secretary Rhonda Taylor for help with multiple tasks, and during class registration the tiara adorns her head.
“I register the students for classes; I don’t advise,” she said. “That’s not my job. They come to me for advice for other things. I play mom sometimes. Counselor sometimes. I just try to be here for whatever I’m needed for, whenever I am needed.”
All across campus, departmental secretaries provide such services for students.
Taylor doesn’t just sit at a desk answering the phone, registering students. Other duties include keeping the calendar for all the events held in the School of Music, reserving rooms for meetings and performances.
“Faculty come to me for help with travel,” she said. “I help them to complete their paperwork so that they can be compensated for all the travel they do.”
Taylor’s tiara was a gift from Dr. Diane Orlofsky, professor in the School of Music.
During registration a few years ago, Taylor had students lined up in her office, overflowing into the hallway. Orlofsky stuck her head into Taylor’s office, telling her she deserved a tiara for her patience. The following semester, the coronation occurred. Miss Rhonda still wears her tiara during registration.
Jane Barwood, secretary for the Department of Theater and Dance, said her favorite part of her job is working with the students.
Her advice for freshmen is to organize and to plan study time each day. Barwood said students often wait until the last minute to do an assignment or check on a grade.
“Ask for help,” she said. “Ask someone in your department for help, either an upperclassman or your adviser. Ask for help before you get in trouble.”
Speaking of Barwood, Quinton Cockrell, assistant professor in theater and dance, said, “I don’t know what we would do without her.”
Barwood handles all the finances for the department and is mistress to the keys to the buildings, among other duties.
“She actually enters all of the students’ schedules into the system during registration,” Cockrell said. “There’s rarely a time there’s not someone asking Miss Jane for something, and I often wonder how she deals with that constantly. I’m very grateful we have her.”
Hunter Williams, a theater major from Valley, Ala., who was a junior in the spring, also sang Barwood’s praises.
“We actually go to Miss Jane before we go to our adviser sometimes because Miss Jane knows every class that we’re supposed to be in,” he said. “She helps us a lot with that. All in all, she just pretty much does everything that we ever ask.”
Bethany Welch, a graduate student in art education from Troy, gave this advice: “Be sure to get to know your faculty, especially your secretaries. I just find that getting to know the secretary and being polite and trying to help them as they are helping you is very beneficial.”
Lillis Sullivan, department secretary in mathematics, also encourages freshmen to ask for help.
“If we don’t know the answer, we can find out,” Sullivan said. She stressed the importance of figuring out what classes you need and registering for them on time. Classes usually do fill up fast.
Sarah Justice, a math major from Eclectic who was a senior in the spring, said Sullivan is always concerned with students being on track and helping students to get into the classes they need.
“She’s really interested in like not only how you’re doing in your classes, but like how you’re adjusting to being in college,” Justice said.
The advice from Laura Beeler, secretary for the Department of Art and Design, is: “Get to know your adviser. Talk to you adviser. Try to figure out your career path.”
Beeler said the freshman year will be the most difficult year. “It’s all new,” she said. “You want it to be fun. But you’ve got to remember you’re here for scholastic reasons. Enjoy your time at Troy.”