Elaine Anderson and higher education settings seem inextricably linked. Her first job as a teen was as a server in a university dining room. Now this executive assistant in the office of faculty affairs has nabbed top honors as the President’s Classified Employee of the Year.
Coming to UNLV
I had always wanted to work at a university, so I just started looking. Then I applied for some jobs at UNLV and soon had two offers. I had previously worked at Mutual of Omaha; TRW, an aerospace company; and at Green Valley United Methodist Church in Henderson, but I really wanted to work in higher education.
My first job on campus was at the UNLV Foundation. That was in 2006.
I am the executive assistant in the office of faculty affairs. I have been in this office since 2016. We handle many different faculty matters for the provost’s office — promotions and tenure, faculty awards, leadership development, instructional development, and mentoring to name a few.
I personally do a lot of the events — coordinating for the new faculty orientation, best teaching practices expo, and awards ceremonies. I arrange the venue, food, the flowers, and have the trophies made. I also do the purchasing for our area of the office.
Why you stay
I just love the people. I can’t say there’s anybody I don’t get along with. I have a lovely boss in Ngai Pindell (vice provost for faculty affairs).
I enjoy the work — and there’s a lot of it. That’s good because I don’t like being bored.
When I first came to UNLV I got lots of good advice from Pat Coleman, who was a mentor to me. She basically taught me how to be an executive assistant. She retired many years ago now.
My advice to a new employee on how to succeed at UNLV would be to be kind. Try to be understanding. Realize that everybody makes mistakes, so be forgiving.
Where you grew up
I grew up in Nebraska. I miss all the green and I miss my family and friends, of course. Omaha was pretty low-key and small then. You didn’t have to drive very far before you were out in the corn. There wasn’t a lot exciting going on. I worked a lot as a teenager and was involved in snow activities in the winter. I also liked gardening. I will say that Omaha has grown into a nice, well-planned city.
I actually started off at a university in Omaha — Creighton. I was 15 and I worked in the clergy’s private dining room as a server. It was a formal dining room, so I learned how to set a table properly. I remember that I earned $1.60 an hour.
Things on campus you enjoy doing
I love the theater. I love the musical performances. I try to take advantage of those things. I’ve been to the Foundation dinners. I frequent the museums.
One thing I’ve never done, though, is go to a homecoming ceremony. I have to do that.
Something you couldn’t make it through the day without
Prayer and coffee. As far as the coffee goes — I’m equal opportunity there. Coffee is coffee.
The Bible. I read it frequently.
Something people would be surprised to learn about you
Most people don’t know I’m a cancer survivor. People who do know sometimes seek me out if they are diagnosed. When you’ve been through it all (chemotherapy, radiation), you seem more credible to them. They want to talk about it. I am glad to help if I can.
A time when you have been daring
I crashed in a hot air balloon once when I was living in Omaha. I was part of a chase team. If you did enough of those, you eventually got to go up. There was a gust of wind and we came crashing down in the middle of a muddy, muddy cornfield. I have never been that dirty before or since. We weren’t hurt, which was a blessing. I was a lot younger then. I think I bounced better!
What Her Nominators Say
Tondra De, assistant director of the office of faculty affairs
"Elaine brings an unparalleled degree of professionalism to her position, interacting with administrators, faculty, staff, students, members of the public, and other stakeholders in ways that represent the mission and values of the office. Frequently the first person from the office with whom internal or external constituents have contact, she always presents a demeanor of competence and courtesy.
"Despite being a relative newcomer to the office of faculty affairs, Elaine has had a tremendous impact on its functioning and delivery of services to academic faculty on campus. The mission of our office is to support faculty success, and it hosts a variety of faculty-centered programs and events every month. Elaine handles the logistics for each and ensures that everything goes as planned. I recall one particular week when Elaine actually organized eight different events during the course of three days. Due to her efforts, every single one of them was a huge success."
Ngai Pindell, vice provost for faculty affairs
"Elaine cares deeply about UNLV, its employees, and the people who interact with the university. She is continually focused on how her actions and the office's work reflect on the university as well as how the office can make the university community feel appreciated and encouraged. This commitment comes through in her attention to detail in organizing faculty affairs' events, her politeness and carefulness in dealing with people, and her deep ties to staff throughout the university.
"Elaine makes everyone around her feel better about their day and their work. She's early into the office, early completing her work, and she also finds time to help others complete their responsibilities.
"The Employee of the Year award should be given to a person who best exemplifies the values of UNLV and also reflects who we aspire to be. Elaine Anderson does this daily."