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Devoted to Dance

Administrative assistant Sandy O’Brien recently was named as the second-place President’s Classified Employee of the Year. Read about her uncommon commitment to her department and its students.
People  |  Sep 13, 2013  |  By Diane Russell
Sandy O’Brien, who admits to having absolutely no moves as a dancer, nontheless is regarded by her dance department colleagues as as invaluable part of their program. (R. Marsh Starks/UNLV Photo Services)

Sandy O'Brien

Department of Dance
Administrative Assistant IV
Rebel Since: 2002

UNLV history

I started in planning and construction and then moved to the College of Fine Arts Advising Center. I have been in the dance department for eight years.

Couldn't do my job without

The support of my faculty, my chair (Louis Kavouras), the dean's office, and the other classified employees. It takes a village.

This award

I am very, very honored that I was chosen but I also want to give credit to other administrative assistants in the College of Fine Arts and across campus. I want to thank all of them. We've been through some hard times (with the budget cuts), but banded together and did what we could to raise morale. There are a lot of unsung heroes here.


I love every one of our students. Our dance students spend so many hours on campus. They're always outside my door. I've set up a UNLV dance Facebook page and I follow my students after they graduate and go all over the world.

Describe your own dance skills

I have absolutely none.

A perfect day at work would be

I already had it. Aug. 20 was my birthday. I got a flower cake from the faculty. Many students called to wish me a "happy birthday." People showing that they really care for you means a lot. No one in this department is just a worker.

Advice for new employees wanting to succeed at UNLV

Admit your mistakes and correct them. Also, don't talk about people. Remember the saying, "If you don't have something nice to say..."

Dream vacation

I've been able to travel all over the world -- Egypt, China, the Far East. At this point I like to stay close to home. My dream vacation now would be a spa vacation with a Jacuzzi, massages, facials, and a book.

What People Nominating Her for the Award Had to Say

Louis Kavouras, department chair, wrote: Sandy is unique because she has an underlying passion and curiosity about the dance discipline. She has a unique ability to understand, appreciate and participate with the passion, desire, dedication and singularity of purpose that is required to train, foster and educate a developing artist... She attends all performances and not only knows the academic progress of our majors, but also recognizes and follows their development as the future artists of tomorrow's dance world.

She is able to work with numerous diverse faculty and is able to understand how each is individual. Artists are unique individuals for they by very nature tend to rebel against bureaucracy and formulaic procedures. Sandy is able to create an environment of inclusion that allows all individuals to be themselves.

Julie Johnson, director of advising for the College of Fine Arts, wrote: If a student needs something that is not within her capabilities to provide, Sandy makes sure that student's needs are taken care of before (the student) leaves her office. The idea of "student-run-around" does not exist for dance students because Sandy takes the time out of her, what only can be described as "hectic" work days, to find the solution for her students' problems so they end up in the right place the first time. She is, in the word of her students, "amazing."