Growing up, Betsy Drellack dreamed of being a teacher. The idea of helping others discover something they are truly passionate about led her to earn a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education and eventually a master’s degree in business administration.
As assistant director of purchasing and contracts, she supports students pursuing their dreams by helping the university purchase the proper materials for student success. While her approach to helping educate students may not be direct, her passion to make a difference through education has not changed.
You’ve just recently returned to UNLV. What made you come back?
Yes, it’s funny some people think I’m the new person in the office but I worked at UNLV in Business Affairs for eight years before my current start date.
While I was away, I missed the inclusivity of campus and the city. I know everyone says how diverse our community is but it isn’t just talk; it is a unique place. Living here, you get to really see how much better communities are when differences are celebrated and valued. With all this diversity comes a greater opportunity to learn to collaborate. You learn to listen to other voices and appreciate the strengths they bring to the table.
At my last position, I felt that my differences weren’t valued and I constantly had to struggle to be heard. Here it feels like I’m listened to because of the experience I bring. There are more opportunities which in turn means more freedom, and I have wonderful mentors who support me in my career growth.
What inspired you to get into your field?
It wasn’t until I took a chemistry class in high school that I realized fields in STEM could be interesting. Learning about chemical properties and their reactions was interesting to me and I wanted to give that knowledge to others.
In college, I studied to be a teacher but in the last semester of my last year, the accounting department where I was a student worker was transitioning to a new software system. I became familiar with some of the tasks needed to make the change and they asked if I would stay on after graduation just to help finish out the transition. From that point on, I was hooked. Working in university finance felt like the perfect mix of working with challenging data, and interesting people to support students’ educational goals.
Tell us about an a-ha moment in your career — a time when your perspective shifted and shaped where you are today.
Being open to a new career gave me the chance to help in a way that was meaningful to me. I’ve held positions in general accounting, financial analysis, sponsored research accounting, and department administration. In every position, I’ve felt that I’ve contributed to students’ pursuit of education in a positive way.
What would campus look like without the purchasing and contracts office?
We provide the means for all resources on campus including toilet paper, software subscriptions, vendor services, and even cadavers for the medical school. When I say "all," I really mean all. If our department didn’t exist, a lot of the good things the university does wouldn’t be possible because of a lack of resources.
What can people do to make your job easier?
Talk to me about their needs as they’re trying to assess how to fill those needs. There are times when a phone call and discussion can offer more options than an email.
Also, be willing to collaborate on plans and solutions. There are federal rules and guidelines that we have to follow when entering contracts or making purchases. While one solution may not be approved, there may be alternate options that could work.
What advice would you give to UNLV students?
Cultivate curiosity. Live in the dorms if you have the option. Get to know people who are different from you. Seek out experiences that will expand your knowledge and possibilities. Those experiences don’t have to be drastic. They can be as simple as joining a club or activity that sounds interesting. Staying open to new experiences will enrich your life in ways that you can’t imagine or predict.
If you weren’t working at UNLV, where do you think you’d be?
There’s still a part of me that would like to teach. Instead of the traditional subjects, I would want to teach financial acumen to elementary or middle school kids. I think financial health should be taught in schools so that myths of personal finance can be dispelled. Being financially vulnerable creates problems in other aspects of a person’s life. If we can start teaching kids ways to gain stability by maneuvering things like investing, loans, and budgeting at an early age, then they will be better prepared to make positive fiscal decisions as they grow.
What do you enjoy in your free time?
The kitchen is the heart of the home. It’s my favorite room in the house. One of my best memories is a family tradition of baking cookies together. This may sound simple, but it’s usually about 10 to 20 people mixing, rolling, cutting, and decorating sugar cookies from a family recipe. It’s like our own family cookie baking crew with adults and kids working together side by side.
Of course, the first batch gets eaten but we also give plates of cookies as neighbor gifts. As kids grow up they move from cookie testers to the cookie crew to crew captains. This last year my daughter was the crew captain in charge of keeping the whole family working. Experimenting in the kitchen is another way I stay curious. When I’m not at work or enjoying the great music venues in Las Vegas, I love trying new flavors and recipes.