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A Problem-Solving, Gator-Dodging Support Professional

The president's Classified Rookie of the Year made a deliberate choice 20 years ago to make education her career.

People  |  Jul 12, 2018  |  By Diane Russell
Portrait of Classified Rookie of the Year Susan Gearling

President's Classified Rookie of the Year Susan Gearling, an Administrative Assistant IV in the film department (Lonnie Timmons III/UNLV Creative Services) 

Though she is pleased to have been selected Rookie of the Year, Susan Gearling has found the real reward is in the moments she sees that a student she helped is succeeding. (Yay for social media.)

Now an administrative assistant IV working as the office manager for the department of film, Gearling previously worked at UNLV in 2008. She had hoped that temporary position in the School of Nursing would work into a full-time job, but then the economy tanked. She worked at Touro University for a number of years before finding just the right job back at UNLV.

The job

I like to say I handle the back end things. I do all the P-card reconciling, handle the contracts for the part-time instructors, and assist the chair with anything and everything. I help plan events, including the annual awards ceremony for our students.

The Fine Arts family

People are very supportive in the film department. Overall, the people in the College of Fine Arts are a very caring group. The amount of heart they have and care for one another has truly been a blessing in my life. There are jobs I could take that would pay more money, but it would be like leaving my family. I wouldn’t want to work with anyone else.

My profession

I really consider myself an education support professional. I made a very conscious decision 20 years ago to make education my career. I was working for the department of family services in Ohio. My job was to take abuse and neglect calls and document them. Once I had my own children I needed a change. I needed to move into an area that didn’t traumatize me on a daily basis.

My greatest reward is seeing the success of those I have been able to help along their educational journey. A few months ago I saw a Facebook posting by someone I had helped in admissions at Touro. He now is a medical resident and was part of a team involved in a heart transplant for a child. That child lived. When I see something like that, I feel good knowing that that is somebody I helped.

Advice for new UNLV employees

Become a good problem solver, if you are not already. I also would tell that to students. Communication is the key to navigating your way around the university. There is a very collegial feel throughout the university. Become a colleague. Make time to get to know people. UNLV is a great place to be.

Where you are from

I’m from a little town called Scio in Ohio. When I met my husband we lived in Canton and that’s where we got married, had our kids. We’ve been here 12 years now. I miss my farm. We had a mini-farm with horses, four-wheelers, and nice dirt for gardens. I miss fireflies. I miss being able to easily visit with family and friends, but I do not miss the winters!

Your first job

Working at a pizza shop. It didn’t pay much and it didn’t last long. I had a big Plymouth Fury that ate up any profits. I made the pizzas, but I was better at the waitressing. My brother came in because it was my first job. He ordered a pizza and left a $20 tip, which was huge in the ’80s. I didn’t learn a lot from that job other than you need to make more money than you spend.

My first “real” job was working as an airline system reservationist.

A time when you have been daring

When I was 19 I picked up and moved to Florida on my own. With my Camaro packed to the gills, I started down [Interstate] 77 from Ohio. I stopped briefly in Orlando to go to travel school. Then I moved on to the Deerfield Beach/Pompano Beach area.

When I lived in Florida, I used to do a lot of bass fishing in the Everglades. I had a flat-bottom boat. I remember once when the motor wouldn’t start and we were being chased by a very large alligator. We kept saying, “Don’t look back!” That motor started just in time. Then there was the time a water moccasin almost landed in the boat…

What Her Nominator Says

Heather Addison, chair of the film department

"During her tenure in film, Ms. Gearling has conducted herself with an impeccable professionalism and functioned as the lynch-pin of the department, routinely going "above and beyond" to ensure that all stakeholders (faculty, staff, students, and visitors) are well served. She brings a wealth of experience to UNLV, as she has a 20-year career as an administrative professional in the educational world. She has a degree of professional polish and insight that are invaluable to our academic unit."

Noting that Gearling already was serving as office manager when Addison became chair, Addison said, "My success as chair has depended quite directly on the savvy and effective support Ms. Gearling has provided, particularly in terms of her leadership around issues of budgeting and planning, which has allowed our unit to adopt a proactive and data-driven approach to decision-making.

"No matter how big (or small) the project, Ms. Gearling tackles it immediately, thoughtfully, and effectively. In addition to shouldering additional responsibilities with enthusiasm and efficiency, Ms. Gearling has been a pivotal force in major departmental events, projects, and initiatives. She orchestrates communication for the 48-Hour Film Festival, Spring Flicks, the Johnny Brenden Award, and the Wegner Award, all of which demand intensive coordination, in addition to managing the logistics for the department's Fall Assembly and Honors Celebration, both of which are large and complex events involving all of our students, faculty, and invited guests."