Joanna DiBella was following her dad’s advice when she took the job at UNLV.
“My father always told me that if you’re going to work, you should work for the biggest company," said the 2019 Rookie of the Year award winner. "The biggest ‘company’ here is the government, so I decided to get a job with the state and here I am.”
More than three years after moving to campus from a job in the legal department of The Cosmopolitan, DiBella, who has a bachelor’s degree in Spanish Language and Literature from UNR and an MBA from Western Governors University, works as an executive assistant in the office of the executive vice president and provost.
I am kind of the catchall, doing whatever needs to be done. I deal with people, both students and faculty, who come in or call with questions. Usually, they are at their wit’s end because they have questions and haven’t been able to find resolutions. Often, they just want someone to listen to them. Just having someone listen can make them feel better.
Working with my student workers because I get such a sense of pride when I see how they grow and the things they accomplish. I teach them life skills that they didn’t even know they were going to get — things like how to deal with people and how to communicate.
First Paying Job
I was 10 and I worked at my dad’s restaurant, Village Pizza, in New Jersey where I’m from. I served drinks because the food — pasta and pizza — was too heavy for me to carry.
I learned a lot just watching my dad. I learned how hard it is to work and how necessary hard work is. He came to this country from Sicily when he was 16. He was always working when I was a kid, so I didn’t get to spend much time with him. He worked so hard to give me so much.
Tip for a New Employee
Ask anyone any question you want to. You never know who you are talking to and what experience they may be able to pass on to you. People know a lot of things. Don’t assume that people only know things related to their current job. You might be surprised who knows what.
Something People Can Do to Make Your Job Easier
Remember that we are all human and it is important to be kind to each other. Interactions at stressful moments are different for everyone and mistakes happen. Compassion is key in those moments.
Couldn’t Make it Through the Day Without…
Taking a break outside — anywhere where there’s shade.
Definitely somewhere cold and relaxing, like a mountain or a forest.
Best Vacation So Far
It wasn’t exactly a vacation, but I did a semester abroad in Costa Rica when I was in college at UNR. It was a beautiful country and reminds me of Nevada in some ways because on one side you could have the beach, on the other side a mountain. Also, the people were so kind. I would like to retire there.
A Favorite Book
The Shack by William P. Young. There is a book and a movie, but the book is better. I read it once a year and I get something different every time. It’s a story of forgiveness. It teaches you how to see the world differently at different times and stages in your life.
Reaction to Getting the Award
I was surprised. I think the most surprising part was reading what everyone said about me. I didn’t know I had made enough of an impact for them to nominate me.
What People Nominating Her Had to Say
Stephanie Reahm, special assistant to the vice president of student affairs
"She is a master at prioritizing tasks and juggling several issues while navigating shifting responsibilities and circumstances. She never assumes someone can wait for a response or that their issues do not merit swift action. Given the various people she interacts with, Joanna has an uncanny ability to treat people the same, ensuring that even the most menial task or requests receive her full attention. This type of approach to her work ensures that the people she interacts with feel valued and trust that she will follow through as necessary.
"In my 30+ years I have spent in the workforce, Joanna is one of the handful of people I have met along the way that I can honestly say is a true joy to work with."
Sandra Gajkowski, special assistant to the provost:
"Ms. DiBella's position is the first point of contact for the EVPP Office, and she greets everyone with professionalism, knowledge, courtesy, and understanding. She is able to manage and develop responses, as well as use appropriate judgment, which results in her taking the extra steps to ensure people with issues leave our offices feeling satisfied that their concerns did not fall on deaf ears.
"Ms. DiBella has an interest in helping anyone that she can. She wants everyone to succeed in their positions and if she can play a role in that, no matter how minor, she will do whatever she can. She is an admirable colleague who works quickly, efficiently and accurately. She exemplifies the Rebel Way..."
David Schwartz, associate vice provost for faculty affairs:
"It may be difficult to properly measure her contribution, since the fact that she does her job so well means that most people aren't aware that she is doing it. Yet when you arrive for a meeting with the provost and everyone has the correct documents, she has done her job, often without a word of appreciation. When conference calls involving stakeholders from around the world happen without a hitch, Ms. DiBella has done her job. When the student employees of the Provost's office function effectively to support the administration's operations while learning valuable skills, she has done her job. When random faculty members and students contact the office with a problem and they are connected with someone who can help, she has done her job."
Brent Drake, vice provost for decision support:
"Joanna makes sure the trains always run on time and she does it while being the type of person that everyone is happy to work with. Her efficiency, efforts, and enthusiasm make UNLV a better place, and make me happy to be part of the provost's team."