In February, Deana Waddell became the interim senior director of web and digital strategy in the Division of Integrated Marketing and Branding. A few weeks later, her husband, Charles, started dialysis for a genetic kidney condition. Then, a week later, came the COVID-19 shutdown.
Like many parents, she and Charles are filling multiple roles. Charles, a technical delivery manager for Microsoft, has long worked from home when he wasn't traveling to visit clients. Now all four Waddells are there round-the-clock with Deana and Charles also overseeing the online schooling of their children, Samira, 10, and Hudson, 7. And always on their minds is the possibility that the phone could ring any time with news that a kidney donor has been found for Charles.
Yet, despite its hectic moments, Deana said the situation has allowed her to find a new sense of balance in her life.
What brought you to UNLV?
I liked the mission of the university. I believe in higher education. I wanted to be a part of something that contributes to the greater good.
I started off in newspapers, doing first-person stories and community stories. Then I made the jump to web at Vegas.com and wrote about entertainment in town.
I wanted to sell something I really believed in, something crucial. I loved selling Vegas but this was selling education in Las Vegas, which is very challenging, unique, and rewarding.
What is your primary job duty?
I’m kind of the big-picture project manager that makes sure UNLV’s website delivers everything it needs to deliver to our different audiences. I need to make sure that we tell UNLV’s story to outside visitors and potential recruits while also providing a site that helps our faculty, students, and staff find what they need to stay successful at UNLV.
How has the pandemic impacted your workload?
It’s increased it tremendously because the web has been the main hub of information about UNLV and so many things have transferred to being virtual. This is a long-term emergency, and we have had to adjust multiple times. There’s not a day that goes by that I am not thinking COVID. I’m constantly working with our team and with people across campus to keep the site updated because the information is changing so quickly.
Tell us about someone who was particularly helpful when you first arrived on campus.
The whole web team — and everyone else on campus — was very welcoming when I arrived in 2005. My coworkers made me feel like I was part of a team. I am also a very social person, so getting to know everybody on campus has helped me to do a better job.
How do you feel about working from home?
I love it. Balance is something I try to find every day in my life, being a working mom. Working from home has allowed me to have a better balance. For instance, I don’t have to worry about the logistics of driving to and from work or my children’s school. I feel like I’m healthier. Now I’m being a better me.
Charles is waiting for a kidney transplant. He started dialysis the week before quarantine and I administered home dialysis for a few months as well. I’m not sure I would have survived all this if I couldn’t have worked remotely. I’ve been working on maintaining a healthy life for my children while we are dealing with so much more than homeschooling and working remotely.
It’s been a blessing in disguise. It’s made me discover a lot about myself and my relationships.
Tell us about where you grew up.
I was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York — Bensonhurst to be specific. Think Saturday Night Live and Welcome Back, Kotter. I played stoop ball and stickball on the street, ran through the Johnny pump in the summer to stay cool, and walked just a few blocks to get whatever I needed, whether it be a slice of pizza or Italian ices.
What do you like to do outside of work?
I like to be creative. I get together with friends and scrapbook. I love to read. I’ve been spending a lot of time reading to my children and watching a lot of movies with them that I watched as a kid, like Back to the Future, The Goonies, and The Karate Kid.
I also love going to concerts whether it’s alone or with friends. I was looking forward to Sting’s residency (and a meet-and-greet, my lifelong dream!) when the pandemic hit. Being around people, connecting to music, it’s one of the best feelings in the world and I really miss it.
A book, TV show, movie, or podcast to recommend?
I like Blue Highways. I love it because it’s just the author going across the U.S., meeting people, and learning their stories. The book kind of shows you the fabric of the country. So much of what I love about my job is meeting the people on campus — it gives me a better understanding of UNLV, as well as myself.
I also like Sliding Doors. I love it because it’s a “what if” — what if you catch the train and what if you don’t catch the train. Whatever is meant to be is going to be. I try to keep that in the back of my mind.
And I can’t resist the Hallmark Channel movies. You know what the story is going to be, but it has been a nice, light-hearted distraction — especially the Christmas movies. My kids tease me about the “kissing movies.”
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I want to be in a good place where I feel healthy, happy, and balanced. I want my kids to be happy and my husband to have a new kidney, so we can have more adventures together.
I can’t be any more specific because if there is anything I’ve learned from having kids, the coronavirus, and my favorite guilty pleasure, Big Brother, it is to “expect the unexpected.” So who knows what the future may hold? I just know I want to “live out loud!” which is a favorite quote of mine and also my (personal) email address.