Opinion Editor

Each and every day is a learning experience.  Nobody would attest to this statement more than 57-year-old Jill Uland of Granville, Ohio.

Despite having worked at Denison University for over 12 years, Uland is still adamant that not a day passes when she doesn’t learn from a student, a faculty member or even from herself. 

In 2004, Uland began her Denison career working part time for the dance department.  After two years as a production assistant, she spent one year in the Registrar’s office before finding her true home in the psychology department, where she is an Academic Administrative Assistant (AAA).

Managing any academic department means one must be able to juggle many things at once. Despite this, Uland would never let go of her position.

“The thing I love most about this job is that every day I’m learning something I can apply to my everyday life.  It’s the real world application that I can’t get enough of,” Uland said.

Day to day work as an AAA is always changing.  “There isn’t anything that we don’t do,” Uland said with a chuckle. “From a logistical standpoint, I need to make sure that the professor can go in and do his or her job with ease each and everyday. But from a personal standpoint, all of us AAAs are here for the same reason. We love what we do, and we love the students.  It is absolutely beautiful to see how the university is able to shape students and their ideas before they go out into the world,” said Uland.

Psychology professor Dr. Cody Brooks, 45, from Columbus, Ohio, spoke highly of his experience working with Uland.

“Jill is one of the most friendly and hard-working members of our Denison community.  This place would fall apart without her,” he said. “She anticipates so many of our needs in the department, keeps us on track and is absolutely wonderful with all of our students.”

Off the hill, Jill’s biggest accomplishment is being a mother to her two sons.  Her first born, Jon, is 26 and living in New York and her second son, Alex, is 24 and living in Columbus. Uland and her husband Dave have been living in Granville for the past 20 years. In their spare time Jill and her husband enjoy traveling together.  More recently, the couple has uncovered a love for cycling. “I just finished my first 56 mile ride. Now that I’ve done that, I feel unaccomplished if I ride less than 30,” Uland said.

Life as an AAA has helped Uland find another passion she never would have known she had: learning new languages.  Due to her position on Denison staff, she is able to take university courses that fit around her work schedule, and she’s been enrolled in Spanish for the past two years.

“Being able to leave my desk and go to class has truly changed my life.  I really think everyone that works here should have to take a Denison course.  It puts you in the footprints of the students. It allows you to empathize with what they’re going through because these classes aren’t easy; it’s a lot of work,” Uland said.

Taking Spanish classes at Denison encouraged Uland to travel to Ecuador last summer. So inspired by the culture and the language, she traveled alone to Quito for a month.  Living with a host family, Uland saw a completely new world from a cultural perspective.  She learned the idea of give and take, and she cannot wait to return to South America.

This experience for Uland was something she never thought she’d have.  For the first time in her life, she wasn’t held back by fear or other limitations she’d place on herself before.  “I’m really proud of the decision I made to go to Quito alone.  I finally decided that I didn’t want to wait for things to happen in my life.  I wouldn’t be restricted because I’m a woman or because I was afraid,” Uland said.

Uland has learned to embrace life and to go after it regardless of age, gender, or ability.  She believes that no matter what you do in life you’ll grow from it, regardless as to if it’s easy or not.  “Tackling life head on is the only way to go.”

Photo courtesy of Jill Uland