A mentor first, a friend second and a boss third

Brittany Wasko

Heather Adams, the new Women’s Resource Center director, is new to the center but not to campus

A co-worker of Heather Adams calls her “the prize of campus.”

And after working for Kent State for more than 20 years while holding several different positions, including her new role as director for the Women’s Resource Center, it’s easy to see why.

Adams, who has worked as an academic adviser, assistant to a dean, instructor in the College and Graduate School of Education, Health and Human Services and academic program director in the Office of Advising and Academic Services, has gained quite a name for herself since she took her first position in 1985. She has also written grants for the National Academic Advising Association, and has affiliations with several professional groups on campus, including her presidency of the Kent Academic Support and Advising Association.

An impressive candidate

Forty-six applicants wanted the position of director of the Women’s Resource Center. But after 10 of them were chosen for phone interviews, then five for on-campus interviews, Adams won over the search committee.

Pete Goldsmith, vice president for enrollment management and student affairs, and Greg Jarvie, associate vice president and dean of students, then made the final decision to choose Adams.

Sheryl Smith, associate dean of students and Student Ombuds, was chair of the search committee that interviewed Adams for the position. She said the five applicants who interviewed on campus were all unique with different strengths.

“There were a number of people who could have done this job and done it well, which makes it hard to pick,” Smith said. “I certainly didn’t envy associate vice president and vice president in making the final decision.”

Smith said Adams has a number of things that are a good fit for the center, including her passion for the work it does.

“She knows the university extremely well, and she knows students very, very well because of her role as an adviser,” she said. “And I think knowing today’s students and their extremely diverse needs and interests is very, very critical. So she knows our students.”

Smith said she thinks Adams will bring an energy to the center. She’s also anxious to see what Adams does in her new position.

“I think she’ll bring new ideas – outreaches,” she said. “I think she will step outside of that little building at the entrance of campus and bring it more inside the university.”

A co-worker and a friend

Anne Reid, academic program director in the College of Arts and College of Communication and Information, has known and worked with Adams since the mid- ’80s. The co-workers first met when they worked on a battered women’s project for Portage County while Reid was already an employee at Kent State.

“I remember that when she went through training to be a phone worker for the project, I was very impressed with the skills that she had even before she started the training,” Reid said. “So it made me want to recruit her to work with me.

Adams then ended up working as a graduate assistant at Kent State. Reid said it has been a delight to work with her because of her strong communication skills.

“She’s very good at helping people develop professionally. She’s an excellent motivator with people,” she said. “She’s good at brainstorming how to push projects in new directions and more productive directions.”

Even though Adams is at the Women’s Resource Center and Reid is retiring after this semester, she said they’ll stay closely connected. Reid said they’re not only co-workers, but close friends too.

“People will tell you that we finish each other’s sentences – that’s really the best way to put it,” she said. “I think after all these years, we just share an awful lot of values and ideas and perspectives about things.”

As Adams takes her new position at the Women’s Resource Center, Reid said it will be a good fit for her and the center because she’s a strong advocate for women.

“She’s particularly strong working with adult women who are trying to juggle a lot of roles,” Reid said. “She’s also very committed to diversity, and she already has such strong connections with people on campus.

“I think she’ll be able to really take the center in some positive directions.”

A mentor in the office

Academic adviser Matthew Rollyson has known Adams for only about a year and a half, but he said she has already made an impact on his career. Before Rollyson even took his position at Kent State in January 2007, he sent out about 100 e-mails over the course of two years to many directors and coordinators at different campuses asking questions regarding a career in advising.

“She was actually the only one who responded and said that she would be glad to meet with me and talk about the career of advising,” Rollyson said. “She was really instrumental in helping me know that this is where I wanted to be and advising was the direction I wanted to go into.”

Rollyson said Adams is able to be efficient and professional at the same time.

“She is the most understanding, empathetic, sympathetic, best listener you could ever hope for,” he said. “And that’s really what my first experience was with her.”

As his boss, Rollyson said that Adams’ efforts to always maintain contact with her co-workers on a regular basis makes him want to do the best work he can do. He also said she cares about each one of her employees individually on a personal level.

“That’s the single most motivating thing any boss could provide – that human touch and that care on an individual level, and it’s that way for everybody,” he said. “If you walked up and down in here, you would hear everybody say, ‘She’s the best boss I’ve ever had and the best one you could ever hope for.'”

Rollyson said Adams is a mentor first, a friend second and a boss third. He also said that it’s impossible for her to do something without doing it as well as possible.

“I just hope that in some way, shape or form, she’s well aware that because she just constantly shows me and all of us that she wants the very best for each of us, that we so badly want the very best for her,” he said.

“And we’re really excited for her and really excited for the Women’s Resource Center.”

Contact student life reporter Brittany Wasko at [email protected].