Administrative Assistant Aims to Know All 200 Graduate Students

Barbara Schukoske, administrative assistant for the Office of Graduate Student Services, is a lifelong Middletown resident and remembers sledding down Foss Hill as a child.
Posted 02/01/07
Q: Barbara, when did you come to Wesleyan and what led you to the Office of Graduate Student Services?

A: I was hired as a department assistant on Feb. 6, 1989 to the Physical Plant Department, where I worked for nine years. I then transitioned to my current position of administrative assistant for Graduate Student Services on Sept. 28, 1998.

Q: You’ve been acquainted with Wesleyan for many years. Why is that?

A: Wesleyan is an important part of my family’s life. My father worked as a “bouncer” at one of the Fraternity Houses on High Street in the 1930s and also delivered milk for Daniels Farm Dairy to faculty that lived on campus at that time. My older sister received her MALS from Wesleyan in 1999, so the university has been a part of my life since I can remember. I do remember using the ice skating rink at Wesleyan and also sliding down Foss Hill a few times. In fact, my older sister once drove her Volkswagen Beetle down the steps by Olin until Public Safety caught her.

Q: Did you ever think you’d end up working at the university?

A: My father always spoke highly of Wesleyan and about the people from the university. He thought it would be a great place to work. So, with his thoughts and advice in mind, when there was a position open, I applied. When I got the job, he was ecstatic!

Q: What is your role with the graduate students, who do you work with?

A: I pride myself as being the information person for the grad students and Wes community. Because I have worked on campus for 18 years, I have acquired the knowledge and contacts. I also work closely, and in correlation with the director, Marina Melendez.

Q: How many graduate students are there at Wesleyan?

A: There are approximately 200 graduate students in the MA and Ph.D programs in various stages of their careers.

Q: What typical problems or questions graduate students come to you for?

A: Students often come to me to ask questions of whom to contact with problems in housing, or with health insurance issues. Those seem to be the biggest reasons for their inquiries. Other questions include those on loan deferments, enrollment and registration, how to audit a course, and graduation issues. I also assist with projects like the new graduate admissions project. I am the behind the scene person that helps with the testing of the new process to ensure it will work correctly once it goes live. I also correspond with the graduate departments concerning new student information, and at the other end, when students are ready to graduate; I assist them to their final journey from Wesleyan along with the day-to-day operations of the Office of Graduate Student Services.

Q: Why is it important to interact with the students face-to-face?

A: I encourage the students to come in, for whatever reason, and chat. I get to learn about the student and the different cultures and they learn about me. Knowing each grad student personally, helps me to assist them better with whatever problem or concern they might have.

Q: What keeps your job interesting?

A: The graduate students. I love working with them. Everyday brings something new and some of the challenge of my job is to find the answer to some of the questions pertaining to any number of issues, whether it’s health insurance, housing concerns, or even directions around town, there is always something new and different everyday. A good example of this is the recent Graduate Career Day (LINK TO SNAPSHOTS) that was hosted by our office in January. It was an opportunity to do something a little different than the everyday duties of the office and it helped to benefit the graduate students, which is the most important thing.

Q: What special events do you hold for these students throughout the year?

A: Starting in August, we have a “New Student Orientation” for the new grad students, a day full of information to help acclimate to Wesleyan and the Middletown community. Shortly after that, we have an “All-Graduate Picnic” welcoming all graduate students back to the Fall semester. Throughout the year our office holds workshops on Immigration issues and exiting procedures for those students that will be graduating in May. The Graduate Student Association also has an agenda of events derived from funding through their student activity fee.

Q: Tell us about your Middletown roots.

A: I was born at Middlesex Hospital in 1957, one of triplets, two girls, one boy, or as my mother used to refer to us as, “twins and a spare.” I went to Middletown public schools. After high school, I found myself working a full-time job at a local book bindery to feed my addiction to muscle cars. I also acquired a fondness for painting and pin-striping cars and motorcycle gas tanks. Connecticut Dragway was my home-away-from-home from 1976 until it finally closed in 1982. I also met my husband Jim while drag racing. He’s a Middletown native, too, and works in town at Paul’s Auto Body and Garage.

Q: What hobbies do you have?

A: Metal jewelry design, drawing, painting, singing, boating in the summer, wildlife rescue, collecting Santa figurines, and training, showing and using rottwilers as therapy dogs. I also enjoy long trail rides with my Pinto, Dakota. We bought a farm in 1994 that came with a four-stall barn and 3 acres of fenced property. I hadn’t ridden a horse in nearly 20 years, but I soon began boarding horses, expanded the barn to five stalls, built a riding ring, and have taught beginner’s Western riding lessons.

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor