Graduate Studies office staff on hand to help

Image with caption: From left, Terri Vadovski, Vanessa Wilcox and Cody Phillips
From left, Terri Vadovski, Vanessa Wilcox and Cody Phillips
From application to dissertation, the staff of the Office of Graduate Studies are on hand to help UNMC students, from ushering them through the admissions process to accepting the final paper -- yes, it's still paper -- version of the dissertation that marks many students' completion of the program.

Terri Vadovski, the director of graduate studies, says the three-person team -- herself, admissions associate Vanessa Wilcox and graduate studies associate Cody Phillips -- solve problems every day, working with students and faculty to ensure that each student is on track and up-to-date with requirements as they work toward their advanced degrees.

Phillips is in charge of current student paperwork. "He will constantly check files," Vadovski said. "If something's missing, he'll contact the student." That means Phillips has to be conversant with the 17 different programs that Graduate Studies oversees. The office is in the process of implementing an electronic system that will eventually automate this process -- but even then, Phillips will act as a resource for students to help them stay on track with their program.

Wilcox is available to students as they prepare to apply. "Every day I download about 300 or 400 applications and application documents," she said. "I manually sort through them every morning, creating paper files. I handle all of the GRE and TOEFL scores for whoever has submitted an application."

As for Vadovski, she handles larger student issues -- grade concerns or issues with faculty. She provides an ear, and possibly suggestions, to students who are having difficulty.

The office staff also was involved in mounting the first Graduate Studies matriculation ceremony last year, and they are excited about the upcoming convocation, another first for the office. "We're always adding new things," Vadovski said.

The office's biggest strengths? Teamwork and customer service, Wilcox said. "We have amazing customer service skills, and we're an amazing team. We always come together and find solutions -- we're very proactive."

Vadovski described the team as "rule keepers." "Our job is to make sure that we're adhering to policies established by the University of Nebraska Graduate College and UNMC Graduate Studies," she said. "The departments or the programs can vary a little bit in their requirements, but they still must satisfy the broader campuswide policies. We make sure that students are meeting GRE, TOEFL and other admission requirements, and that once they enroll they're getting their required courses and staying within the GPA requirements.

"A good day to me is that we solved some students' problems, and we had good communication with each other," she said.

The best part of the job? Probably, all three agreed, those days when a student drops off his or her dissertation to the office.

"They're so excited," Phillips said.

"That's always nice," Vadovski agreed. "I always ask, 'Aren't you happy you're done?' And they say, 'Oh yeah.' Sometimes they'll say, 'You guys have done a good job -- thanks for all your help.' That's always nice to hear!"