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8 December 2013

Retiring administrator leaves lasting impression

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Sue O'Malley posed for a portrait in her office in the UC on Thursday morning. Monica Herndon // Photo Editor

Sue O’Malley posed for a portrait in her office in the UC on Thursday morning. Monica Herndon // Photo Editor

As executive assistant for the vice president of student affairs, Sue O’Malley has many tasks to fulfill.

Among them, she helps members of the Student Government (SG) Senate put together resolutions to honor retiring members of the campus community.

On Wednesday, however, she found herself on the other side of the exchange when she was presented with a resolution passed in her own honor due to her upcoming retirement.

A resolution is a statement put together and passed by SG’s Senate that supports the sentiments expressed by students.

“We all collectively agree that Sue should be honored in that way for everything she’s done,” said Justin Borroto, SG vice president. “It’s just a formal document to say what we all think and feel basically.”

O’Malley, who has worked at UM for 12 years, has impacted student leaders’ lives and helped enhance student life on campus.

Borroto worked as a student assistant in her office last year, and has also gotten the opportunity to work with her this year through SG.

“It was awesome working for Sue,” he said. “She was someone who was so knowledgeable about everything going on at UM, and she was so patient. It was refreshing to learn from her and work with her.”

For Borroto, O’Malley is someone who has made an impact in his collegiate experience as well as on other student leaders’ lives. While working in her office last year, he remembers overhearing her telling administrators what the students would enjoy seeing in the then-under construction Student Activities Center.

“She’s a good go-to person, and she’s always serving as a resource for anything we need,” Borroto said. “When the whole creation of the Student Center was under way and all the offices were under construction, she was really key in making a lot of those decisions.”

For Patricia Whitely, vice president for student affairs, O’Malley has been a “consummate professional.”

Whitely has worked closely with her during the past two years.

“I think that the student leaders and the students that interact with her really enjoy her and love her,” Whitely said. “She really did play a major role in helping out with the student center building and making it a reality.”

In addition to helping out with the construction of the Student Center Complex, she also played a role in the completion of the two murals in the UC (one located by the UC pool and the other in the I-Lounge).

Whitely expressed her sentiments about O’Malley’s retirement.

“I’m super sad, but at the same time I’m very supportive,” Whitely said. “In fact, she stayed two years longer than she had planned and I’m grateful for her for working with me so closely and our staff on getting the Student Center Complex open.”

During her time at UM, O’Malley has dedicated herself to serving students.

“We all know it’s all about the U, but for me, it’s all about you,” she said, referring to her work to help students in any way she can.

O’Malley recalls when she moved to the city in late 2001, when her husband was transferred to work in Miami. Before arriving to campus, she worked at a college when she lived in Chicago. She wanted to see if there were any jobs available at UM. She came to campus, interviewed for a position and found herself with a job within a week.

Her original plan was to retire after former Associate Vice President for Student Affairs Richard Walker’s retirement. Whitely, however, convinced her to stay on for two more years to see the completion of the Student Center Complex.

She mentioned that though her title has changed throughout the years from staff associate to executive assistant, the work has not changed much, and she has been given more responsibilities.

“The job title has changed, but it’s just working with the students and student affairs and up until this year all the students were in our building, and so we had so much interaction with all the students back then,” O’Malley said. “To me, the opportunity to work with so many bright and talented students has just been amazing.”

Throughout her years at UM, O’Malley has also amassed several accolades for her work. In 2009, she was tapped into the Iron Arrow Honor Society, the highest honor attained at UM. Most recently, she was the recipient of the Patricia Whitely Unsung Hero Award at UM, which was named in Whitely’s honor by the SG Executive Board members at the time it was created.

Though she didn’t formally attend UM as a full-time college student, she was able to obtain her Bachelor of General Studies through a Continuing Studies Program on campus. She graduated in 2007.

O’Malley plans to work at the December commencement ceremonies, just as she hs in the past. Her last day of work at UM is Dec. 20.

She hopes to spend her free time traveling to see her grandchildren and visit her family. O’Malley fondly reflects on her time at UM.

“I loved it,” she said. “To me, my leaving is bittersweet … It’s just been so much fun to see the students come in as wide-eyed freshmen and to watch them get involved and see them evolve into the tremendous student leaders that they become.”