41 Years at UNH
Suzanne Booska, academic adviser and program coordinator, COLSA. Courtesy photo..
Suzanne Booska, academic adviser and program coordinator in the COLSA dean’s office, is one of five employees recognized earlier this year for four decades of service to the university.
- What is your work history at UNH?
I began my tenure with UNH on July 6, 1970. It’s easy for me to remember the date because it’s my father’s birthday. I was an 18-year-old graduate of Dover High School (June, 1970), and was not sure or interested in pursuing a college education. My mother suggested that I apply for a job at UNH to see what kind of immediate work opportunities existed and also how exposure to the university environment might motivate me. I didn’t know at the time that I would be spending the next 41 years of my life calling UNH my second home.
I began my employment at UNH in the electrical engineering department in CEPS as a clerk typist. I worked there for three years and then moved to the department of occupational education in COLSA. This was a promotional opportunity to Secretary I. I began to take courses while working full time. I really enjoyed and excelled in coursework and continued to take courses until I finished an associate degree and a Bachelor of Science degree in behavioral science (this is one of the university’s benefits I most appreciated and most benefited from during my early years at UNH).
In 1975, I moved once again, to the dean’s office in COLSA (another promotional opportunity) as a Secretary III. I worked for the associate dean of academic programs, Avery Rich. In fact, he actively recruited me, but Dean Harry Keener said that I was too young for such a position. Dr. Rich persisted, and I was hired. I have been affiliated with the dean’s office ever since.
Having gained appropriate academic degrees and experiences, I advanced through a number of titled positions (always the only position in COLSA). My current position/title is academic adviser and program coordinator.
At this point in my career, I rather enjoy being referred to as the daily “go-to-person” regarding student and various academic issues.
- Forty-one years ago – it was 1970. What was the atmosphere on campus at that time?
Quieter, as there was only half as many students on campus then. I don’t recall that the pace was as hectic or hurried as today.
- What was your starting salary?
1970 = $2,881.00
1971 = $3,992.00
1975 = $6,160.00 (my first big promotion to the Dean’s Office)
- Today, UNH often has several people involved in the hiring process. What was your interview like?
When I first came to UNH in 1970, I simply went to the personnel office and was asked to take a typing test. Being able to type 120 words per minute with fewer than two errors, personnel sent me to the electrical engineering department. They liked me and liked my secretarial skills, and I wanted a job. Hence, my very quick transition from a Dover High School graduate to a University of New Hampshire employee. I don’t even recall any interview – it was “you are hired, and start next Monday.”
- What’s the biggest change that’s taken place at UNH in the 40 years you’ve been here?
I use to pride myself in knowing the campus like the back of my hand. I knew all the buildings (location, name, and who was in them). Even though I didn’t have dealings with certain departments, I felt that it was important for me to know the campus outside of my circle. I have to admit that I no longer know the campus as well as I use to. There are at least 10-15 new buildings since 1970. I would say that the biggest change has been the physical appearance of the campus – the growth has been phenomenal.
We also now experience parking issues – in 1970, I could actually get to campus two minutes before 8 a.m. and find a parking place fairly close to where I worked! The shuttle buses are new, too; 40 years ago, there were no campus buses. So, when they came on the scene, it was a way to help people get around on a crowded campus. I always walked everywhere, but I was late for a meeting across campus one day and decided to catch a ride on one of the shuttles- my error! This was not a campus looper but a straight shot to Portsmouth with no stops. Needless to say, I was very late for the meeting.
- Where did you go out to lunch?
All of the people that I use to have lunch with in the old days have now left the university. My circle of friends has changed during these 41 years. There were not as many lunch places back then as there is now. Also, dining services was not as prominent or user friendly as it is today. Faculty and staff did not frequent the dining halls because it was where the students ate. So the faculty and staff were relegated to the downtown establishments. During the years, my friends and I ate at Burger King (now the Bagelry), Young’s, Wildcat (when it was on Main St.), the Dairy Bar, and only on very special occasions, the New England Center.
- What was the parking situation like? (Did we have A Lot then)?
I don’t recall that A Lot existed at that time. I believe the A Lot area was really the livestock barn and the N.H. Racing Commission Stable. Our equine program had a couple of stallions stabled there along with a few beef cows that utilized the pasture that is now A Lot. We use to be able to park at several core campus areas, but this has greatly changed over time. We also didn’t need to pay to park! The growth of the campus has been great in many areas – the more we grow, the farther parking is pushed to peripheral areas of the campus.
- Do you think students are different now than they were 40 years ago?
Students are very different today than they were back in the 70s. They seemed more mature and less dependent on their parents. The majority of the students today lack critical thinking skills (parents tend to intervene and make more decisions for their sons and daughters). I very much enjoy working with the students of today, but I find myself using different advising techniques to accommodate the special needs and demands of our student population.
- How about the technology – what equipment did you first use compared to now? Has it made your job easier?
The technology is almost passing me by! I am just barely able to keep up – every year promises new equipment and software changes that you have to learn and get used to. The big hot equipment item in the 70s was the Xerox Memorywriter (fancy electric typewriter) that could be programmed to type a whole letter at a time! Some students today do not even know what a typewriter looks like! In the early days, I also used a mimeograph and stencil machine to run exams off for professors. Clerks and secretaries actually did most of this type of administrative work for our faculty in the departments in those early days.
The UNH computer took up a whole room in Kingsbury and had to be programmed with cards that had to be key punched for the data. The first “personal” computer that UNH invested money into was the Northstar. This was a fairly large computer with an attached keyboard. Technology has come a long way – however, I am more of a face-to-face and telephone person. The best part about technology is that I can access data immediately. This is very helpful when you are working with an individual student or faculty adviser.
- Is there anything about the way UNH was in 1970 that you wish still existed today or are you happy with the way the university has weathered the years?
Living in the past is living with memories, and I have a lot of good memories associated with my years at UNH. However, as I look back over the years, I can better appreciate the changes and the advancements that have occurred at UNH as an institution. I greatly appreciate the opportunities and the experiences that have been afforded me as an employee and the recognition received from students, faculty, staff, and peers for my efforts.
The college (and the university) is an interesting workplace, unlike no other. A place where you can start the day by helping a student with a scheduling problem, attend a free violin recital during lunch break, meet with a faculty member in the afternoon to discuss an advisee’s major requirement problems, and finally, catch the last quarter of a field hockey game while on your way to the parking lot and home at the end of the day. These are just a few examples of the many – and various – challenges and opportunities offered to every UNH employee, if you care to participate in them! I always took advantage of everything! This statement is perhaps an oversimplification of events but gives the reader a sense of what it is to be a UNH employee. It is up to the individual to make the most of his/her employment opportunities and to build on a career full of challenges, rewards, and great memories.