Dorothy Robertson's 41 Years at UNH
Dorothy “Dottie” Robertson, senior business services assistant, is one of five employees recognized earlier this year for four decades of service to the university. Below she talks about how things have changed, and stayed the same.
- What is your work history at UNH?
I graduated from McIntosh College on a Sunday and started here Thursday.
The Business Office was in Thompson Hall and I started out in accounts payable paying bills for the university, Keene, and Plymouth along with about 12 other employees. We had the huge check writing machines in the back of the office that went constantly. I stayed in that area for three and a half years then moved across the hall to accounts receivable, reversing the role and taking the money in. I initially did third-party billing and worked as an assistant to the person who managed the portfolio for what were then National Defense loans, now the direct subsidized and unsubsidized Stafford loans.
We filed all the promissory notes for the loans for hours on end in a vault (alias the dungeon) in the basement of T-Hall and each year had its own note unlike today where it is a master promissory note.
I have stayed in the accounts receivable department but it is now called Business Services and we are located in the lower level of Stoke Hall. I have been a loan clerk, assistant cashier, business services representative and am currently a senior business services account representative.
Our office has moved a number of times. We were in Thompson Hall until spring of 1987 when we were moved to what is now Rudman Hall. The student billing area was in the hi-bay garage and was freezing. I remember everyone wore heavy jackets and slippers that winter all day and even though we were in the sun, it did not heat up that room. We moved from there to Stoke Hall. During one renovation of Stoke, part of the office spent some time at Heidelberg Harris out near Route 4 in the maze of work stations--one wrong turn and you might not be at your desk for an hour!
- Forty years ago--it was 1971. What was the atmosphere on campus at that time?
I started in June 1970, just after Kent State. It was a time of a lot of anxiety on college campuses. I had come from a very small two-year business school so to be employed at a university of this size was daunting at the very least. I can remember every year about May we would start to hear concerns for the budget and belts would tighten up and everything was watched!
- What was your starting salary?
I do not remember the exact amount but I do remember that for the first one and a half years, the university paid my full health insurance premiums as I was making under $ 3,000. We did not have life insurance, disability, dental insurance or flexible spending accounts.
Those have all evolved during the years. As an operating staff person, we did have sick leave and annual/vacation time. However, we could not have any paid time off for the first 90 days of employment. If you were sick or had to take a day off, it was without pay.
- Today UNH often has several people involved in the hiring process. What was your interview like?
I applied through McIntosh College. They told us of jobs in the area and we completed applications and they were sent to the university and other companies. A number of us from the same class started here at the same time. An HR representative interviewed me, I took a typing test and they determined where on campus to send my application. I was then contacted for additional interviews.
I interviewed at both the accounts receivable and accounts payable departments. I can remember that a person that was interviewing at HR at the same time I was did not pass the typing test and the process stopped for her until she came back and passed it. I do not remember what the number (words per minute) you had to have was but I certainly was nervous! HR was in one of the little houses that used to be on Rosemary Lane. It was a tiny little house that has long since been torn down.
- What’s the biggest change that’s taken place at UNH in the 40 years you’ve been here?
Technology has far surpassed all other changes. Student tuition bills were printed on paper--thousands of bills sitting on the counter in the billing area. They were printed in triplicate with a carbon between the copies. How many people even know about carbon paper today???
We mailed out one copy and kept two in the office, one that we did not touch unless a bill got lost and then we photo copied it and put it back! A second one was kept in the box on the counter. Every day when the checks came in the bill was pulled and stamped paid and filed. Changes for financial aid and additional or adjusted charges were all typed up manually and attached.
We would get the information on change notices from financial aid and make the adjustment and mail a copy out to the student, staple one to the copy in the file and alphabetically file one with the original unchanged bills. Everything was manual so you can imagine when we got our first billing system that was in-house how grateful we were. Then came CUFS and then the age of Banner systems: first we implemented Banner Student, eventually Banner Finance and now Banner HR. We have had many upgrades to the Banner Student system and each has enhancements that help the students, families and our office.
- Where did you go to lunch?
I rarely went out; almost always brought mine from home. It was a real treat to go to the New England Center for a very special occasion or if someone was leaving or maybe to the Dairy Bar but I do not recall hardly ever going out. We have always had a small area we could go to eat, or outside on a nice day.
- What was the parking situation like?
I do not remember having any problems with parking back in the 70s and 80s. I can remember the first year we had to pay for parking permits we were all up in arms and they were probably about $5! I do not remember when A lot was built. I just remember it seems like it has always been there.
- Do you think students are different now than they were 40 years ago?
I feel students are much the same. Most all are very conscious of the expense of college and are trying to be fiscally responsible and getting the most they can for their money. There are so many wonderful programs for them to take advantage of that were only dreams in the 70s.
I do remember a few times that we have been nervous about student reactions. One year in particular we had a mid-year tuition increase in February. That brought many, many irate students in to the office and calls from parents. It was very sad and caused many hardships for students as the financial aid could not be adjusted accordingly.
- How about the technology--what equipment did you first use compared to now? Has it made your job easier?
See # 5. However, back in the 70s and 80s we had no e-mail--we used telephones! We had no computers for processing data; we either wrote notes or typed a letter on manual and later electric typewriters. We used telephones or campus mail to contact departments for information. We used adding machines when making manual spreadsheets as there was no Excel. Can you imagine? The general ledger area was in our big room in T-Hall. I can remember their adding machines going all day long, constantly, as that was how everything was computed. At year end, they worked for months to “close the books.”
Now, I deal with many people on campus through e-mail that I have never met in person. I probably meet them on my walks and say hi as they are familiar but I do not know their names. I do think that is a detriment.
- 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?
I feel the university is soaring ahead in many areas. The technology, the research funding, certainly is heading into the future but I do miss the smaller feel we used to have. As I mentioned before, there are so many technological advancements that it has really taken the personal touch out of many of our processes. But at the same time, it has eliminated countless hours of work and allowed for speed in delivery of work. I guess that is called progress!
The university continues to be an outstanding place to work and I have enjoyed the 41-plus years I have been here. I had planned to stay a short time in 1970 and was looking at the Peace Corps or VISTA but never left and do not regret it one bit! Two of my children have gone through UNH and Keene and my husband earned his master’s degree at Plymouth with the help of my job and I will be forever grateful for that benefit as well as the chance to work at a wonderful institution for so many, many years.