Debbie Sierpinski: Assisting 4 Departments, Editing Classics Newsletter

Debbie Sierpinski, administrative assistant, pictured here with Christi Richardson ’10, has worked at Wesleyan more than 24 years. She manages the budgets for Classical Studies and English Departments and for the Archaeology and Medieval Studies programs.

Q: Debbie, you’re the administrative assistant for the Archaeology Program, Medieval Studies Program and the Classical Studies Department. Anything else?!

A: In October 2010, I was given a promotion and added the responsibility of also working for the English Department and Writing Workshop in the new Downey House operations support system. At times it is a bit challenging, but I am good at managing my time and priorities so the work gets done in a timely fashion. I wear many different hats and wear them well.

Q: How many years have you worked for Wesleyan, and in what departments?

A: I have credit for 24 years at Wesleyan. I have been at Wesleyan longer than that but I did not bridge all of the time. I have worked for the Classical Studies Department and Medieval Studies Program for 18 years. After a few years, the Archaeology Program was added on and then most recently, the English Department and Writing Workshop.  I started at Wesleyan in the Biology Department in 1977. I also worked for the Hughes Program and PIMMS for a couple of years as a Coordinator and as a temp for the university in different departments (East Asian Studies, Math, Philosophy).

Q: Please cite a few examples of projects you manage for the departments?

A: There is such a variety. I manage all of the budgets for Classical Studies and English departments and for the Archaeology and Medieval Studies Program. Working with the new Finance System has been time consuming. The Classical Studies Department hosts several lectures a semester, so I am in charge of all of the coordinating of publicity, room reservations, travel, honorarium, catering etc. I handle the curriculum for Classical Studies, Archaeology and Medieval Studies programs.  I also support the faculty in many different ways such as assisting in preparation of reports, coordinating the logistics for events, on faculty searches, tenure and promotion cases.

Q: What is your role with the Classical Studies alumni newsletter, Juno’s Peacock?

A: During the summer, I am busy putting together and editing the newsletter, which I believe is a unique job for an AA, but I love it. I enjoy following up on what the classics majors are up to in their careers and personal lives. I recognize more and more names since I have worked for the department for so long.

Q: Do you work with the department’s students too?

A:  I oversee two student workers in the office. Sometimes, I become like a mother figure to them, giving them encouragement and support with their endeavors at Wesleyan. We have had a very active Majors Committee and I work closely with the students involved in coordinating activities. Last semester I assisted a group of Classical Studies majors who created the first Wesleyan undergraduate journal of Classical Studies called Metis.

Q: What do you like best about working at Wesleyan?

A:  I enjoy the friendly social atmosphere here at Wesleyan, a close knit community. I have developed many friendships over the years with several AA’s. I also enjoy working for and with the faculty and students. It is a great group of people. I very much appreciated the tuition assistance that I received for eight years for both of my children.

Q: In 2005, we featured your involvement in the Saturday for Kids Program. Are you still involved in this program?

A: I worked for the Saturday for Kids program as it director for 6.5 years. I was saddened to leave the program but I was moving in different directions, and needed more time to pursue other avenues, such as teaching quilting and working on my book.

Q: Where do you teach quilting?

A: I teach at Middletown’s Adult Education Enrichment Program.  I have been teaching a class there on how to make a Heritage Scrapbook Photo quilt.  It combines knowledge of photoshop editing with basic machine quilting skills.

Q: Tell us about your new, self-published book on quilting.

A:  The book is titled Scrapbook Photo Quilt: Design Your Own Heirloom (RAD Publishing, 2010). I give step by step instructions on designing and sewing a memory quilt. It gives a short synopsis on the history of quilting dating back to the 16th Century.  I worked with Juliana Shortell, manager for the archaeology and anthropology collections at Wesleyan. She provided me with a photo of an American Indian quilt, a Lone Star quilt attributed to Nancy Horn Cloud (Oglala Sioux), of South Dakota. Nancy is the daughter of Charles Red Cloud, the great-great-great-grandson of the famous Oglala Chief. The book also provides information on genealogy as a method of identifying ancestors in old photos.

I am also starting a second book, Women of War, which will portray the woman’s role in each of the American Wars from the Revolutionary War up to the Iraq War, dedicating a quilt block to each war.

Q: Tell us about your family and your other interests.

A:  I have a 1-year-old granddaughter, Alina Christine, who I just adore. She had a rough start, born at 3 1/2 lbs, but she has caught up and is very mischievous and curious and loves to shake her head “No”.  My son, Justin, started his own law practice in Natick, Mass. He specializes in family law as a mediator. My daughter, Heather, just landed a government job as an advocate for veterans at the Newington Veterans Hospital. My husband is a retired teacher from Vinal Technical School in Middletown and enjoys his time renovating large boats. I love swimming and long leisurely walks and reading good murder mysteries.