Psychology students at Western Oregon University have likely interacted with Linda Kunze in one capacity or another. As the administrative support specialist for the Psychology Division, she helps both students and the division’s faculty in an immeasurable number of ways.
One of this year’s Mario and Alma Pastega Staff Excellence award winners, Kunze has been at WOU since 1998. She first worked in the Registrar’s Office before joining the Psychology Division and has loved her time at WOU, and plans to stay until retirement. “I really enjoy all the people here, it’s like a family. They are so good to me, and I really fell into a great group of people,” she said.
The variety of tasks in her position is one thing she enjoys immensely. “Everyday is different here, and there are all kind of interesting challenges. It’s really hard to try and put all of what I do in a nutshell, but basically I am in charge of helping the professors with anything they need,” she said. And the number of professors in the division has doubled from 10 faculty members when she joined the staff, to 22 at present.
Her job also includes a counseling component with the students, which is a skill she picked up from working in the Registrar’s Office. There were many times, for example, that she’d talk with students who were emotional because they saved Math 111 for the senior year and then had to take several math classes prior to 111 to get caught up, thus delaying their graduation. “I learned to show empathy and tried to explain the bigger picture; how one more term wasn’t going to be the end of the world. It took a lot of convincing and patience to do that, but being a mom, it was easy to relate to them, and I do love the students,” she said.
Dr. Chehalis Strapp, psychology professor, said, “as a faculty member, I have benefitted greatly from Linda’s professionalism and enthusiasm. Beyond the typical day-to-day tasks that she does very well, Linda is happy to take on a variety of jobs that free up my time for teaching and research.” Strapp added, “Beyond supporting faculty, Linda is approachable, helpful and always available for students. Fortunately, for us all, she is often the first person that students meet when they visit the Psychology Division.”
Her experience as a mother has helped shape the caring attitude she brings to her work. “My own twin daughters went here and both had moments of doubt. It was just a matter of encouraging them. That’s the same principle I apply to the students who come to me now. They can be in here crying, and I just do everything I can to help them out and cheer them on. We have some difficult classes here at Western, and students seriously doubt if they will be able to make it through, but they do. It’s really wonderful to see them go through the process and grow from it.”