Office of Alumni Engagement assistant receives Sharon Wilhelm Excellence Award

Dean Vaglia, Staff Reporter

While office work can seem thankless, Shanna Dawson can rest assured her efforts are recognized. Dawson, office assistant for the Office of Alumni Engagement, is the 2019 winner of the Sharon Wilhelm Excellence Award.

Dawson, who received the award at an employee luncheon on June 5 and October 2018’s Employee of the Month, has worked at Oakland University since 2005. She started as a medical assistant, a role she had about 13 years of experience in, at the Graham Health Center after hearing about the job from an old co-worker.

“What attracted me to the position was basically OU’s reputation as a great employer and the opportunity to work for the college student population,” Dawson said. 

As a medical assistant, Dawson gave students vaccines, took their blood pressure and later handled the “front office” duties. After about three years at Graham she transferred to Alumni Engagement when the position became open.

“I just felt like I wanted to feel more involved with the university,” Dawson said. “I just felt like working at the health center you might not have felt as connected to the university and to what is going on as this position is.”

The work at the Office of Alumni Engagement is not static and has changed over the course of her time there. 

“It’s a lot of things,” Dawson said about her work. “I respond to phone calls, emails, questions that come in from alumni … I do a lot of budgeting, website updates, really a variety of things.”

Some parts of the job like managing budgets and updating websites were new experiences for Dawson.

Since many of the emails and phone calls that come in are from alumni, Dawson is in the unique position of being the way many former students get back into the OU world. Thankfully for Dawson, she likes being the first point of alumni contact.

“[Reasons for alumni contact] can be a variety of things,” Dawson said. “Sometimes they might be looking for help and they just do not know who to contact at OU, so sometimes I might have to do a bit of digging around to figure out who the best person is to get them in contact with.”

Dawson has her preferences, though. 

“People do not call as much as they used to,” she said. “They tend to email more. I like the phone calls, though, because you actually get to speak to somebody and sometimes you hear some interesting stories.”

While talking to alumni is a highlight for Dawson, her favorite part of working at Alumni Engagement is working with the rest of the John Dodge House/University Advancement team.

“We are really lucky that we have a great team, and it’s awesome to come into work every day and feel like you are a team,” she said.

The Sharon Wilhelm Excellence Award is awarded annually to “Clerical/Technical employee who exemplifies the positive, ‘can-do’ spirit of Sharon L. Wilhelm who spent her 45-year career delivering exceptional service and support to OU staff, faculty and students,” according to an OU press release. 

Dawson is currently pursuing an accounting degree and plans on remaining at Alumni Engagement for the foreseeable future.