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When you have been working in the Department of History for as long as Sheila Coley has, an impressive 18 years, you are bound to make some history of your own. Sheila, who started her UM career in 1988 as a receptionist in the Department of Linguistics, joined the Department of History in 1996 as a Graduate Program Assistant and was promoted to her current position of Undergraduate Academic Services Coordinator in 2006. In addition to handling the extensive History curriculum, which includes scheduling courses and planning for over 80 faculty members, Sheila also facilitates many other facets of the undergraduate program.

“Sheila is the rock-solid anchor in the wind and storm of teaching and learning in our department,” Department Chair and Professor Katherine Canning explained “With dozens of courses and sections to schedule, hundreds of students to place, nearly a hundred faculty to guide through the thickets of course planning and room scheduling, waitlisting [students and issuing overrides], Sheila handles it all with unrivaled ease and unshakable serenity.”

Not only is Sheila admired for her institutional knowledge, but she does it all with her characteristic warmth and ease. In the numerous letters of support received from faculty and staff alike, it is clear how integral she is to the department.

“Sheila exemplifies the high level of skill and professionalism found only in the very best members of this university,” a faculty member gushed. “Her command of technology and her confidence-inspiring interpersonal skills have been a central contributing reason why this department is such a fine place to work. She’s simply amazing.”

In addition to her other duties, Sheila has used her remarkable technical skills to implement numerous valuable technological improvements in the department. Among several databases that she’s created to help ease her job duties, one of them helps with crafting the time schedule each term by gathering and tracking course scheduling information for each faculty member; it also provides various reports necessary for advising. “I like things to be easier, so I think about ways to improve processes,” Sheila explained during our interview. “It might be more difficult on my end [to set up the processes], but I want it to be easier on the faculty.”

What is more impressive is that Sheila has maintained her excellent quality of work, even while enduring personal loss.

“We were all amazed by her strength a couple of years ago after her husband was in a car accident and after a long series of procedures…he passed away,” Department of History Key Administrator Diane Wyatt explained. “She maintained her characteristic strong customer service, calmness, and cheerfulness all along, through the most difficult period in her life.”

Sheila thanks her strong faith and extensive, supportive family for helping her through that time of loss. That family also includes the staff and faculty in the Department of History, who were and continue to be so supportive, kind, and helpful. She said she is truly grateful for being part of such a wonderful department full of faculty that stand behind their staff through their personal and professional circumstances. “Being here in History has been a blessing” Sheila said.

Story by Mariam Negaran