Cloud Spurlock Named January 2011 Employee of the Month

Posted: December 21, 2010 at 1:02 am, Last Updated: December 20, 2010 at 10:30 pm

By Robin Herron

Cloud Spurlock. Photo by Bonny Paez

Hired a little more than a year ago as a receptionist and administrative assistant for graduate programs in the English Department, Cloud Spurlock has made much more out of her job than her title would indicate.

Told that one of the goals of the department was to promote its classes and programs to students, Spurlock redesigned and updated the department bulletin boards, adding catchy and humorous posters about classes. She also drafted a proposal for purchasing a button-maker to promote programs, which was recently approved, and she helped students purchase a display case to showcase their work.

Spurlock acknowledges, “I do a lot of things outside of my job description. If I see something that can help the program, I feel that it is my responsibility to do something — if I can make it better, I should.” She always gets permission first, of course.

The department’s faculty members also appreciated that she reorganized the kitchen/supply room, revised the travel request form and developed an FAQ on travel policies.

More than that,  “Cloud has proven a ray of sunshine for the English Department,” says Art Taylor, assistant professor.  Denise Albanese, associate professor in the department, adds, “Her skills in communication render her a really wonderful public face for the English Department.”

Professor Roger Lathbury goes even further.

“Name a positive quality and you’ll find something of it in Cloud. She treats students and faculty with a manner appropriate to the circumstances and makes everyone feel human and welcome. For this reason I think that a MacArthur grant plus a Nobel Prize with a side dish of Pulitzer are the appropriate honors for Cloud Spurlock, but if all we have is Employee of the Month, then shame on us, but so be it.”

For Spurlock, the best part of her job is dealing with the applicants who may one day walk in the door as MA or MFA students.

“I like talking to applicants and giving them the best information I can to help them make a decision,” she says. When the students do arrive, she feels that she already knows them and that “they know us.”

Spurlock also sees her role as a liaison between the students and the faculty.

“Some students are really nervous to talk to the professors,” she notes. “Sometimes they admire the faculty so much that they feel insecure. So I help them negotiate the department to get the best experience out of the program.”

She also likes assisting with degree audits when students near the end of the program and does her best to help students wrap up loose ends at a time when they are likely to be most stressed.

A student in the English MA program herself, Spurlock appreciates her unique vantage point.  She says she’s learned “strategies for diplomacy” in her roles as employee and student. As an insider, too, she says it’s “easier to be a delegate for the students.”

A Fairfax native, Spurlock graduated in 2007 from the University of Virginia with a degree in comparative literature. Hitting the job market “when the economy was beginning to tank” made it difficult to find a good full-time job, so she took part-time jobs waiting on tables, managing a movie theater and being a summer camp counselor.

She was thrilled to land her position at Mason.

“I think Mason is a great community. I can takes classes as part of my job and as a student. And I like the variety of my work. Every day there’s something new I need to do or someone new to meet.”

Still unsure about what she’ll do after completing the MA program, Spurlock says she may apply for the MFA program in creative writing. Her current interest is in folklore. She is also interested in university administration and policy.

Spurlock will be formally presented with the Employee of the Month Award by President Alan Merten in his office, Mason Hall, Room 103, on Friday, Jan. 7, 2011, at 11 a.m. Spurlock’s co-workers and friends are invited to attend.

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