Administrative Assistant for
For 10 years, Delayne Graham has helped build the Office of Interdisciplinary Studies in the College of Liberal Arts from a brand-new outfit into an administrative hub that coordinates more than 200 academic majors and 250 minors.
As administrative assistant for interdisciplinary studies and engagement, Graham serves as the office's graduate secretary, schedule deputy and webmaster. She also works with faculty members and academic advisors to build awareness for interdisciplinary programs — and to help them thrive.
How did you get involved with the Office of Interdisciplinary Studies?
In 2003, when the University established the office, I had already worked for Purdue for 10 years. At that time I was the graduate secretary for the Department of History, and Susan Curtis was chair of the American studies program, which was housed in History.
Susan was chosen to lead the new Office of Interdisciplinary Studies, and she was familiar with my skills, so she asked if I was interested in applying for this position. The thought of helping to build an office from the ground up was very appealing, so I applied and got the job. I've been here ever since. It's been a very rewarding experience.
What are your daily job duties?
I assist JoAnn Miller, associate dean for interdisciplinary programs and engagement, with the office's budgeting, her calendar and the administration necessary to keep our 15 interdisciplinary programs running smoothly.
I also serve as our office's graduate secretary. We offer master's and doctoral programs in American studies, comparative literature and linguistics, and we have about 125 graduate students total. I assist them with everything from their initial graduate program applications to scheduling their classes to planning for graduation.
Additionally, I'm the schedule deputy for all interdisciplinary programs except for African-American studies and women's studies. That means I reserve the necessary spaces on campus for the applicable classes. Three times each year — for the fall and spring semesters and for summer session — I release our course schedules.
How have you helped build Purdue's 15 interdisciplinary programs?
One of my first undertakings in this job was to build websites for all our programs so we could promote them and increase awareness on campus. Ever since, I've maintained all our websites except the ones for African-American studies, women's studies and Jewish studies, which are maintained through other offices.
I've also worked with faculty and advisors to make sure interdisciplinary programs are on students' radars when they're searching for just the right major. In the past few years, I've worked with faculty members to help build the administrative framework for two new minors: Asian-American studies and Latin American and Latino studies.
What's most rewarding about your job?
I love working with our graduate students. There's a new group every year, and they're always amazing — I have a lot of respect for how much work they put into their studies. Getting a graduate degree is a huge accomplishment, and I feel lucky that I get to be part of such a big step in their lives.
Working with international graduate students is also a rewarding experience. I get to meet people from around the world, learn about their culture and teach them about mine. Their perspective is always eye-opening. They're traveling so far for their education, so I try to put myself in their shoes and help them as much as I can, even when it comes to finding housing or questions about life in Indiana and the U.S.
In general, it's been so rewarding to be part of establishing this office. The first five years were a real roller coaster of change as we dealt with the natural ups and downs associated with starting a new office, but the last five years have been much more stable. We've built a foundation for interdisciplinary programs that will be able to thrive and grow long into the future. I'm just so glad to be a part of that.