Thanksgiving at Wesleyan: Pass Gratitude, Not Gravy

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What do blue transcript forms, chicken finger plates and tardy slips have in common? On the surface they might be mere Wesleyan resources or amenities, but in reality, they represent the hardworking and sometimes underappreciated faculty and staff members who play a crucial role in the school’s day-to-day operations.
Stopping by the front office to sign in for a free period might be the only interaction students have with administrator Lori Stromie, but more than just the voice over the intercom or the signature on a notary form, Stromie is the driving force behind daily logistics.

Joining the Wesleyan faculty in 2014, Stromie has served as the Administrative Assistant for four years. Her duties include much more than authorizing tardy forms or making daily announcements. She schedules locations for all meetings, manages day-to-day logistics, handles all mail and deliveries, maintains all cumulative files, administers uniform rentals and orders all teacher supplies. “It’s a lot, but I’d rather be busy,” said Stromie. “I like to be organized; I can’t deal if I’m not organized. My brain doesn’t work with messiness.”

Waking up at 5:15 a.m., her official day begins at 6:30 a.m. and ends at 3 p.m., but she remains “on-call” until 9 p.m. in case any teachers call in sick and need a substitute. But what happens when Stromie gets sick? “I don’t get sick. It’s not worth it,” said Stromie.

Her favorite part of the day is talking with students. “I love talking with you all or just saying ‘hello’ instead of just signing in and walking out the door. It’s fun watching you all grow from freshmen to seniors.” It is hard to believe that the Class of 2018 will be her first graduating class.

Colleague and Dean of Students Joseph Koch said, “Mrs. Stromie is certainly very good at her job, but I am most thankful for the heart she has for our students and families.” Senior Ben Connor agreed; “Mrs. Stromie is really organized, so she has things down pat. She knows where everybody should be she’s really good at her job and [she is] really nice.” Senior Megan Gallagher notes that she “keeps us safe from bad visitors,” and senior Cassie Henning praises her for “always telling me to have a really good day.”

Serving his sixth year at Wesleyan, SAGE Food Service Director Jason Myers knows a thing or two about cooking. A few of his responsibilities include developing menus, overseeing upper school and lower school food management, ordering all food and kitchen products and catering anything for events on campus, such as board meetings, parent coffees, Grandparents Day and prom. “We can have anywhere from one to three events per day,” said Myers.

“We get here at 6 a.m. and start prepping right away, ready for service by 10:45 a.m.,” said Myers. It is important to note that everything is made the day-of. “We don’t open cans; we soak beans and cook them fresh. We are scratch cooking, and that’s what we love about it; it’s all fresh.” He comments that his staff is like “a well-oiled machine” and that “everyone knows what they need to do.” Therefore, he does not have to micromanage anyone, something he does not have time for to begin with.

The amount of food Myers and his team prepare each day is astonishing. On the beloved “Chicken Finger Day,” Myers might handle 400 pounds of chicken fingers. Lower School Food Service Director Jeff Cotnoir added that he prepares about “1,000-1,500 pounds of food a week.”

But above all else, Myers would “love to hear more feedback from the students” and invites them to step back into the kitchen and see what goes on behind the scenes. Myers and his team are always open to changes. “We have good-tasting recipes to follow, and each year we push to do more. We’re always changing things. For example, we fired Mayfield and are going to Hershey’s now for our ice cream,” said Myers.

Cotnoir said, “We love what we do, and it takes a special kind of person to do what we do and love it. It’s a tough industry, but when you have passionate people, it makes it fun.”

Raving Sage Dining fan and biology teacher Megan Trotter said, “I love Sage Dining! I love their potatoes, their salad bar and their soup. I love the variety of the fruit and vegetables. There’s quite a selection, and I love the people. I’m thankful for Mrs. Barbara and her dedication to eliminate cross contamination.”

Despite it only being her second year working at Wesleyan, Dayna Thomson has been a parent and volunteer at Wesleyan for six years. As the Assistant for the College Advising Office, Thomson is often referred to as the “college mom.” Some of her responsibilities include processing the 600+ senior transcripts received each year, coordinating college representative visits throughout the fall, reviewing teacher letters of recommendation, planning and managing the annual college tour for sophomores and juniors, processing junior paperwork, overseeing office email and website communications and coordinating program times, parent coffees and special events, such as College Night, Financial Aid Night and Senior Honors Day in May.

Managing schedules and meetings for the three advisors in the office is also a key part of her job, and she is the first in line for student and parent college-related questions. But perhaps one of the most challenging roles of being the College Advising Assistant is managing the different personalities of each advisor, a task Thomson does with ease.

When asked about Thomson’s title, College Advisor and English teacher Andrea Shupert described her as the “queen.” She said Thomson “runs the office, keeps us all on task, is in charge of everything and takes care of all the seniors.”

“My favorite part of the job, though, is getting to know the students and celebrating their victories throughout the process – whether deciding where to apply, completing that first application, being accepted to the school of their dreams or making a tough but thoughtful decision,” said Thomson.
Seniors are especially grateful for Thomson, as she is always available to provide a helping hand in the application process. Senior Ethan Moon struggles to pinpoint his gratitude saying, “the list never ends.” Moon said, “I think I love her most because whenever I come into college advising and start singing a random song she will join in with me and we jam together.”

Senior Olivia Frye said, “Mrs. Thomson has helped me countless times because I freak out every time I do anything for college. She has calmed my nerves, read over my applications and answered so many questions for me. It’s like having two advisors. Not to mention, she doesn’t have her own office, so she can’t hide from needy students like me, and I’ve never even seen her in a bad mood. She rocks, and everyone should go talk to her.”

Senior Kelsey Rappe added, “I’m thankful for Mrs. Thomson because she really brings peace and calm to the hectic college application process. Whether it’s offering Halloween candy to the ever-hungry high schooler or working behind the scenes to make sure I have everything necessary for my application, she’s an undercover superhero in the college advising office and definitely deserves to be thanked.”

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