Greyhound Grad Sherrye Burleson is a library technician and Media Services assistant for the Golden Library in the Golden Student Success Center (GSSC) at Eastern New Mexico University.
Sherrye, who received an Associate of Arts in the secretarial/clerical profession from ENMU in 1968, discusses her experiences as a student and staff member at Eastern with the ENMU News.
Why did you choose to attend ENMU?
I was raised here and graduated from Portales High School in 1963. I wanted to stay close to my family so I could help them, and I knew that Eastern was a very good school, so I didn't have any desire to go elsewhere.
How did you choose your field of study?
I had always loved secretarial work and felt that I could easily get a job locally. When I was growing up, I enjoyed pretending I worked in an office and kept letters, etc., in file folders and sending correspondence. I looked forward to the time I could do it for real and help clients who came into my office.
Which activities were you involved in at ENMU, and which awards did you receive?
I wasn't really involved in any student activities or jobs on campus because I was busy helping on our family farm, sewing professionally for the public and working in a chiropractor's office. I didn't apply for scholarships because my family and I paid for all of my school expenses, which wasn't easy, but we knew how to pinch pennies. I graduated with a 3.2 GPA.
Discuss your Eastern Experience as a student.
I enjoyed all of my classes and had great experiences with all of my professors. I think the one that stands out the most is Dr. Charles Irwin, who taught a business communications class I took. He made a statement that has influenced me ever since because I have witnessed how true it was then and is still relevant today. He said, "There are a lot of major problems in all over this world – famine, war, murder, failed relationships, etc. – but the world's greatest problem is "Mis-communication." If people would be patient and sit down and discuss their differences and truly listen to one another, there would not be so many misunderstandings that lead to unnecessary major problems.
Tell us about your job and what inspired you to work in that role.
My job title is library technician and Media Services assistant in the GSSC's Golden Library. I had worked in our school libraries in junior high and high school and have always loved reading books and encouraging a love for reading and researching to others of all ages.
My duties in this job actually do not involve working specifically with the books. In Media Services, we supervise the computer lab, helping students with software and printing problems, printing large format posters and banners, laminating, making buttons, plastic comb binding and assisting patrons with the Vari Quest cut-out machine. I maintain records for the printing requests we receive for our services and send Interfund Invoices to the various departments for the poster printing we have done for them, as well as prepare our departments' statistics for these services for the annual report at the end of the fiscal year.
Which aspect of your career is the most rewarding?
The most rewarding aspect of my job is being able to help and encourage the students, not only with their academic studies but also with any other difficult situations they are going through. If I am not able to help them directly, I try to direct them to a source that I believe will be able to help with their particular situation. I had actually planned to retire on June 30 of this year, but I decided I just couldn't miss the excitement of having the students back on campus in the fall.
I sincerely love the students because they become a part of my family. I never had children of my own, although I have always loved children, so I feel that I am extremely blessed with the biggest "adopted by love" family anyone could ever wish for. I also actually love my job and my supervisors, who are extremely understanding and supportive. They make me look forward to coming to work every day instead of dreading it, so they are going to have to put up with me a little bit longer.
What are your short- and long-term goals for this position?
I just plan to keep striving to do my job to the best of my ability and to enjoy continuing to learn new things. Life is a continuous challenge, and I hope I can maintain a positive and encouraging attitude to meet those challenges and be a positive influence on others.
Tell us about your previous jobs.
My first job was actually at ENMU. When I went to the Registrar's Office to sign my application for graduation, Miss Ruth Wheeler, the Registrar, asked me what my plans were for the future. I planned to look for a job, but if I didn't find one soon, I would come back and work on my bachelor's degree. She had an opening in her office and had already talked with some of my professors, therefore offering me a job. I couldn't believe such good luck.
After about three years, I transferred to be the senior secretary to Dr. Lyle Hagan, Dean of the School of Communicative Arts and Sciences. The Administration re-organized the various colleges and eliminated that particular department, so I was transferred to be the senior secretary to Mr. Duane Ryan, director of the Broadcast Center.
After 15 years at Eastern, my husband wanted me to quit my job and help him with our family business. Two years later, he was diagnosed with lung cancer and a brain tumor and passed away in 1989. I worked about six years in the office of a peanut mill, then two years in our church office and an insurance agency. I missed working with the college students so much I started applying for jobs on campus. I was interviewed for this job one morning in August 1997 and was hired that afternoon, so 23 ½ years later, I am grateful to still be here.
How did ENMU prepare you for your career?
ENMU had some awesome business instructors who really took a special interest in the success of their students. They made themselves available to help students whenever they needed answers to specific questions or further explanation for a special assignment. I'm sure that tradition continues to the currently enrolled students in the College of Business.
What advice would you give to a student interested in working in your career field?
I would advise a student to be diligent in trying to learn the latest information regarding job responsibilities, employment availabilities and requirements in success and longevity in the job. They need to be very patient, attentive to other's requests, enjoy interacting with different types of personalities and have a goal of genuinely helping others successfully accomplish their future goals.
Are you involved with any organizations or causes? Volunteer work?
For over 20 years, I volunteered at the Church of Christ Greyhounds for Christ ministry here on campus, assisting with Bible studies, social activities for the college students and helping cook supper once a week for up to 100 students. I was a member of the county Homemakers Extension Clubs, helping with the Roosevelt County Fair and serving as coordinator of the Peanut Valley Festival Food Fair for a number of years. I was a member of the ENMU Secretarial Association for many years, serving in all of the officer positions, as well as District Secretary. I regularly support the ENMU Foundation Scholarship Fund, Pregnancy Resource Center, New Mexico Christian Children's Home, as well as various local fundraisers.
Tell us about your family and background.
I was born in Sudan, Texas, and started first grade there, then my family moved to Plainview, Texas, for three years, then to Portales in 1954, which has been my home ever since. My Daddy was a farmer, and my Mother was a homemaker. I was very blessed to have been raised in a very loving, caring and encouraging Christian home. My parents taught us to sincerely love everyone regardless of color, race or culture and to treat everyone with loving kindness. My Daddy served as an elder in the Church of Christ for several years, and my Mother was one of the very best children's Bible class teachers for most of her adult life.
My brother was ten years older than me and my sister six years younger than me, and we were all very close and best friends. We all worked together on the farm and raised a huge vegetable garden to be canned and frozen, as well as chickens and beef, so we didn't have to buy very much at the grocery store. My Mother was an exceptionally good cook and loved to invite other family, neighbors and friends to be our guests for meals, especially after church on Sunday.
My husband died in 1989 at the age of 47 from lung cancer and a brain tumor. My Daddy died in 1973 at the age of 65 from heart trouble. My sister died in 2001 at the age of 50 from a massive heart attack, and my brother died in 2002 at the age of 68 from lung cancer. In 2003, I moved in with my Mother to care for her after she developed macular degeneration and heart problems, and continued to work here as well. She passed away in 2008 at the age of 95.
Who influences you? Who is your role model? Why?
God is my number one influence and role model. I try to be a faithful follower and practice His example of showing love and kindness to everyone; however, I have to admit that I am human and fall short sometimes, which makes me try harder and be thankful that He is so patient with me.
My next most important role model is my Mother. She had a very difficult childhood with her mother and her three brothers constantly being both physically and emotionally abusive to her. She vowed that her children would be assured that they were wanted and loved, and we certainly felt all of that love and kindness. My Mother and I were not only mother and daughter, but very best friends. We were both very creative and enjoyed working together on many projects. She showed me that carrying bitterness and hatred when someone has hurt us only hurts ourselves. We should forgive, shake the dust from our feet and move on with love and happiness in our hearts.
Which accomplishments and awards have you earned?
I was valedictorian of my Portales Junior High graduating class. In high school, I was a member of the Girls' Choir, FHA, Library Association, Future Teachers Association, National Honor Society, Class Secretary during my junior and senior years. I was awarded the Spirit of Eastern Award at ENMU.
What are your hobbies?
I have enjoyed various hobbies over the years – gardening, silk flower and dried flower arranging, sewing, ceramics, painting furniture, interior home decorating, crocheting and cooking. I think my hobby now is giving inspirational books away to others. I give them to college students, children, friends, the elderly and sometimes a perfect stranger. I want to help people find encouragement to face some of their life's trials, enjoy laughing or just lift their spirits. Reading is very educational and keeps people from sitting in front of the TV all of the time.
"This picture of my Mother, Nan McGuyer, and me was taken in early 2008 before she passed away in October 2008 at the age of 95," says Sherrye. "She was my best friend and mentor."