24, No. 16, March 3, 2005
the job: Sandra Washington
Sharita Forrest, Assistant Editor
photo to enlarge
by Clark Brooks
is a clerical assistant in the Service Office for
the Division of Facilities & Services.
I Run To” is the title of a song that Sandra Washington sang when
she entertained at the Facilities & Services’ Service and
Employee Recognition Banquet in December. The title seems fitting for
Washington’s “other gig” – answering the pleas
of harried faculty and staff members and students who call the F&S
Service Office for assistance with problems that range from malfunctioning
projector screens to mysterious odors and icy sidewalks. Washington,
a clerical assistant, started her career with the university about 10
years ago in the College of Veterinary Medicine.
Tell me about your job.
Anything that could possibly go wrong on campus comes through this office:
from toilets to ceiling tiles to ice on stairs and sidewalks. People
call us for repairs, when they need to dig, or when they need fans or
fire alarms shut down, to clean up spills. We reroute their calls to
the correct people.
We get some really strange calls sometimes, and sometimes it’s
confusing because the caller is trying to describe the problem but doesn’t
know the terminology, and we’re not sure what they’re talking
We get calls to remove dead animals. We also get calls about lost property
– computers, necklaces, keys – sometimes because people
have dropped their keys or IDs down elevator shafts. Sometimes we get
calls about unusual odors; sometimes they’re coming from the farms,
and people on campus don’t know what it is.
What do you like most about your job?
My job was really hard for me at first because it consisted of so much.
It took me about six or seven years to get comfortable. But I like it
now because I finally got a feel for what I’m doing. I work with
great people. Everybody around here is just like family.
What’s the most challenging part
of your job?
Satisfying the customers. We do the best that we can to get what they
need done, but a lot of times we don’t have control of when things
are done. But it’s fun.
A lot of customers know us by name and we recognize their voices because
we’ve talked to them for so many years. From time to time, one
of them will come to our window and introduce themselves, and it’s
nice to be able to put a face with the name.
Tell me about your career at the university.
I started working as extra help in the National Animal Poison Control
Center in the College of Veterinary Medicine. I went through the learner
trainee program and became permanent. When the poison control center
left the university, I chose to stay with the university, and I’m
glad I did.
How long have you been a singer?
I’ve been singing since I was a little child: in churches, at
weddings and funerals. I sang at a party at the American Legion Post
71 in Urbana in celebration of my brother’s group, ToMaxx, releasing
their CD. I started singing in church as a trio with my two cousins.
When they lost interest, I became a soloist. I sing a variety of things:
gospel, rhythm and blues, a little jazz and contemporary music.
At the Facilities & Services banquet in December, I sang Natalie
Cole’s “Inseparable” a capella to the oldest married
couple and an R&B song, “Who Can I Run to.”
Last Friday, at a co-workers’ birthday party, I sang “Happy
Birthday” and Alicia Keys’ “If I Ain’t Got You,”
which I dedicated to two men from their wives. It was spontaneous; I
just walked in and was told, ‘You’re going to sing!’
That was fun.
We older musicians, we have the talent, but we have nowhere to go. We’d
like to get a little exposure too, even if we don’t “make
it” in the music industry, even if it were just a yearly talent
show or something for people in our area.
Besides singing, what other hobbies do you have?
I play bingo, and I spend a lot of time with my two girls, who are ages
13 and 7. They keep me busy, especially with their age difference. I
go to concerts, and I love to read mysteries. I like trying to figure
out who did the crime.