Debbie Lanter, office administrator for the School of Integrative Biology, has worked at the UI for nearly 32 years.
Lanter started as a secretary II in the purchasing division in 1976. A year and a half later, she moved to what was then the department of agronomy and was promoted to secretary III. After taking a year and a half off, she returned to campus as extra help in 1980 in the department of business administration in the College of Business. She eventually became the department’s staff secretary, and worked there for more than 26 years before moving to integrative biology in January 2007.
Lanter grew up in Allerton, a rural town of about 300 people near Homer. She and her husband, Randy, now make their home in Savoy. She has two daughters – Nicole, 27, a schoolteacher; and Heidi, 24, an office manager – and a grandson on the way.
Tell me about your job.
I do a little bit of everything.
I work on the timetable, scheduling all the integrative biology courses with the associate director. I enter all the courses online, set enrollments and submit special requests for classrooms. I prepare the final-exam schedule and monitor grade collection for all integrative biology courses. That keeps me pretty busy, because you have to plan far in advance.
During the fall and spring semesters, I schedule seminars and speakers, which means that I plan all their travel arrangements and accommodations as well.
I process reimbursement vouchers for speakers, faculty members and graduate students; order ICES (instructor and teacher evaluation system) forms for faculty and teaching assistants; submit textbook orders; and type, proof and copy all of the course materials and manuals for our core courses.
I also handle a lot of the correspondence that comes through the office and all the walk-ins with questions.
What are you working on now?
Right now is freshman orientation time, so we have six weeks during which we have to monitor the courses very closely to make sure there’s space for students to register.
What’s the most enjoyable aspect of your job?
I love working with students, I really do. It’s fun. I also like putting the timetable together. It’s like a big puzzle that I get to put it together. When it’s finished, printed and published on the Web site, it’s like, “Yes! It worked.” It’s such a huge accomplishment because all the pieces fell into place.
What’s the most challenging aspect of your job?
Getting everyone’s schedules to mesh when we’re recruiting a candidate. That usually happens during the semester, when everyone is at their busiest with teaching and research, so that just makes it more difficult to find a time that works for all parties.
I usually don’t see things as challenges; I see them as opportunities to help. I’ve always given 110 percent in my job, and I strongly believe there isn’t a challenge that I can’t find an answer to or a problem I can’t help to solve. I feel like I should at least be able to point them in the right direction – to the person who can solve their problem.
What was it like moving from business to biology after such a long tenure there?
It was a challenge learning all the new biology-related courses. I had been in business for so long, I knew them like the back of my hand. But I’m catching on and learning lots of interesting things.
That, and the business school doesn’t have a cockroach lab! I visited it and survived, although I didn’t get too close to them.
What do you like to do off the job?
My husband and I like to travel a lot. Las Vegas and Lake Tahoe are two of our favorite destinations. Tahoe is absolutely gorgeous; I would go back there every year if I could. We go to St. Louis quite a bit to go to Cardinals games and just to get away. My husband is a big Cardinals fan. I find myself following the Cardinals and the Illini more and more now.
I also love to read, cross-stitch, crochet and spend time with the family. In a couple of weeks, my new hobby will be spending time with my first grandchild and spoiling him rotten.