By: Patsy Weiler
Sherry Fuller is the bright burst of happy sunshine that greets everyone entering the door of the MTSU College of Graduate Studies.
Ask those who know her to describe Fuller and words like kind, helpful, positive, happy, knowledgeable and thorough are used to paint a picture of the office coordinator who often references herself as the “crazy red-headed social butterfly” in Graduate Studies that loves people.
“My goal is to be a blessing, not a burden, and to create a positive atmosphere in the office,” said Fuller. “Life is about relationships. I have learned the moment an individual realizes someone cares, they connect at a personal level and we earn their trust through their entire graduate journey.”
Fuller has been employed at MTSU for 14 years and started her new Graduate Studies job about a year before COVID-19 arrived on campus. Previously, she worked for 12 years in the University College as executive secretary for Deans Mike Boyle and Rick Sluder, as well as serving for two years as president of MTSU Association of Secretarial & Clerical Employees.
“My experience has equipped me with many campus relationships and knowledge to be a resource to better serve our staff and students,” said Fuller, who smiles broadly sharing that away from work she loves singing karaoke in her kitchen and shopping for bargains.
One of her main responsibilities is training new graduate assistants — up to four a semester — to assist with incoming phone calls. She sets the banner high.
“My love for people and the desire to help others is the driving force and superior customer service is an organic outcome,” she said. “In addition, I never lose sight we are a reflection of Graduate Studies and, more importantly, MTSU.”
When staff had to work from home during the pandemic, Fuller maintained her focus on the customer support objective. Her knowledge of the campus and positive attitude became her invisible, but invaluable, co-workers, as the amount of calls she fielded every day soared.
“Our GA’s did not have phone lines designated to them as the employees do, so they were unable to assist with incoming calls while working remotely, “ Fuller said. “We had one phone line available and I was using my cell phone though Skype to answer a high volume of calls that ranged from 80 to 120 a day.”
Soon after the College of Graduate Studies office reopened, staff quickly worked with MTSU’s Information Technology Division to assign laptops connected to the office’s other four incoming lines. Should a similar situation arise in the future and the college forced to go remote again, they are well equipped to handle the call volume as if they were functioning from the office.
“We also put in place an automated phone directory, which helps direct incoming calls before they are answered personally,” she said.
Fuller emphasized the Graduate Studies staff’s morning Zoom meetings kept them connected and communication flowing.
“I also used Google Hangout for our grad assistants who did not have access to our Skype for Business app along with email, FaceTime, and text messaging to best communicate with our grad students,” Fuller said.
Beyond supervising the graduate assistants in her office, Fuller often becomes part of their extended family. Aware that some of their students are miles away from home, she makes a special effort to support them.
“One of the experiences that touched me deeply was connected to the graduation that took place during COVID-19,” she said. “Our students were only allowed to have six guests attend and one young man’s mother was in Nigeria. He wanted to know if I would come to his ceremony. I was very honored he invited me and, of course, I said, ‘Yes!’”
From Murfreesboro to Africa and many places around the world, Fuller’s joyful True Blue heart continues to make a bright impact for MTSU.
– Patsy Weiler (Patsy.Weiler@mtsu.edu)