The Spring 2014 J.J. Whalen Staff Scholar Award has been designated to two winners: Erin Mahon, business support specialist in Information Technology Services, and Denise Fullerton, assistant director in the Office of Student Financial Services.
The award, in honor of former Ithaca College president James J. Whalen, grants up to $1,000 annually to eligible staff members who are enrolled in a degree program at the college. Mahon, a two-time winner, is currently working to complete her degree in anthropology in 2016. Fullerton is expected to graduate in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in computer science.
In an interview with Contributing Writer Sara Kim, Mahon and Fullerton shared their experiences as both staff members and students of the college, reflecting on their contributions and efforts.
Sara Kim: Tell me about yourself and your background.
Erin Mahon: In my senior year [of college], I felt really indecisive about my path, and I was studying English and psychology as a double major. Once I left school, I got a good job, then I added an apartment, and I got a dog and just started living life, so it’s hard to go back to the academic world. So, I’m back now … I’m really happy that I’m now matriculated in the anthropology department.
Denise Fullerton: I am a wife, a mother, a full-time employee and a part-time student. My family and I came here to Ithaca from Virginia Beach, Virginia, about 2 1/2 years ago. So far, I can say that I still like the snow.
SK: What are your thoughts on winning the J.J. Staff Scholar award?
EM: I appreciate that the award money can be used for any educational purpose and doesn’t have to be specifically designated for tuition or textbook costs. I would like to think that I was chosen because I am passionate about my area of study and I work incredibly hard.
DF: I am still very excited to have won the award. Also, honored and flattered. My family was just as excited. They are so proud of me. I think sharing the Intercom announcement with them was the best feeling in winning the award.
SK: How did you first get your job and what do you do?
EM: I moved to Ithaca in 2008. I thought, “OK, if I have to have a job, I may as well combine this with going back to school and kill two birds with one stone.” It was an interesting road. I took a temporary ITS position in May of 2010 at Ithaca College with the hope that it would open as an opportunity for a permanent position with the college, and it did! One of my main responsibilities is overseeing the technology that is ordered [on campus] to make sure that once it arrives in the warehouse, it can be installed promptly by the technicians in the appropriate location.
DF: I was the loan supervisor for Tidewater Community College in Norfolk, Virginia. My husband and I wanted to provide our children an opportunity to have snow and seasons and experiences that we just did not have, so I began looking in the north for open positions within financial aid. I saw that Ithaca College was looking for an individual to aid in overseeing the Direct Loan program, so I took a chance as the position seemed to match my qualifications. I was later selected for the position, and my family and I moved up here in August of 2011.
SK: How do you feel that you’ve contributed to Ithaca College through your job?
EM: I’m a conscientious employee … I’m also involved in a lot of things on campus, like I facilitated conversations for the First-Year Reading Initiative one year. As far as my job, I just really like to come every single day to work with the intent to make Ithaca College a little bit better or to help my colleagues’ days to go more smoothly.
DF: There is an abundance of financial aid information published, but sometimes it is difficult to decipher the guidelines. I feel like my contributions include the ability to provide that information to families and students in an understandable fashion.
SK: What are your plans for the future?
EM: I’d like to continue on to graduate school to study ethnomusicology. It’s always been fascinating to me to think about how music is incorporated into the ways that people shape their cultural experiences. I would eventually like to be a professor, so that’s my ultimate goal. I want to do research and I want to teach, which is something I’ve really gotten out of my role as a staff and a student at the same time.
DF: My plans are to continue to take coursework with the goal of achieving a computer science bachelor’s in mind, use the knowledge I have gained in my classes in my daily functions, encourage my children to follow their dreams in the most creative ways possible, spend time with my husband and sleep.