New Staff Senate president has worn many hats at Clemson
By Angela Nixon
Deb Charles hopes that her different job experiences at Clemson will benefit her in her new role as Staff Senate president.
Charles has held just about every type of employee position at the University. As an undergraduate, she held jobs as a work-study student and as an hourly student employee. As a graduate student, she worked as a graduate assistant. After graduation, she was hired in a temporary position before being moved into a full-time classified staff position. She even teaches as an adjunct instructor in the Department of Public Health Science.
The Cherryville, N.C., native came to Clemson in 1980, but for various reasons was not able to stay to complete her degree. She left Clemson and entered the work force, spending most of her career in management for Domino’s Pizza. In 1996, when her Domino’s franchise was sold, she saw it as an opportunity to make some changes in her life, so she returned to Clemson to complete her bachelor’s degree.
“When I made the decision to leave in the 1980s, I knew I would be back some day,” Charles said.
In 1998, she earned her bachelor’s in public health science and decided to enter graduate school. In 2001, she completed a Master of Arts in professional communication. After finishing her master’s, she had a job lined up with the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, but then fate intervened — Charles was reintroduced to an old friend, Ken Charles, whom she had first met in the 1980s as an undergraduate.
Not long after their reunion, the two decided to get married, so Charles decided to stay in the Upstate. In 2002, she was hired to work at Clemson.
Earlier this year, Charles was promoted to director of academic departmental support and learning technologies for Clemson Computing and Information Technology (CCIT). She now oversees desktop support for faculty and staff, classroom technology support, training and distance education for CCIT.
Charles is starting her fourth year serving on Staff Senate. She has served on the senate’s scholarship committee and has served as a senate representative on several University committees, including the advisory council for Student Disability Services, the Academic Calendar Committee, the Human Resources Advisory Council and the Staff Development Program steering committee.
“When I was younger, I was never someone to get involved in leadership positions, such as student government. I just never had those kinds of aspirations,” Charles said.
But when her previous supervisor in CCIT wanted to nominate her for Staff Senate, she agreed to give it a try. She has enjoyed the experience so far and looks forward to leading the senate as its president.
Charles describes herself as an “eternal optimist,” and though she recognizes that Clemson has some challenges ahead with budget issues, she thinks that Staff Senate can play a role in helping the administration in the coming year.
“I prefer to look at things that we can do that we can be successful at rather than worry about things we can’t control,” she said. “It’s important to think of solutions, but you can’t let yourself get lost in the problems.”
Charles said she hopes to continue to grow Staff Senate’s relationship with Faculty Senate and look for new ways that the two groups can work together.
“Faculty and staff are dependent on one another. Without one, there’s not much point in having the other,” she said. “We have a lot of common issues and concerns, so it’s very important for us to maintain a relationship. It’s also good for us as staff to understand those concerns and issues that are unique to faculty, and vice versa, so we can be advocates for each other.”
Charles said she also wants to look for ways that Staff Senate can continue to work with undergraduate and graduate student governments.
“I look forward to working with undergraduate and graduate student leaders as well,” she said. “They have been very involved in the last few years, and I know the relationship between Staff Senate and both student senates has grown over the last few years. I hope we continue to develop that relationship to strengthen each group.”
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