Denise Joseph has spent her 15-year career at UAB making positive impressions — on co-workers, students and administrators.
Louis Dale, Ph.D., vice president for Equity and Diversity, took notice of Joseph more than six years ago in his capacity as professor of mathematics. He noticed her professionalism and rapport with mathematics students and faculty and was particularly impressed with the way she expressed herself.
“I remember when I came to interview for the executive assistant position in Equity and Diversity, Dr. Dale told me he had been watching me do my job in the math department,” Joseph says. “That scared the heck out of me. But he said he liked the way I carried myself and the way I communicated with others.”
Joseph, who was hired as executive assistant in the Office of the Vice President for Equity and Diversity in September 2005, is described as a hard-working, well-organized individual who is pleasant, punctual and conscientious — all qualities that made her Employee of the Month for December 2011.
Joseph’s responsibilities include providing diverse, complex and often confidential administrative, secretarial and support services for Dale. She also undertakes special assignments, including research, summarizing correspondences and data for UAB and compiling reports for submission to the University of Alabama System and the National Science Foundation.
One of her primary duties is maintaining the vice president’s evolving calendar. Joseph is asked to attend events for Dale on occasion, and she does so in a professional manner, he says.
“While Ms. Joseph’s duties, responsibilities and workload may be typical of an executive assistant, I must add that she is an outstanding employee, hard worker and contributes to the success of the office,” Dale says. “She exemplifies what is best about UAB.”
Joseph’s interaction with colleagues and students is a shining example of that.
In addition to supervising temporary staff, Joseph is the contact person for several minority graduate fellowship programs. It is here that she interacts with and assists students with paperwork and schedules.
Ovuke’ Emonina, academic advisor in the Department of Biology, often refers students to Joseph for the Alliance for Minority Participation Bridge to the Doctorate Program, and they don’t walk away scratching their heads.
“The students always come back and mention that she was helpful and informative,” Emonina says. “Denise is always ready to assist anyone in need. From students to colleagues and others that work in Campbell Hall, she makes significant contributions to everyone she interacts with. Her service attitude toward people is exemplary.”
Joseph says her mother, Janie Louise Green, a nurse, fostered this attitude. One of her favorite stories is how her mom would bring home sick or injured stray cats and dogs as a child and nurse them back to health. At one point, her grandmother had five children in the house — and 12 pets.
“Of those pets, 11 came from my mom,” Joseph says.
And as Joseph’s own daughter was growing up as an active athlete, her house often was filled with other children. Her role as “extended mom” was one she relished and has taken further through the years.
When she was in the math department, Joseph worked almost daily with many foreign graduate students. Most of them lived so far away that they couldn’t go home for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Joseph often invited these students to her home, ensuring she always had a full table during the holidays.
“I found myself being their American mom,” Joseph says. “I ended up being more of a mom in some aspects than I realized. I have been invited to several weddings and sometimes get pictures of the first baby or new home. But I wasn’t inviting them to my home for any reason other than I just care about people and our students.
“Since I’ve been in the Office for Equity and Diversity, I’m not quite as hands-on with the students. I really enjoy working with them. I’m in awe of their knowledge and capabilities and what they’ve managed to accomplish and obstacles they’ve overcome. I admire what they do and how well they do it.”
José Fernandez, Ph.D., associate professor of nutrition sciences and director for diversity outreach in the Office of Equity & Diversity, says Joseph is an example of the commitment and professionalism that characterize UAB.
“She is a quiet person with controlled and settled moves and refined and calmed manners,” Fernandez says. “She also is efficient and capable of handling high-stress situations with great equanimity. Ms. Joseph has earned the respect of staff members and faculty who has interacted with her throughout the years. Her commitment to diversity, her vision of equality and her understanding of equity shows in the actions she delivers in her job responsibility.”
Joseph is quick to share her accomplishments with others.
“It’s truly a team effort in our office,” she says. “We have a good working relationship, and I’m really fortunate to have always had that since I’ve been here. I’ve always been able to pick up the phone and call all over campus and get whatever I need from whomever I need it. I think that says a lot about the people here at UAB.”