Lievens provides personal touch to study-away students

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Advising for students in study-away programs is complex. It requires knowledge of academic credit articulation, program requirements, financial aid and scholarships plus the ability to locate programs that match the needs and interests of students who want to study away.

In her three years in the UAB’s Study Away office, Christy Lievens’ knowledge of core information has increased and she has become more involved with faculty-led programs, policy development, advanced advising and pre-departure procedures, making the office well-rounded and efficient. These are just a few of the reasons Lievens is a worthy selection as February’s Employee of the Month.

Christy Lievens has been essential to UAB’s Study Away office in these areas and others during her three years as a coordinator. As her knowledge of core information has increased, she has become more involved with faculty-led programs, policy development, advanced advising and pre-departure procedures, making the two-person Study Away office well rounded and efficient — all reasons Lievens is a worthy selection as February’s Employee of the Month.

“Ms Lievens is an extremely dedicated employee who goes above and beyond the standard job description,” says Josh Carter, director of the Office for Study Away. “She has created a very positive reputation for herself on campus, and the office runs efficiently due to her organization and attention to detail.

“Whether it is staying late to finish a project, helping a student identify an appropriate program, marketing Study Away to the UAB community or analyzing policies and procedures for efficient solutions and consistency, she is always a team player who looks out for the best of the department and the university,” Carter says.

Lievens is a former academic advisor who enjoys helping students get the most of their college experience, she says.

Many students who come to the Study Away office know they want to travel as part of the experience but not exactly where, when or if they have the means to do that.

“It’s a difficult process for some students. To see them progress —from being excited about the potential opportunity and overcoming obstacles to make it a reality — is rewarding to watch,” Lievens says. “When they get back, it’s amazing to see how much they’ve grown and how much it has become woven into who they are. When they share their stories and the pictures and tell you, ‘This is the best thing I’ve ever done. Thanks for pushing me to do it,’ is what validates that I am making a positive contribution.”

Lievens also assists faculty members who run study away programs, ensuring that every detail of their trip has been considered and mapped — whether it’s recruiting, planning or tracking student payments.

“Christy has been extremely helpful in all phases of our course planning,” says Ken Marion, Ph.D., professor of biology who runs a study-away course each May. “Planning details for our trips requires many hours talking to on-site travel agencies, tour coordinators, hotels, bus companies, airlines and others. This extremely time-consuming task frees faculty to be productive in other teaching and scholarly activities. I would be very reluctant to run certain trips without her help. Her logistical help and support has been immense.”

Lievens must assist a multitude of stakeholders to facilitate timely advising, registration and travel for students and faculty going abroad or choosing in-country experiences. Colleagues say she does this efficiently and effectively.

“Christy will go the extra mile to help the student with a problem or a question,” says Gaye Wilson, manager of Academic Systems and Operations. “What once was a very lengthy and frustrating process for the student and faculty has become a routine — a utility, if you will. When we push the button, we expect the electricity to do its job and the lights to come on. Only when it does not work do we notice it. Christy has worked very hard to make the product of her office a utility, and she has succeeded.”

Because of her efficiency, ability and desire to learn new skills quickly, Lievens has been consistently able to take on more complex tasks. In fact, she wears a variety of hats. At any given time she’s an office manager, accountant, personal assistant, student advisor, intern supervisor or parental liaison.

The cash-collection task is very complex, and Lievens’ ability to complete it accurately and efficiently enables the faculty-led programs to pay vendors on time and offer students a great study-away experience.

Lievens says her position is not without some stress. But she says faculty and staff throughout campus have the same goal in mind — helping the student. That, she says, makes her job worthwhile and fun, too.

“I actually enjoy coming to work every day,” Lievens says. “Not many people can say that.”

If you know someone that should be Employee of the Month, send letters of nomination to Kelly Mayer at