Thursday, June 23, 2011

Ask Emily: The AALCI Program Coordinator

Emily Broadwater, AALCI Program Coordinator with Joycelyn Moody.
This summer, the answer to each and every tough question at the Institute often comes down to two words. Ask. Emily.

How do we borrow a laptop computer or get headphones from the UTSA library? Ask Emily.

What do we do about a few pesky ants in our apartment complex? Ask Emily.

How do we get last minute copies and our flight itineraries? Ask Emily.

What can I do to get Frederick Douglass postcards for a presentation that I'm preparing? Ask Emily.

Finally, where exactly is that single needle under the haystack on the other side of campus? Ask Emily. Who else?

Somewhere on the other side of those frequently uttered two words is the AALCI Program Coordinator Emily Broadwater, waiting and willing to respond. No one knows how she manages to find the answers or come up with the solutions. We just remain grateful.

Emily readily admits that she does not have every answer. Her modesty prevents her from acknowledging, though, that she apparently knows how to track down the answer to every question or how to find the solution to all kinds of problems.

Among other things, Emily has decided to make this the single most boring and uneventful summer of Joycelyn Moody's life. Just the way we like it. One incident that comes to mind that was so funny and remarkable that I would hardly believe it if I had not witnessed it first-hand.

Moody had a short list of some questions she needed answered related to various dates, times, and documents. So she did what we all do. She asked Emily.

"Emily, can you get me the date and time that our guest arrives?" asked Moody.

"Yes, I just sent a text, and I sent a copy to your email," said Emily.

Moody looked down at her phone. The text was just arriving, meaning Emily had sent it as we were getting off of the elevator and walking in her direction.

"If you get time tomorrow morning, can I get those hand-outs that I emailed you about Emily?" I asked.

"Here you go," she said and gave me the documents, early.

"Oh, I'm not sure if you had time to get...," Moody began before Emily stepped to her desk and then handed Moody a few more papers. "Oh, thanks," said Moody.

Emily went to her desk one more time and picked up a few more papers and held them patiently as Moody and I looked over the previous documents we were handed. When we looked up, she held out another set of documents for Moody.

"What's this?"

"Oh, I think you were about to...." started Emily.

I had to interrupt before she could finish. "Hold up, hold up. Let me make sure I understand what's happening. You've begun to predict the questions and work before we ask?"

We all laughed. This incident, by the way, took place on the first day of the program.

More than anything, Emily has modeled for me the ways that serious coordinator work is about pre-coordinator work. It's about planning and wondering about possible questions and challenges before the questions and challenges, and it's about studying the work patterns of the group.

In the upcoming closing week of our program, I imagine our Fellows will have all kinds of questions, and so will Moody and me. I predict we'll face unexpected obstacles. Folks will need answers and solutions.

I hope someone poses one of the tough questions to me. I'll peer off into the distance and begin to answer and then interrupt myself, pausing and rubbing my chin as if thinking more on it for dramatic effect. And I'll finally begin to speak those magical two solution-driven words. Ask Emily.

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