Staff Chat: Mary Johnson, Learning Technology Specialist

Mary Johnson, learning technology specialist. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

Mary Johnson, learning technology specialist. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

As a learning technology specialist on Brenau’s Information Technology team, Mary Johnson’s area of expertise is ever-changing.

Johnson started at Brenau in 2009 as a fieldwork assistant in the School of Occupational Therapy, keeping up with contracts and student records sent to fieldwork sites. “It was actually a lot of fun,” she said.

Two years later, she transferred to IT and became the campus administrator for Canvas.

“I’m the primary support person for that and all the other tools built onto that product,” Johnson explained. “Canvas is our online learning system available to any instructor that teaches a class here at Brenau and all the students in those classes.”

Mary Johnson, learning technology specialist. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)
Mary Johnson, learning technology specialist. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

Johnson is a Gainesville native and Brenau graduate, and she worked for the City of Gainesville doing geographic information system (GIS) mapping before coming to work at her alma mater.

“It’s kind of an interesting story,” she said. “I was working there right as the economy took such a bad hit. When they downsized, I was able to move here because I was familiar with databases, and they wanted me to organize that sort of thing for the OT department.”

Johnson said her favorite part of her work is the variety and social aspect.

“I like the constant interaction with our students and our faculty,” she said. “You get to talk to somebody different just about every day.”

She has been married to her husband, Paul, for 17 years. They have two daughters: Kendyl, a junior at North Hall High School, and Koley, a third-grader at Mount Vernon.

“They are loads of fun to keep up with and chase around,” Johnson said.

Staff Chat: Stephanie Clark, Director of the Child Development Center

Stephanie Clark, director of the Child Development Center, enjoys an activity with her daughter Chloe Clark, from left to right, Kahler Maddox and Caiden Coley. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

Stephanie Clark, director of the Child Development Center, enjoys an activity with her daughter Chloe Clark, from left to right, Kahler Maddox and Caiden Coley. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

Stephanie Renee Clark, director of the Child Development Center, grew up in Athens, Georgia, and at age 14 moved to Gainesville to live in the house her family owned on Lake Lanier. Her father was a heat and air company owner, while her mother raised Clark and her sister at home.

She attended North Hall High School and earned an associate’s degree in early childhood education from Lanier Technical College in 2002. Originally thinking she would be a teacher in the Hall County school system, her friend Chelsea Beard, WC ’08, persuaded her to come to Brenau, and she was hired at the Child Development Center in 2006. First she taught in the classroom and planned on going back to school to get a special education degree, until she was promoted to assistant director. In August 2016, she became director. While working at the CDC, she went on to earn a B.S. in organizational leadership in 2013, an M.S. in applied gerontology in 2015 and a graduate certificate in business administration and management in 2017.

“I’m thankful to have the organizational leadership degree for the job that I do,” she said. “To be able to run the staff and the day-to-day finances of the center, the organizational leadership really helped me with that. I’m glad I went that route.”

Clark said, after 11 years at the CDC, no two days are alike. She starts every day saying good morning and hugging the children as they arrive.

“It’s kind of hard to have a bad day, even if you come in with a foul mood,” she said. “Once I get in the hallway and start getting my hugs, [the bad mood] brushes off my shoulders.”

She also tends to the billing and administrative work, but makes time to interact with the children on the playground, read them a book and sing songs with them in class. She strives to maintain a kid-friendly and family-oriented atmosphere, and always has an open door to anyone who may have concerns.

“My favorite times are when we go trick-or-treating around campus … We all get dressed up and it’s always a really fun time,” Clark said. “We host a fall festival for the parents and children, and we usually do something really funny and off-the-wall. One year the teachers dressed up as the cast of The Wizard of Oz. It makes us laugh and gives us a time to be outside the classroom with the kids.”

Also a mom to two children – Cooper, 8, and Chloe, 5, both of whom attended the CDC – and two stepchildren – Shelby, 21, and Reed, 17 – Clark enjoys going to her son Cooper’s basketball, baseball and football games, and camping and boating on Lake Lanier with her husband Craig and the family. She would like to someday become an adjunct and work up to becoming a college professor.

StaffChat: Allen Phillips, Assistant Director for Admissions Operations

Allen Phillips, assistant director for admissions operations

Allen Phillips, assistant director for admissions operations

Allen Phillips, assistant director for Admissions Operations, came to Brenau nearly nine years ago seeking an office job and found the perfect fit.

When asked what the assistant director for admissions operations does, Phillips jokes that he does “everything.”

“I do a lot of the troubleshooting whenever there are issues with applications, documents being processed, really any kind of processing issues,” Phillips said. “I also act as a contact for the adult and graduate studies office. My office is operations, so we process all their documents. Any time there are problems with student records or something like that, I resolve those issues.”

Born in Forsyth County but raised in Gainesville, Phillips said he’s spent nearly his entire life in Hall County. He graduated from then-Gainesville State College, now the University of North Georgia Gainesville campus. He started at Brenau in July 2008 in the admissions office and hasn’t left since.

He came to Brenau at the suggestion of his cousin, Christina White, who works in the adult and graduate studies office.

“She mentioned there was a job opening for a data processor,” he said. “I was looking generally for an office job at that point, but the role was really what I wanted to do. It just really worked out that I was able to start at an entry level position and grow since then.”

Phillips said his favorite thing about his job is the amount of problem solving.

“My days are never the same,” he said. “I’ll have issues come up, and I get to figure out what happened and how we correct it.”

He lives in Gainesville with his wife, Becky, and the couple owns a dog and three cats.

StaffChat: Payroll Coordinator Angie Graham

Brenau's payroll coordinator Angie Graham. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

Brenau's payroll coordinator Angie Graham. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

Payroll Coordinator Angie Graham came to Brenau more than seven years ago as a temp, but today she’s an integral part of the Brenau family.

In November 2009, Graham accepted a temp position in accounts payable after being out of work for almost eight months.

“I took the position in hopes that something would come open full-time,” she said. “In March of 2010, I was hired full time as cash receipts clerk. In July 2015, the payroll coordinator position was available and I accepted the offer and made the transfer.”

Today, Graham’s favorite part of her job is being able to talk to faculty, staff and students daily.

“My job at Brenau is very important to me in the fact that I work with a group of people who care for each other and this community,” she said. “Being able to answer any questions they may have and just the day to day interaction with others is something I truly enjoy.”

She is a native of Blairsville, Georgia, and graduated from Union County High School. She and her husband, Jeff, married in 1986 and moved to Gainesville a year later for work. They have three children, one grandson and a grandbaby due in October. Her husband is pastor of Celebration Church in Clermont and plant manager of Tatsumi Intermodal Inc., a shipping company for Kubota.

Graham is especially proud of her children. Her oldest son is a welder in Blairsville, while the younger a fireman for Hall County Fire Services and a praise and worship leader. Her daughter is a special education teacher at West Hall Middle School, the children’s director at Celebration Church and a wedding coordinator.

Graham has taken a few accounting classes in her time at Brenau, which has helped further her education in the accounting field. Beyond Brenau, church and family “is my life,” she said.

“I enjoy spending time in worship at church and with my family sowing into their lives the love that Christ has shown me,” Graham said.

Staff Development Committee Presents StaffChat

You might have noticed last week’s profile of Sue Johnston in the Brenau Update. This was the first of a series of monthly features aiming to highlight staff members who positively contribute to the Brenau community. These profiles, called StaffChat, are presented by the Staff Development Committee.

Do you know a staff member who makes Brenau University a better place? Nominate him or her for a StaffChat profile, and the rest of the university can learn what makes this person so special. Nominees can be new to the university, someone who has worked for Brenau for years or just someone you feel everyone should get to know a little more about.

Each month the Staff Development Committee and the Office of Communications & Publications will select a nominee to feature in the Update. If you know someone you would like to see featured, please complete the nomination form at https://goo.gl/forms/xxMRZvakhiIOKN5w2.

StaffChat: Sue Johnston, Student Services Office Manager

Sue Johnston chats with History/Political Science major Kyle Leineweber in her office.

Sue Johnston chats with History/Political Science major Kyle Leineweber in her office.

Sue Johnston moved up from switchboard operator to Student Services office manager on Monday, Jan. 30, and she couldn’t be more thrilled. However, the progression is only natural. Dubbed the Student Services “mom” since she began at Brenau more than two years ago, Johnston guides and organizes the student workers who come through the office. From day one, Johnston has shown her nurturing and caring spirit to every student she meets.

“The first day I was here was also the first day of fall semester, 2014,” she said. “We had a new student who was very, very sad. I asked her what was wrong, and she said, ‘everything.’ So we learned together how to get her situated, and not only did she end up staying, but she is going to be graduating with honors after only three years.”

She grew up in Des Moines, Iowa, where at Roosevelt High School she met a guy named David, who has now been her husband for 42 years. They also attended Iowa State University together. Sue studied journalism and mass communications. She subsequently transferred to Reinhardt University, where she graduated with a degree in communications. She went on to work as district training manager for Waldenbooks and Borders, and when she wanted to dedicate more time to caring for her family, she came to Brenau part-time to help Valerie Simmons-Walston while Jessica Bowling was on maternity leave.

Sue Johnston“I was just going to help out for a few hours a week. I came to work here two and a half years ago, and I was full-time permanent by the end of the first day,” Johnston said.

Johnston has lived in Minnesota, Texas, Iowa, Georgia and even England from 1999 to 2001 when her husband’s job took the family there. She is a self-proclaimed Anglophile, her favorite book being 84, Charing Cross Road, Helene Hanff’s tale about a bookstore in London. Despite having lived there for two years, she didn’t get to see everything Great Britain has to offer. “There’s something new going on every day there. It’s such a fabulous place.”
When Johnston first came to work at Brenau, she already had vast experience in that titled role of Brenau student mom: Her daughter, Annie, is a Brenau graduate and now works as an admissions specialist. Sue also has two other children, Brian and Hope, and four grandsons: Christopher, Matthew, Tyler and Flynn. She also adores her cat, Evie, adopted on New Year’s Eve.

Sue is not only unlimitedly talented in getting students the information they need, but she is also an incredible source of positivity and energy. With that energy, she is able to take a cloudy day and brighten it up. For that, I’m always thankful for Sue.
— Kyle Leineweber,
History/Political Science major

She is happy her new position will allow her to stay at the front, work with students every day and not squirrel her away into an office.

“I told [Amanda Lammers] when she offered me the job, I’ll do whatever you want, as long as I get to stay out there with the students,” she said. “I love my job so much.”

Sue Johnston