Academic Staff Profile – Mary Thompson-Shriver | School of Education

Tell us a bit about your role and responsibilities at UW–Madison.

I am an academic advisor in the School of Education where we work with students in majors as diverse as the arts, education, and health. I have been involved in freshman orientation programming, diversity and equity initiatives, global education, and scholarship work in the 19 years I’ve been in this role.

What do you find most rewarding about your job?

Hearing a student at the end of an advising appointment say “I feel so much better” is always gratifying, but equally rewarding has been my work with School of Education scholarships. Over the years I have built applications in the WiSH system for each of our 10 departments, coordinated and reviewed applications for our teacher education and school-wide scholarships, and served in the campus-wide Scholarship Leadership Group, which is tasked with shaping campus policy on scholarships. It’s a wonderful feeling knowing that you are recognizing achievements of stellar students and helping to relieve financial burdens for students in need.

How has your work experience been shaped by shared governance?

Serving on the School of Education CASI committee for several years made me aware of the diverse roles and responsibilities and the incredible dedication of our academic staff in the School of Education. I learned that researchers, instructors, advisors, outreach program coordinators, and other program administrators perform work that serves as the foundation of so much of the research and service the UW is known for. The duties of academic staff are often overlooked, but this university arguably could not function without our work.

What have you learned from participating in academic staff activities?

I have participated in the Academic Staff Institute as well as the University Roundtables, during which I learned about things from stress management to maximizing benefits to some of the impressive research and work done by academic staff across the university. My favorite activity hosted by academic staff is the University Roundtable series. My husband also works on campus, and we meet for our UR lunch date three times each semester and have enjoyed the extensive variety of topics presented by faculty and staff. Knowing something about the habits and habitats of foxes vs. coyotes in Madison is pretty cool!

What’s your favorite place on campus for a break?

Every day when I walk across Bascom Hill to my building, I am beyond grateful to work on such a beautiful campus. One of my favorite indoor spaces is the Rathskeller, which makes me nostalgic for my grad school days at UW and connects me to my own German heritage and the German academic traditions which largely influenced places like the UW–Madison. However, one of my favorite outdoor spaces evokes thoughts of another side of this campus: Besides being quiet and hardly traversed, the path that runs behind Van Hise to Microbial Sciences provides an opportunity to be mindful of whose land this was before the university received its Land Grant. I struggle with the contradictions inherent in what is a loss of unspeakable dimensions for one people, but a gain for others. I feel safe and comfortable in many spaces here, but I know others do not, and I try to be mindful of this.

Tell us about your hobbies or leisure activities.

I love to read and travel. I’ve mainly traveled to Europe and am happiest when I can spend time in France, where I have spent several wonderful vacations. I can truly leave all the stress in my life behind when away from Madison. I love being anywhere from New York to LA, and any little town in between. As far as reading goes, I love fiction, especially anything by Colson Whitehead, but also non-fiction. I may try to follow my mother’s goal of reading all the Pulitzers (I think I still have some time). I also like to try new foods and try to partake regularly in my secret passion: Zumba/hip hop/salsa dancing. A colleague talked me into taking a dance class with a really dynamic teacher that makes me feel both young and old at the same time.

What the latest series you streamed?

My husband and I have found “Reservation Dogs” (on Hulu) to be one of the most hilarious, thoughtful, and poignant series out there. I love anything produced by Taika Waititi, and then when I saw that the show was entirely created by indigenous people, I knew I could learn something. I know it’s cliché, but I laughed, I cried, and learned though the whole series. As a former secondary educator, the glimpse into the kids’ lives was familiar, and yet unfamiliar at the same time. We recently took the opportunity to hear Dallas Goldtooth, one of the actors and writers of the show, when he was here as the keynote speaker for Native November. We were inspired all over again by his life story and his work as an environmental activist.

Tell us a little about your family.

We are a double-UW team, with my partner working as a lab manager in the Biotechnology Center and me in School of Education Student Services. Combined, we’ve logged in about 45 years as academic staff at the UW! Our daughter Ana is a sophomore at the UW–Madison studying Legal Studies, Environmental Studies, Chican@ Studies, and Public Policy, and we have a son, Gus, who is still in high school hoping to work in counseling or an arts field someday. Weaving around our legs in the morning or hanging out with us in the living room when settled in for the evening are three rescued cats, Opie, Paris, and Tito.

Anything else you want to add?

I am one of the many who came to the UW–Madison for my PhD and fell in love with my work, the university, and the city, and never left! There’s got to be a term for people like us! I still love my work as an academic advisor (which started as a grad assistantship and then turned into a full-time position); I appreciate the vibrancy of this university as manifested in the natural and urban aspects of the campus, as well as the abundant opportunities to take part in arts, cultural activities, lectures, and sporting fun; and we have found an accepting home for our multi-racial family here in Madison. I have been and continue to be grateful to be part of this community.