But the Trigg County native will open a new chapter in early July when she enters WKU’s new doctoral program in educational leadership. She and 20 other students should complete the program in December 2012.
“I am proud of my work on behalf of the dedicated staff of WKU, but I am looking forward to beginning work on my doctorate,” said Smith, who received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from WKU.
Smith, a Trigg County High School graduate, has been employed by the University for 10 years and is manager of Interactive Video Services. She is the daughter of Charles Williams of Cadiz and Marilyn Williams Retallick, formerly of Cadiz.
“I want to congratulate Tamela on being accepted into our doctoral program,” WKU President Gary Ransdell said. “I wish her well in that next chapter in her life.”
Smith has enjoyed her term as an elected regent. “I have gotten positive feedback from the staff that I was doing a good job and that I was balanced and looked at all sides of an issue,” Smith said.
She has represented staff members from all levels from the grounds crew to the vice presidents. Staff, student and faculty regents are elected members of the 11-member Board of Regents. Other members are appointed by the governor.
When Smith joined the board in 2006, her main goal was to seek new staff positions to ease the pressures from WKU’s enrollment growth. Even though President Ransdell and regents have been supportive of the idea and some new positions have been added, the economic downturn had slowed those plans, she said.
“We were going to start working toward that and the economy blew up,” Smith said. “While I couldn’t make a lot of changes, I was able to highlight what the needs are in a way that the board would listen. The members of our Board of Regents understand the important role staff members play at the university.”
“Tamela has been a faithful and informed member of the board,” Board Chair Lois Gray of Hardin County said. “She has taken her responsibility with a serious attitude and worked to do what is best for WKU. Often Tamela has spoken to let us all know and remember the hard work and contribution of the staff side of the university. The team mentality of Tamela has made her a joy to work with. She will be missed.”
Dr. Ransdell agreed. “It is important that all employee perspectives be reflected in board deliberations. Tamela took her role seriously, did her homework and was prepared for each meeting,” he said. “She devoted a lot of time representing the board at university functions. She was a good regent on matters that went beyond staff interest.”
While appointed board members may not always agree with the staff regent’s viewpoints, they will always listen, Smith said. “In a lot of ways I have accomplished what I set out to do,” she said.
As regent, Smith said she has tried to be a strong voice and advocate for staff and has helped individual employees and large groups with various issues. With a background in communication, she had strived to listen to input and seek information on all sides of an issue.
One of the first issues she faced as staff regent was the decision to upgrade WKU’s football program to the Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly I-A). Before the board voted on the issue in November 2006, Smith worked with the Staff Council for a vote by staff members on the issue so she would know what they thought.
“There are always issues and decisions that some staff are for and some are against,” she said.
Serving as regent also allowed Smith to have an impact on her alma mater and to serve the university where her daughter, Morgan Maxwell, is a junior biology major and Honors College student and where her husband, Dr. Douglas C. Smith, is a faculty member in the Department of Sociology.
“It was good to be part of the governing board of this university,” she said. “I have enjoyed being part of the board because I am an alum of the university. And my daughter attends now too, so we know that WKU provides a solid education.”
The new staff regent will be elected on June 17 and will begin the job on July 1.
“I hope there is a lot of interest in the position,” she said. “It is an important role. You want someone who looks at all the issues and represents the staff in the best manner possible. I wish all the best for next staff regent.”
(Information for this staff report was submitted by Tommy Newton, assistant director of media relations, Western Kentucky University.)