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Academics, Religious Studies, Student Life

A mother away from home in religious studies departmnt

Religious Studies office manager Sue Viens, left, looks over the department's many responsibilities. Photo by Sheena Bell.

I would have never thought that the smiling, happy-go-lucky lady running around the fourth floor of Cooper Hall was a staff member.

Sporting a bright yellow USF shirt and jeans, Sue Viens, is more like everyone’s mom. She visits office after office making sure everyone is on track to have a good day.

“Did you eat breakfast? Would you like a cup of coffee?”

Viens is the office manager at the University of South Florida’s Department of Religious Studies. It is her responsibility to make sure that everyday office operation and procedures are in place, ensuring organizational success and efficiency.

“I keep the department running,” said Viens, “making sure that we have enough pencils.”

Student assistant Jesare Morano doesn’t argue with Viens on that one.

“Well, I’ve never had a shortage of pens at my desk,” chuckled Morano. But he says Viens does much more for the department than just stocking supplies around the office.

Viens career started at USF 23 years ago as the secretary of Parking and Transportation Services.

“It’s a terrible place to start off in at a university because everyone is mad about parking,” said Viens.

Since her early days at PTS, Viens has built up quite the résumé at USF. She has worked within the Department of Communications, Office of the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Environmental Science, Policy & Geography (ESPG) and Human Resources.

Working in the HR department at USF, Viens always knew what positions were opening up and when. She was good at her job but was ready for a change. Many opportunities came and went but Viens never applied. It wasn’t until the religious studies department needed an office manager that Viens knew that was the change she was looking for.

“Religious studies was interesting to me,” said Viens, “and we have a fantastic faculty.”

Within the first week of Viens being the department’s office manager, she got a phone call from a very disturbed woman. Being new to the department, Viens handled it as best as she could.

The perturbed lady worked at a Catholic bookstore and was furious when a student came in looking for the King James Version of the Bible for his The Bible as Literature class.

Viens recalls the lady screaming, “That’s not the true Bible!”

She told Viens that if USF instructors were going to teach this course, they needed to have the Catholic Bible because that was the only true Bible.

Viens calmly and politely informed this bookstore worker that instructors are free to teach out of whatever text they chose.Not happy with that response, the irate store clerk worked herself up into a frenzy and threatened Viens.

“She told me she was going to report me to the Cardinal,” said Viens. “When I hung up with her I said, ‘well, I guess the Cardinal is not going to be happy with me.’”

A couple days later, one of Viens co-workers informed her that The Bible as Literature is an English course, not a religious studies one.

Organizing payroll, scheduling meetings, answering the phone, assisting staff, training new employees, and filing papers is just a short list of the many tasks Viens performs on a daily basis. What she really would like to do is attend some of the classes that the students she assists go to.

“I would love…love to be able to spend a couple days a week going to a couple classes,” said Viens.

But Heidi Paintner, the academic program specialist for the department, wants Viens to stay just where she is.

“She has a lot of responsibility and does a very good job,” said Paintner.

According to Paintner, Viens is one of those people that go above and beyond. When the religious studies department was moving from the third floor of Cooper Hall up to the fourth floor, Viens took on the extra responsibility to ensure that the faculty and staff had all the help they needed.

“She came in on the weekends to try to make sure everything got done,” said Paintner.

Viens cares deeply about not only her job but also all the people that walk into her office. It’s clear that the experience is very personal for each person she comes across.

“She’s always very friendly,” said Morano. “ She really does care about how you are doing.”


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