Five Questions with Kathy Anderson
Kathy Anderson doesn’t need a bucket list.
Name: Kathy Anderson
Position: Associate dean for information technology and project planning, Instructional and Information Systems
Years at Gillings: Nine
What I do at Gillings (and why I love it): My primary responsibility is to lead the information technology unit, but I like to say, “my job isn’t about the technology.” Ultimately, my work in IT is about enabling people at the School to do better public health by matching technology solutions to problems and opportunities. I often call myself a translator, because getting these solutions right involves a lot of listening, understanding needs and possibilities, and cutting through jargon. I’m learning to apply these skills in Facilities, which I now oversee as well. On a Schoolwide level, I work as kind of a business analyst to understand an area and help match solutions to many kinds of complex work problems.
My favorite part of my job is how rewarding it is to get those matches right! It’s a challenge, because needs and possible solutions are both constantly changing. You have to take those two simultaneously spinning cogs and bring them into alignment to deliver benefit – over and over – all while keeping our mission foremost in mind.
My first job out of college was: running a startup chemistry lab. I got to build it from the ground up and found that the most interesting part was working with technologists to develop software systems to underpin the scientific processes in the lab. As I gained experience, I was invited to help out with more scientific IT projects, and eventually I made the leap to a new field, one I’d never imagined for myself.
As a chemistry major, I was one of only two women in my undergraduate class, and I still work in a male-dominated field. (About a quarter of the IT employees at UNC are women.) Because of this history, I’m really interested in removal of barriers to STEM education and careers for women and people of color.
Something unique in my office is: I have a poster for a production of Carmina Burana performed by Voices, the 120-voice Chapel Hill chorus that I‘ve been singing with for nearly 15 years. Singing is like nothing else in my life: I barely read music, I’m not one of the stronger singers and I’m hearing-impaired. It’s a struggle, but I love the creativity and how a performance becomes inspirational – way more than the sum of its parts. By the way, I’m not the only Voices member with a Gillings connection.
A fact that people might not know about me: is that I’m a first-gen college grad. I come from a working-class family. My parents didn’t agree on whether I should go to college, and none of us really understood what to expect. It took investigation, negotiation, compromise, creativity, and a lot of fancy financial footwork – including part-time jobs all the way through school – for me to get my BS and my PhD. I’ve been lucky; my heart lies with many in the current generation of students who face far bigger hurdles than I did.
When it comes to a bucket list: I don’t have one. Recently I’ve been studying mindfulness and cultivating an approach of paying attention and noticing daily pleasures. I have a list of things I enjoy every day, like really savoring my first sip of hot, black coffee, or driving the 15-year-old sports car I adore. I have a rose garden that I purposefully planted near my front door. I chose especially fragrant varieties so that I can literally stop and smell the roses. I enjoy the daily antics around my bird feeders. I find it relaxing not to focus on ticking things off a bucket list. Instead, I enjoy small, simple adventures like cooking or riding bikes with my partner Howie.