Natiaya Neal has been singing her entire life.
Name: Natiaya Neal
Position: Business services manager, Office of Student Affairs
Years at Gillings: Two
What I do at Gillings (and why I love it): I sit at the entrance to our office, so I greet everyone. If you call, email or stop by, I’ll be the first responder! It’s cool – I get to work with so many people and support all the projects that we’re involved in, from mundane things like budgeting and ordering supplies to event planning, website updates and supervising our great work-study students. Also – and this is key! – I manage room reservations for the entire School.
As for what I like… what don’t I like about my job? Before this, I worked in a medical office for 10 years. Then I was diagnosed with stage III colorectal cancer, and everything changed. I beat it and have been cancer-free for five years! After that fight, though, my doctors encouraged me to change my lifestyle. My job, in particular, was causing me so much stress. I thought about what I really wanted and knew I’d like to be at UNC. When I came to the Gillings School and met the people who are now my colleagues, I thought, “I’m home! I can have fun here.”
I originally took this role as a temporary position, even though my mother thought I was crazy to give up a full-time job with medical insurance. I told her I had prayed about it, and I knew it was the right place for me to be.
Outside of work, I: participate in a lot of cancer research and support events like Relay For Life. I have to say that going through my battle with cancer really changed me. It made me into a more sympathetic person and helped me realize that sick people aren’t scary. Seeing your own mortality will definitely alter your attitude.
I also sing in a band with my sister and some of my cousins. We’re called The Neal Sisters and we sing gospel music. We have gigs almost every weekend – sometimes as many as three in two days! We’ve been singing together since we were little girls.
A perfect day for me: would happen at the beach. That’s my favorite place, so I’d love to spend a day there with my family and friends… with all the “F’s,” really! You can add food and flirting to the list, too. (That’s my Libra coming out.)
When I was little, I wanted to grow up and be: either a teacher or a singer. Let’s get specific – I really wanted to be Tina Turner. I used to sing into a can of air freshener and everything.
The best advice I ever received: came from my mom. When I was getting my cancer treatments, she told me, “You don’t have to look like what you’ve been through.” That may be an old-school approach, but I found it really helpful. I always liked when we’d go to the hospital and people would have to ask which of us was the patient. It’s helpful in everyday life, too, like when you’re stressed or sleepy and just need to push through. I feel like how you present yourself is how people will receive you.
Natiaya was nominated by Jazra Standley, an undergraduate student of health policy and management and assistant in the Office of Student Affairs. Jazra said: “Natiaya is a hard-working and extremely caring person. She loves her job and interacting with the students here at the school. I know that I can go to her for anything – she deserves to be recognized!”