Managing Everything from Payroll to Paperclips

Melissa Pascoe works behind-the-scenes in the tight-knit Thompson Writing Program team

Melissa Pascoe isn't the only one her household to come to Duke. She once enrolled her Australian shepherd Bruce in a research study at the Duke Canine Cognition Center. Photo courtesy of Melissa Pascoe.

Name: Melissa Pascoe

Position: Program manager for the Thompson Writing Program

Years at Duke: 11

What I do at Duke: I manage everything from payroll to paperclips for the Thompson Writing Program, which is an effort to increase the role of writing in the Duke undergraduate curriculum. I handle budgets and human resources for a staff of five employees, 35 faculty, 11 graduate student instructors, 11 graduate student tutors and 35 to 45 undergraduate tutors. Every first-year student at Duke comes through one of our classes. We also support faculty in all the different departments who teach the "Writing in the Disciplines" intensive writing courses and offer students help through the Writing Studio. The writing program is also home to the Writing Studio, which offers tutoring to students at any stage of the writing process. One of the joys I have in this job is helping to publish "Deliberations," an annual journal of first-year writing from Duke students.

Why I love Duke: Learning at Duke isn't just for students. Every day you come here you can learn something new, anything from a new payroll form or reading about research at Duke. But here at the Thompson Writing Program, what I love is the people. We are a tight-knit group.

Memorable moment at Duke: I came in to work and there was an envelope from the President's office on my desk. When I first saw it, I thought, `oh no, what have I done?' Then I opened it and discovered my colleagues had nominated me for a Presidential Award, and I had been selected as a Meritorious Award winner. I was so very, very touched.

My first job: I ran a Xerox machine in a law firm in the Manhattan area of New York City. They created so many legal documents that they needed someone whose sole job was to make copies and deliver them to other offices and courthouses all around the city.

Conversation starter: Ask me about my Australian shepherd Bruce. He's a great, smart dog. I even took him in to the Duke Canine Cognition Center lab one time for one of the research studies they were doing. 

A skill I bring to my job: As a business manager, I often have to be the one who says, `no I'm sorry, we don't have the funds for that.' After raising four teenagers, I've learned how to say, 'This won't work. We need to talk about it.'

Something most people don't know about me:  I once lived in a house without water for three months. Our well collapsed, so for three months we had a tanker truck in the front yard with a garden hose snaking into the house that we could use for essentials. When that happens, you quickly learn how much you take indoor plumbing for granted.

The best advice I've received: I am the type of person who often tries to cram 48 hours of work into one day. Recently, someone told me to remember that no one should have to be a high-flyer all of the time. She said `if the minimum wasn't good enough, it wouldn't be the minimum.' It was a good reminder to step back occasionally and reassess where I am spending my energy.