“She was a quick learner and knows just about every aspect of our work in this department.”
“She works diligently and keeps a positive attitude.”
“She is one of the most caring and kind people I know.”
These words describe one of the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy’s Outstanding Staff Award winners, Michele Farris. As the admissions and student services support specialist, Farris works hand-in-hand with the other members of the Student Services team in order to ensure that every student has a positive experience in the school.
Farris did not begin her career in higher education, though. With a bachelor’s degree in History and Spanish with a teaching track and a master’s in pastoral theology, she began working in youth ministry after graduating from then Marian College (now Marian University). After working for years in ministry and youth programs, her sister-in-law, working at IUPUI at the time, encouraged her to apply for a position at the university.
After several changes at the church, Farris decided to look into working for the university.
“At the time, you’d still have to go the human resources office and fill out an application. Then, they’d send your résumé to every position you were qualified for,” she explained.
The week after applying, Farris received a phone call from the IU School of Dentistry requesting an interview. A week after the interview, they contacted her to offer her a job working in admissions (“I started working in admissions there in May of 2000.”). Since then, she’s always worked for IUPUI.
Until 2014, Farris was still working for the IU School of Dentistry when Pamela Clark (director of student services and admissions for the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy) gave her a call. With the individual working in Farris’s position sick, Clark asked her to come take over the job for the time being. After several months, Farris was brought on full-time and assumed her current responsibilities.
Those responsibilities include processing applications for all of the graduate students, helping current students register for classes, managing the financial aspects of scholarships and graduate assistantships for master’s degree students, and preparing for graduation, among other tasks.
“I also attend college fairs and talk to potential students about the programs. From past years, a couple of students I spoke with ended up attending and graduating from our program, which is always nice,” Farris said.
While her job can be challenging at times (“we need official transcripts, which can be challenging to obtain sometimes!”), Farris enjoys the work she does.
“It’s a great feeling when you learn that someone who really wanted to get in, gets in,” she said. “They’re so excited about it.
“We have really phenomenal students here as well. They come to you with ideas; they’re open and want to learn. And they want to help people; it’s so refreshing to work with students like that. Even though they have slightly different outlooks, everybody has this view that we need to help each other and help the world. I just love it.”
With her positive attitude and willingness to work hard, Farris received one of the Outstanding Staff Member awards this year.
“When I realized Dean Pasic was talking about me during the announcement of the awards, I got kind of emotional,” she said. “You do your work well because that’s what you’re here for. So, it’s really nice to see your good work affirmed because it doesn’t always happen. That’s something this school does well. They support their students and their employees.”
And she passes that support along to the students. As one person noted, “She communicates with students efficiently and effectively and supports them in every way she can.”