Behind the Vest: Tales from the Front Desk of Office Manager Julie Rheaume


By Hye-Jin Kim

As this semester’s add and drop period winds down, chances are high you’ve filled out at least one add card. So, what happens to all those green cards after being dropped off in the wooden box inside Forrest?

Meet Julie Rheaume, Office Manager at the Registrar. She’s the friendly face to the left, just as you enter the Registrar office. There’s a bowl of starbursts on her desk, but Rheaume also soothes registration woes that simple sugar simply can’t.

Rheaume started working for the Registrar office in 2000. Back then, Forest Hall housed two offices: the dean of student affairs and the registrar. A few years later, they broke up, each becoming their own office.

“I decided to stay with the registrar office because the work with students was a lot more gratifying. It also was a full-time job,” said Rheaume.

“[The most rewarding part of my job] is working with the students. Just helping to direct you, try to answer your questions with confidence. If I’m not in the area that takes care of it, to send you into the right office, not just to send you away,” said Rheaume.

However, her job is definitely not void of stressful moments. Granted, I, too, am guilty of coming into the office with my add cards in one hand, and academically-stressed emotional baggage in the other.

“[The most challenging part of my job] is when someone may be having a bad day, or maybe something has happened. And the resolve isn’t a quick answer. You can see the frustration, and maybe that comes out in hostility, or the tone in their voice, or maybe even tears. I’ve dried out a lot of tears,” said Rheaume.  “You can’t always get a quick resolve on things, but I feel better when I can calm a student down.”

If you’re in a current registration crisis of your own, fear not.

“Usually things do work out pretty well, it’s just sometimes, you have to wait because you have to talk to the right person,” she said.

Despite frequently dealing with emotionally stressed students, especially during the add and drop period, Rheaume greeted me with an infectious and genuine smile. So I had to ask her, “How do you stay so positive and pleasant all the time?”

“The students bring a lot of joy to my life. I love kids,” said Rheaume.   As the second oldest girl in her family of 12, she fondly recalled often taking care of her younger siblings. “[The students] bring so much enthusiasm and positivity. It’s really appreciated as you get older. It brings out positivity in me. It comes from the students, because they’re always so kind and caring,” she beamed.

Students seem to agree this appreciation is mutual. “I’ve gotten a lot of gifts from students over the years,” said Rheaume. “I think the ones that mean a lot to me are the simple, ‘Thank you so much, you just made my day.’”

“I remember there was a girl moving out in May. It was a hot day. I told my coworker, I’m taking five minutes. So I went out and got my little dolly, and helped her move her stuff out to her car. A week later, I got a nice card in the mail. And it wasn’t a gift, like something you unwrap. But it was a gift, because she took time out of her day, to thank me for taking time out of my day. I don’t need a gift. If you just say, ‘Hey, you just made my day.’ Then it makes my day!”

In describing the most important personal qualities required for her job, Rheaume said, “You really have to be able to flip real quick because one minute you’re entering add cards, and the next minute a student comes in. You get interrupted a lot. You just have to be able to balance that and do it tactfully. I think you have to like the students; you have to like the excitement they bring in. I just like to be around people.”

Besides processing add and drop cards, the registrar also deals with self-scheduled tests, diplomas and major and minor requirements. The busiest time of the year for Rheaume is the last week in May, right before graduation. “We’re stuffing [diplomas] into envelopes, making sure the reading list is right, the pronunciation of names is right. The last week of May is really crazy. All the diplomas then get sent to the President.”

So, whether you’ve had the pleasure of meeting Julie Rheaume in-person or not, she’s got solid advice to offer: “Enjoy the moment that you’re in school. Don’t take it too seriously, but don’t waste the opportunities that come your way. You got to put in a good effort, but have fun too. Volunteering, meeting people, just sitting in the Adirondack chairs and relaxing.”