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Janet Burton Earns Staff Emerita Status for Exemplary UAA Career

April 20, 2023
Janet Burton Janet Burton, Staff Emerita

Janet Burton is at a crossroads. She is retiring after more than 33 years at UAA. “Everything in my life is changing right now. It’s time to reinvent myself.”

You could describe Janet in many ways throughout her life. A newcomer to the state in 1963. A student of language and of management. A petroleum wife who lived in Ecuador and Norway. A talented photographer. An adjunct instructor who taught keyboarding and Microsoft Office. A single mom. And a dedicated UAA employee who has helped hundreds of graduate students navigate the path to a higher degree.

As she leaves UAA this spring, she takes with her another distinction: Staff Emerita. It’s an honor recently bestowed and well deserved.

Janet started her UAA career as an Administrative Secretary in 1989 at the School of Public Affairs before it merged with the School of Business to form the College of Business and Public Policy. Her aptitude, willingness to learn new things, and unflappable demeanor were important skill sets she had learned in school and through years of living overseas.

She lived for four years in Ecuador, where her children were born. “Almost no Ecuadorians I dealt with there knew English. I learned Spanish on the fly, dictionary in pocket, in lots of hilarious ways. In Norway, at first I couldn’t tell where one word stopped and another began. When I first started to speak Norwegian, I would stumble through a few sentences before people would suddenly reveal that they knew English after all! By the time I had lived there eight years, though, I could speak it fluently.”

Janet wasn’t the best typist in high school, but it proved essential for getting a job. She persisted in learning new technologies in various business settings. Many of those we wouldn’t recognize today.

In Norway she had to learn to use an IBM Mag Card typewriter, one of the first word processors. “We typed on a typewriter where you couldn’t see a screen. You’d just roll a paper or forms through and type, and whatever you typed was saved to a card. You could replay and edit.”

Back in Alaska, her father bought her a tiny Mac for $700 so she could learn computers. It was one of those with a black screen, green type and a dot matrix printer. “You had to put in key combinations for things like punctuation and carriage returns, but at least you could save documents and edit them.”

Advice from Janet Burton

Keep upgrading.
“Sometimes I put off training for a long time. I thought I wouldn’t have the time to study, and some of it seemed difficult. But I got in there and found out that I could do it. When opportunities happen, you need to be ready.”

Don’t quit a job until you have another lined up.
“I learned the hard way by quitting a dead end job. For a couple of years I was in scramble mode as a single mom working temporaries, without a predictable income. UAA provided health benefits, stability, and the opportunity to earn a master’s degree in public administration.”

It’s all about compound interest–that stuff really works.
“Reading articles about retirement, I keep thinking things like, if I’d saved just one dollar a day for the last fifty years at 5 percent interest…”

Don’t know what you want to be when you grow up?
Me neither, but we need to learn marketable skills. It’s not so much about what we would like to do, as what jobs we can get right now.

Developing those skills gave Janet the experience to become a UAA Adjunct Instructor. Between 1998 and 2002 she taught courses in Windows 95, Access, and Microsoft Word. Students were appreciative. “I recall bumping into a former student who thanked me and said without the keyboarding class he wouldn’t have gotten through law school.”

In 1999, Janet became the Administrative Assistant for the new logistics department at CBPP as it established the master of science program in Global Logistics and Supply Chain Management. It was initially delivered as an executive-style, weekends-only program. Over nearly twenty years, Janet organized 220 of these weekends, to include catering, photography and more.

Darren Prokop, Professor of Logistics, worked with Janet in a variety of capacities, including on these cohort weekends. “I have always considered Janet to be my go-to colleague whose opinions I valued alongside senior faculty and executive administrators,” he said. “Through her soft-spoken words and well thought out suggestions I felt the wisdom of someone who has learned much from her many decades of service and dedication to UAA.”

From 2010 until now, Janet has served as the Graduate Program/Academic Schedule Coordinator. In this role she has helped guide CBPP graduate students all the way from submitting applications to “fluffing” their hoods as they prepared to receive their degrees. “So many things are only online these days and you can’t get to a real person. I want them to know there is someone they can reach directly, and rely on to quickly sort things out for them.”

Janet Burton

This approach has been meaningful for students, as noted by current graduate student Mitchell Tremblay. “Going back to school can be intimidating, and often it holds students back from taking the next step forward in furthering their education,” he said. “I felt the same way until Ms. Burton and I had our first meeting. She showcased her expertise in navigating work processes to generate success for myself and fellow students. She built the ideal degree plan, walked me through the process, and continued to check up on me throughout the past two years. Her dedication, tireless efforts, and ability to change students' lives by helping them finish their degrees has been remarkable.”

“Over the years, she got to know students well,” said Bogdan Hoanca, Professor of Management Information Systems. “She listened to their concerns, successes and complaints. She was able to give students tips on how to balance their academic workload to meet whatever family or job-related duties they faced at the same time.”

With her varied background, Janet has been able to empathize with students working full time, raising a family, or intimidated by the process. She’s been there herself, after all.

“For as long as I have known Janet, she has played an extraordinary role in the College in both her regular duties and those in which she volunteers to go above and beyond,” said Terry Nelson, Associate Dean. “Congratulations to Janet for a career full of quiet accomplishment, unending dedication and long-lasting impact.”