A biweekly publication for faculty and staff

Assistant Helps Students Shine Bright

April 15, 2014

Donna Takash has literally seen UC Merced grow from the ground up.

Before she joined the university in 2006, the Pasadena native worked for Swinerton Builders, the firm that built several of UC Merced’s first structures including Kolligian Library, the Classroom and Office Building, the water tank and facilities infrastructure. She even worked on the campus site while it was under construction.

“I worked in a trailer with my boss from Swinerton,” she recalled. “We had to wear jeans and hard leather shoes, and there were bobcats all over the place.”

Another trailer was stationed across from Swinterton’s, occupied by staff from UC Merced’s then Physical Planning, Design and Construction department. During the three years she worked for Swinerton, she got to know some of the UC staff and was eventually offered a job. Takash later joined the Student Advising and Learning Center, now known as the Calvin E. Bright Success Center.

Please describe your job and what it entails.

My job as administrative assistant is to greet and assist students as needed and to direct them to the appropriate area. I reconcile many accounts, perform departmental purchasing and assist colleagues with travel plans and reimbursements. Our unit encompasses many areas to help students succeed. Some of these are peer tutoring, peer academic advising, academic skills workshops, courses for freshmen and transfer students, undeclared academic advising, new student orientation and the Fiat Lux Scholars program.

What are some of the most rewarding things about your job?

I think my job keeps me youthful and abreast of what kids are doing. I love working with the other units and all types of people. I have met so many wonderful and helpful people at UC Merced. When I started, our department had just four people and now we are a unit of 14. I am very excited and proud of this department and look forward to our continuing growth.

What are some of the biggest challenges and how do you overcome them?

I think one of my greatest challenges is to multitask given the constant flow of students who come into our office. It isn’t hard, though, because I love people and so very much enjoy the friendships of our students. I love to see them grow and develop into such wonderful young adults.

What are you looking forward to in the year ahead?

I’m excited about the growth of our department and where it will take us. Also, our DARTS (Degree Attainment for Returning and Transfer Students) program that helps students make a successful transition to the university has launched. And, our tutoring program continues to grow. The job keeps me hopping, but I love the students. They come in and give me hugs.

Tell us something about you that people on campus might not know.

I met my wonderful husband Anthony when I worked for a hospital in Los Angeles County. I worked for the director of cardiology and he was a medical photographer who took pictures of our unit’s many procedures. We got married in Yosemite and honeymooned in El Portal. In 1987, we moved to Mariposa.

Some things that I love to do in my spare time are to paint, sew and cook. I used to own my own alterations shop. I spend as much time as possible outside with my animals. I have four cats, four dogs (all rescues), four goats and 25 chickens. My husband and I own about 15 acres in Mariposa, so that keeps us busy. We moved to Mariposa to raise our four beautiful and talented children, three boys and one girl. My youngest are fraternal twins who both serve in the U.S. Air Force. I have five grandchildren with two more on the way. I consider myself to be very lucky.