Behind the scenes of the Whitworth community is a little-known driving force: program assistants. These women not only answer phones and distribute mail, but also organize departmental events, review course syllabi, create and manage budgets and keep faculty up-to-date on deadlines.
Kathy Fechter, currently the program assistant for the communications studies, math and computer science and philosophy departments, has been at Whitworth for 27 years and says the job has become busier over the years.
“I have had to prioritize,” she said.
Each department comes with its own set of needs, Fechter said.
“Some of [the faculty], the way they teach, their needs are different,” she said. “In speech, they may need an easel and paper. In math, they may want fresh white board pens because the ones they are using aren’t working.”
In her nearly three decades at the university, Fechter has observed many changes.
“It has grown so big,” she said. “We used to know everybody who was employed on campus. Everybody knew everybody.”
She remembers gathering with the entire faculty and staff on a regular basis for what they called “tea at three,” an event at which Whitworth employees were encouraged to meet one another.
Another change that she has observed is the increased reliance on computers on campus.
“I think a lot more things have been placed on Blackboard,” Fechter said. “I’m not having as much direct contact with communication studies students because they’re not having to come in to turn in their homework.”
Fechter still regularly sees math and computer science students, who still seem to do their homework on paper and turn it in to her, she said.
Fechter misses having the amount of interaction with students that she used to have.
“Anything I can do to help the students where the faculty can concentrate on getting ready to teach is where I’m at,” Fechter said.
The sense of community that makes her want to help students is one of Fechter’s favorite things about Whitworth.
“At Whitworth, there is a loyalty that words can’t express,” she said. “I’ve worked in public universities and I didn’t feel that loyalty.”
Fechter believes it is the Christian mission of Whitworth that brings us together.
“I feel that it’s very important that I don’t have to worry about taking a minute to say a prayer or telling a student, ‘It’s in God’s hands,’” she said.