By JOHN SNIFFEN
Article originally appears in SCENE Magazine | Fall 2016.
Anyone who has observed Schreiner University Registrar Darlene Bannister at work might wonder why in the world she wears a Fitbit to monitor her physical activity.
She walks all over the campus. By 9 a.m. on a fall Monday, she proudly notes that she’s already taken 3,000 steps, “about par for the course.”
“I like to interact with people, it helps me in building relationships with all the other offices, faculty and staff, that I work with,” says Bannister. “You learn their styles and how they react to situations. I can go to their offices and say something face-to- face, and sometimes get clarification that would not happen otherwise.”
Frequently serving as a go-between with faculty, staff and students, she works with many people, “probably more than any other person on campus,” she says.
Bannister’s connection to Schreiner goes back to 1981, when she taught history part time. She moved into the registrar’s position the following year, and had to give up teaching.
Until 2014, her office was in the Murray Building, which is not accessible to persons with mobility issues. “I had to meet some students over in the library,” she says. Now she’s on the second floor of the Floyd and Kathleen Cailloux Campus Activity Center, part of the Center for Advising and Career Development (CACD).
She and Career Development director Cristina Martinez, go back and forth a lot, joking about “wearing out the carpet,” or saying they should just “cut a hole in the wall” that separates their offices. “Working together, we are trying to make sure that students don’t just finish degree requirements, but actually have career plans.”
Closer proximity to admissions, accounting and financial aid—“offices with which I do a lot of work”—is another plus to being in the CCAC.
Bannister enjoys helping students find their way to completing degrees. “Meeting with them—if I didn’t have to do the technical work, I would just visit and converse with students— that’s what’s most rewarding to me.”
“There is enough of the teacher in me still that likes to see how they progress. It’s fun to watch them come in as freshmen. Sometimes they’re very unsure, sometimes they’re overconfident. I like seeing how all that levels out, how they can blossom and become leaders, ready to take on their next challenge.” “Graduation is my favorite day,” she says.
Three decades of service also means that Bannister gets to see and assist the daughters and sons of students she helped earlier in her career.
For example, Olivia Molina, who will graduate in December, is the daughter of Lloyd Molina from the class of 1991. “I remember three-and-a-half years ago when the Molina’s brought Olivia to see me during Mountaineer Days,” she recalls with a smile.
Last spring at the class ring ceremony, Bannister was sitting next to Lloyd Molina to watch what both thought would be Olivia receiving her Schreiner ring. “Lloyd turned to me and said, ‘Why is my name in the program?’ Unknown to Lloyd, Olivia had also purchased a class ring for him, and presented it to him during the ceremony. That was so poignant,” says Bannister.
The seniors, in recognition of the work she has done on their behalf—and so many before them—also surprised Bannister with a class ring, which she wears “on special occasions.”