Miller Hall Part VI: Spotlighting Staff Behind-the-Scenes

It is a massive undertaking to ensure operations run smoothly behind-the-scenes at Miller Hall. From the physical work to keep the lights on and the air filtration system running, to the effort required to maintain the proper levels of staff in each department, there are many individuals who tirelessly dedicate themselves to Miller Hall and the Raymond A. Mason School of Business on a daily basis.

Let’s meet a few of these members of the Tribe who bring Miller Hall to life.

Brian Baines, Chief Human Resources Business Partner

Baines is responsible for connecting the campus Human Resources department with the Mason School. In this position, he spearheads hiring initiatives, including training and development and he also works on employee relations issues.

Initially, when Baines graduated from Christopher Newport University with a B.S. in Business Management, he didn’t plan to pursue a career in human resources.

“I came upon [it] by chance,” he said. “It was something that I really enjoyed. I try to help people understand policies and procedures, and help them understand the perspectives of other people - whether it be helping a manager understand the perspective of an employee, or an employee understand the perspective of a manager. So, in reality, it’s just really interacting with people and being an asset to them.”

Baines has worked in the field for seventeen years; almost two years ago, he joined the team at William & Mary.

During a typical workday, he starts the morning verifying information so that other employees are paid correctly. Then he works on his own list of projects. Some days, he prepares a new position. He creates the job description and sends it through a review process where it is graded for compensation purposes. He then posts the position, receives applications, reviews the applicants, and helps lead search or interview committees.

Baines also helps to resolve employee affairs issues. When employees have concerns, they talk to him and he gives them guidance on how to approach the situation.

“A lot of my job is based on interacting with people and trying to give them a comfortable environment to work in every day,” he shared.

Last year, Baines helped start Our Mason Staff Affairs Committee, a group that focuses on bringing the community together. Though it can’t meet in-person this year, the committee continues to foster staff engagement through virtual events.

One of his favorite moments is a shared experience with the rest of the staff. During winter break, he puts up an annual Angel Tree in his office, and people are invited to stop by and pick up gift tags from the Salvation Army. They then shop for specified Christmas presents for children in need. This year, since fewer people come to the building and for social distancing reasons, the staff decided to donate directly to the Salvation Army. They exceeded their goal.

“Even when we’re not together, we’re still a community and we still support one another. And I think that is one of the many unique things that I find about the Mason School. We always support each other, no matter what our thoughts are and no matter what our beliefs are. It is a true community.” he said.

Michelle Harris, Human Resources Business Partner

Harris works alongside Baines to complete many essential functions that everyone in the business school relies upon. For example, a large part of her job involves recruiting, hiring, and dealing with logistics for staff, faculty, and student positions. She also finds resources so that employees can continue to grow and expand their skillset.

“I keep the cogs moving, so that everyone can do really important things, like help the students, help with the marketing department, and help with commencement, and do all their jobs. I work behind the scenes, making sure that they get paid for it,” she said.

Her typical workday involves a series of appointments for bringing new people on-board. Sometimes she conducts interviews every thirty minutes for the entire day. Part of this process involves making sure that the right people are in the room at the right time. For example, she makes sure that the applicant speaks to the people whose office is important to the applicant’s potential position. In this way, applicants get a feel for the position and work environment. Also, Harris can ask the people who spoke to the candidate about their impressions. Her goal is “to get the best people that will be the best fit into the business school.”

Harris has enjoyed special moments when students thank her for doing something for them.

“Students have come back and thanked me for the mundane tasks that I’ve helped them with -- timesheets or a follow up with something like a deposit. The students that I work with are really special,” she said. “The students at William & Mary are really, really special and driven. They go that extra step... I don’t think that’s something that’s everywhere. I think that William & Mary really promotes that kind of culture of positivity and community.”

Harris enjoys these interactions but perhaps her favorite aspect of her work is telling successful candidates that they got the job.

Brandon Coles, Client Services Technologist

The door to Room 2012 swings open and a student with tousled hair clutching a black laptop tightly stumbles into the office.

“Up all night…” she starts and then collapses into a chair.

The man behind the desk assesses the situation. Dire, indeed. He expertly takes the matter in hand. Limply, the student gives him the laptop. From the ashes, hope arises. Can William & Mary’s own MacGyver rescue that lost term paper?

Meet Brandon Coles, Miller Hall’s Client Services Technologist. Coles is a member of the team that tackles technology issues in the college. His range of expertise knows few limits, since he often has to “find creative ways to make things work on anything that has a touch screen, keyboard, or anything powered by electricity or battery.”

Coles has worked at the university in various roles over the years. He started in Facilities Management as a housekeeper in Adair Hall and he then became a Student Activities set crew person in the current Sadler Center. In 2004, he started working in the Development Department (now Advancement) as an IT liaison. This job merged into a central campus IT in 2015. In 2018, he joined the team at Miller Hall.

Coles finds rewarding moments in his work. In particular, he takes pride in helping members of the community in times of great need.

“I have had a few instances where students would come in frantic because they lost a very important paper that they were working on. Using various techniques that I picked up over the years I was able to recover the entire document or find legible text so that the student could reconstruct the document and not lose all of their hard work,” he said.

Coles stands as a shining beacon for many students, faculty, and staff in Miller Hall. His resourcefulness, talent, and cheerful service welcomes everyone who visits his office and they emerge, grateful, files intact, and possibly a screwdriver in hand.

Justin Jefferson, Operations Coordinator

The borders of Miller Hall encompass more than its brick walls and green grounds in Williamsburg, Virginia. It extends to Newport News to a square brick building called the William & Mary Peninsula Center. Here, the Part-Time Evening MBA Program meets Monday through Thursday for evening classes.

Justin Jefferson bridges the geographic distance between these locations by carrying the spirit of the main William & Mary campus to the Center. At 4 p.m., he strides in trusty Rockports through the building to prepare for the evening’s classes. He arranges classrooms, checks supplies, and sets up machinery. If faculty and students have any questions or need technical assistance, he helps them. After classes end, he checks the building and locks it up for the night. He maintains the building, manages the student body, coordinates scheduled activities, and makes sure that the students and faculty are safe and have all the supplies that they need.

Jefferson serves a key role in connecting the Part-Time Evening MBA students with the rest of campus. He acts as a friendly voice, dependable figure, and constant friend for anyone who goes to the center.

“My favorite part of the job is helping the students accomplish their goals, by encouraging them along the way,” he said.

Jefferson embodies the William & Mary psyche through his work. It is because of him that the community atmosphere of Miller Hall extends out to reach students at the Peninsula Center.

Chris Smith, Custodial Supervisor

During this time of COVID-19, we are especially grateful for our custodial staff. These employees make it possible for everyone to enjoy the building by keeping it safe and in tip-top shape. Chris Smith heads the team and has worked in the building since 2009.

“I ensure the physical environment of college facilities is maintained at its optimum appearance and functionality,” he said. “On the typical workday, I supervise the work of custodial workers and building support workers. Also, I foster and promote teamwork, professionalism, and customer service.”

Smith enjoys supervising the team work and building a sense of comradery among his staff.

“The best aspect of my job is knowing that my staff are working together to keep this building clean, safe, healthy for our customers, students, and visitors,” he explained.

This past year presented some challenges. Not only must they keep the building a safe place for everyone else, but they also have to protect themselves.

“COVID-19 has affected the morale of my staff. With a lot of communication, practicing social distancing, I try to answer or find the answer to any question my staff may have to ensure them that this jobsite is safe place to work. Every day is a new challenge here, but we come and do our part to ensure that this facility is a safe workplace,” he said.

Sara Noack, Director of Academic Affairs

Noack supports the Senior Associate Dean of Faculty and Academic Affairs. She came to William & Mary from George Washington University and after a year and a half at Miller Hall, she’s already established her importance in a pivotal role.

Noack manages the internal side of reoccurring accreditation reviews. She’s currently preparing for the next five-year visit from the Association to Advance Collegiate School of Business (AACSB). This organization grants accreditation in an extremely selective process; only five percent of business schools world-wide achieve this distinction. The Raymond A. Mason School of Business has earned it for its residential MBA, Online MBA, and Master of Science in Business Analytics programs.

Noack also manages course evaluations for the Mason School, another important function that ensures the continuation and tradition of excellence.

“It has been a privilege to get to know and work alongside the amazing staff and faculty here at William & Mary. During the COVID pandemic especially, our community has come together in innovative and creative ways, keeping safety and health as a top priority while also emphasizing the importance of quality education and the experience of students,” she said. “Faculty and staff here at the Mason School have demonstrated tremendous dedication to our students and work tirelessly to remain positive, courteous, and flexible in responding to all of the unknowns created by the circumstances.”

Last spring, she proudly served as a member of the team that successfully transitioned the school’s senior graduation ceremony from an in-person event to a virtual format.

“The staff and faculty worked to make it a memorable event, create videos, and congratulatory messages so that we could all show our support and cheer on our new graduates,” she explained. “We’ve seen it time and again during the pandemic - people throughout William & Mary coming together in thoughtful ways to acknowledge and support others. That is one of the best things about being part of this community.”