By Monica M. Walk
SHE CALLS her employment at UIC her own personal “Cinderella Story.”
“I SPENT the better part of my adult life floating, not sure what to do or what I wanted to be,” recently elected APAC board member Tracy Sikorski said, noting she based her early work decisions on circumstance, not on mentoring or interest in a specific organization. “At first, UIC was just a job—then I realized the mission of the university is amazing. We serve an inner city population with integrity. “
SHE HAD no prior specific experience—other than assuring her future employers she was “good at math and learned fast”—but Sikorski discovered she was good at the entry-level job she landed in the Office of Social Science Research in 2009. So good, in fact, that she was promoted to Associate Director a few months later. Before 2015 ends, Sikorski will hold the title of Office Director.
“IT HELPED me find myself,” Sikorski said of the University. “It is personal to me to help people find out what they want to do.”
SIKORSKI SEES connections in APAC’s abilities to help other University employees find their callings, and develop and grow in their careers. She expects to focus her volunteer energy on APAC’s professional development work. “It’s hard to find a mentor in a large work environment like UIC,” she said. “I want to help other professionals grow.”
SIKORSKI’S INTEREST in and commitment to APAC runs deep. “The Academic Professionals on campus constitute a declining class, because of changes the campus is going through,” she said. “I have a vested interest in being sure the campus understands the Academic Professional role. I want to be part of the conversation and influence what happens to this group of people.”
CITING THE nature of academic work, Sikorski noted that employees may not come in contact with many other individuals during their workday. Busy schedules leave little time for sharing both successes and problems.
“APAC GIVES voice to the Academic Professional: They can come to me and talk, and I can bring something up at a meeting,” Sikorski said, citing that Academic Professionals at UIC number about 2,000 and are one of the few non-union groups on campus. “They need a voice and APAC does that for them.”
SIKORSKI’S OWN UIC position does provide interaction across departments. The Office of Social Science Research provides all-inclusive grant support—from finding funding to handling the spending— for faculty in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, including both social sciences and humanities. Sikorski describes the unit as “like a giant bank,” with 40 different accounts and $16 million in current grant money (up steeply from $4 million in 2010) from 25 different funding agencies across ten academic departments.
“I HOPE to take those interactions to the next level with people I already interface with and put those interactions to good use,” she said.
SIKORSKI’S COMMITMENT to education includes pursuing a PhD –not to do something different with her career, but because she feels intensely about the topic. She is researching the relationship of college content and its relevance for success in the workforce for new graduates.
“I REALLY want to support Academic Professionals,” she said. “I hope they come to events and reach out to APAC members, with good or with bad. We are a resource to use and they should use us.
“BEING AT UIC is an amazing experience, in and of itself,” Sikorski said. “Being involved in APAC is a bonus.”