Susan Williford, Coordinator of Student Records for the Graduate School, never knows when she’ll run into a former student. “They become neighbors. They become Duke faculty. They restore historical buildings. They appear on television as experts in their field,” she says. “I have been fortunate to get to know so many interesting students.” Previous to her current role, Susan was the Director of Graduate Studies’ Assistant (DGSA) for several departments at Duke including English and Mathematics. She says, “The opportunity to work in the Graduate School came in April 1995. I had worked closely with the Graduate School as a DGSA, and jumped at the chance to work with people I already knew and liked. I have been here ever since.”
Susan has served as Coordinator of Student Records since November 2001, and graduate students, staff, and co-workers alike can attest to her role being vital and multi-faceted, especially around graduation and in the processes leading up to degree conferral. She says, “I prepare the graduation lists and approve the awarding of the Ph.D., Master of Arts, Master of Science, and Master of Arts in Teaching degrees in September, December, and May.” Whether it’s troubleshooting and solving registration problems alongside the Student Information Services & Systems (SISS) Office and the Office of the University Registrar, dropping courses for students after the drop/add period, or entering non-course milestones (such as preliminary examinations, thesis and dissertation titles, and master’s completion exercises) on student transcripts, Susan’s goal is to make sure no student misses an important requirement or deadline which could lead to delayed graduation. When asked if she has any advice for students on how to successfully navigate the Graduate School deadlines and records requirements, Susan says, “Bookmark our Web site and check it frequently! Never assume anything, and understand that nothing happens automatically.” She continues, “I have my own deadlines for submitting graduation lists to the Special Events Office, the dean of the Graduate School, the Academic Council, and the Registrar, so the posted deadlines are critical.”
In addition to helping graduate students directly, Susan is also committed to assisting the administrators in nearly 60 Graduate School departments and programs with the monitoring of student progress. When asked whether there are Graduate School resources that departments should be regularly accessing to track student progress, Susan says, “We are working to create queries that can be accessed by the departments that will let them know who has applied to graduate, who has completed RCR requirements, and who is and is not registered for a particular semester prior to the drop/add deadlines.”
Because Susan works closely with various University offices, there is sometimes confusion about to whom students should address their questions. Susan offers the following for clarification: “I provide the Office of Special Events and University Ceremonies with a list of potential graduates, but the diplomas are ordered by that office. I only see the May diplomas since we hand them to the graduates on graduation day.” Similarly with transcripts, while Susan prepares information that will ultimately appear on the transcript, “official transcripts must be requested from the Office of the University Registrar.” And when should you direct your question toward Susan? “If there is a problem with a non-course milestone on your transcript, if you need to change your expected graduation date or withdraw your ‘Apply for Graduation Form,’ if you need to change your academic plan, or need clarification on a degree requirement,” Susan says, “then you should not hesitate to contact me.” Susan’s office is located in the Graduate School at 2127 Campus Drive, and she can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com or by telephone at 919.681.3248.