Students, staff, faculty and friends of UC Merced who walk into Chancellor Carol Tomlinson-Keasey’s office are always greeted by a friendly face. Katie Unruh has worked as Tomlinson-Keasey’s assistant since 1999, just a few months after the chancellor’s appointment.
A mother of three, Unruh has lived in the Merced area for 28 years. Before joining UC Merced, she worked in the insurance industry and then for Congressman Dennis Cardoza, who has been an important supporter of the campus.
Besides guarding (and sharing) the chancellor’s stash of dark chocolate candy, Unruh helps handle Tomlinson-Keasey’s telephone calls, correspondence, scheduling and travel, and makes sure she has materials and information she needs for important meetings. Keeping up with UC Merced’s high-energy leader is no small order.
“It’s funny that most people think that when the chancellor is out of the office, I have a chance to catch up,” Unruh says. “Even if the chancellor is on the road, she is usually making phone calls. She doesn’t waste any time. Trying to stay one step ahead is tough, because she moves at lightning speed!”
One new aspect of Unruh’s job now that UC Merced has welcomed its first group of students will be the chancellor’s office hours. Chancellor Tomlinson-Keasey will welcome students into her office to get to know them and discuss their concerns.
There are other aspects of working for the chancellor of the newest UC that people might not guess. “To the outside world it may seem like we’re always very businesslike, but even though people here are highly intelligent and focused, they also have a great sense of humor,” Unruh says appreciatively. “Everyone is genuinely nice and fun to be around.”
That helps during stressful times like the recent ramp-up to UC Merced’s Grand Opening. “It’s easy to get caught up in the daily activities, so it sometimes takes a big event - like the opening ceremony - to remind me of exactly what we’ve accomplished and how fortunate I am,” Unruh says. “Not everyone gets to be part of something as special as opening a new UC campus,”