Photo courtesy of: University Communications and MarketingChristine Sheets and Tim Epley, business manager for Event Services, are seen volunteering to help with Ohio University’s fall move-in.
Life-changing. That’s a term Christine Sheets uses when discussing Ohio University – both her alma mater and her place of employment. And, it’s a term Sheets can be heard saying quite often these days as she prepares to retire from her alma mater after 32 years of service.
The assistant vice president for OHIO’s Division of Student Affairs, Sheets’ last day at Ohio University will be Thursday, Nov. 30. A celebration of her retirement is planned for 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 29, in the Bromley Hall Lounge. The event is open to all, and a memories scrapbook will be available for those wanting to share a photo or short story about Sheets.
“I’ve worked everywhere,” Sheets said, reflecting back on her years of service to OHIO that began on Dec. 5, 1985, when she started in an entry-level clerical position with The Ohio University Foundation typing receipts. “I’ve been under two vice presidential units and through four presidents.”
Sheets went on to work for University Human Resources as an employment services specialist before taking a position in what was then known as the Division of Campus Recreation, eventually being promoted to the division’s director of business and marketing and associate director. Later, she served as assistant athletic director for business and personnel for Intercollegiate Athletics.
Sheets returned to OHIO’s Division of Finance and Administration in May 1999 to serve as director of conference services. She spent the next nearly 10 years of her career with the division, serving first as the director of conference services, then as director of housing, and finally as assistant vice president for auxiliary services. In that role, she provided administrative direction for everything from the University’s residence halls and dining and retail services to OHIO’s airport and its printing and graphic services unit – all while fostering relationships with both internal and external stakeholders.
In January 2009, Sheets was selected to serve as executive director of residential housing in the Division of Student Affairs, a role that tasked her with providing leadership in the merger of OHIO’s residence life and housing units and consolidating both within the Division of Student Affairs. Among the highlights of the three years she spent in that role was initiating program planning for students living on campus in the development of a comprehensive housing master plan. It was a plan that would become a major focus of Sheets’ final years at Ohio University and a point of pride for both her and the University as it resulted in the first new residence halls on the Athens Campus in more than 35 years and significant improvements to Bobcats’ living-learning environment.
Sheets was hired as assistant vice president of the Division of Student Affairs in March 2012, serving as senior leader for the division in developing strategic initiatives, policies and operational decisions. In that role, Sheets has been key in future planning for the division’s facilities, served as a liaison in campus-wide master planning, led the development and oversight of the division’s continuity planning, and chaired the Regional Campuses and Centers Task Force, implementing programs and projects to better serve the University’s regional campus and online students, commuters, and veterans and military students.
When asked what has kept her at Ohio University all these years, Sheets is quick to answer, “Love of the University.” It’s a love that began long before she began working or studying at OHIO.
Sheets recalled her first OHIO experience, when she was younger than 10 years old and visited the Athens Campus where her older brother was participating in a high school program.
“I remember walking the campus, crossing the greens, seeing all the squirrels that got so close to me and the students moving across campus, and it was so beautiful,” Sheets said, noting that as a young child growing up in the country, Athens felt like a really big city. “I was very young, very little and visiting this campus was a big deal.
“This place is so vibrant. Even today, when I walk across the campus, it’s still like it was when I was that little child. I get that energy and positivity of what’s possible here,” Sheets said. “I love what the University represents to people. It’s life-changing. You can watch the students as they grow and develop.”
Sheets knows personally the life-changing power of Ohio University. She earned her bachelor of business administration degree at the Athens Campus in 1994 and her master of business administration degree through OHIO’s Lancaster Campus in 2002 – all while working full-time at the University and raising two small children. Sheets said her favorite moment was when she graduated with her undergraduate degree.
“My father came, and I cried,” she said, still feeling the emotion of that day. “That was big – that I was able to do it, working full-time and with both of my kids, and I was a first-generation student, and it was hard.”
Sheets noted the support she received from her Bobcat family, and particularly from her former colleagues in what was then the College of Health and Sport Sciences, in earning her degree.
“They were just so wonderful to me,” Sheets said, noting the numerous mentors she has had over the years. “The reason I could get my degree is because people were supportive of me, and they pushed me when I didn’t think I could do it.”
When asked what she leaves OHIO most proud of, Sheets said simply, “Phase I.”
Sheets was instrumental in executing the more than $110 million Phase I of the University’s Housing Development Plan and more than $200 million in completed renovation projects. Those initiatives included the renovation of seven residence halls on OHIO’s East Green, the construction of five new residence halls and a Living Learning Center on South Green, and the demolition of six residence halls on Back South.
“That was a 10-year journey,” she said, noting the process of developing the plan and then implementing it through a significant amount of turnover in leadership. “Every couple of years I had a new person I had to sell it to, in addition to regularly taking it back to the Board of Trustees. It was always selling that story and what these projects would mean in terms of changing the campus and impact these facilities would have on student success, recruitment and retention.”
Sheets was quick to note that Phase I was not her accomplishment alone, but how proud she was to be a part of a legacy that will serve students for the next century – a legacy that, those who know and have worked with her will tell you, goes far beyond the facilities that serve OHIO’s students.
“Christine represents the Ohio University transformation at its finest,” said Senior Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Jenny Hall-Jones. “I am inspired every time I think about her starting as an administrative assistant, going to school part-time to get her bachelor’s degree, working her way up through the ranks and getting her MBA – all while working full-time in primarily male-dominated environments. She is amazing, is a glass ceiling breaker and is a role model to me. She has devoted her full professional life to Ohio University, and we are better because she was here.”
“If you have spent any time with Christine, you know that she is a Bobcat,” Associate Vice President for Auxiliaries Gwyn Scott said. “Regardless of her role or the task at hand, Christine puts Ohio University first.”
Jason Pina, vice president for student affairs and interim chief diversity officer, also reflected on Sheets' outstanding career.
“Christine represents everything that Ohio University stands for,” Pina said. “Her drive and determination are matched by an empathetic, people-first approach. The education she received at OHIO has enabled her to break through socio-economic barriers, and she has devoted her professional life to giving back so that others can experience that transformation in their own lives. She exemplifies our hopes for every student and every professional that passes through our gates, and we will miss her presence as she moves on to new adventures.”
Administrative specialist Joanna Stoltzfus has spent the past nearly three years working alongside Sheets.
“Christine, as a supervisor and a person, is a supportive, caring individual who has become a mentor to me,” Stoltzfus said. “She is passionate about people and strives for quality, which is evident in the work she produces. She has brought a lot of life and fun to our office. From decorating for the Homecoming competition where her Bobcat Pride would shine and her competitive side would take over, to the way she cares, Christine goes out of her way to make everyone feel special. She will be greatly missed.”
As Sheets prepares to leave Ohio University, she said she is doing so with plans to continue working – after a much-deserved break that will involve traveling with her husband in their new RV and spending time with family.
“Being off will give me time to soul search and figure out what’s next and what I truly love,” she said, adding that she will miss the thousands of people she has met and worked with over the course of her time at OHIO.
When asked if she had any words of wisdom for her colleagues, she said: “Stay the course, and always do good. We have opportunities every day to make big differences in people’s lives – to totally change their lives. I came from nothing, and my life has been changed. Remember that what you do is important. All of us are important.”
Photo courtesy of: Student AffairsChristine Sheets (second from right) shows off her Bobcat Pride with her colleagues in the Annex Office of the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs (from left) Tasha Dean, Madison Trace and Joanna Stoltzfus
Photo courtesy of: University Communications and MarketingChristine Sheets (second from left) poses for a photo with other current and former Ohio University administrators at the brick sculpture erected on OHIO’s South Green as part of Phase I of the University’s Housing Development Plan