Sylvia James grew up in a low-income family and is now the Vice President of Administrative Services. From moving around the country to the place she is now, James has used the support and experiences in her life to get to the esteemed position she finds herself in today.
“I cried when I found out I was the Vice President of Administrative Services,” said James, “I’m just really excited and humbled.”
Growing up in a military family lead James to live in Washington state, where her U.S. Army Special Forces father decided to retire. James cites her father as her greatest inspiration because he was a servant leader who always wanted to help others.
“He was someone who always taught me to stand up for others and to help people that need help or can’t help themselves,” said James.
At the age of 14, James played in the Pierce College concert band and later enrolled in the college as a Running Start student. The reason she chose to attend Pierce was because of her family’s economic means and the college being within walking distance of her home.
Prior to working at Pierce, James was a study student for the Girl Scouts of the United States of America until she became a work-study student at the college. High school came easy to James, which meant she didn’t need to put in much effort to finish assignments. Now in college, she had to create study habits in order to grasp what was being taught at the collegiate level. In order to balance school and work, James found a way to tackle the hardest tasks first and construct a balance in her schedule.
Throughout her academic years, James had always envisioned herself becoming a music education major so she could share her passion with other people. The head of the music department at the time sat her down and asked her to think about whether being an educator really would make her happy.
“I wouldn’t be happy, I would be upset because 8-10 students are taking your class as an elective and aren’t going to be music majors,” said James.
The head of the department found James more opportunities for part-time jobs throughout the college to help her figure out her fields of interest. Over the years, James has worked her way up at the college through different positions to become the Vice President of Administrative Services. This position oversees financial services, such as accounting, budgeting, facilities security, risk management and insurance.
This year, James will be looking forward to the services and activities process because it allows her to work with students individually and build relationships. In the past, James has been invited by the directors of the Office of Student Life to talk with students about strategic planning and leadership philosophies.
When James was a student at Pierce, she was asked to attend the distinguished alumni celebration. After hearing about the Pierce alumni’s work in the community, she left feeling inspired. James wanted to work hard in order to make the people around her feel inspired the way she had. In 2018, James was honored by the foundation as a distinguished alumna.
“We can all do great things and inspire people to do unbelievable things every single day, that was the way that I took it,” said James. “I wanted to speak to students and let them know that the idea isn’t that you have to go into the world and be the best or be the first, I mean that’s always nice, but be kind and be a good person.”
As a result, the distinguished alumni celebration changed the way James thought. As the Vice President for Administrative Services, she will use her background at Pierce to prioritize the student’s perspective in her new position.
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