Students who pass through the Student Center on their way to the cafeteria, the TRiO program, Veterans Services, ASUCC, the peer mentors program or other services most likely don’t realize they are walking right through an office. “I have the biggest office on campus,” Diana Kelly says, waving an arm at the entire lobby area.
As Program Assistant for Student Life and Campus Engagement, Diana Kelly has a contagious amount of positive energy to share with anyone who feels lost or blue. The old adage “if you do something you love for a living, you’ll never have to work a day” certainly applies for Kelly, as her enthusiasm for her job is easily read. “I get to work on a beautiful campus,” she says. “I get to create things and build things, who wouldn’t like that?”
Raised in the San Fernando Valley of California, Kelly was a self-proclaimed “valley girl,” but may as well be an Oregon native now, as she and her husband fell in love with Roseburg and moved here 28 years ago.
Having survived the Northridge earthquake and a demolished house, Kelly and her husband wished to raise their daughter in Oregon. Kelly’s husband only had one condition: he insisted they settle anywhere along the I-5 corridor.
Their journey did not take them very far northward before they backtracked and settled in Douglas County with their (then) 16-month-old baby girl. When touring the UCC campus, Kelly’s resolve to remain in Roseburg was cemented. “I realized learning takes place here,” she says, “and now I’m home, and have been here ever since.”
In her Southern California years, Kelly held a number of positions in which she says she did well but was unsatisfied. Her 18 years of banking, she says, was a “slam-dunk job”; it didn’t challenge her. Plus, she had been robbed seven times in her seven years as a teller (“I was also really good at being robbed,” she says, recounting one heist in particular when she asked the robber about a Band-Aid on his neck). She also once owned a private investigation agency with her former husband and has done retail work at Saks Fifth Avenue.
“None of the things I ever did mattered to me in the way that education does,” she says. “This college matters to me. What happens on this campus matters.”
After the move, Kelly had a position at the Douglas County Hospital, until she was given a three-day notice that the facility was shutting down. Instead of looking elsewhere for work, she decided to earn an accounting degree. Her path to her current position started with a transfer degree at UCC, after which she was immediately hired by the Financial Aid department and progressed to enrollment with Eastern Oregon University, where she earned a degree in business administration.
Kelly also did work-study employment in the bookstore, the P.E. department and in the Administration building before finding her niche in Campus Life and Student Engagement, where she is now actively involved in nearly every activity and event that the campus hosts.
Kelly’s service to UCC extends well beyond the things she “gets to do” in her job, however; she is also president of ACEUCC, she’s an adviser to Phi Theta Kappa and she serves as chairman of the Veterans Day Parade Committee.
Kelly’s deep commitment to veterans is inherent, as she came from a family of military and service work. “My aunt worked 911 dispatch in Oklahoma City,” she says (her daughter now does the same in Linn County). “My two uncles are Air Force, and my dad was Navy.” As such, she helped to open UCC’s Veteran’s Center four years ago, she attends a monthly veteran’s forum and is working on the possibility of bringing ROTC to the school. Kelly is also working with community resources to find a property and fund housing for Douglas County’s alarming number of homeless veterans.
Though Kelly mentions gardening and canning as some of her hobbies, the conversation inevitably leads back to UCC, as she is helping Phi Theta Kappa with a garden project located by UCC’s running track using all recycled materials.
It should be noted here that there is a special compost area within this garden project. All of the flowers that Kelly could collect that were given after October 1 will be turned into mulch for landscaping around the future Snyder Hall, “so they will always be with us,” she says.
This is a measure of the kind of person Diana Kelly is. “I don’t like the words ‘no’ or ‘can’t,” she says. “If I have to tell you ‘no,’ I will give you [other] options.” She will go out of her way to offer answers and solutions to students and derives her inspirations from the students themselves.
“I am inspired by people,” she says. “I am inspired by our students and by the resiliency of our students . . . because no matter what happens around here, we never quit.”
Diana Kelly and her coworkers encourage students to make use of all of the services they offer.
“If you’re not sure what those services are,” she says, “come and talk to us in the campus center; we will connect you with what you need.”