By Vince Stricherz, UW Today
As department administrator in political science, it's no surprise that Ann Buscherfeld is responsible for the budget. In fact she has responsibility for more than 100 budgets, some 70 of them just within the department, when all of its programs and centers are considered.
That means keeping straight which money can be used for which types of expenses — after all, you can't use state money to buy meals for visiting dignitaries, and different rules apply for federal funding and money raised through donations.
What is unusual, though, is how, year after year for more than a decade, Buscherfeld's budgets have been almost exactly on target, with very little left over and never anything overspent.
She is proud of that accomplishment, but it is only one factor that brought her a Distinguished Staff Award. "She helps us to set a tone and a standard of excellence in performance that makes us all better, individually and collectively," department Chairman Peter May and former chairmen Stephen Majeski and Michael McCann wrote in a letter supporting her nomination for the award.
They tout Buscherfeld's integrity, innovation, spirit of collaboration, fostering of diversity and respect, and her willingness to support faculty and students. She also has been noted for helping graduate students negotiate the research grant application process, which can be daunting even for experienced faculty.
Buscherfeld is an Iowa native who lives in Issaquah, where her family raises golden retrievers. She was an administrator at a hospital in Minnesota, and then worked as a medical secretary at a Seattle-area clinic before joining the Political Science Department in 1986. She started as department receptionist, advanced to secretary supervisor and then computer specialist before becoming administrator in 1999.
The most difficult part of her job, she said, is keeping tabs on all the different facets of the various budgets, and educating faculty and students on what types of things they can and cannot do with money from various sources.
"We are scrutinized and we know it, so we want to make sure our funds are used properly," she said.
On any given day she has certain things she would like to accomplish but she has learned to be flexible because of the variety of needs that come up.
"There's no typical day," she said. "I've learned not to plan my day because that can just frustrate me."
In a letter supporting her nomination, four directors of centers that Buscherfeld administers – Sharan Brown, James Gregory, Steven Herbert and Heather Pool – praised her "almost endless patience, and her inexplicable kindness to the clueless" for making their lives easier.
"We cannot imagine another staff person who does more with less and still has a smile on her face," they wrote. "We are perpetually astounded that she can do so much, so effectively. None of us have ever seen a staff member so quietly prolific."
Her work is so universally appreciated within the department (one nominating letter included endorsements from 62 current graduate students) that in May 2010, during an event to honor someone else in the department, Buscherfeld was called forward for special recognition. She was presented a "Husky Achievement" trophy as "The Best Doggone Administrator."
In their letter, May, Majeski and McCann noted that she often is forced to "innovate on the spot" and that her ability to adapt quickly helps the entire department.
"Last year, we had back-to-back incidents of flooded offices in two different buildings," they wrote. "In each case she personally rearranged schedules, offices, meetings, furniture and files while simultaneously mobilizing movers, repainting, plumbers, carpenters and electricians."
While she takes pride in such accomplishments, Buscherfeld chalks it all up to being part of a job that she enjoys and that gives her great satisfaction.
"I just love helping people and giving them the support they need," she said.