Five Questions with ETSU Registrar ahead of fall commencement

Brandon Paykamian • Dec 14, 2018 at 4:55 PM

The weeks leading up to graduation can be a busy time of year for East Tennessee State University Registrar Sheryl Burnette, who oversees the office that processes final grades, transcripts, regalia and degrees for ETSU graduates ahead of the commencement ceremony. 

On Friday, the day before fall commencement, Burnette, a Pellissippi State Community College and Tusculum College alumna, emailed the Johnson City Press to tell readers more about her personal interests and the inner workings of her job. 

Burnette Briefly:

Hobbies: “I enjoy cooking, boating, diving and camping.”

Favorite Food: “I love seafood and all desserts!”

Favorite book/author: “The Underground Railroad” by Colson Whitehead and “The Left Behind Series” by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins

Favorite historical figure: Eleanor Roosevelt

Favorite TV shows or “Netflix binges”: “Downton Abbey” and “Madam Secretary”

Can you tell our readers more about your job? 

As the university registrar, I oversee records, registration and graduation. My office processes grades, transcripts, NCAA certifications, undergraduate and graduate curriculum, registration, academic classroom assignments, undergraduate and graduate catalogs, undergraduate and graduate Degree Works, course substitutions, academic regalia, commencement programs, conferring of degrees and overseeing the commencement ceremonies.

The coordination of commencement is a monumental team effort and involves my entire office, as well as other offices on campus. As ETSU President Brian Noland has stated, “It is not a simple task to invite 10,000 family members to your home for an event.”

This event is held in the ETSU Mini-Dome, and we oversee the program, stage set-up, music, audio/visual, photography, security, parking and the flow of students through the commencement ceremony.

What led you to your current position?

I started working in the records office as a student worker in 1983. I accepted a full-time position as a records clerk in 1984, and then as a graduation analyst. During this time, I continued working toward my degree in the evening and after a few years, I became the manager of records and articulation and eventually, I became the registrar at Pellissippi State Community College.

The doors opened at East Tennessee State University, and I saw my opportunity for growth and enrichment in higher education. I chose to accept the position over a position I was offered at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, and I have never once regretted that decision. Go Bucs!

What have been some of your most memorable moments working at ETSU?

It’s wonderful to be a part of one of the most memorable days in the lives of our students. My office assists students from the beginning of their higher education career through the final day at graduation. To me, that is a very rewarding opportunity we have been given.

What’s your favorite part about working at ETSU and why?  

Having the opportunity to work with a wonderful group of people is very rewarding. As a team, we are able to accomplish so much – we often say “it takes a village’ and it truly does to make things happen. I work for Dr. Ramona Williams, and she has a great team within Enrollment Services, which makes my job easier.

What do you hope to be doing when you retire from your current position?

My plan is to travel and spend time with my family.

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