In observance of Women’s History Month, Nebraska Today has partnered with the Chancellor’s Commission on the Status of Women to feature female office/service staff who go above and beyond in their work at Dear Old Nebraska U. This Women of Service series will run in Nebraska Today through March 31.
The series continues today with Annette Contreras, office supervisor for Counseling and Psychological Services. She was nominated by Tricia Besett-Alesch, director of Counseling and Psychological Services.
In her work, Contreras supports staff and clients in the CAPS office.
“Annette has an intuitive sense for when the staff are feeling stressed or overwhelmed and will circumvent these challenges by decorating the front desk, providing treats for clients and brining in nourishing goodies (including amazing monster cookies) for our staff,” Besett-Alesch said. “Her contributions are invaluable and our staff share their gratitude toward her on a regular basis.”
Contreras sat down with the Chancellor’s Commission on the Status of Women to discuss what inspires her on and off campus.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I’ve lived in Lincoln my entire life and I’m one of six children. I met my husband in 1988. We have one daughter age 25. Both my husband and daughter are UNL graduates — and our daughter is working on her master’s degree here. I have worked in the office/service field for 43 years. I’ve also raised two West Highland Terriers, ages 13 and 14.
How long have you been at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln?
I’ve worked at UNL for eight years — two-and-a-half years with SSD as an office associate and five-and-a-half years with CAPS as an office supervisor.
What do you look forward to when you come to work?
I look forward to the opportunity to gain experience and be challenged. I appreciate that my job has a lot of variety in it every day. I’ve enjoyed collaborating with the CAPS director and through transitions. I thoroughly enjoy building relationships with other departments on campus as well as the CAPS directors, psychologists, counselors, interns, field placements and office associates. I have worked with staff in Student Affairs, Student Accounts, Human Resources, Information Technology Services and the University Health Center.
During stressful times I enjoy surprising our amazing staff with baked goods such as banana bread and monster cookies. Weather permitting, I enjoy getting my walks in over my lunch hour. From the health center, I walk to the stadium and back whenever I can.
What is your favorite memory at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln?
I have several.
The total solar eclipse on Aug. 21, 2017. Nebraskans had some of the best viewing opportunities and City Campus was buzzing that day.
Also, the Dec. 22, 2017 demolition of the historic Cather and Pound halls.
I grew up in Belmont and one of the routes out of the community was 14th Street through City Campus. My drive to high school went south on 14th Street past the City Campus Utility Plant. If you had your windows down and the wind was in the right direction, you may have gotten sprayed. At 15th and Vine I passed Bancroft Hall where my mother attended junior high school — Bancroft Hall was demolished in 2000.
Across from Bancroft Hall was University High School/Teachers College where my oldest brother attended high school. In 1967 University High School was closed and renamed Henzlik Hall. A right turn on 16th heading south took me past my parish, St. Thomas Aquinas Church, now known as UNL’s Newman Center.
At the end of the day my drive home took me back through campus north on 17th Street past Pound and Cather, then finally past Abel Hall where my mother once lived growing up way before Abel was built.
Lastly, I have fond memories as a kid visiting campus during homecoming. My aunt would load up her nieces and nephews in the car and drive us to campus so we could walk around and see the amazing homecoming exhibits.
What is your life like outside of work?
I enjoy my downtime outside of work and try to get outdoors as much as possible. Most of the year I spend time helping my husband with lawncare. I have many large flowerpots and window boxes that I plant in the spring and fall. I have shrub roses and a hostas garden that I maintain.
My husband and I enjoy evenings on our deck that overlooks a pond. Our lot backs up to commons and wetlands so we see a lot of wildlife back there. Foxes are my favorite, and we see many ducks and geese in the area. I try to exercise 40 minutes, four to five times a week as much as possible. And I really enjoy walking the Westies whenever I can.
What is something most people don’t know about you?
Most people don’t know that I owned a medical transcription service for 16 years. I serviced four medical offices here in town and I had one part-time employee. This business was a huge undertaking and was a big part of my life for 16 years. There are pros and cons to self-employment. I was able to make my own hours, but most days those hours got long due to the contractual 24-hour turnaround, and then there was that work-life balance that was always a balancing act between career, home, motherhood and fitness.