Continuing a tradition of service and dedication
Margarita Guinsatao O'Connell's dedication and service to the University are qualities that run in the family.
O'Connell's father retired from the University in 1966, and her mother retired from the Zoller Dental Clinic in 1974 after 30 years of continuous service. O'Connell's uncle is retired from Animal Care Services, her brother was a University employee, her son works for Telecommunications and her sister-in- law has worked at the University for more than 30 years. Continuing the family tradition, O'Connell has been program administrator for the Graduate Program in Health Administration & Policy for the past 26 years.
The tradition began with her father, Tobias Guinsatao, O'Connell said. A native of the Philippines, he came to Hyde Park with his family in the 1920s. Upon graduation from Hyde Park High School, Guinsatao returned to the Philippines, where he met and married Mercedes Evaristo. The couple returned to Hyde Park and found work at the University. O'Connell's father began working in the Biological Sciences Division in 1938, and her mother began working as a lab assistant in the BSD in 1944.
O'Connell is following closely in her parents' footsteps. A graduate of Hyde Park High School, she has remained a Hyde Park resident, raising her three children here while working close to home at the University.
Since she began working in the Graduate Program in Health Administration & Policy in 1967, O'Connell has worked for five directors and has moved with the program from the Graduate School of Business to the program's present status as an independent University department housed in new quarters at 6011 S. Ingleside Ave. Throughout all the changes, it is her relationship with the students that has kept her job enjoyable, O'Connell said.
"It's the friendships with both the new students and the alumni that make me glad I stayed with the program all these years," she said. "Some of the alumni were a little nervous when the program was going through a transition. But when they called and discovered that I was still around, they knew there would be some continuing stability. It's nice to know I'm thought of in that way."
O'Connell's responsibilities include helping administer courses as well as coordinating orientation, placement and educational events for graduate students who are earning certificates in health administration from the GSB, the Irving B. Harris Graduate School of Public Policy Studies or the SSA. She also coordinates alumni-student activities, internship programs and on-campus presentations by professional organizations around Chicago.
"When you're dealing with three different groups of students from three different schools, it's sometimes hard to serve all their diverse interests. Throughout the year, we try to have sessions that will bring them all together as well as incorporate people from various professional agencies.
"Our program is constantly changing, so it's nice to have an active alumni network," O'Connell added. "Some students come to the University solely because of our program, so we try to keep up with what's going on now instead of sticking solely to the traditions of the field. At the same time, the history and reputation of the program are important assets."
O'Connell, who is also administrative assistant for the Center for Health Administration Studies, said she sees her job as important but easy to describe. "I'm mainly here to make the students' lives a little easier and less complicated. I started in the program in 1967 and here I am 26 years later still working. I still enjoy what I do -- meeting new people every year."
-- Charles Whitt