Janice Nowak

 Janice Nowak

Janice Nowak goes so far back at UNF, she had already been promoted once before operations moved to the campus.

Nowak began as a secretary in the controller's office on Nov. 2, 1970, after completing an associate's degree at Florida Junior College, now FCCJ. "I was like a lot of people in the Jacksonville area when UNF opened," Nowak said, explaining that she had gone as far in college as she could before the University was available. And like a lot of those early students, she worked full-time while attending school.


As her education progressed, so did Nowak's career. She became staff assistant in the Dean of Students' office, then moved to Financial Aid, first as assistant director, then associate director, and finally, her current position, director. She also completed her bachelor's degree in business education but during her internship, Nowak discovered she preferred the work she was doing.

"I was thinking of teaching, but when I got into that setting at my old alma mater, Robert E. Lee High School, I realized I liked being at UNF," she said. "Of course, my degree did give me the ability to apply for professional jobs here."


A quality Nowak misses from UNF's earliest days was the lack of convention the small setting afforded. "I was 21 and being introduced to the president of the University, all these deans -- it was a little overwhelming," she noted. "We were guinea pigs for the dog and pony shows they would give on things like the Venture Studies Program. We would sit in as Dr. Carpenter practiced his presentations and critique them before he took them out into the community. That was pretty neat, to have that kind of input at my level at that time."


Nowak also fondly recalls the "play days" when staff, students and faculty would divide into teams for such events as canoe races, egg tosses, tug-of-wars and tricycle races. It also was rewarding she said to serve on the University Senate, a governing board which decided issues related to students, faculty and staff, and comprised of members of all three groups.


Being crowded has been a UNF tradition, according to Nowak, who said the early office in the Chamber of Commerce Building was especially close. "The building had a marble floor and no electrical outlets. It wasn't designed to hold offices. There were extension cords everywhere and makeshift offices divided by panel doors and bookcases," she recalled. "At one point just before we moved, as soon as you got up from your chair, someone else would sit in it. And whenever the library got more books, we had to squeeze more."


Technology has come a long way since those days, too, Nowak said. "We had to submit a report of all students who applied for financial aid, along with their income levels, race, and sex," she said. "We had no way to capture this information on a computer, so we had to use huge ledger sheets. People would call out the information from the applications and we'd put hash marks on the sheets. It took over a week just to count everybody."


One of the best changes has been the community's growing awareness of UNF, she added. "For years, you would tell people where you worked and they'd say, 'Is that the place off Beach Boulevard?' and you'd say, 'No, that's FCCJ,' " she said. "It makes you feel proud now when you tell them and people say, 'You work there ? What a great place. How long have you been there?' "


Nowak continued, "To think you contributed a part of that starting out process... that all those proposals I typed for my boss made a difference," she paused. "And I still feel that way because I'm still contributing."


Although retirement is distant, Nowak hates to leave before realizing her dream. "I'd like to give financial aid to every student who needs it, and," she added laughing, "not have a single complaint. We'll keep striving to do that."