She loves history and language. She’s a stickler for correct spelling and grammar. Small wonder that Stacie Tibbetts ’80 seems like she’d be more at home in the humanities than UCI’s chemistry department. She’s more tweed coat than lab coat.
Yet during her 26-year career on campus, Tibbetts has been surrounded by scientists, supporting their efforts to conduct cutting-edge research – while double-checking their spelling. As operations manager for chemistry, she handles complex personnel, planning and other administrative tasks, using her language acumen to pore over grant proposals with the sharp eye of an English teacher. The chemistry she enjoys with the department’s faculty and staff is so good, she received the 2007 Lauds & Laurels Award for Staff Achievement.
“The irony is I never took a chemistry class as an undergraduate,” Tibbetts says. “I was a Russian language and literature major – a degree no longer offered at UCI. But I like working with scientists; I understand the temperament.”
Tibbetts worked “in industry” for just four months after graduating before deciding she was better suited to civil service – “the ivory tower” of a university environment. She began her UCI career as a word processing operator in chemistry and quickly impressed her supervisors with her positive attitude, strong work ethic – and perfectionism.
“Her eyes catch every un-dotted ‘i’ – and she manages to have all the ‘i’s dotted in time to meet the most whimsical of deadlines,” marvels Ara Apkarian, chair and professor of chemistry.
Tibbetts has an encyclopedic knowledge of all campus rules and regulations, he says. She can recite obscure requirements for contracts and grants, and she has the American Chemical Society Style Guide memorized.
“Stacie is always going above and beyond her job description to make sure the job gets done right,” says Kenneth Janda, chemistry professor. “Although she’s not a trained chemist, she’s picked up enough chemistry to give excellent advice on how to explain concepts and the proper use of scientific language.”
They’ve tried more than once to promote Tibbetts to the department’s top administrative job, management services officer, but she always refuses – even though she took on the job for almost two years while the MSO was on medical leave, saving the office from “disaster,” Janda recalls.
“That’s a big picture kind of job, and I’m better at the details,” Tibbetts says. “I don’t need to move up to be fulfilled. I just need to know I’m doing the best job I can.”