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Lights on the Hill is a monthly photo feature highlighting College of Arts & Sciences people who are putting service at the forefront as they help to keep the University going during the COVID-19 pandemic … and beyond.

Stay tuned for future spotlights on the last Friday of every month.

Photo by Donn Young

Valerie Bernhardt at her desk
Valerie Bernhardt (photo by Donn Young)

Valerie Bernhardt, Administrative Manager, Department of Germanic and Slavic Languages and Literatures

What chief challenge or challenges have you had to overcome in doing your job in the middle of a pandemic?

I had never worked from home before, and in those times when I did it had been hard to keep focused.  When the pandemic started, I had moved just a month before and my whole living room was boxes and furniture piled together. I knew what I wanted my “office” to look like but had to do a lot of heavy shifting just to be able to sit down at a desk.

I also don’t own a car, and the bus service (that looked so great when I moved to this apartment) basically failed me.  So I have been housebound now for a year except for occasional Uber/Lyft trips.

Ritchie the cat
Ritchie loves to “help” Bernhardt with her work.

But I’ve become somewhat proficient at Zoom, I have a filing system at home now, and at least part of the time I have remote access to my work desktop computer. And I don’t have a television in the room where I work. My main distraction is a cat (named Ritchie) who has been known to steal my hands while I’m trying to type!

It’s actually pretty nice for a night person like me to not have to get up as early, since I only have to walk from the bedroom to the living room to start my day.

Why are you passionate about what you do? What keeps you committed to doing your job in the College?

What a lot of people don’t know about me is that I hold an M.A. in German literature, and nearly got to the ABD (all but dissertation) point in Germanic Languages and Literatures at UNC, with a focus on Medieval German Literature (I passed my prelims, but I didn’t defend my prospectus).  I also took two semesters of Russian during my M.A. studies (no, I don’t remember much beyond deciphering the Cyrillic alphabet).

So all of the current talk about Alternative-Academic options for grad students (following other career trajectories instead of the traditional tenure-track professor jobs) really feels familiar to me.

Managing GSLL is Alt-Ac for me. For the first many years I was only managing German; now I manage both German and Slavic. My post-baccalaureate training means that I can contribute to GSLL in ways that I could never do in other departments.




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