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‘Behind the Screens: The People of OIT’ is a series that features the people working hard behind the scenes to make OIT run.

Position: Staff Assistant with the Administrative Support Team

Time spent with OIT: 26 years

Gwen Waller has witnessed a lot of changes in OIT since she joined in 1998. Back then, the computer labs looked vastly different, and there were more of them. She remembers the days before the Innovation Co-Lab or Multimedia Project Studio (MPS) existed. She has seen a lot of personnel changes too, watching amazing coworkers come and go.

While a lot has changed in Gwen’s 26 years in OIT, her desire to help others, soak up all the knowledge she can, and create the best experiences possible for fellow OIT’ers has not.  

What she does for OIT:
As a staff assistant, Gwen’s primary responsibilities include administrative support and student work coordination. During this past spring semester, OIT supported 157 student workers and interns from Duke and other universities. Gwen onboarded each of these students during their start with OIT. Along with handling the onboarding, Gwen assists the students with any payroll related inquiries, processes rate change requests, and offboards each student employee from the payroll after their time working in OIT has ended.

On the administrative support side, Gwen has a variety of responsibilities including meeting coordination, corporate card reconciliations, processing reimbursements, event planning or assisting with event planning, and much more. She also serves as the biweekly payroll representative for OIT.

What she enjoys about working in OIT:
During her time in OIT, Gwen has learned a lot by being exposed to different technology and being around the many IT professionals in OIT.

“I’ve been like a sponge, and I’ve absorbed it,” Gwen said. “[Being exposed to technology] is one of the reasons why I came into OIT and one of the reasons why I’ve stayed. I know what OIT looked like when I came back in May of 1998, and it’s not the same OIT in 2024. It’s not even the same OIT as it was 10 years ago, because it’s grown so much. I have appreciated being exposed to the different technologies that have come and working with the different IT professionals that are making that happen.”

Something else Gwen enjoys about working in OIT is the sense of pride she feels when she’s out on campus or in a Duke University Health System facility and sees the impact OIT is having.

“If I’m on campus or if I’m at a doctor’s appointment or something like that, I’ll look across the room and know who did what,” Gwen said. “It’s a sense of pride knowing that OIT has been somewhere and is responsible for something, and that I work with or among the people that make that happen.”

Advice for those new to OIT:
Gwen has grown a lot by learning from those around her and opening herself up to new opportunities and experiences. She encourages others to do the same.

“Keep an open mind to learning different things and being exposed to new things,” Gwen said. “Be open to sharing your knowledge and be open to receiving new knowledge as well.”

Gwen also encourages those new to OIT to practice kindness and authenticity.

“Just remember to be kind and feel comfortable to come in and be yourself in the work environment.”

The impact she hopes to have within OIT:
Gwen is a helper and problem solver, and she lets these traits guide her in her role.

“My goal is to always be as helpful as I can be to anybody in doing any aspect of my job and to be a good resource for people,” Gwen said. “When I leave people, my goal is to leave them with a good experience from working with me. Whether it’s within my church, at work, or with my friendships, I want to leave that interaction leaving something better behind me.”

What she’s working towards:
Gwen isn’t planning on leaving OIT anytime soon, but she is thinking about her future.

“I’m basically thinking about life after OIT at this point,” Gwen said. “I’m not ready to retire yet, but it’s coming up, and I’ve got some options.”

For 19 years, Gwen has owned her pet-sitting business, Pampered Roommates Professional Pet-sitting Service. Over the years, she has cared for dozens of pets, some of which belonged to fellow OIT’ers.

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Gwen with Lily and Nellie, two Bichon Frisé dogs she cared for at Pampered Roommates
Gwen with Lily and Nellie, two Bichon Frisés owned by former OIT'er, Ginny Cake

“Now, I’m thinking about how I can develop that into more and be more active in it,” Gwen said.

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Ellie, an Airdale, riding in a car.
Ellie, another Pampered Roommate pet, enjoys a car ride.

Along with growing Pampered Roommates, Gwen is considering contracting her services as an administrative consultant.  While she’s at it, she might also work on another degree.

“I wouldn’t mind getting my master’s degree at some point, because knowledge is power,” Gwen said. “You never get too old to learn new things and have new experiences.”

What she’s doing when she’s not at work:
Outside of OIT and Pampered Roommates, Gwen stays busy by practicing mixed martial arts. While she took up the sport five years ago to learn self-defense and exercise, it has become a way for her to find peace.

“It’s personal time for me and self-care,” Gwen said. “When I go into my trainer’s studio, I check everything at the door; it’s just me, and I enjoy it.”

Aside from channeling her inner Bruce Lee or Chuck Norris (she’s always been a huge fan of both), Gwen also enjoys reading self-help and romance crime mystery books and listening to music of all genres, ranging from R&B to smooth jazz to country music.

A fun fact about Gwen:
Working at Duke is kind of like Gwen’s family legacy. Her mother, Ernestine Perry, worked at Duke for 38 years before she retired in 2005. Gwen also has two aunts that worked at Duke before their retirements. 

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Gwen and her mother, Ernestine Perry
Gwen with her mother, Ernestine Perry

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Know someone in OIT with a story worth sharing? Nominate them (or yourself!) by emailing kaylee.wilkinson@duke.edu.