Employee Q&A: Associate Athletics Director Phoebe Chalk

A lifelong Wildcat, Chalk says she can convince anyone to come to school at the UA.
April 25, 2012
Phoebe Chalk perches on the railing at McKale Memorial Center, which also houses the offices she's called home for the last 15 years. (Photo by Shelley Shelton/University Communications)
Phoebe Chalk perches on the railing at McKale Memorial Center, which also houses the offices she's called home for the last 15 years. (Photo by Shelley Shelton/University Communications)

Name: Phoebe Chalk

Position: Associate Athletics Director

Number of years at the UA: 15

Favorite thing about working at the UA: Staying in connection with kids, with young people. They keep you younger. Your interaction with them, to mentor them and let them ask you questions about life and experiences, you kind of feel like you're contributing to their future success.

Favorite part of the school year: August, when the students are coming back .... We know the first football game is around the corner. Also when it rains on campus. Nothing better than the smell of rain on this campus in Tucson. Awesome!

Associate Athletics Director Phoebe Chalk has spent much of her life – as a child and as an adult – at the University of Arizona.

Her mom worked for the UA Alumni Association for 23 years, and she has memories of riding the city bus with her sister to meet their mother in the old student union for lunch.

She recently attended the annual Service Awards Luncheon, – having reached the 15-year mark at the University – but she's been working on or near campus for much longer than that.

Before beginning her job in the athletics department, she worked for seven years at the nonprofit UA Foundation – which provides fundraising and other types of support for the UA – and before that she was a student intern there for two years.

She first stepped on campus as a student in 1985, and she's never left, she says.

"I give the best darn tour around this campus. I can convince anyone that they need to come to the U of A," she says.

She spent 13 years as adviser to the UA cheerleaders, and she is a Bobcats Senior Honorary alumna.

She's worked with student interns for many years and considers that to be one of the most important things she does.

She has been invited by former students to attend their weddings, baby showers and the occasional funeral. She's frequently asked to write recommendation letters for them.

She says the greatest thing she's ever done was to get her doctorate in educational leadership in 2008.

"If somebody would have said to me in high school that I would be getting a doctorate, that I would become Dr. Phoebe Chalk, I would have laughed so hard," she says. "When you're bettering yourself, you're bettering those around you. And it makes it fun."

Chalk recently made time to talk to Lo Que Pasa about her job and her love for all things UA.

How did you end up in this position?
When I started my career at the foundation I was doing fundraising and I was the assistant director and then the director of annual giving. I also oversaw the President's Club for a little while. Right out of school. And then I came over to Athletics in '97, right after the basketball team won the Final Four, so I didn't get to experience that one. But I came over here and I helped start the public relations office over here. ... And that encompassed special events for athletics, community outreach, working with nonprofits and seeing what they wanted, involvement from the U of A Athletics Department; ... cheerleaders and mascots ... I was their adviser out of the PR office. Their head coach reported to me. For one year I ended up being their coach because their coach left in the middle of the year and we couldn't get a replacement .... It was a lot. It was fun. And then when (Athletics Director) Greg Byrne came (in 2010), he decided we needed to read this book. He had us all read "Who Moved My Cheese?" (a book about handling change in your life). ... And I remember going home one night and thinking, "I think my cheese is going to be moved." And sure enough, a couple weeks later, he calls me into his office and he tells me that he wants to move me into development. He knew that I had done development before, which is fundraising. ... I teased him and said, "You didn't just move my cheese. You shredded it." ... I helped create and do all the things we were doing, and I liked it and enjoyed the student interaction. ... So I shed a few tears and said, "I'll be OK. Give me two days. I promise I'll be OK." ... He called me two days later, and I said, "I'm on board and here we go."

What does your job entail?
I moved into the Wildcat Club office and had been doing fundraising, and I did that for a year and three months, and then October 2011 some changes happened here and I still stayed in fundraising but now I help oversee the annual giving office as well. So now I just don't do major gift solicitations. I work with our annual giving team, and I manage and oversee that. And I work with our Letterwinners' Association, which is our alumni relations for letter winners, and I oversee that. And I work with our regional annual giving director up in Phoenix. It's a lot of fun.

What kinds of things do you have interns helping with?
Internships are so important because I am where I'm at today because I worked on this campus. ... It is seriously why I'm here, no doubt about it. So when I look at our internship program ... it's like, are we going to give these students valuable job experience, that they can put on a resume, that will show that they can be successful? And we teach them job skills and teamwork, and working in an office, and how to answer phones, and how to be friendly, and how to deal with someone who's angry. That's a point. We have to be able to do that. ... We try to assign them each one major responsibility so they know they come in, they don't have to file or do some of those things. They have one project that they can work on. ... They're volunteering, because they don't get paid. ... Nowadays, students need work experience, and they want resume builders, so they're willing to work without pay. And the campus needs to take advantage of that because you've got a plethora of them. ... We have about eight to 10 (interns), and they work 12 to 15 hours (a week). (Projects) might be researching alumni, and seeing where they're living and what they're doing, and do we have all those alumni coded properly by sport. ... Another project might be looking at our young alumni program and researching what other schools are doing for their young alumni programs and then coming up with a strategic plan. ... Legacy Lane tiles, processing all those tiles that are sold out front. Working on our newsletter, the Bear Down Buzz online newsletter that we do, working on website data, looking at donor recognition and the things that we're doing there.

You've been here through a lot of changes. What do you see on the horizon as we're transitioning to a new president?
I'm excited to see Dr. (Ann Weaver) Hart's vision. ... I think this is a tough time. But when you look at when those (past) presidents were here, those were tough times, too. You think about when the shooting happened on campus (in 2002 at the College of Nursing), and how the campus rallied. And that was Dr. (Peter) Likins. And you think about the economy, and what we're dealing with, with the economy and budget cuts and layoffs. To live through that is not very fun. You think about all the new buildings we've built on private support, and the impact that has on the students.  ... To be a part of all this is kind of fun to see. ... You remember things like that, and you get excited about what Dr. Hart's going to do. And to be the first woman president of the University of Arizona, that's exciting. And to be able to say that I was here when that happened, that's cool. ... It'll be interesting.

What does your involvement with the Bobcats Senior Honorary tell you about the future of the University?
Last night (April 19), we had the Evening of Excellence, which is a student-run thing by the Alumni Association and the Bobcats Senior Honorary. And I go every year as an alum Bobcat. And you sit and you listen to those students, and they give out their awards, and they give out their scholarships, and they talk about kids that have 3.8 GPAs, and they've done all this community service, and you know there are hundreds and hundreds of students that are really like that. And they're growing up here and evolving and becoming part of this institution. And Bobcats Senior Honorary is all about 13 kids, saying for the rest of their life, they will have eternal vigilance to the University of Arizona. That's the motto. Thirteen are selected out of however many apply each year. ... And they don't know that night that they're going to get it or not. So you've got all these other kids biting their nails, and stomachs are upset ... and then they announce the 13 ... and then those 13 along with the outgoing 13 meet with the alums that are there. And we sat around last night. And we all go around in a circle and talk about why this organization is so important. And it goes back to what I said earlier, is that it's about the University of Arizona. Everything is about the University of Arizona. And you are here to be ambassadors for the University of Arizona. And to steward and help its success. And that's what I think I do as an employee and alum, as a Bobcat alum, as a Hispanic alum ... is to help the institution do what it's gotta do. And the more we can do that, the better we're going to be. I honestly can say I love my job.