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Week of April 4, 2011

Staff Spotlight

Executive secretary devotes nonwork time to teen girls

Sonja Botes knows the impact a community can make. As a member of the youth leadership team at Crosswinds Church in Canton, Botes and other leaders meet weekly with junior high school and high school students to discuss faith, life and personal experiences.

“It is of great value to see the kids grow in their spiritual walk,” Botes says.

Photo by Scott Soderberg, U-M Photo Services.

Originally from South Africa, Botes came to the United States in 2002 as an au pair. She received a marketing degree from Walsh College before moving to Ann Arbor for a job opening at U-M.

As an executive secretary for the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (EEB), Botes says no two days are the same. “I read emails, set up meetings, assist the chair with her daily calendar and assist coworkers with whatever they need help with.

“I take each day as it comes,” she says. Her main responsibilities include providing secretarial support for the department chair, giving staff support for executive committees and faculty meetings, and assisting in faculty searches.

“Human resources is challenging,” she says of her involvement with hiring department faculty and staff. “But I love the variety of things I am doing, and that I am learning about new aspects of the university.”

Although she works for the EEB, Botes says that she doesn’t have much knowledge on the subject of science. “I know a little about science now,” she says. “Not a lot. But I learn a bit every day.”

When not working, Botes enjoys spending time with the youth leadership group at Crosswinds Church, an affiliate with the Reformed Church of America.

“I work with junior high school girls,” Botes says. “I had a hard time in my youth. I’m hoping to come alongside these girls, sharing with them my experiences and how the truth has set me free … helping them in their own journey through life.”

Through bible teaching, uplifting games and indepth small group discussions, the youth group students learn how to take what they have learned in a religious context and apply it to their daily life.

The youth group also provide opportunities for teens to participate in mission trips, community outreach and other youth gatherings to encourage the students to not only connect with their faith, but also with each other.

The weekly Spotlight features staff members at the university. To nominate a candidate, please contact the Record staff at



Sonja Botes, executive secretary, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, on working with members of her church’s youth group: “It is of great value to see the kids grow in their spiritual walk.”


Sixteenth annual Exhibition of Art by Michigan Prisoners, 10 a.m.-7 p.m. through Wednesday, Duderstadt Center Gallery.

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