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Week of May 10, 2010

Flint senior secretary once drove a big rig

On the road to her job as senior secretary in the Department of Psychology at UM-Flint, Sharon Mittan worked as a long-distance truck driver and ran a restaurant and limousine service — all at the same time.

Along the way she has developed some serious organization skills. Recently, she attended a conference that reinforced those lessons, as conferees were told that it’s effective to start each workday ranking tasks. “You focus on important things and get those done first,” Mittan says.

Photo by Mel Serow.

Mittan says her passion at UM-Flint always has been to support and help the students in any way possible. “I enjoy the excitement and drive that many of them have to accomplish their goals. Their energy keeps me young.”

Raised in Mount Morris, seven miles north of Flint, she married after graduating from high school. Her sons were born in 1967 and 1969. After a divorce and a brief move to Florida, she returned to Michigan in 1977 and met Tom Mittan, whom she married the following year.

She joined UM-Flint in 1984, as an administrative assistant. “Young people have so much energy, and so many new and innovative ideas,” Mittan says, on why she enjoyed the job. But 10 years later, after both she and Tom lost their parents, Mittan decided to use an inheritance to buy a restaurant and leave UM-Flint. She also earned her commercial driver’s license and bought a semi truck with her husband to drive auto parts to Baltimore.

“I really felt it helped draw us closer together,” Mittan says. The couple made good money until gas prices sharply rose. “We also had needs at home. It all got to be too much. I loved the truck. I was in tears when we gave it up,” she says.

But Mittan says she was excited to return to UM-Flint. “Basically my job is one of supporting the faculty and students,” she says.

Mittan supports Department of Psychology Chair Eric Freedman, along with nine full-time faculty and six adjunct professors. She juggles a range of tasks.

“I catch most of the e-mail from students and I direct them to the logical place to take care of their questions. I print documents any time a professor needs them. Sometimes I do editing,” Mittan says. “I investigate any possible errors in students grades. When they do evaluations (of faculty) I type up all the comments from those. I do each semester’s class schedule, and I make sure it’s correct when it comes back for proofing.”

She also handles questions over the phones, via e-mail and from walk-ins. “When it’s a new semester I pull together all the new students, information, create files and assign them to advisers,” she says, adding she also does all the accounting work in the office including payroll, purchasing requisitions and reconciling purchase orders.

Off the job, Mittan and her husband have shared a love for motorcycles. “I love the freedom of having the wind surround you and the open air, it is just a great experience,” she says. Mittan, who learned to work on cars from her dad, also loves classic autos. “I like the fact they bring back some really good memories. When I was growing up my grandparents had a ’51 Ford; I had so much fun in that car.”

Mittan restored and sold a 1964 Chevy Impala, and used the money to buy 1951 Ford; her husband has been restoring it and will have it ready by July 4.

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Sharon Mittan, senior secretary, Department of Psychology, UM-Flint, on working with students at UM-Flint: ““I enjoy the excitement and drive that many of them have to accomplish their goals. Their energy keeps me young.”