Every college student can use a guide—a person who can point them in the right direction.
And for graduate students in the Mary Frances Early College of Education’s mathematics, science and social studies education department, that person is Katrina Neidlinger.
“Everybody needs a resource they can go to,” she said.
Before coming to the University of Georgia, Neidlinger was a right of way agent, buying land or easements for the Georgia Department of Transportation and local municipalities. She had a friend who worked at UGA who shared how much she liked working for the university, and Neidlinger came on board as an administrative associate at the College of Family and Consumer Sciences, working with undergraduate students for two years. She wanted a more hands-on role with students and eventually landed in her current position as graduate program administrator. She’s been with her department for six years.
Neidlinger thought she wanted to be a teacher, but her positions at UGA helped her realize that what she really loves is working with students. Her role has evolved, particularly with exponential growth in the college’s online programs. Although most of her time is spent with students, she enjoys working with the department’s faculty members.
“They love to teach, and they love to make teachers out of their students,” she said.
Neidlinger is with her students from the very beginning. Part of her role includes reaching out to prospective graduate students. She stays connected with them through the admissions process to their acceptance into their program. She provides them with a pre-campus checklist before they come to Athens and makes sure they’re on the right path. That process can be more extensive for the department’s international graduate students. She helps them navigate UGA’s resources from finding housing to finding their classrooms.
“You want them to feel like they have somebody,” she said. “I’ve always been someone who wants to help others succeed.”
Neidlinger essentially follows her students through their time at the university, helping them with the ins and outs of the department’s programs and making sure they have all the forms and requirements completed, all the way through Commencement.
“Once you get attached to your students, it is hard to go anywhere else,” she said. “You want to see them all through their education.”
Neidlinger meets with her counterparts in the college’s other departments monthly, and they have a Listserv to bounce ideas off each other. Most of her day revolves around problem solving, and those problems may or may not be academic. She also oversees undergraduate students in the Federal Work-Study program.
She works with 250-300 students overall, and every day can be a little bit different. But the most important part of her job is making sure her students feel supported. In fact, she was recently awarded the Deans’ Unsung Hero Award for her work.
“My excitement comes from seeing others succeed,” she said. “You feel accomplished along with them because you’ve helped them get through the program.”
Neidlinger is steadily working toward her own goals. She considers herself a lifelong learner and aims to complete her degree in human services from Gordon State College. When she’s not taking classes, she spends as much time as she can with her tight-knit family. She also enjoys going on cruises and spends time on her 50-acre farm.
As a student herself, she knows the value of having people in positions like hers.
“I hope people know how much I care about our students,” she said. “I hope others in my position feel as strongly about supporting students as I do.”