Campus News Campus Spotlight

Law school registrar adapts to support students

Paula McBride serves as registrar for the Law School. (Photo by Andrew Davis Tucker/UGA)

Paula McBride ensures law students have the tools needed to succeed

Paula McBride dedicates her time to solving problems at the University of Georgia School of Law.

McBride has acted as the law school registrar since 2011, supporting students at the law school in numerous ways.

Before coming to the University of Georgia, McBride received her undergraduate degrees in political science and public administration and her master’s degree in public administration at Georgia College & State University. While working as a bookkeeper for a pharmacy in Sandersville, Michael Digby, who was her former advisor and later dean, asked her to be an adjunct professor of political science at Georgia College & State University.

During her time as an adjunct professor, McBride decided to pursue a doctorate in adult education in the Mary Frances Early College of Education’s department of lifelong education, administration and policy. While attending UGA, she also obtained a doctoral degree of public administration from Valdosta State University.

As she worked on her degree at UGA, her job search led her to Athens Technical College where she worked as a financial aid counselor.

“With it being a community college, you kind of dealt with everything,” McBride said. “The student may come to you because you’re helping them with their financial life, but then you’re also helping them register. You’re giving them career advice.”

These responsibilities led McBride to the realization that she wanted to continue to work in higher education.

Upon getting into the doctoral program at UGA, she began looking for jobs at the university. McBride began her career at the law school in 2008 as the assistant registrar, and in the last 15 years, she has seen the registrar’s office transform.

“When I started as the registrar, we kind of did student affairs as well. I really helped push to get somebody dedicated to this,” McBride said.

In 2011, the assistant registrar position dissolved, and McBride moved into the law school registrar position. As the registrar’s office has evolved, McBride has found her responsibilities changing. She now works more often with data, a task that has become one of her favorite parts of the job.

“My favorite part is assessment,” McBride said. “It’s a way to go in, run the data and see that our curriculum is working. We know that we are supporting our students in a way that matters.”

Students often come to McBride for advice. She helps them decide what classes to take and assists them in not overloading their schedule. In other instances, she connects them with academic resources around campus.

McBride feels that her own experiences as a student in higher education have helped in her job and in seeing her son through college.

“I know what it’s like to work full time while working on a Ph.D. I think it’s also helped with my son,” she said. “When he started school, I had a better perspective of what we needed to plan for and what to expect.”

Though the law school does operate, in many ways, as its own entity, the position requires McBride to remain connected to many parts of the university. Along with the law school’s budget office and the Career Development Office, McBride works with the main UGA registrar and the bursar’s office.

The position has made McBride better at multitasking, a skill she’s always been good at and something she’s constantly working to perfect.

“I have to be able to switch between doing this one task and then all of a sudden having three different things going on simultaneously,” she said. “You definitely are constantly now thinking of ways you can do something better.”

The year is a whirlwind for McBride as she works on tasks like preparing the American Bar Association questionnaire, writing letters of good standing for students and doing degree audits. However, end of the spring semester is the most stressful and most important time of the year. For all graduating students, final grades and rankings must be completed along with letters to the state bar. During this three- to four-week period, McBride and her staff work hard to meet daily deadlines.

When it’s all done, McBride looks back at the time with appreciation.

“It’s good to step back and be glad everything went smoothly. There are times when it doesn’t, but we know how to fix it. It will be OK. We can move forward,” she said.

When she’s not working with datasets and writing letters to the state bar, McBride works in her garden.

“I like the connection to nature because it’s very stress relieving for me. It grounds me,” she said.

She also enjoys watching her 9-year-old grandson play baseball.

“When my son was in school, he played baseball up until high school. Now, I have three grandchildren, and the middle one is now playing baseball,” McBride said. “So, we’re back out at the baseball field at Holland Park, still seeing people that we saw back when my son played baseball.”

As the law school registrar, McBride and her own team work to keep all the moving pieces working, “bending over backwards to help make something happen.”