Jill Talmadge wants to be a Serengeti expert.
After taking two trips to Tanzania as part of a study abroad program at the University of Georgia, Talmadge found a love for the African Outback that stemmed from her background in environmental economics and management. She has debated going back to school for a Ph.D. in ecology—once her children are out of school—to learn more about the ecosystems that make Eastern Africa so unique.
In the meantime, Talmadge manages another landscape: the personnel and payroll team of the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences.
Talmadge has spent the past 12 years at the University of Georgia but only recently joined the staff at Franklin College. She stepped into a new role in May 2021, helping to lead a new team through Franklin College’s business services office.
“Eventually we will have a team of 10 that will come in, and I’ll help lead that team to hopefully create an even more accurate, compliant payroll run,” she said.
As part of the “Franklin Works” initiative, the business services office is working to consolidate the business staff for the college as a whole into one office. While each department will still have business services staff, the central team will work to increase efficiency and accuracy in their personnel and payroll services.
“This initiative is brand new across the campus. There is no one who has done this to this extent,” Talmadge said, hopeful for the success of the project. “The whole new initiative is something that we’re starting from scratch, bringing other people’s dreams into fruition.”
Talmadge is not one to shy away from a challenge, and this past year has brought many of them.
“There definitely are no two days that are the same,” she said. “In Franklin [College] we have people who are doing research on COVID vaccines and COVID illness. And we also have people who are teaching dance and hiring students to be models for art classes. The beauty of Franklin [College] is the coverage that we have, and the depth and breadth of that coverage.”
With the need for teleworking and social distancing during the pandemic, the business services office has had to get creative for onboarding, new hires, a fully digital payroll and internal communications. Talmadge believes that the pandemic was the push they needed to move to more efficient systems.
“It’s been the silver lining to the cloud. It’s let us reevaluate our processes,” she said.
Talmadge also emphasized the importance of teamwork in her office.
“I’m looking for somebody who is willing to get in the boat and row the same way. It’s my standard analogy. We just need to be rowing towards the same destination together,” she said.
Talmadge is a teammate in and out of the office, often seen kayaking through Athens or hiking in the Georgia mountains with her husband and children.
“My happy places are the beach and the mountains,” she said.
Part of her goal to maintain a healthy work-life balance includes taking time for herself to do what she enjoys, saying, “I get recharged by being outside and just away from it all.”
“My goal one day would be to get a Ph.D. [at the Odum School of Ecology] and then take a few weeks off from doing payroll and personnel, lead some students down through the Serengeti and the crater, all over Moshi and Dar es Salaam into Zanzibar, and you know, come back and do payroll again,” Talmadge said.