Staff Profile: Diana Webb Seeks ‘Aha Moments’ with Persistence, Compassion
When Diana Webb arrived in Chicago in 2019, she knew she’d have to get used to wearing a warm winter hat. In the years since, she’s become accustomed to wearing numerous hats … at the same time.
“At NUCATS, I often wear many hats, and I do a lot of scheduling, which allows the leadership team to worry about one less thing. I’m scheduling for the execs, they’re the movers and the shakers, to allow them to be free to execute ideas to make the Institute great.”
The job is often a lot more complex than it may seem at first glance — being the go-to scheduler is a huge task, especially these days.
“I make sure that the leadership team’s time is organized. It can be kind of tricky, even more so during the pandemic, because scheduling has become that much more nuanced. In the before times, before the pandemic, meetings had to take into account traveling time between conference rooms and campuses, but now they are scheduled back to back to back.”
“I try to make sure each calendar flows in a reasonable way and, if I can help it, try to schedule time to take a break and process things. A good administrative assistant can make things a bit better for those we work with.”
Webb never imagined herself as an administrative assistant; her career plans initially pointed towards teaching, following an educational adventure that brought many memories. “I’ve been to lots of places. After graduating in 2014, I was lucky enough to get the Fulbright Scholarship, that was super exciting for me, so I was an English teaching assistant in Argentina.”
She says the best part about being a TA was the things she got to share with her class. “I got to tie in globalism and American culture. I got to facilitate education, and I really loved that aha moment.”
That moment is special for her because she loves getting to inspire similar sparks in others. “I love that moment, when you’re teaching in front of a classroom, and you guide people to get to an aha moment. That’s really fulfilling for me.”
Webb has been working in education in varying capacities ever since. “I’m originally from the DC area and when I came back to the States, I stuck with teaching for a while. I was an after-school language tutor and a program coordinator, where I helped coordinate other classes with a lot of kids K-8.”
For a time, she thought she might go into foreign services, but that path not meant to be. “The administration coming to power in 2016 did not seem very organized, so I stuck to my guns and aimed for education roles and academia, and I landed at Northwestern in Spring 2019.”
Her interest in education, however, remains unwavering.
“I still work in education, but my job is very different now. Still, it is the most important thing for me to help students, especially after the pandemic, to be someone that helps along their understanding of health so they can support others. These students are all working so hard to go into health professions, and we don’t appreciate doctors enough.”
For Diana, the NUCATS Institute is the perfect place to facilitate this learning. “The people you work with make it a very different environment. There is no place like NUCATS. Everyone puts in a lot of hard work and puts in their all, but everyone is also a complete joy to work with.”
Webb recently changed roles — and desks — but looks back to her previous position as a prime place to experience all this joy. “I was very happy to be in the reception role for two years, as a program assistant,” she says. “You get to see new people on the way in and old people on the way out and you really get to know everyone.”
She was also proud to serve as the face of the office. “I worked to keep the office running like the well-oiled machine that it is. I am very proud of the flow we were able to develop when in person.”
She wants anyone who is reading this and might want to learn more about working at NUCATS to consider applying for her previous role.
“Being the program assistant is actually perfect for people who are shy. When I came in, I didn’t know anyone in the city, let alone at Northwestern. Being at the front door is a really great way to get to know the people you work with. I felt so connected to the office. I’m definitely going to miss that part of my role, but I will still get to interact with new people, I merely traded faculty for students.”
While Diana says she loved the program assistant role, she is excited about her new opportunity because of its closeness to the heart of education: the students. “I got the promotion and thought ‘oh great!’ because this role has more work with the classroom and the students. Now I get to learn more about programs and academic tracks to help them. I’m getting closer to facilitating those aha moments.”
In her spare time, Webb is a selfless, naturally caretaking person. “I am a cat mom and I have a ton of plants. I am so stoked for spring because that means you can do more activities outdoors. I’m going to try to find a community garden to cultivate life outdoors. I’m also a bit of an amateur photographer and run around and take fun nature shots.”
Her cat is a fantastic big orange pile of fluffiness with white hands named Ezekiel (or Zeke for short). “He is my first ever pet, I got him in September of last year. When he’s not angry at me for daring to pay attention to work, he’s pretty chill.”
She brought Ezekiel onto the Zoom call, and then translated his glare into the camera, “How dare you pick me up.”
Ezekiel has a wonderful personality, she says. “He’s mischievous (he looked up when she said that) and smart as well. He learned what my triggers are. On weekends, I’m in bed and he’s used to my work schedule, so at 6:30 he gets up and it’s time to eat. He will attack the plants if I don’t get up fast enough.”
Hopefully one day soon, Zeke will have his own aha moment and let mom sleep in.
Written by Rosemary Sissel