Know Your ThunderStaff – Kathy at the Commons

By, Timothy Badley

“It was like a whole world I never knew existed out there,” Kathy O’Conner explained as her first impression of Thunderbird. In 1987, O’Conner moved from upstate New York to Arizona with her 8 year old daughter and 3 year old son. She started as a cashier at the “Crossroads Coffee Shop” where the CMC now stands. Now, 27 years later, she is the Commons Supervisor and her ThunderKids are now ThunderAdults.

O’Conner explained that the only diversity upstate New York had was from the Italian and Irish Catholics. Yet at Thunderbird, she quickly realized that she enjoyed meeting people from all over the world. “Working with international students is absolutely fabulous. I get along with them all and for some reason each student shines through to me.”

Working with multicultural students can be an experience. O’Connor can notice that a student’s English level can produce funny situations. For instance, she recalled when Exec-Ed students used to immerse more with students and staff to improve their English. “In the commons, we had a Kentucky line cook who made great friends with a Korean student. One day, the cook was on vacation, so I helped the Korean student. She asked me, ‘Could I have a Hot Bald Egg.’ I was first caught off-guard, but later I realized that she had used the Kentucky accent to describe a ‘Hard Boiled Egg.’”

O’Conner has loved the Thunderbird environment. “This campus is the world to me, and the staff is like family. Leaving here would be like leaving home, and I’m not ready to move away.” In O’Conner’s 27 years of experience, she has seen the impact of technology on students. She said that times were different before laptops. “I’ve been here when students were using the expensive brick cell phones.” She went on to say, “I suggest the next generation T-bird should use technology to manage their time effectively and keep in constant touch with their classmates and alumni.”

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