Spartans of UD: Barbara Smeltzer

Nov 20, 2017 | University Relations staff

Spartans of UD highlights what makes University of Dubuque special – the people who live, work, and study on campus. Barbara Smeltzer (C’66) is the undergraduate student resources advisor and campus mom.

Spartans of UD - Barb Smeltzer
Undergraduate Student Resource Advisor l Campus Mom

1. With Thanksgiving Day in mind, what dinner etiquette advice do you have for students who will be dining with their family and/or friends this holiday season?

“Make sure you are dressed neatly, your hat or cap is off, and your cell phone is turned off. Remember things your mother probably told you – chew with your mouth closed, take small bites, and keep your elbows off the table. If there is a lot of silverware at your place you can normally start at the outside edge and work toward the plate. Don’t forget your napkin goes on your lap, and don’t pile food on your plate. Usually you can have ‘seconds.’ Be sure to thank your hosts before you leave.”

2. Education seems to have a special place in your heart. You were an elementary school teacher for more than 30 years in Dubuque before accepting the position of undergraduate student resources advisor at UD. Why did you decide to leave retirement and become UD’s Campus Mom?

“I came to UD about two and a half months after leaving the classroom and spent three years in the Education Department. In 2000, President Jeffrey Bullock decided to create the position of Campus Mom and asked if I would be interested in assuming that role. It took less than 24 hours to decide retirement could wait, and I eagerly accepted. For one thing, I am a UD graduate. I felt that the people at the University had given me the support and training I needed in those years to become effective in my field. Being the Campus Mom would give me a chance to give back and hopefully help students to achieve their goals. The students would have someone with whom they could share their dreams, problems, and concerns. My hope was, and still is, to provide them with ideas and advice and help them find resources to make their dreams come true.”

3. How would you describe your role as Campus Mom?

“I always tell students I am their mom away from home, but I do not do their laundry or clean their rooms. The Campus Mom role encompasses a lot, such things as being a mentor/advisor, calming fears, getting students through homesickness, being a good listener, and serving as a confidante. I am there to provide support if there are illnesses or deaths of family or friends. Sometimes we talk about ways to improve academically or make changes in behavior. I am there to support them at the various activities in which they are participants. I hear from parents when they are concerned about their students, checking on those students to make sure they are well and are okay. I also have the opportunity to share laughs and fun times and to congratulate students on their achievements. I like to think I have the best position on campus – because I am the Campus Mom!”

4. During the academic year, you greet students, faculty, staff, and guests as they enter the Barbara and Jack Smeltzer Dining Hall over the lunch hour. Why is it important for to be a presence in the dining hall?

“Being there sets a friendly tone. It is an excellent opportunity to get to know new students and parents and renew acquaintance with those returning. We can talk and laugh with each other. Hopefully it helps make it more comfortable for students if they need to come to my office to talk over problems or concerns. It is one of the things which help people see what a friendly and caring place the University of Dubuque is.”

5. You were the first woman to chair the Iowa Professional Teaching Practices Commission. What was it like to be a trailblazer, so to speak, on the commission?

“It was, indeed, an honor to hold that position. At the time I did not think about it being a first. Instead my thoughts were directed toward the responsibilities involved. It was, however, evident that to some individuals having a woman in the position was new. In one of the early cases a young attorney looked at me and said, ‘Madam Chairman … Madam Chairwoman … Madam Chairperson ... I’m sorry. I’m not sure what to call you.’ For some, it was a surprise to see a woman acting in that capacity. I needed to demonstrate that I did have the strength and knowledge to do what needed to be done. The important thing was to do a good job and have a level head, which one needed whether male or female.”