Wilder School Spotlight
Meet Pam Spratley
By Tiffany Murray-Robertson
No two days are ever the same at Scherer Hall for Pam Spratley, a travel coordinator and office services specialist at the VCU Wilder School. At the busiest of times, she’s at the office at 8 a.m. sharp prioritizing the day’s goals, emailing colleagues to get a final budget approved or monitoring the impact of inclement weather on an incoming candidate until well into the evening.
That’s pretty typical for a travel planner, and though it can be challenging it’s also exhilarating to help faculty and students connect to the many enrichment opportunities that exist off-campus.
Spratley began her tenure at VCU in 2012 as an intern in the Office of Research and Innovation. At the time, the married mother of two was the sole proprietor of an event planning business. Sensing that a bachelor’s degree in business would help take her small firm to the next level, Spratley enrolled in business administration program at Bryant & Stratton College that required a 90 hour practicum.
That practicum led her to VCU’s Institutional Review Board where Spratley was assigned to assist the executive director of human research, Michelle Stickler.
It was just supposed to be a few weeks but Stickler was so impressed with Spratley's resourcefulness and strong interpersonal skills that she asked her to stay on.
“Pam takes a lot of initiative, she’s very reliable and her dedication to customer service was exemplary," Stickler said.
"It quickly became clear that she would be the perfect fit for helping research investigators to problem-solve any issues they might encounter.”
For her part, Spratley said she was honored to be valued by a manager whom she had the utmost respect for.
“The offer also forced me to acknowledge that I really missed having daily interaction with colleagues. While I thoroughly enjoyed event planning—outside of the actual event—90 percent of the job is done in isolation.”
For the next two years, Spratley served as the education coordinator for VCU’s IRB Office. There, she developed modules and materials for faculty and student IRB candidates at the university. It was also Spatley’s job to manage the CITI database. A national program, CITI ensures that faculty and student researchers who are engaged in human subject research receive instruction in compliance with federal law. When she wasn’t acting as a liaison between VCU users and CITI, Spratley dabbled in additional functions for the office such as fiscal management, purchasing and travel.
In 2015, a travel coordinator position opened up at the Wilder School. It was a hybrid role that represented the ideal opportunity for Spratley, who was looking for a challenge that would combine her talent for relationship management and logistics with her experience in travel policy and administration.
“I did my homework and asked around,” she said.
“The Wilder School had an excellent reputation and I’ve always had great admiration for the career of Governor Wilder. It just seemed like the right place and the right role to put all the pieces of my professional background together.”
Spratley landed the job and began working at the Wilder School in September 2015. It was a kind of baptism by fire as she segued from managing travel requests for five full-time faculty members to servicing scores of Wilder School faculty, staff and graduate students.
“A lot of people don’t realize that during any given semester, I’m managing a travel portfolio that consists of 100 or more individuals. Those clients include faculty, staff and doctoral students who are engaged at conferences and research, as well as new hires who require assistance with relocation.” –Pam Spratley
“A lot of people don’t realize that during any given semester, I’m managing a travel portfolio that consists of 100 or more individuals. Those clients include faculty, staff and doctoral students who are engaged at conferences and research, as well as new hires who require assistance with relocation.”
While much of Spratley’s work—securing documentation, negotiating with vendors, maintaining important schedules, budgets and timelines—occurs without fanfare, it’s a role that is critical to the success of the Wilder School. Since 2015, she has supported hundreds of faculty and student trips.
“These trips facilitate a number of activities—from networking, to research collaboration, to presenting our faculty and students as thought leaders in their fields,” said Spratley.
“What I do helps to support the placement of our faculty and students on the appropriate national and international stages. There is a direct link between travel and the promotion of the Wilder School and its visibility.”
When asked about the challenges of the position, Spratley paused for a half-minute before responding.
“I’d say the biggest obstacle is the misconception that travel begins and ends with a conference. A lot of people seek me ought once they have identified a conference or lecturing opportunity.
That’s fine, but my efforts are most beneficial when I am able to consult with a faculty member or students about a menu of travel interests so that I can help them to maximize their entire budget. I can be much more effective resource if engaged early and intentionally in a semester or year-long travel plan.”
To help accomplish this, Spratley makes a point of educating her constituents whenever possible. She is sure to meet every new hire and to engage them in a consultative session as part of the onboarding process.
“I’m always here to meet with folks one-on-one so that I can better understand their needs and avoid any confusion about policies and procedures. If at all possible, I like to arrange an appointment with a student or faculty member so that I can have time to prepare for their unique needs and circumstances. Travel is a process and I’m here to help faculty and students be intentional as we work through it.”
If you’re sensing that relationships are important to Spratley, then you’ve picked up on one of her core values.
In addition to her role as the school’s travel coordinator, Spratley manages the Wilder School’s student worker program. It’s another area where she is working hard to solidify relationships.
She recently revamped the program to include four students from within the Wilder School’s undergraduate programs and is working with faculty and administration to identify more substantive duties and assignments for the latest cohort.
Spratley is also working with the Wilder School’s Office of Student Success to identify professional development opportunities for student workers such as resume workshops and encouraging them to use their positions as a platform for getting to know the faculty members in their respective disciplines.
“Our student workers are bright, hardworking and conscientious. My job is to help them thrive in the position and take advantage of the many opportunities in the Wilder School,” she said.
Spratley credits her outgoing and flexible nature for her success at the Wilder School. Franklin Wallace, the director of operations and Spratley’s supervisor agrees.
“Pam has had to adjust to a variety of working styles and personalities and be quick on her feet when unexpected changes arise. She’s also meticulous, an important quality for someone so heavily involved in travel logistics and the day-to-day space scheduling of a large school.” – Franklin Wallace
“Pam has had to adjust to a variety of working styles and personalities and be quick on her feet when unexpected changes arise. She’s also meticulous, an important quality for someone so heavily involved in travel logistics and the day-to-day space scheduling of a large school,” said Wallace.
Spratley grew up the youngest of five children and was raised in Henrico County. She holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration and an associate’s degree in early childhood education. Prior to joining higher education, Spratley worked for seven years as a teacher at the Chester Child Development Center.
In addition to her work at VCU, Spratley is the founder and principal of Plan Ahead Events. When she is not at Scherer Hall, she enjoys spending time with her husband, Mike, son; Elijah, and daughter; Amanni. She also enjoys trying new recipes, touring the River City and organizing adventures for friends and family.
“Working at the Wilder School has allowed me to do a job that consists of piecing puzzles together, as well as meeting and interacting with different people every day,” said Spratley.
“I look forward to engaging with my colleagues while still managing to work in a little bit of small talk here and there.”