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Thirty-six years of helping NERS students succeed

Undergraduate Advisor Pam Derry, of Nuclear Engineering and Radiological Sciences, retires at the end of term.| Short Read
EnlargePortrait of Pam Derry. Photo: Joseph Xu, Michigan Engineering.
IMAGE:  Pam Derry. Photo: Joseph Xu, Michigan Engineering.

After working at NERS both as a secretary and then as an academic advisor, Pam Derry is less concerned about her retirement and more worried about leaving the undergraduates she’s helped over the last 36 years.

Derry has been described as a mother figure to 150 students each year and she’s fine with that description. She’s done everything she can think of to help NERS students succeed including bringing them to class each day for a semester, check up on them if she hasn’t seen them for a week, or keep a watch over grades and intervene if she sees a significant slip.

Her office is like a warm country kitchen with crafts and artwork, winter decorations and photos, but she is all business.

“Helping NERS students succeed has been a passion of mine,” says Derry. “I send birthday cards, notes of encouragement, give pats on the back and stern lectures if they need to shape up their act. Anything I can do so they can focus on their classwork, I will do.” Derry also tries to keep track of mental and physical health issues, as well as academic course advising.

That determination to help students succeed has given birth to career fairs, prestigious internships, and robust alumni connections. Derry keeps up with her graduates on social media outlets like Facebook and LinkedIn.

“When I call some alumni I don’t have to say who it is because they recognize my voice. I called an alum, who is the director of a busy national laboratory in Idaho, and he called me back right away,” recalls Derry with deserved pride.

Derry has seen a lot of changes in the department over the years, such as the first female undergraduate student to enroll (with much encouragement from Derry), and the overall growth in the department.

Derry’s last day at NERS will be May 2. A celebration of her contributions will be held on April 18. But don’t think her days of helping others succeed are over—she has two children and four grandchildren to watch over.

Eleanor Shelton contributed this story.

Portrait of Pam Derry. Photo: Joseph Xu, Michigan Engineering.
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