Office Tour: The Union’s Shoulder to Lean On

Every office has colorful individuals, but none can compare to the human rainbow that is Kellie Golden. Kellie has a way of sharing her joyous energy not just with her staff, but everyone she comes into contact with. More than that, Kellie is a rare individual who takes a vested interest in the wellbeing of those around her. So much so she opens her office doors for anyone in need.

Kellie is the Union’s marketing coordinator and Design Works manager, so she spends her afternoons surrounded by students and managing the customer service aspect of the Union’s print shop. However, despite Denton’s ever-growing love of her, Kellie’s childhood took her far away from the schooling she was used to. After being homeschooled for the first eight years of her life, Kellie experienced a major transition.

“When I was eight my dad had an opportunity to move to England with his job at Frito Lay. It was supposed to be an 18-month assignment,” Kellie said. “So, we moved over there and it was very exciting and my parents told my sisters and myself that we were all going to move. They all started to cry because they understood more leaving friends and leaving family and stuff like that, but I was so excited! I am your classic enthusiast adventurer and I was thrilled. We moved there and after that 18 months’ time was up, they really liked my dad and asked him to stay for another project, and then another–and very soon it was nine years. So sure, I grew up in an English-speaking country, but it’s very different.”

Kellie lived in England until she was a junior in high school. By the time her family made the move back to Texas, Kellie was already ingrained in British culture. Most significantly, Kellie went from being homeschooled to attending an all-girls school. Therefore, moving back and enrolling in public school was a drastic change.

“I remember when we moved back I was almost 17 and my dad dropped me off at my high school and I sat in the counselor’s office crying like a kindergartner on their first day because I was so overwhelmed,” Kellie said. “And also, this is culture shock from my particular life, I had a uniform in England, so choosing what I wore every day was kind of novel.”

In addition to the schooling culture shock, Kellie also dealt with a restriction on her everyday freedom. In England, due to certain cultural differences like public transportation, Kellie was able to access places easier and traveling alone was the norm.

“I had a lot of freedom, in England public transportation is just more common so I had a lot of freedom to kind of go and do what I wanted. I had a lot of autonomy that my parents gave me, and looking back it was quite a bit,” Kellie said. “I was always off doing things on my own and with friends. So, when we moved to America things were so far away, there’s no public transportation, and I didn’t know how to drive. I didn’t learn to drive until I was 18 so I relied on my parents a lot.”

After moving back to Texas, Kellie attended UNT and studied advertising and marketing. However, like how almost all college stories start out, those were not her original majors but Kellie is not one to be deterred from finding what was right for her.

“When I first came to college I had very lofty goals of getting both a photography and fashion design degree and I didn’t care how long it was going to take me. I was very interested in fashion photography and I also liked to make clothes and stuff like that,” Kellie said. “So, I thought I would get this dual degree, but I realized one or two years into my degree the art program was a bit too conceptual. I started on the photography track and at the time it was too conceptual for me, and I decided okay I want to study international studies, so I went there. The pendulum swung from being too conceptual to being too cerebral. I needed to find a nice middle ground. So, advertising was perfect for me because I think it’s a really good combination of writing, creativity, and business–which was a good compliment to my skills and talents.”

Kellie had the typical college experience of students who are strong-willed and have a work ethic to match: she tried to do everything. However, like those of us who either wittingly or not fall into this personality type, burnout is a common destination for the story’s completion. To add on to the enormous amount of work and responsibility Kellie took on, her senior year she found out she was pregnant.

“I had poor boundaries in my extracurricular life–in all my life really–but my poor boundaries led to me saying yes to everything. And even seven years ago we didn’t talk about mental health and taking care of yourself the same way we do now,” Kellie said. “I think college students now, in general, are probably more in tune with their own needs. Nobody was really feeding into me and telling me to take care of myself reminding me to say no to things. So, I certainly bit off more than I can chew. I did almost everything a student leader can do at UNT.”

During her time at UNT Kellie was the vice president of her sorority, an orientation leader, on the first Greek programming board, was a part of the first homecoming crew, ran for student body present, joined the SGA executive team, was admitted to ad team, worked for the center for leadership and service, and helped put on the first Big Event. If this makes you reconsider your life choices and involvement with UNT you’re not alone–but Kellie warns about taking on too much to where you suffer academically, emotionally, or even mentally.

After graduating Kellie decided to take it easy and recover from burning herself out in college. This led her to once again travel to gain new experiences and perspectives.

“My husband and I moved to Nashville, and that’s kind of a story in and of itself. So, my husband and I had actually met in high school, but we were barely acquaintances,” Kellie said. “He was in band and I was in choir, so we knew each other. He was the class clown and I was voted best dressed in high school. So, we were known to each other, we were in each other’s yearbooks, but other than that there was no relationship. We never hung out or anything in high school. And then when I was pregnant and about to graduate, he reconnected with me and through just kind of chatting on Facebook he found out I was pregnant. And for reasons I am still trying to figure out, he decided he wanted to be her dad and marry me. So, we ended up getting married when she was thirteen months old–I believe in 2013. And then we moved to Nashville for a couple years. I lived in Nashville and really fell in love with it, and then moved back to Denton when we were pregnant with our second. So, I took a couple years off and when we moved back to Denton I started looking for work here and then got my job at UNT.”

Kellie’s two daughters, Stella and Iris, are now six and three respectively. Kellie feels very strongly about her family, human relationships, and being able to help others. When Kellie was growing up she always thought she would be a teacher, and now through her current career she can be that person in a way for her students.

“You know, I’m a marketing coordinator and I manage a print shop. The thing that matters in life is human relationships,” Kellie said. “So, work, to me, is mostly about a job. I love what I do, and I think it’s fun and I enjoy being here, but I don’t find fulfillment in my job necessarily. I don’t find my identity in my job, and my job is not my reason for living–it’s not my purpose. I think so many people look for a career that’s going to completely fulfill them, and I think that’s unrealistic. Ultimately, I think what matters is human relationships, so no matter where I am I look for those relationships. The ways I can pour into people, serve other people, and love other people. Students are easy to love.”

Two of Kellie’s most important rules in the workplace are to not speak disparagingly about yourself, and to foster a positive environment. Despite the fact that Kellie works in customer service, she always finds inventive ways to love her job.

“I like variety, I think that’s part of my personality, and I love working with customers. Truthfully, I love customer service,” Kellie said. “In a way, this job has helped me to realize I always loved customer service. I’m really good with people, a lot of the time I feel like a wizard with my great service recovery. So, I can take someone who’s not as happy and they’ll leave with a smile on their face. It’s something I really like, it’s kind of like a game. Or make somebody feel good about themselves.”

Much like her personality, Kellie’s office is filled with color. However, if she had complete control her office would be painted rainbow with more colors bursting from its seams.

“If I had my way there would be more color, I would paint this wall back here,” Kellie said. “Or maybe the whole thing would be like stepping into pink bubble gum. I have pictures of my kids, most of the things mean something to me. Some things are from students, or cards that people wrote me while I was working or something like that.”

The first thing Kellie ever brought into her office was her tea kettle and her lamp. Her main goal when designing an office space was to make it feel homey. She wants both students and staff to feel comforted and at ease in her office–with a very specific reason as to why.

“I want it to feel homey to people. I want them to feel, and I certainly succeed at least with my students, like they can come in here and talk and get things off their chest and process things that they’re going through,” Kellie said. “I think college students really need that, I’m kind of an ad hoc counselor in my role. But I also have full-time staff that will come in here and have really good discussions, and I think that’s because it feels safe and feels homey.”

Kellie positions herself as the connoisseur for advice and feedback. She opens her doors for students to laugh, cry, and listen in her office. Kellie is a constant supporter, shoulder to lean on, and anything else the students may need from her.

“It just comes naturally to me. Again, I’m highly relational,” Kellie said. “Honestly, I think a lot about myself in college and what I needed. I had a lot of people, don’t get me wrong, excellent full-time staff members who cared about me. I just didn’t necessarily have that adult figure I felt like I could go to and talk about really important issues. So, I do try to provide that to the students I support.”

Kellie is the type of person where you could take one look at her and want to talk through all your life problems–and she will even encourage it. She is uniquely situated to be a supportive person for so many students in need around her, and the fact that she willingly fills this role is astronomical.

Not only does Kellie encourage those around her, but family, friends, and employers support her as well. Kellie is once again balancing work, a home life, and is working on getting a masters–only this time she can lean on loved ones when she needs to. Although, despite current belief among young people, it doesn’t matter what a situation may appear to be, no person can do it all.

“Part of my personality is to be hungry for things and experiences. I have a hunger for life in general. So truthfully, I think part of my personality will always be to bite off more than I can chew,” Kellie said. “Because I’m just a hungry person. If anybody ever looked at my life and asked, how do you do it all–and people have asked that to me–I just say I don’t. Because truthfully, I don’t do it all. With college students, and I’ll throw myself in there because I’m in grad school, it’s always as if you’re juggling. There’s always going to be one ball in the air. Whether it’s your social life, or your ability to keep your home or apartment clean, or you’re eating out all the time because you don’t have time to make meals, or your grades are slipping because you had too much of a social life. You know there’s always one thing that suffers. I look forward to a time where I have a little less on my plate, when I’m done with grad school, when my kids are a little bit older. Because maybe I’ll do a better job at doing fewer things better than a lot of things not as well. But if I had less that I was doing of these things I would find other ways to fill my time.”

No one can do it all, not even superwomen like Kellie. But that’s okay, because we don’t need to do it all–especially by ourselves. It’s okay to lean on others once in a while, and to rest in order to avoid burnout. However, if you’re ever in the Union and need a little rainbow to brighten your day, just make a pit stop to visit Kellie Golden.