I Spy Someone making a difference.
I Spy Dawn Hitchcock putting out firesby Russell Alston
Dawn Hitchcock, senior associate director of systems and operations at Coastal Carolina University, calls herself a firewoman because “I’m always putting out fires.”
More than one person describes her that way. Greg Thornburg, co-worker and interim assistant vice president of enrollment services, explains it another way: “Dawn has great technical skills, is student-oriented and is the go-to person. Other departments on campus also depend on her for student issues or anything computer-system related.” Hitchcock’s brother, John Hanna, also works at CCU as a manager of network services. He recalls his sister as being “the go-to for me growing up, even just to talk.” Hanna says he “always looked up to [her] because I absolutely knew she would always be there for me if I needed her.”
Lending a helping hand and putting out mini-fires are things that Hitchcock has been doing for the past 16 years at CCU. She earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science in 1994 and began working in the university’s IT department in 1996. Hitchcock has served as an interim director, associate director and senior associate director of financial aid and was named director of the office in 2008.
“I learned about the financial aid system by doing their programming,” she says, “so it was a natural progression, I suppose.” She was named senior associate director of systems and operations in 2010. Her duties vary depending on the time of year. “I’m either a problem solver, creating reports for the college’s administration and its various vice-presidents, or I’m looking for ways to improve the functionality of the financial aid office’s processes and website.”
Finding what needs improvement is never a problem. Hitchcock explains that whenever a question about a service is repeatedly brought up, “that’s what we work on.” One of those improvements that she accomplished on her day off involved creating a custom file that tracks the PLUS loan applications. “I created a custom file that captures the data from the parent’s application which allows the Office of Student Accounts to properly refund excess funds created by the PLUS loan.”
In essence, the file she created allows for refund checks to be properly disbursed to the parent or student depending on the parent’s desires notated on the PLUS application.
Thornburg, who has worked with Hitchcock the last two years, describe her work on assignments as personable and “very professional and focused, with an incredible attention to detail.”
Hitchcock has been married to her husband, Bob Hitchcock, for 37 years. The two met in 1974 in Myrtle Beach, in the produce section of Big Star Food Store where they both worked. They married a year later and eventually moved to Charleston while Bob completed his PharmD. at the Medical University of South Carolina. The couple has been blessed with a family that includes a son, Derek, who is a pharmacist in Denver, Colo. Her other children remain in Myrtle Beach; oldest daughter Angela is a nuclear pharmacist, while her youngest daughter Mallary is an attorney.
“I love having them here, and they cook for me.” Hitchcock is referring to the fact that since Mallary has moved in home, her time in the kitchen has drastically — but not totally — reduced.
When not enjoying time with her family or working, Hitchcock dotes on her 2-year-old granddaughter, Rayne, enjoys riding her Harley-Davidson and settling down with a good book. When asked how she feels about the Kindle lying on her desk, she replies, “I have mixed feelings. I like it for the convenience and portability, but I am a book lover; the feel and the smell of books, and the fact that I like to write on the first page.” She even buys Kindle versions as well as print versions of books, reasoning, “something has to go on my bookshelf. ” Some of her favorites authors include James Patterson of the Alex Cross series and Stephen King. “One of the first Stephen King books I read was ‘The Stand,’ which is about 1,400 pages long.”
Books offer her “a great escape where you get to be anybody, anywhere.” With so many people depending on her expertise, however, the hope is she doesn’t escape too far, and that her title of firewoman keeps her willing to help anybody, anywhere at CCU.