Spring 2014 | Article By Nicole Escarra
Like the university itself, the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology has weathered many changes in the past thirty years, a process of transformation that Jeanette “Davi” Battistella experienced firsthand. Battistella joined Tulane in 1983 and has been an integral member of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology since 1992.
In the 22 years that she has been with the department, Battistella’s role has evolved from administrative assistant, to executive secretary, to her current role as office manager. Each title change brought additional responsibilities, as well as the opportunity for Battistella to add new skills to her repertoire. Over time, Tulane has incorporated various systems and software, and each addition presented Battistella with a new challenge.
“Not knowing something really bothers me. So, whenever we get a new system, I read manuals, call technical support, and get a lot of help from other Tulane staff…all in an effort to learn what needs to be done,” said Battistella.
As Office Manager, Battistella facilitates all administrative, financial, and personnel functions of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and she assists department chair David Heins in the day-to-day management of numerous processes, from the hiring of new faculty to student course enrollment. Heins appreciates Battistella’s ability to make the department function smoothly and efficiently.
“Davi is extremely knowledgeable and exceptionally loyal,” said Heins. “She goes out of her way to help the faculty each and every day. And it doesn’t matter if it’s the smallest thing or a matter of greater significance. She does it all with a positive, light-hearted spirit about her.”
Heins speaks from experience, having worked closely with Battistella since his appointment as department chair in 1999. Battistella’s personality, which Heins describes as “unflappable” has been a tremendous asset to him, particularly in the department’s post-Katrina transformation. After Katrina, the department lost sixty percent of its faculty and, in recent years, has added a number of new faculty members. Nicholas Altiero, Dean of the School of Science and Engineering, recognizes the hard work that goes into a department’s regrowth.
“If you look at the roster for the department, there are a lot of young faculty members. To hire that number of people entails a huge effort: the search process, hiring process, setting up laboratories…it really requires an incredible investment of time and resources,” said Altiero.
Through his interactions with Heins, Dean Altiero has also observed the important role that Battistella plays in the department’s ability to successfully grow and add staff.
“In working with David as the department chair, it is really clear how important she is to daily operations,” said Altiero. “David has a great deal of confidence in Davi and always has the highest praise for her.”
Altiero and Heins are not the only Tulanians who realize how much Battistella has contributed to the university. After being nominated by staff and faculty in multiple departments, she received an Outstanding Staff Award in 2000, demonstrating that Altiero and Heins’ high estimation of Battistella is shared by many others.
Even after all the years Battistella has spent at Tulane, she still loves coming in to work every day. Shortly after Hurricane Katrina, Battistella relocated to Bush, where she and her family now enjoy the pleasures of country living. Although living in Bush means commuting nearly two hours each day, Battistella doesn’t mind.
“It’s a commute but I have always done whatever I need to in order to get things done,” said Battistella “And I just enjoy coming to work at Tulane.”
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