By Susan White
For nearly 21 years, Linda Wilson has been an ambassador of sorts for UNC’s School of Social Work.
As student services manager, Wilson often has been the first person that prospective students encounter when they apply to the MSW program. Throughout those thousands of interactions, this self-proclaimed “country girl” has clung to one enduring philosophy: Make them feel at home.
“First, we try to make them understand that this is not a stuffy school,” says Wilson, whose charm is as genuine as the Southern drawl that drapes over her every word. “We are a welcoming school, and we have wonderful faculty members who open their doors to students. We offer them Southern hospitality, and I don’t think anything can beat that.”
Come January, the school will be slightly in short supply. After two decades of public service – including overseeing 500-to-700 admissions applications per year, providing financial aid counseling and services and recruiting new students – Wilson is retiring. The departure is bittersweet. Although eager to spend more time with her family and to take up photography again, Wilson’s thoughts linger more these days over the Carolina campus and colleagues that she will miss.
“This has just been a great place to work,” she says. “We work so well as a team, and I think that makes a difference.”
Certainly, there have been challenges along the way, including multiple changes in database systems, procedures and policies. Wilson learned them all, while maintaining an organizational eye on every detail. “She makes people around her work better because she’s so strong in what she does,” says Sharon Holmes Thomas, the school’s director of recruitment, admissions and financial aid. “She will be incredibly hard to replace.”
Throughout her time at UNC, Wilson has shown similar attention to and care for students, whom she credits for keeping her young. “I have just loved working with the students,” she says. “We’ve had some of the best come through here, and I feel like I’ve had a small part in sending good social workers out into the world.”