Home » Five Minutes WithSpring 2010

Five Minutes With … Molly Thompson

by nelson bryan, BA’73 No Comment

Perhaps it was the literary history here—from the Agrarians to Tony Earley and beyond—but learning about literature at this school seemed sort of magical.

Even as a high school student, Molly Boland Thompson, BA’99, knew that Vanderbilt University was the place for her. She found her campus home in the College of Arts and Science, first as an English major during her undergraduate matriculation and now as school registrar. She has worked in Arts and Science since January 2003 and was named registrar last August. Among her other duties, she’s overseeing the College of Arts and Science’s participation in the implementation of a new enrollment management system—no more OASIS (Vanderbilt’s online course registration system). Huzzah!

Okay, first off: what does a registrar do?

Together with my fabulous and capable staff (which includes two former Vanderbilt students), I am responsible for preserving the academic integrity of the College of Arts and Science. Our tasks include facilitating the registration process (including creating the schedule and assigning classrooms); posting majors, minors and transfer credits to students’ records; maintaining the online degree audit; and assisting with various and sundry curriculum-related matters.

The registrar’s office maintains student records so that the dean’s office and the faculty can perform their necessary functions: advising and teaching students.

How long have you worked in the College of Arts and Science?

This is my fifth year at Vanderbilt and in A&S. I started working in Vanderbilt Temporary Service (I think that is how a lot of staff stories begin) in human resources. I alphabetized and filed papers in a windowless closet of an office. My next temporary assignment was in the Arts and Science registrar’s office and I have been here since. I started out as the student records assistant and moved my way steadily up the ladder (academic credentials evaluator, assistant registrar) until I was fortunate enough to get the registrar position in August 2009.

What attracted you to apply to Vanderbilt as a student and pursue a major in English?

I applied to Vanderbilt because of the name. Even at that time, it had a good reputation (though nowhere near as stellar as it has now). It seemed to me at the time, too, to be a perfect midway point between my parents’ houses: a quick 8-hour drive on I-40 to North Carolina and a looong 4-hour drive on the Natchez Trace to see my father in Mississippi! I hadn’t actually visited Vanderbilt before I accepted my admission. Once I finally made it to campus during the summer prior to my freshman year, I felt secure that I had made a good decision. I find it difficult to believe that a person could not fall in love with this place even at first glance.

I always planned to major in English; it just seemed like the right fit for me. It didn’t hurt that I got to spend class time listening to Professor Michael Kreyling [Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor of English] read from The Sound and the Fury or arguing the virtues of The Moral Animal with Professor Vereen Bell. Perhaps it was the literary history here—from the Agrarians to Tony Earley [Samuel Milton Fleming Professor of English] and beyond—but learning about literature at this school seemed sort of magical.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I try to spend as much time as possible with my husband and kids when I am not at work. In the fall and spring, this usually means that I am at soccer practice or games. In the summer, we like to canoe the Harpeth as often as we can. I am a big fan of live music, too—at the Ryman, at The Basement or on the street.

What do you like to read and do you have any favorite Web surfing destinations?

Faulkner. Always Faulkner. At the moment, I am trying to make my way through Entertainment Weekly’s list of the top 100 books of the last 25 years. When I finish with that, I plan to move to Time’s 100 best English-language novels. (What can I say? I love lists!) I expect there will be another list to tackle when I am finished with those two.

My favorite website is The Onion’s A.V. Club. The site has great features like the Weekly Inventory (personal favorite: “Don’t Blow It: 10 Great Songs Nearly Ruined by Saxophone”); excellent reviews of music, movies and television; and just all-around spectacular writing.

I started reading Andrew Sullivan’s blog for The Atlantic during the election and I continue to enjoy his rather unique takes on everything from modern conservatism to Catholicism to South Park. I am also grateful to Mr. Sullivan for introducing me to another fabulous blog, www.lettersofnote.com. Letters of Note features historical letters, etc., covering just about anything you can think of—three Elvis fans’ request to President Eisenhower that the singer’s hair not be cut upon induction into the Army; Kurt Vonnegut’s letter to his family upon being released from a Dresden work camp; a ninth-century letter template from China used for apologizing to dinner hosts after drinking too much and embarrassing oneself…I highly recommend the site. If you read only one of the letters of note, I suggest “Favourite memo ever,” which features a memo that Matt Stone sent to the MPAA regarding the South Park movie.

What do you like best about being employed by your alma mater?

I like the discounted season tickets to football, basketball and baseball.

Vanderbilt is a great place to work, and I would think that whether or not I had also gone to school here. For a person as inclined toward nostalgia as I am, it really is a pleasure just to walk past Alumni Lawn and remember those heady days as an undergraduate. I only hope that in some small way I can help our students to have as fine an experience as I had.

photo credit: John Russell

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