Director of Shared Services and a UW Germanics Alumna: Heidi Tilghman (PhD 1989)

Submitted by Michael Neininger on
Heidi Tilghman, 8 Sept 2013, Waco biplane flight

I received my Ph.D. from UW Germanics in August 1989, having written, under the guidance of Jens Rieckmann, on the early works of Viennese satirist Karl Kraus.  I finished the degree just in time to start a position at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, where I stayed for 12 years, earning tenure and expanding my teaching and research into International Studies while also giving birth to two wonderful daughters. 

Eventually, my husband and I decided we wanted to raise our children in a more vibrant, urban environment, so we left the small-town Midwest to return to the Pacific Northwest and the University of Washington.  Giving up tenure and leaving dear friends and colleagues is not for the faint of heart, but today, 18 years later, I am glad I did.  Our family has prospered, as has my career, albeit along different paths than I could ever have imagined.

Today, I direct a “shared services” center for UW’s College of Arts and Sciences.  Shared services realigns business and administrative work that had for decades been done in increasingly isolated, under-staffed academic departments, locating both the most routine (reimbursements) and the most complicated (foreign-national visas) needs in a center of excellence and thereby freeing beleaguered unit administrators to do what matters most: support faculty in their teaching and research and help students as they navigate through their studies. 

My shared services work has led me into the broader field of institutional “change management,” which has, in turn, led me to direct continuing professional training efforts for College of Arts and Sciences administrators.  For the past three years, I have taught weekly sessions aimed at increasing staff skills and confidence in data analysis, business process documentation, and business needs analysis.  Finally, I have been lucky to be involved in University-wide efforts to launch new administrative systems and re-imagine our institutional operating models.

All of which perhaps seems a long way from German language and the satire of Karl Kraus.  Well, yes — and no.  I could not actually be successful in my current roles without all of my previous ones.  I am committed to the missions of higher education; I understand the business of higher education; I empathize with the challenges of very many folks across campus.  Most of all, I really like what I do.