Middle Earth Meets Middle Management


Anastasia Plumb has a name as seemingly fit for Middle Earth as for middle management at SF State. And the comparison isn't that far off. Plumb, a project manager in Academic Resources specializing in space management, is writing her masters thesis on Tolkien.

"I absolutely love him (Tolkien)," said Plumb, an English literature major. "and the research that goes into creating the languages and make-up of Middle Earth."

Behind her desk in the Administration Building stands an 8-by-10-inch, framed photograph of Plumb standing proudly by a life-sized, cardboard cutout of Orlando Bloom’s character Legolas. The image dwarfs a smaller picture of her husband. Playful, but a slight bit defensive about her passion for "The Lord of the Rings," Plumb tried to further explain her thesis topic, which will specifically address the issue of "crisis of the self," as it applies to the book's resurgence in the 1960s.

"It's not always seen as a scholarly topic," said Plumb. "But I would like to change that perception. I think in life you need to do what you love and it will become its own god for you."

As a project manager in space management, Plumb is responsible for coordinating all faculty and staff moves, such as relocating administrative employees for the library or Hensill Hall renovating and retrofitting projects. She is also responsible for getting each classroom and office space fitted with the proper equipment, lighting and furniture, while keeping in mind the special needs of a diverse, often demanding staff.

"There's such a space crunch on this campus," said Plumb. "We want to do everything we can at a certain standard and make things nice for people, but budget demands don't always allow for exactly what we want."

Plumb is a regular at SF State meetings with builders and contractors, often playing liaison for the school, and ensuring that the final product is in line with academic needs. Since taking the position over two years ago, the 29-year-old Phoenix native has instituted -- along with her former supervisor Zelinda Zingaro -- campus walk-arounds where she looks for broken lights, chipped tiles or beat-up furniture.

"We, unfortunately, live in a society where appearances are vital," said Plumb. "And the way the university looks is very important to creating an atmosphere in which students want to study, professors want to teach, and staff want to work."

Growing up with her sister Andrea in the warm, temperate climate of Phoenix, Plumb said she never wanted for anything and developed a life-long passion for the outdoors.

"I love the desert's red-rocks, blooming cacti and warm, lightning storms," said Plumb. "One can smell the rain on the desert hours before it begins. The moment it started, my sister and I would sprint outside in our bathing suits."

When Plumb was 16, her sister was first diagnosed with leukemia and Anastasia endured a painful bone marrow transplant. Andrea eventually went into remission, and the two sisters ran the Alaska Marathon in 1999, "as a form of closure."

Eleven years later the disease returned, and this time Anastasia donated stem cells to her sister, which she said, "just further demonstrates the importance of stem cell research and the ways in which it can save lives."

"My sister says to plan again for the Alaska Marathon in 2007," Plumb said.

Plumb's father is a police officer and a former professional bodybuilder who competed in Mr. Natural Arizona, and at one point held Gold's Gym's record for leg presses. He once worked out with Arnold Schwarzenegger and introduced both his daughters to the seven-time Mr. Universe, as well as sometime-rival Lou Ferrigno. Plumb said that her father's daunting presence was a big test for would-be suitors, and the first time her sister's husband met their father was no exception.

"You've seen my knife collection and you've seen my gun collection," Plumb recalls her father saying. "So you know I can kill you from far away or make it up-close and personal."

In high school, Plumb was president of the theater club, captain of the speech team, and a straight-A student who was wholly focused on becoming an actress. After graduation reality set in.

"I had always been a great student, but to make it in theatre, you have to be amazing at singing, dancing and acting," said Plumb. “Considering this, I eventually decided that I didn't want to be a waitress all my life."

In 1993, Plumb began college at Pepperdine University, studying telecommunications with an emphasis in TV and film management. She quickly went to London as an exchange student, and then on to Heidelberg, Germany for a second year abroad. She lights up when recalling the cobblestone streets, vibrant culture and storied castle grounds situated along the Neckar River, around which she would jog on a daily basis.

"That was the best year of my life," Plumb said.

She returned to Pepperdine the following fall to complete her final two years, and spent each summer interning in San Francisco at Charles Schwab & Co. After graduation, she was one of 15 candidates chosen from a pool of 250 to enroll in a six-week intensive training program with the financial mega-company. Riding the dot-com wave, Plumb completed the program and took a position in mutual funds, where she then passed her Series 7 and Series 63 tests to become a certified trader. While working at Schwab, she met her husband, Richard Plumb, who is a native of England.

"We met on a company rafting trip that I organized and have been inseparable ever since," Plumb said.

After the bubble burst in early 2001, Plumb decided to return to school to get her masters at SF State, and knew that she would also need to work at the university in order to pull-off the daily commute from Concord.

Plumb submitted her application, and having more than adequate experience in business and management, as well as a background in event planning, was offered the position she now holds.

She speaks fondly of the diversity of faculty and staff she works with on a daily basis, but says that like all jobs, it is not without its challenges.

"The people I work with are very helpful and gracious that someone is trying to take care of their needs," said Plumb. "But it is often quite a challenge to pull together all these different departments and get them to communicate, while not stepping on each other's toes."

Those who work with Plumb seem to echoe her warm sentiments.

"In the often prickly issues our department deals with, I rely not only on
Anastasia for support and solid judgment, but also on her good nature and
sense of humor," said Space Analyst Lenelle Yapana. "She truly does care about people first and creates great rapport with others."

For now, Plumb is focused on finishing her masters, and then moving on to a doctorate program in educational leadership. With that completed, she hopes to continue working in administration at the college level, and feels she has a lot to offer.

"I find it fascinating the way universities run, and I'd love to be a person to make them work even better," Plumb said.







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