Campus Closeup: Jan Seppa

Jan Seppa (IT-Information Services) is a voracious reader, as evidenced by a favorite quotation taped to her office wall: “When I get a little money, I buy books; and if any is left, I buy food and clothes.” Reading is at the top of Seppa’s priority and personal expenditure lists. She not only buys books regularly; she also holds on to them.  The second bedroom in her Harvey duplex has become a personal library, with bookcases lining the walls and filling the closet. She even had a coffee table custom-made with shelves to store more titles. But her passion for the written word was not ignited until adulthood.

“I never read much in school growing up,” said Seppa. “It wasn’t until I worked as an office manager at the ski hill. It was too far to go anywhere for lunch, so I started bringing my own food and a book. I would sit in the bar area and eat while I read. The first book I brought with me, which is still my favorite, was Catch 22. From that point on, I’ve always taken a book with me wherever I go. I keep one in my car, too, for reading during oil changes and that kind of thing. Every two or three years, I like to read Laughing Whitefish by Robert Traver while sitting on Black Rocks. I also like to relax with a good book at South Beach during the summer.”

Seppa has no plans to invest in a digital reader such as the Kindle, though it would certainly preserve storage space in her duplex. She prefers hard copies and leafing through the pages with her fingertips. And while not classifying herself as “tech-savvy,” she has recognized the need to embrace and learn new technologies in her professional role as telecommunications manager.

“It’s a challenge, but I like the fact my job has changed so much because I can keep learning. We went from no dial-up to a massive amount, then people paying for their own higher-speed Internet and now WiMAX. Believe it or not, there are still people who use dial-up. With so many cell phones in use, obviously the configuration of the kinds of lines going in and out of the university has changed.”

Originally located in Hunt/Van Antwerp, Seppa moved to Cohodas and now occupies an office on the 5th floor, with Presque Isle and Lake Superior visible from her window.  She negotiates contracts for facilities that carry trunk lines or T1 lines (a bundle of 24 trunk lines) in and out of the university. She also conducts routine traffic analyses to ensure NMU has the right mix of trunk lines to support the outgoing and incoming calls, completes purchase orders for IT hardware and software maintenance and pays bills through a monthly audit.

Seppa was hired as temporary labor in 1987 to do billing work for telecommunications. She said no one else in the temp pool knew accounting and she had earned an associate degree in that field from NMU. She had just come from an office manager job with Elliott Sheet Metal. The company moved to another part of the U.P., but Seppa wanted to stay in Marquette. After four months as a temp at Northern, she was hired full time. She also completed a bachelor’s degree in political science about a decade later.

“I’m a political science junkie. I was a huge backer of Eugene McCarthy in 1968 while I was in high school in Ishpeming. I knew he’d never win because he told the truth and people don’t always want to hear that. I would never go into politics myself, but I like the strategy involved. Now everyone’s talking about what’s going on in Wisconsin. It’s frustrating to watch the news because it seems everyone has their own agenda. I just want the facts and it’s hard to know who to believe. We could really use another Walter Cronkite. I hate to admit it, but I do watch The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. Those guys are funny and also very smart.”

The Wakefield native moved to Ishpeming when she was 15. As the youngest of four children, and the only daughter,she said she was spoiled. Now she delivers the same pampered treatment to her cat. Seppa has had two feline companions. Harpo was with her for 15 years. He was a clingy cat that had to be picked up and held for several minutes upon Seppa’s return from work and slept on her bed each night.

Harpo’s personality was in stark contrast to Riley, a male that Seppa adopted from the Humane Society about five years ago. Riley (right) is an independent sort who doesn’t like to be held. He also prefers to sleep on the futon in the spare room … at least while there’s still room for a futon amid the expanding array of mystery, suspense, romance, biographical and political science books that comprise Seppa’s personal library.



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Updated: March 17, 2011

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