Story by Michelle Brosco Christian
Sue Subocz, a College of Southern Maryland (CSM) administrator, is used to wearing many different hats. While she recently took over duties as associate vice president of academic affairs, she remains the acting chair of Distance Learning and Faculty Development until a replacement can be hired.
She took on job No. 3 over the summer as she was called to active duty by the U.S. Coast Guard Reserves to assist with the Gulf Coast oil spill after the Deepwater Horizon explosion. As a commander, she's the highest ranking Coast Guard officer in Lafourche Parish, La., which a CNN reporter called the "Ground Zero" of the Gulf spill.
Subocz has served in the U.S. Coast Guard for 21 years, 12 on active duty and nine in the reserves. Her husband is an active duty coast guardsman working in Washington, D.C.; they have three daughters.
Subocz's coordination is occurring in a region where the southern coast looks like a finely detailed piece of lacework-with bayous, bays, creeks, and inlets too many to count. The area's shrimp, oyster and crab trade help supply a large percentage of seafood to the U.S., according to a Louisiana seafood website.
Given the severity of the situation in Lafourche Parish, Subocz works long days, in Louisiana, an average of 10-14 hours.
"I am not actually involved in cleaning up the oil, my job is to serve as the parish president liaison officer…to ensure that parish concerns about Coast Guard operations are addressed, that the Coast Guard is communicating effectively with the local officials, as well as various agencies such as the Louisiana Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness," she said.
On a recent day, she said, "I started with an early morning operations brief attended by the Coast Guard, BP, parish officials, the sheriff, the harbor police, and the Louisiana National Guard. I then went on a boat tour of the parish…to gain an understanding of the current status of oiled areas, the cleanup efforts, and ongoing protection efforts."
In the afternoon, she facilitated Coast Guard and contractor work to coordinate a schedule issue and participated in a conference call with BP and parish officials about rotation schedules for the many vessels of opportunity (local vessels helping with the response). That evening, she gave an oral brief via teleconference to the assistant secretary of Homeland Security about the status of Coast Guard efforts in the parish.
If that day wasn't full enough, Subocz has more assignments to juggle at her CSM post.
On lunch breaks, in the evenings, or on the weekends, she is virtually linked to CSM. She accesses all of her CSM computer systems using a remote access protocol that CSM's technical staff set up on a laptop.
In typical fashion, Subocz credits the CSM staff for helping her multi-task using latest technology that allows her to be "present" in voice and view on a computer screen. "I am often Skyped into meetings with the help of Joel Kinison [and other staff]. So, it has been a team effort."
According to Kinison, CSM's instructional technology coordinator, "With the technology she uses, we can do everything."
This team effort has helped her continue CSM work on a Title III Federal grant proposal, technical projects such as academics website updates, and CSM's transition from one online course software to another. Additionally, she's been teaching her own online class.
"There are few people who are as organized as Sue," said CSM President Bradley Gottfried. She is highly respected by all who know her and has become, in many ways, the 'go to' person to get tough assignments completed."