Recently in People in your neighborhood Category

Portal team moves to Williamson Hall

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Have you noticed a few new faces in 160 Williamson? Recently, the ESUP Portal team moved in and will stay through the duration of the project. Be sure to say hi when you see them around!

People in your Neighborhood: John Sill


John Sill is surrounded by education. His father is a biology professor at a junior college in North Dakota, his mother is a retired high school teacher, his older brother is a business teacher at Minnetonka High School, and his twin sister is an undergraduate nursing professor at St. Catherine University. So, naturally, John also got involved in education.

He grew up in Bottineau, North Dakota. He received his bachelors degree in elementary education from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa. "After I graduated from Luther I taught abroad in Brussels, Belgium from 2007-2008," he said. "The traveling opportunities were amazing, the kids were ridiculously adorable, and the beer, chocolate, and frites were incredible."

John returned to the U.S. and spent about three years substitute teaching, table clearing at Maggiano's in Edina, and working as a paraprofessional in the Bloomington School District. Then, in 2010, he went on to obtain a Master's of Arts in Education: Leadership in Student Affairs from the University of St Thomas.

In 2011, John started working at the University in the Orientation and First Year Programs office as an intern. In September 2012, he began working at One Stop Student Services as a counselor.

"As a counselor, I help save the world by offering assistance to students and parents regarding financial aid, registration inquiries, academic record requests, University resources, and all other sorts of tidbits of information," he said.

John works on the St. Paul campus so he works closely with the OTR staff. "It's been really fun getting to know them. They keep me on my toes," he said. "I could not do my job without all the great folks back in ASR and other University offices as they follow up with my incredibly brilliant questions."

John currently lives in Woodbury with his fiancé Allison and their Ragdoll cat. "She's a luxury cat because she costs too much money, but is great because she acts like a dog and loves to chill with people."


His fiancé just finished her Nurse Practitioner's degree at St. Kate's. The two are getting married in July 2014 in her hometown of Spicer, Minnesota.

John's personal goals for the upcoming years include "successfully getting married next summer, paying my car off, running two more marathons for a total of five, and enjoying my upcoming new title of uncle," he said.

Professionally, John hopes to stay at the University. "It's an incredible place and I thoroughly enjoy helping students and working with the people here," he said.

He says that, besides improving his swashbuckling skill-set, he would like to explore other professional areas to utilize the Regent's Scholarship.

Outside of work, John's favorite activity is to get together with college friends, grill out, and play bags all day. He's also not modest about his hidden talents. "I draw an incredible bat symbol," he said. "And my cursive handwriting is better than literally everyone else's."

Jovial John
1. Field of Dreams is his favorite movie.
2. His first concert was The Goo Goo Dolls at the North Dakota State Fair. "It was dope."
3. He just reread The Hobbit in preparation for the second movie.
4. His favorite TV show is Archer.
5. The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs is his favorite book.
6. John loves the Dave Matthews Band and Foo Fighters.
7. New Zealand is his favorite vacation spot.
8. John's favorite foods are lutefisk and macaroni and cheese.
9. John's most memorable Halloween costume was Shredder from The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. "Instead of prepping lessons for student teaching, I spend a day and a half creating my costume and won $60."
10. If he could be anyone for a day, he'd be Stephen Colbert.

People in Your Neighborhood: Mike Brown

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Mike Brown is a lifelong learner. "One of my biggest fears is getting too comfortable and not progressing and learning," he said.

Hailing from Largo, Florida, Mike received his bachelor's degree in biology from the University of South Florida. After college, Mike wasn't sure what career he wanted to pursue, he just knew he wanted to be in higher education.

"I love biology and science, but didn't like the lab work and research," he said. "I began tutoring math and science at St. Petersburg College."

Soon after, Mike got involved with the administrative and student services side of higher education and found his passion. He moved to Minnesota in May 2012 to start at Hamline University's registrar's office as a transfer coordinator.


But Mike wanted to be more involved in process improvement. So, about six months ago, he started working in the Graduate Student Services and Progress (GSSP) office as a GSSP Coordinator.

With his job, he focuses primarily on the Graduate Degree Plan (GDP). He processes the GDP and advises graduate programs on policies and processes. He also troubleshoots student degree progress process problems. On top of these tasks, he is the day-to-day supervisor of the ASR front desk student workers in 160 Williamson Hall.

"I really enjoy working in GSSP. My position affords me more opportunities to be engaged in processes and make large-scale, systematic changes," he said. "The environment is very collaborative and student-centric. It's a great place to work."

Mike plans to apply to the master's program in classics and near-eastern studies in fall 2015. For now, Mike is taking prerequisite classes classical Hebrew language courses as a non-degree student. He hopes to add an advanced understanding of biblical Hebrew to his repertoire so he can conduct academic research on ancient texts.

When he's not at work or brushing up on his ancient texts, Mike lives in Richfield with his wife of three years, Domini, and his sister-in-law. He has an Australian Shepherd named Tonks and a cat named Ferdinand.


In his spare time, Mike likes to read, skate, snowboard, fish, and play video games. He also loves bad science fiction movies and books. Mike also enjoys surfing, but that's proven to be a bit difficult to do in Minnesota.

Mike's Materials
1. Mike can do a roundoff back handspring and juggle (not at the same time).
2. He says people would describe him as friendly, silly, and nerdy.
3. His favorite book is the The Silmarillion by J.R.R Tolkien.
4. Wedding Crashers is his favorite movie.
5. Star Trek is Mike's favorite TV show.
6. If he could be any character for a day, he'd be Sonic the Hedgehog. "He's fast, and I'm slow."
7. His favorite food is cheese.
8. Mike loves punk rock music.
9. Sum 41 was his first concert, though he wants everyone to know that they don't count as punk music.
10. Mike grew up wanting to be a professional folk musician, but says he didn't have the discipline.

People in your neighborhood: Sarah Naranjo

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Teaching and education is vital to Sarah Naranjo. She has been active in higher education and in K-12 education for years.

Sarah has a bachelor's degree in sociology and German from the U and a master's degree in teaching from St. Thomas. She speaks fluent German and has studied abroad in Germany multiple times.

Her previous jobs include spending a summer in Alaska with an organization called Youthworks and working in the College of Continuing Education for 4-5 years. Most recently, Sarah worked in North St. Paul as a middle and high school German teacher.

"I really enjoyed teaching middle and high school German," Sarah said. "But I knew that I always wanted to come back to the U."

Two years ago, Sarah began working in One Stop Student Services as a counselor. She currently works in the West Bank location. She counsels students about financial aid, registration, and billing. "I really like working with students," she said. "We see a lot of the same students on West Bank so we can get to know the them a little bit."

And, even though many other people don't like drama, Sarah says she doesn't mind hearing about other people's personal problems. "I like listening to people and helping them through their issues."

Beyond her daily work tasks, Sarah is on the Tuition Refund Appeal committee and a new member of the Financial Literacy Committee.

"I'm excited to be able to use some of my creativity and presentation skills with the Financial Literacy committee," she said. "I can help students understand financial impacts of their decisions and develop skills to gain future financial success."

Originally from Owatonna, Sarah currently lives in Minneapolis, about a mile and a half from West Bank so she can bike to work. She lives with her husband of four years, Francisco, and their 2 ½ year old son, Andrew. She is also currently expecting her second child due on November 11.


In her spare time, Sarah enjoys being active outdoors. She loves camping and taking walks or bike rides.

Sarah is also pretty artsy. She loves to sing and go salsa dancing. In fact, she met her husband salsa dancing at First Avenue. She also enjoys cooking and doing art and crafts projects with her son.

Fun fact about Sarah: her last name means "orange tree" in Spanish.

Singen Sarah
1. Sarah is a landlord. She owns a duplex with her brother that they used to live in but now rent out.
2. Her favorite movie is Shawshank Redemption.
3. She loves the show 24.
4. If Sarah could have a superpower, she'd want to be Supermom.
5. Favorite type of music is salsa music, especially Bachata.
6. Her mom's food is her favorite food.
7. Sarah is very afraid of flying.
8. The last book she read was Healthy Sleep Habits, Healthy Child.
9. Her first concert was The Monkees.
10. She couldn't live without good, healthy food and companionship.

People in Your Neighborhood: Jody Seiler-Peterson

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Jody Seiler-Peterson's passion is financial aid. She grew up in Fargo, North Dakota and received her bachelor's degree in sociology from Minnesota State Moorhead University (MSUM). As a student, she worked in the financial aid office and knew she had found her calling.

Soon after, she started working in ASR as a counselor in the Loan Unit. Through the years, she moved on to become a business analyst (BA) and a project coordinator.

Now, after 13 years in ASR, Jody is a BA in FA-IT. "My heart goes toward financial aid," she said. "I like to be more hands on and I love helping students."

As a BA, Jody supports multiple business processes, including the Institutional Student Information Record (ISIR) and various loan processes. She makes sure everything from the ASR-IT side is running smoothly so the business process can successfully be completed. One of her big projects recently was the implementation of the loan exit counseling system.

She says she loves working in ASR because of her coworkers. "I also really like being on campus," she said. "It's great to be a part of all the great ideas that flow around the University."

Beyond her daily duties, Jody is also involved in ESUP project work. "I'm really excited to learn and use the new 9.0 system and all the tools that come with it," she said. "The upgrade could potentially make old business processes more efficient and create new ones."

In recent years, Jody also received her master's in educational policy and administration from the U.

When she's not working, Jody loves to read and watch movies. She also loves to spend time with her family. She has been married to her husband John for nine years. They live in Apple Valley and have a one and a half year old named Olen.

Orchard 2013_Petersons2.jpg

"We love to be active outside, like playing baseball, going for walks, and jumping on the trampoline," she said. "Olen also likes to look at worms."

And here's something you may not have known about Jody; she was roommates with Tracy Fischer (Continuity and Compliance) for four years.

Joyful Jody

1. Garth Brooks was her first concert.
2. Jody says she has really good reflexes. "I can react quickly to something dropping or when something is thrown at me," she said. "Now people are going to throw things at my face to test me though."
3. Her favorite TV show is the Amazing Race.
4. She loves planning trips, including looking for a flight and hotel, and researching things to do/unique experiences.
5. Jody traveled through Europe with her brother a few years ago.
6. Jody couldn't live without coffee and laughter.
7. Jody says people would describe her as "quiet, agreeable, and compassionate."
8. She grew up wanting to be a lawyer.
9. If she could have any superpower, it would be to know when people are lying. "It would make life a lot simpler."
10. The last book she read was Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell.

The People in Your Neighborhood: Betsy Hawes

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Betsy Hawes is a small town girl. She grew up in Ottertail, Minnesota, a town with little more than 500 residents.

One of her first jobs was working at a small ice cream shop called Otter Treat in her hometown. "I was an ice cream 'specialist,'" she said. "It may not have been the most interesting job, but it was definitely the most fun."

Her hometown is surrounded by lakes so one of Betsy's favorite pastimes is being on the water. She also loves to be with her friends and family, especially while playing and watching sports. Her favorite sport is volleyball and she is currently in a league.

In fact, Betsy loves sports so much that if she could be anything, she would be a professional golfer. "It'd be fun to travel and play golf all the time," she said.

Betsy also likes adventuring and traveling. The most adventurous thing she's ever done is kayaking through a creek full of wild animals in the Bahamas. She also traveled through Spain with two friends for three weeks.

Betsy currently lives in Hopkins with her fiancé, Jackson. The two recently got engaged and are getting married in June 2014 at his parent's lake house. "Wedding planning is overwhelming," she said. "But I'm excited to start!"


Professionally, Betsy grew up wanting to be a teacher. She received her bachelor's degree from Minnesota State University, Mankato (MNSU) in elementary education. However, after college, Betsy's goals changed. She instead wanted to work on a college campus helping students. So she went on to receive her master's degree in educational leadership from MNSU and began working in Residence Life as a Hall Director at the same university.

Then, this past April, Betsy started in ASR as a One Stop Counselor. "I love having the one-on-one time with students at the counter," Betsy said. "Interacting with and helping students is my favorite part of my job."

As a counselor, she helps students, parents, and staff navigate the enrollment, billing, payment and financial aid processes.

She says the best part about working in ASR is the people. "Everyone is so friendly," she said. "When I started in April, I felt so welcomed into such a fun environment. This is a great place to work."

Bit O' Betsy
1. Her first car was a woody station wagon.
2. Betsy's favorite movie is The Shawshank Redemption.
3. She loves music from Cities 97, like Ingrid Michaelson, The Lumineers, and David Gray.
4. The last book Betsy read was Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer.
5. Foo Fighters was her first concert.
6. Her favorite book is The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch, a book about a professor diagnosed with cancer who gives his last lecture.
7. If she had a superpower, it would be invisibility. "I could see when people are having a hard time and help without them knowing."
8. Her family grows giant pumpkins.
9. She loves Subway sandwiches.
10. Betsy can't live without chapstick and a toothbrush.

The People in Your Neighborhood: Danielle Amira

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If you had to use three words to describe Danielle Amira, they would be outgoing, positive, and fun.

She is a farm girl at heart. She grew up on a family farm in Gaylord, Minnesota and is incredibly close with her family.

"I have a twin sister and two other sisters," she said. "I spend a lot of time with my family on the farm. We especially love to four wheel and go shopping."

Danielle received her bachelors degree in political science from the U. One of her favorite parts of studying at the U was the study abroad opportunities. Danielle studied abroad in Florence, Italy. She also traveled to Ireland, Scotland, and Paris on a week break while studying abroad.


While studying in Italy, she met her husband, Mahdi. Her husband is originally from Algeria, but he moved to France when he was 18. He eventually moved to Italy to become a chef and lived there for about 10 years before he moved to Minnesota in 2007 to be with Danielle. Soon after, they married.

After college, Danielle began working at the University Press in 2009. She eventually moved to work in the Williamson Hall Cluster office as an Executive Account Specialist. A year ago, she was promoted to Accountant 1.

"The Cluster serves seven departments around the University, ASR being one of them," she said. "I work with McNamara Alumni Center and University Counseling & Consulting Services."

Danielle plans and forecasts the two department's budgets. She has monthly meetings with both of them to determine their needs. Her favorite part of working for the Cluster is the group of people she works with and her easygoing boss.

Outside of work, Danielle enjoys spending time with her family. She and her husband bought their first home in Columbia Heights and are expecting their first child; a boy due on November 6. "I'm a constant worry wart so my mom jokes that I'm going to follow my kids around with a Clorox wipe," she said. "But cleaning is a de-stresser for me."

One final Danielle fun fact: she cannot live without coffee and hair products.

Danielle's Deets
1. Hope Floats is her favorite movie.
2. Her husband says she resembles Monica from Friends because she's a "clean freak."
3. Danielle likes all types of music, but some of her favorites now are influenced by her husband. She likes Arab musician Amr Diab and Italian musician Nek.
4. Danielle is a good swimmer.
5. She would love to be involved in the fashion/design world, either as a designer or an interior designer.
6. Italian is her favorite type of food.
7. She loves to read fashion magazines.
8. She would like to own her own clothing boutique one day.
9. If she had a superpower, it would be to read minds. "It'd help me understand people better."
10. Her favorite movie as a kid was Clueless.

People in Your Neighborhood: Josh Martin

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Don't let his appearance fool you. Underneath it all, Josh Martin is not as scary as he looks. "People have told me they are intimidated by my size," he said. "But I'm pretty laid back and easygoing. I don't think I'm big enough to warrant intimidation."


Josh has worked as a VA Coordinator in the University Veterans Services office in One Stop Student Services for two and a half years. His background in the armed forces and bachelors degree in Sociology from the University of Minnesota aid him as a student counselor.

Along with doing typical One Stop Counselor duties like answering student inquiries about registration, billing, and financial aid, Josh also provides counseling to student veterans.

Josh works with the roughly 750 students who receive GI Bill benefits and state benefits at the U. "I help student veterans get started at the U," he said.

Every year, University Veterans Services hosts Veterans Appreciation Day in November. The planning for that important event is starting now and Josh is helping with some of the details.

Josh's knowledge of veterans services comes from his own experience as a United States Army Airborne Infantry veteran. He served for three years. "I was the guy that jumped out of planes and then did work on the ground," he said. Josh did training jumps from about 1,200 feet.

He narrowly missed being deployed to Afghanistan after September 11. "My unit was next to deploy, but I was exempt," he said. "I didn't have enough time left in my contract to be deployed so I stayed in the States while my unit went overseas."

"In the military, you get to meet people from all over the nation, and sometimes the world. And you are all there for the same reason," he said. "Then you get to see the good side of people. You learn so much about yourself and others."

Beyond work, Josh and his girlfriend of seven years enjoy spending time with their daughter, Mikayla, and pitbull-mix, Ernie.

"My daughter is 18 months old and she's the smartest kid I know," he said. "One of my biggest fears is her not being a decent person when she grows up. But I'm not too worried about it."

Josh and his daughter love going to the park and "swinging for 10 second intervals." He says his favorite vacation spot is his house because he just enjoys staying home with his family and not doing things.

He also plays in softball two nights a week and tournaments on the weekends. "I used to play more often, but I've gotten too old," he said.

One of his other past times is eating and cooking. "I love to cook, but my girlfriend and daughter don't really appreciate what I make," he said. "My cooking mainstay is buffalo sauce. It's a really big thing in my life."

He also loves Facebook. In fact, the two things Josh can't live without are his daughter and Facebook. "I'm amazing at Candy Crush Saga," he said.

Through everything, Josh maintains his sense of humor. In fact, that's the main reason he loves working in ASR. "The people I work with in One Stop and University Veterans Services are awesome," he said. "We have similar personalities and get along really well. We are always joking around."

One surprising thing about Josh: Though he has jumped out of numerous airplanes in the military, he has never been skydiving and isn't really interested in trying it.

Josh Jokes

1. His favorite movie is Shawshank Redemption.
2. Growing up, he wanted to be a professional athlete.
3. For Halloween last year, he dressed up as a smurf.
4. His favorite food is Jimmy John's sandwiches or the Buffalo Chicken Burrito from Burrito Loco with extra buffalo sauce. "Buffalo sauce is very important in my diet."
5. His first concert was Reba McIntyre.
6. The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien is his favorite book.
7. If he could be anything, Josh would be rich. "I'd like to give it a try."
8. His favorite type of music is country and rap.
9. The last book he read was The Big Book of Pulps.
10. If he could have any superpower, it would be to fly. "It's nice to be in the air."

People in your neighborhood: Sarah Johnson

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Sarah Johnson can remember pretty much anything. She remembers the exact date of her first concert when she was 14 (a 13-hour dance-a-thon hosted by KDWB called Thanks-going Hop). She can even remember exactly what she was wearing. She also remembers the first day she started in ASR.

About 33 years ago, Sarah started in the Office of the Registrar (OTR) as a senior clerk. Currently, Sarah is a student services support assistant.

Sarah is responsible for all degree applications and postings for the College of Education and the School of Nursing. She also works with those colleges on degree clearances.

On top of degrees, Sarah handles all student records and transfers for these two colleges. She is also responsible for transcript work, including transcript requests that come from students with the last names S-Z (excluding X) and being on-call for the transcript helpline.

Another task that she is responsible for is maintaining student grades prior to fall 1999. "If a student has an incomplete from a class they took prior to 1999 and they finish the class, I enter the new grade into the system and archive it," she said. "There aren't a ton of these requests, but there are more than you'd think."

"I have the good fortune of working with people who are mutually supportive and also stimulating, funny, and intelligent," she said. "I have so much history here at the U."

Before joining ASR, Sarah worked in the College of Liberal Arts for a few years. Overall, Sarah has been with the University for a total of 43 years.

"There is a level of intellectual stimulation at the U that you can't get anywhere else," she said. "People here are intellectually curious and informed about the world. It's a great atmosphere."

Sarah currently lives in a loft off East Hennepin in Minneapolis. She recently sold her big Victorian house to downsize. She has two children (a son who is 30 and a daughter who is 43) and four grandchildren.

Grandma Sarah.jpg

Sarah loves to learn and has taken a number of journalism and art history classes at Stephens College in Missouri, Minnesota School of Business, and the U.

Her passions are books and music. She has collected records for years, but also enjoys using iTunes to create mixes for her friends. She also goes to a lot of concerts. Her favorite band is the Rolling Stones because "they are the greatest rock and roll band in the world."

Overall, Sarah's coworkers in OTR described her as someone who has a great memory and loves to laugh but is also opinionated and sentimental.

Suddenly Sarah
1. If Sarah could be anything she would be "on time."
2. Her favorite book is "Outlander" by Diana Gabaldon.
3. For Halloween in 1973 she dressed up as Trisha Nixon.
4. If she could have a superpower, it would be to reverse environmental damage. "I want the world to be great for my grandkids."
5. Scotland is her favorite vacation spot.
6. She loves to cook and container gardening on her balcony.
7. She loves lutefisk.
8. She loves Indian food, especially with lamb.
9. Love Actually is her favorite movie.
10. "People may be surprised to find out that I'm basically introverted and I need a lot of alone time."

People in your neighborhood: Sharon Nollan

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Family and running are Sharon Nollan's passions. Sharon and her husband Chris have three children--Michael, Erich, and Victoria. She grew up in Hastings, but has lived in Cottage Grove for over 20 years.

She says that the two things she could not live without are her husband and her kids. Victoria is a junior and Erich is a senior at East Ridge High School in Woodbury. Michael is a junior majoring in education at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls and plans to become a math teacher.


Sharon's other passion is running. In 1990, Sharon ran her first marathon. Since then, she has run 41 marathons in over 20 U.S. states and on five different continents. She has yet to run a marathon in Africa or Australia.

"I enjoy distance running," she said. "It has given me the opportunity to combine things I love. I love to travel, I love to meet new people, I love to go to new places, and I'm passionate about running."

Sharon belongs to the 50 States Marathon Club and Marathon Maniacs. She travels with both groups to run races in different states and countries.

Most recently, Sharon completed two marathons in a 24 hour period on two different continents--South America and Antarctica. She started her marathon of marathons in Punta Arenas, Chile and ended her trip in King George Island, Antarctica.


"It was pretty incredible. I had to dig down deep to make it happen, but it was an extraordinary experience," she said. "It's an amazing feeling to be elbow-to-elbow with people who come from all walks of life and you're all running to the same goal."

Beyond marathons, Sharon has also completed an Ironman triathlon in 14 hours.

"I was smiling ear-to-ear once I completed the 2.4 mile swim," she said. "The swim was my weakest leg because I had just taught myself to swim about three years before and I'm scared of swimming in open water. So I knew I had it, once I completed the swim."

Sharon is also passionate about giving back to the sport she loves. She volunteers as coaching staff for the Moms on the Run and Girls on the Run. She coaches moms and middle-school aged girls to run their first races.


"I cannot express how rewarding it is to be by the side of a new runner as the cross the finish line of their first race," Sharon said.

After all the marathons Sharon has completed, she has a few favorite memories. She ran a marathon on the Great Wall of China. Sharon also ran a marathon in Walt Disney World. She received a Mickey Mouse medal when she finished.

"My time was awful because I stopped to take pictures with all the characters," she said.

But overall, she says that her favorite one is the Twin Cities Marathon.

After all these amazing accomplishments, Sharon still manages to be an amazing asset to ASR. In fall 2011, she started as a business analyst in the Student Financials Unit in ASR-IT. In January, she joined the ESUP Portal Project team. The team is currently gathering requirements for the Portal and encouraging stakeholder engagement.

"This is a great opportunity to create a dynamic and trend setting portal tool for the entire University," Sharon said. "I enjoy being part of a brainstorming think tank."

Sharon's Strides
1. Sharon loves Italian food. "Lots of pasta for this runner."
2. Sharon has a bachelors degree in psychology and business administration and a master's in software design and development.
3. Sharon has a fear of public speaking, but she is getting involved with the Art of Hosting to help ease that fear.
4. Phil Collins was her first concert.
5. Sharon loves to landscape and garden in her backyard.
6. If she could be anything, she'd be a landscape designer.
7. Sharon's favorite author is Wayne Dyre.
8. Sharon enjoys Jim Carrey movies.
9. Before coming to the U, Sharon worked on the IT web strategies team at Capella University.
10. Sharon loves traveling to the North Shore with her family.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of recent entries in the People in your neighborhood category.

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