JL Wagner keeps her sense of humor by collecting scraps of paper showing the different ways people have misspelled her name.
She has envelopes and name tags with spellings such as “JAY L WAGNER” and “J. L. WAGLER” (JL is short for Jennifer Lynn) posted on a board she proudly displays in her office.
Because of this, she knows how important details can be.
Wagner has planned more than 200 university-related events during the past two years, all of which were held at someone else’s house – with another person as the host.
From the time floral arrangements are being made to the time the last fork is cleaned, Wagner is involved and making sure everything runs smoothly.
She is the assistant director for the Board of Trustees operations and aids in representing President Judy Genshaft. Her duties include helping with events related to the BOT and handling universitywide ceremonies, dedications and the logistics surrounding such events. The responsibilities of handling the affairs of the BOT were just added in July, but Wagner said she was ready for it.
“It was a natural move for me,” she said.
She is also taking her first graduate course at USF and plans to pursue her master’s degree in public relations.
Along with the promotion came added responsibilities, but Wagner said her hours and weekends “belong to the university.” She has a sign on her desk that says, “It’s all about me,” but insists that everything is much bigger than her.
“My personal life takes second to my event,” she said.
But Wagner’s husband can comprehend an unpredictable schedule. He was once a photographer for USF and is now a photographer for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“We used to joke that the only time we’d see each other would be at a university event if he was shooting it, and I was planning it,” Wagner said.
Wagner’s job begins when a scheduling committee approves a request for a university event.
She makes a guest list, organizes caterers and florists and alerts other departments on campus, such as Physical Plant, the grounds department and the University Police Department, when the event will be scheduled so they may make appropriate arrangements.
With the aid of binders containing pictures and colors of each item in the 9,100 square feet Lifsey House, the private on-campus residence for the president, Wagner starts making a mock diagram of where everything will be the day of the event.
“We plan and plan and plan and plan to the nth degree,” Wagner said.
“There’s always something that goes not according to plan.”
But what goes wrong, Wagner said, is always a surprise, although she’s never encountered a situation that wasn’t manageable.
At one meeting, Wagner said the guests were served food that was still frozen. After she tried the particular dish, she immediately removed it. To this day, Wagner said she tastes all of the food beforehand for “quality assurance.”
“It only happened once, but once is enough,” she said. From beginning to end, Wagner attends the events and ensures that the president doesn’t have to be concerned with things such as whether there is enough soda. Wagner said it is her job to primarily represent Genshaft and the Lifsey House, so the president may be able to converse with guests and be a proper host.
Wagner said she relies on people such as the USF Ambassadors, students representing the university, to help keep the front of the house presentable, and she said they are the best troubleshooters. But with her recent promotion, she is also planning on having an additional coordinator for the Lifsey House so she can work closer with the BOT. She said at times she does three events per week with fall and spring being the busiest times of the year.
“You never can tell (what the workload will be) since it’s such a busy university,” Wagner said.
But with all the hours she spends coordinating events, her desk is lined with pictures of her husband and her cat, Ling, along with one of her favorite mementos – a glass clock lined with gold, given to her by Genshaft as a thank you for working on the president’s January inauguration.
“I see this every day, and I know that we’re working toward the goals of the university,” Wagner said, holding the clock close to her.
“I bleed green and gold.”