Robert Utrup headshot

Staff Spotlight: Robert Utrup builds community and supports College of Arts and Sciences amid pandemic

March is Employee Appreciation Month. In that spirit, each week we will put the spotlight on an outstanding staff member who is instrumental in keeping our institution moving forward—even when faced with monumental challenges like those presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Robert Utrup

Robert Utrup, director of staff and administration at the College of Arts and Sciences, often jokes that when he started his tenure at the university in 2020, he inherited a box of 47,000 files from his predecessor. In actuality, that’s not far off. 

Cynthia Stilwell worked in the post for 25 years—and, as one could imagine, filed a lot of paperwork over the years. A wealth of institutional knowledge and “one of the best mentors” Utrup has encountered, Stilwell retired and left big shoes to fill. 

Utrup—who happens to stand 6 feet and 10 inches tall—felt up to the challenge. 

“It was almost entirely a paper office, where everyone was still printing paper and filing everything,” said Joy Ward, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and Utrup’s supervisor. “Robert transformed it to completely electronic and we’re operating on much higher efficiency. Now we have some of the most advanced and efficient processes at the university.” 

When he’s not busy modernizing the office, Utrup manages the dean’s day-to-day schedule, oversees administrative staff in the dean’s office, guides annual administrative processes, helps administer faculty development and support, works alongside the college’s associate deans to provide strategic advice to the dean, and much more. 

Ward believes Utrup is a central component to the effective functioning of the college and its leadership, and he’s someone who’s always willing to help.

“I’d paint Robert as a true leader at the university,” she explained. “He’s patient, empathetic, he’s a wonderful listener and he’s smart about decision-making. He really helps to coordinate the office so that all staff work together as a team and can accomplish their goals.”

That team Ward mentioned? Utrup built it from the ground up during a global pandemic. Lee Thompson, associate dean at the College of Arts and Sciences, said Utrup made every effort to ensure his staff felt connected with each other and the university, many of whom had never stepped foot on campus. 

“It’s a testament to how incredibly talented Robert is,” Thompson noted. “He’s done so much with such a great attitude—he’s always smiling, gracious, and he’s very humble and down to earth.”

Utrup credits his accomplishments to the “tireless work” of his colleagues.

“I love the team of people that has been built here in the dean’s office. I attribute all of my own successes to their excellence,” said Utrup, who’s in the process of getting his PhD in literary traditions from Kent State University. 

Thompson said Utrup is someone who everyone can trust, and he’s an impactful leader who drives innovation within his own office—all the way through influencing the successes of faculty and staff across the college. 

“Robert is able to make successful all that he starts,” Thompson said. “He’s chosen to support the college, as he believes in the combined mission of the arts, humanities and sciences, and he makes the university a better place each and every day through his dedication to this mission.”