Staff Profile

Meet the Staff: Salma Tahrani

More than 100 staff members work in the Division of the Humanities. We’ll introduce you to our staff in this continuing series.

Salma Tahrani
Department Assistant
Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations

What do you like most about your job?

My job gives me the chance to work with many people from different backgrounds. As a people person, I really appreciate that. I feel lucky to be surrounded by great, smart faculty, staff, and students. I also love the event planning part of my job, as I like to get creative, and I feel very satisfied when I see people enjoying the events and everything going well.

What was the last good book you read?

The last good book I read was Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself by Dr. Joe Dispenza. It is an amazing book that helps you create the life you choose by connecting science and spirituality. Dispenza is like a life coach who walks you through a step-by-step process to change what you don't like about yourself or your life.

You might work with me if …

You are a prospective student and have general inquiries about the department.
You are NELC student taking your comprehensive exams.
You are planning any event with NELC.
You want to cross-list your course with NELC .
You want to share announcements with the NELC community.
You are part of the NELC community and need to make any updates on our website or to post news stories.

What knowledge, skills, beliefs, or values do you currently possess that allow you to manage complex situations?

To manage any complex situation, I try to divide it into smaller pieces. I work on the parts I can control and try to accept what I cannot.

Meet the Staff: Isaac Rainey

Isaac Rainey headshot

More than 100 staff members work in the Division of the Humanities. We’ll introduce you to our staff in this continuing series.

Isaac Rainey
Department Administrator
South Asian Languages and Civilizations

What do you like most about your job?

I have had jobs in the past where I wasn't sure anything was even resulting from my hard work. That is not the case since I became the administrator for the South Asian Languages and Civilizations (SALC) department. I know that my work means that courses happen, events take place, and that faculty and students have their needs met. I enjoy being a part of processes that produce some of the best scholarship on South Asia in the world. Everyone at SALC has been so warm, welcoming, and kind, and I am very fortunate to be here.

What was the last good book you read?

The Dawn of Everything by David Graeber and David Wengrow was my favorite book in 2023. It refutes many of the narratives shoe-horned into pre-history by pop history and pop anthropology that argue that inequality is inherently baked into civilizations and presents a more evidence-based explanation for the existence of many highly organized societies that lacked strict hierarchies. It is difficult to be brief in discussing this book, and many are not as thrilled with it as I am. However, it has certainly electrified archaeology and anthropology, which has led to some very interesting debates and discussions.

You might work with me if …

If you work with SALC at any time, you will likely communicate with me at some point.

What's the most exciting thing you've learned in your current position?

Generally, how the university runs. Being a department administrator is a good position to become familiar with many corners of the university.

Meet the Staff: Gaby Choi

Gaby Choi Headshot

More than 100 staff members work in the Division of the Humanities. We’ll introduce you to our staff in this continuing series.

Gaby Choi
Department Administrator
Comparative Literature

What do you like most about your job?

There is so much to like about my job, but what I love most is the community in which I engage with through my role here. There is an abundance of vitality and excitement being on a university campus, and my job has allowed me to jump right into all the action. Every day is dynamic and filled with learning and collaborating with staff, faculty, and students. Everyone has been incredibly supportive, encouraging, and kind, and I love that I get to work with many members across the division and university.

What was the last good book you read?

I recently finished reading Unsavory Truth: How Food Companies Skew the Science of What We Eat by Marion Nestle. Clean eating is important to me and my family, so I try to learn as much as I can about the ingredients in our food as well as the food industry. I also finally read Pachinko by Min Jin Lee, a novel that has been on my list for a while. The book was absolutely engrossing and beautifully written.

You might work with me if …

… You need to cross-list a course with Comparative Literature, ask about PhD student requirements, or co-sponsor an event.  

If you had an extra hour every day, what would you do with it?

I compost but have always given away the finished compost because I had neither the extra time nor access to a yard or garden. I recently moved from a high-rise apartment to a home with some yard space, so I would love to plant/garden with my toddler using our very own compost!

Meet the Staff: Vanessa Armand

Vanessa Armand Headshot

More than 100 staff members work in the Division of the Humanities. We’ll introduce you to our staff in this continuing series.

Vanessa Armand
Operations Administrator
Chicago Language Center

What do you like most about your job?

I can bring together all the elements of my rather eclectic educational and professional experience. Coming from a decade of classroom teaching, I worried that the transition to administration this year would be challenging. I'm finding that in this role, however, I can remain connected to students and pedagogy while also tapping into my more fine-grained organizational skills (obsessions?) and my design background. My typical day can often involve diving deep into spreadsheets, followed by engaging with students about our various programs, and onto planning and marketing for our events. There's always something exciting going on, and I am grateful to be part of such a groundbreaking and supportive group of colleagues who encourage me to bring all my skills to work each day.

What was the last good book you read?

I recently discovered that I have an avid love of historical fiction, and as such, I can't get enough of Kate Quinn's novels. The first batch I read are set in World War II and the Cold War. Expertly researched fictional reworkings of real, remarkable lives and events, these books (The Diamond Eye, The Rose Code, The Huntress, and The Alice Network) elevate the incredible, oft-overlooked and uncelebrated achievements of women in the 1940s-1960s. Apart from Quinn's riveting writing, something I absolutely love about her books is that they each contain her lengthy bibliography, archival appendix, and extensive author's notes about what was factual vs. inspired vs. invented and about the decision process she used in weaving together fact and fiction.

You might work with me if …

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