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Helping people meet in a pandemic

By Bob Arnold

Tricia Russell

For Tricia Russell, the events coordinator at Co-Lin, the past year has been a challenge, trying to do her job in midst of a pandemic in which people have been reluctant to come together and interact.

"Normally, I seek to maximize space for people and groups, providing room for them to do what they want to do most efficiently in the least space," she explains. Now, it's providing room for people to do what they want to do safely. Events or meetings that required one room in the past now may need two or even three rooms. You seek to spread out people."

Technology, always an important part of her work, has, increasingly, become the critical component. In some cases, meetings are wholly virtual and often partially virtual with participants attending via Zoom and other meeting apps on their computers rather than on site. Speakers now commonly come to events through telecommunication technology whether or not participants are there in person, Russell points out. In the post-pandemic future, virtual technologies will continue to play a major role in events, she predicts.

Russell joined Co-Lin 1997 as secretary for community services, working in events coordination for the Institute for Learning in Retirement (ILR), Workforce Education, the band, senior aid and adult education. When the Thames Center opened in 1999, her work became more focused on events held there and ILR and less on the campus as a whole. From 2006 until 2018, she worked with Marilyn Brown as ILR events coordinator and with Julie Wright since then.

Born at Anniston, Alabama, Russell traveled a lot in her childhood and youth in an army family with her parents, who were Brookhaven natives, and two sisters She was too young to remember the three to four years they spent in Hawaii, but recalls the field trips in Germany when she was in junior high school and life in South Carolina and Georgia before settling in Brookhaven as a junior in high school when her father retired from the military. Collecting things from places where she travelled -- stamps, coins, spoons -- occupied her as she was growing up.

Russell graduated from Brookhaven High School in 1982 and then the one-year secretarial program at Co-Lin in 1983. She married Scott Russell, also a Co-Lin graduate, and moved with him to Vicksburg, where she worked for a law firm and he worked for IBM. She returned with her husband to Brookhaven, where she also worked briefly as a legal secretary before starting her career at Co-Lin.

Russell and her husband, now wheelchair-bound due to childhood muscular dystrophy, live in Brookhaven. They have two daughters -- Abbey Fleming, 28, a Co-Lin graduate who is a cosmetologist, and Mandy, 23, will be graduating from the Co-Lin Respiratory Care Technology program as a Respiratory Therapist. Russell's sister Ramona Thomas teaches in the Co-Lin Medical Radiologic Technology program.

What are your hobbies? I am into crafts -- sewing among other things. I like to travel. My husband, two daughters and I have made two road trips to California and back. Branson, Missouri, is another favorite destination. My husband and I are active in the Brookhaven Church of Christ. I assist with secretarial needs and teach a Bible Class. My husband is one of the church leaders.

Are you a reader? I am an avid reader, particularly of Christian fiction, Christian inspirational literature and mysteries. My favorite author is Dee Henderson. Her O'Malley series is the best. The inspirational romantic suspense novels are focused on the stories of seven abandoned or orphaned teens who became a loyal, committed family which they call O'Malley. They restore strength and hope to your spirit.

Do you enjoy movies or theater?

Any mystery!

What kind of music do you like? Country and Christian.

What would you do with lottery winnings if you were so lucky? I would hit the road with my husband in a mobile home and travel.

How would you change the world? I would try to shape a healthier world in which people are more grateful to God and loving, kind and respectful to each other.

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