The puzzle master

2016 Outstanding Staff Award winner Jan Cloud, assistant dean of the Arts Division, loves the interlocking pieces of her job

Jan Cloud has an adventurous spirit. Here you can see her in a free-fall with a jumping partner after leaping from a plane. Photo courtesy of Jan Cloud.
Sammy the Slug, UC Santa Cruz's campus mascot, was on hand to congratulate Jan Cloud during the staff appreciation picnic on campus. Photo by Carolyn Lagattuta.

Jan Cloud is aptly named, since she's rather familiar with the sky. In fact, she loves jumping out of clouds.

In honor of her husband’s 65th birthday this year, she willingly leaped from a plane and parachuted 18,000 feet through the air over the city of Marina.

“There was a huge free fall before they pulled the (parachute),” she recalled with glee. “All the skin on your face goes ‘blibble-blibble-blibble!’ I looked like a Shar-Pei.”

Cloud, in other words, has an indomitable sense of fun and adventure, with fearlessness to match. But here at UC Santa Cruz, she is also well-known for her kindness, diligence, professionalism, and her love for her work at the Arts Division, where she serves as assistant dean.

Now she is getting campus-wide recognition for all of her contributions to UC Santa Cruz. After 25 years of excellent work on campus, she is being honored with this year’s Outstanding Staff Award.

This award, given jointly by the UC Santa Cruz Alumni Council and the Staff Advisory Board, recognizes staff members who go "above and beyond" to help students or colleagues, improve programs and contribute to the university’s intellectual and physical environment.

Cloud will be honored at the annual staff appreciation picnic, which will take place 11:15 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 19, on the East Field.

The colleagues who recommended Cloud for the award were united in their praise for her. But a few of them seemed downright crestfallen that Cloud has decided to retire this year.

“She possesses tremendous foresight and applies that in service of the Division division in ways that are too numerous to mention,’’ remarked professor Michael Chemers, director of Digital Arts and New Media at UCSC, before concluding his letter on a more somber note: “It is with terrible regret that I contemplate her retirement at the end of the year.”

Cloud agrees that leaving the job will be bittersweet.

But as much as she enjoys her work, she thinks it’s time to focus on some other things –— her bucket list, for instance, starting with that wild jump from an airplane over Monterey Bay.

Still, it’s great to go out on a high note.

“(The Outstanding Staff Award) caught me by surprise, I have to admit,” Cloud said. “When I found out, I said, ‘What? Aw, gosh!’ It has been such a wonderful place for me. Yes, it’s time to start a new chapter, but on the other hand, I really love this job.”

Friends and colleagues spoke about the complexity and difficulty of Cloud’s job. Cloud, among other things, supports professional growth, mentors other staff members, and advises divisional and department staff as well as faculty.

“Never one to seek the spotlight, Jan knows where every dollar is, how to help ensure that a promising faculty hire accepts our offer, and the most certain path to shepherd a new program into existence,” wrote co-worker Scotty Brookie, who oversees IT activities for the Arts Division.

She also serves as a strong advocate for the Arts Division, which has changed and grown since she started work there.

“I think the division has really come into its own as far as being an equal partner of the other academic divisions,’’ she said. Cloud was thrilled, for example, when the Arts Division launched a new arts and design major focusing on games and playable media.

A native Southern Californian, Cloud wound up in Santa Cruz in the early 1990s because her husband took a job out here.

She had no idea that the enjoyable job she found up on campus would last as long as it has.

“I remember the first day, working with those little Macintosh computers— – the little square guys,’’ she said. “Remember those? Today, you would look at these things and say, ‘are Are you kidding me?’ but that was considered huge technology then. It just cracks me up, looking back at the kinds of things we did. And we were using typewriters then. You make a typo, and it’s, ‘Oh, no, time to use the yellow Wite-Out.”

But she stayed here because the work continued to inspire and fascinate her year after year.

“There was so much opportunity for personal and professional growth," she said. "And there were so many interlocking pieces. I think that is one of the things that made my job so interesting. I’m really going to miss it.”