While she sits at her desk on the second floor in the Colvard Student Union, students walk by receiving a friendly welcome and genuine smile from Information Desk Administration Assistant Donna Maykowski.
Maykowski is originally from New Jersey, but she and her husband moved with their two children to Germantown, Tennessee, where she worked in an elementary school. After living in Germantown, which is near Memphis, for 10 years, her time at Mississippi State University began when she received news from her husband in 1993, saying he had a job offer in Starkville.
“I really didn’t want to move,” Maykowski said. “He said, ‘We’re going to move to Starkville, Mississippi.’ I said, ‘No, we’re not. I am not going.’ The kids didn’t want to move. Going from New Jersey to Memphis was a culture shock. Moving from Memphis to Starkville, Memphis was like New York City compared to Starkville. There was nothing here but Mississippi State.”
However, because of this transition, Maykowski’s two sons both grew up in Starkville and both attended MSU.
“Both were Sigma Chi’s, and both moved to Memphis,” Maykowski said. “Jason was a Public Relations and Management major, and Mike was a General Business major. We have season tickets for a lot of the sports. It’s a family affair. Now, they have children, and they’re bringing their children to watch sports of MSU.”
When she is not at work, Maykowski said she is known as Nonnie to her three grandchildren.
When Maykowski began her career at MSU, she was hired on for a temporary job as a secretary for the Research Park, however, the job ended sooner than it was supposed to. Maykowski then began searching for another job at MSU.
“I applied for the administrative assistant position in the Office of Student Life,” Maykowski said. “I got the job over in the YMCA, and I’ve been in Student Affairs ever since. I worked for the Student Association for like 15 years, then I worked for the Center of Student Activities. I went back to Greek life, and I just started this job last orientation.”
Having worked for MSU for 25 years as of last June, Maykowski has become a familiar face for students and faculty on campus.
“I love my job,” Maykowski said. “I love the students. There’s nothing like the students. They keep you young, and they keep you informed. I’ve met scores of students.”
While she has made a lasting impression on the students and her coworkers’ lives, she has served as an adviser for multiple organizations. Maykowski has had an award named after her, as well as receiving a distinguished award.
“The Student Association Senate named an award after me that they give out to someone every year at the banquet, ‘The Donna Maykowski Friend of the Student Award.’ It’s quite humbling,” Maykowski said. “I also got the Zacharias Distinguished Employee Award, and that was a huge deal.”
According to Coliseum Services Coordinator Gail Langston, she and Maykowski became friends when Langston began working for the university in 1998.
“She’s such a people person, and she always makes you feel comfortable and welcome,” Langston said. "You feel like you’ve known her forever."
Maykowski said her favorite thing about her job is the people with whom she gets to communicate.
“The job I have here, I’m involved with orientation,” Maykowski said. “I talk to so many people from so many different places, and there’s a lot of people where we have things in common. I love when people come back and say, ‘What happened to this? I graduated from here 40 years ago.’”
Langston, who has worked with Maykowski for approximately two decades, said Maykowski is working in a position perfectly suited for her.
“She really works at a place that she loves, with people that she loves,” Langston said. “It’s just a winning combination. She’s in the right place, that’s for sure.”
According to Langston, Maykowski is a delightful presence to be around. When the two go out to eat, there are numerous people who spot Maykowski and come to their table to catch up.
About six months ago, the two went to eat at Oby’s, and Langston said Maykowski soon became very proud when the waiter asked to see her driver’s license.
Throughout Maykowski’s time at MSU, she has seen various changes throughout campus.
“When I first started here, there were 13,000 students,” Maykowski said. “Now, we have 22,200. There were a lot of building’s that weren’t here. So many people say how beautiful campus is. They’re right because it’s so well kept, and the buildings are beautiful. The road work is a lot different than when I first started. We used to have the junction five-point. There were times where it would be hard to get in and off campus because of all the construction going on and the rearranging of the roads—it was crazy.”
Out of all of the progress MSU has made, Maykowski said the atmosphere has remained the same.
“I think that the one thing that has stayed is Mississippi State is so family-oriented and hospitable and friendly,” Maykowski said with a smile. “People here are just really like one union. It’s nice to know that there’s people that would watch out for you and stick up for you.”
Throughout her time here at MSU, Maykowski said everything is constantly changing, but she said change means progress. She has not found anything challenging throughout her 25 years working for MSU.
“I can’t really say challenging, maybe because I have acquired, you know, I have had multiple sclerosis over the last 18 years,” Maykowski said. “That’s a challenge because I had to park in a certain handicap spot, and there used to not always be a handicap spot. Now, they’re everywhere. I can’t really walk a far way, so I have to get close. I don’t know that there are challenges with that, but I just do the best I can. There’s a lot of things I can’t go to because I don’t know if they have adequate parking, that’s why I always want to be the first one there so I can get that handicap spot. I hate that, but it could be worse.”
Maykowski said students oftentimes offer to help her.
“There’s always many students that have offered help,” Maykowski said. “I was walking into work last week, and there was a student across the street, and he said, ‘Are you going to the Union?’ He came across the street, gave me his arm and walked me all the way up. I thought that was so sweet. The students here have been just more than kind. I think that speaks a lot of volume of the students at our school, and it has happened many times. I so appreciate that.”
Lori Andrews, owner of Union Station Hair Designers, has gotten to know Maykowski over the last 21 years she has worked in the Colvard Student Union. According to Andrews, Maykowski’s priority is the students of MSU.
“She’s dedicated to the students, she loves her students, and that’s it,” Andrews said. “She loves her job and she loves everybody here. She’s very outgoing. She’s an awesome person, just period. Like I said, I could see her in the hallway, and she’s going to stop and talk with 12 people. She gets a personable relationship with just about everybody she meets. That’s just the type of person she is. She cares.”
According to Langston, Maykowski is constantly inspiring others.
“She could have so many reasons to be so down on life, and yet she inspires other people,” Langston said. “She’s never selfish, and it’s never about her. It’s always about the other person.”
According to Langston, Maykowski and her husband usually have perfect attendance to MSU basketball games.
When Maykowski is not supporting MSU or conversing with students, she said she can be found reading and cooking. Maykowski and Andrews' friendship sparked by their love of reading.
“She would come into the Union, and she’d come in and speak to me because that’s just the way she is,” Andrews said. “Me and her started talking about books, and me and her love to read, so she would share her books with me, which I think she would share them with anybody on campus. Then I started cutting her hair, and we’ve been really good friends ever since.”
With a love of reading, Maykowski said she has over 900 hardback books.
“I’m an avid, ferocious reader,” Maykowski said. “It took me a very long time to read books on my Kindle because I just love the feeling of seeing how much I’ve read and how much I have left. Now, I mostly read on the Kindle, and I belonged to book club after book club."
According to Maykowski, she said she also enjoys playing word games like Wordscapes, and she loves to cook dishes like chicken parmesan and chicken soup.
Regardless of where she is, Maykowski expresses how passionate she is about her job.
“It’s a great place to work, and I always tell people I love my job, and they always say it’s really hard to come across someone that really loves their job,” Maykowski said. “If you love your job, you never work a day in your life, and it’s the truth.”