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Inside DELTA: 5 Questions with Jessica Lama

Jessica Lama in Obertraun, Austria.

Jessica Lama is one of the Online and Distance Education program specialists at DELTA. Since she is a part of one of many integral parts of DELTA, we decided to ask her more about herself and the contributions she brings as a whole.

Lama is from Wilmington, North Carolina. Graduating in 2016 from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, she earned a B.A. in Public Policy with a minor in social and economic justice. Afterwards, she worked for various non-profit organizations including United Way of the Greater Triangle, Duke’s Office of Durham and Community Affairs, and Our Voice.

Lama and her parents at a UNC basketball game.

“I never thought I would do anything outside of nonprofits,” Lama said. ”I found my love for working in higher ed and interacting with students while working for the Department of Public Policy at UNC-Chapel Hill as the Student Services and External Affairs Specialist.”

Before joining the ODE team, Lama learned about the amazing work DELTA was doing to provide online learning for students and ultimately decided that DELTA would be a good fit for her. “While I’m a loyal Tar Heel at heart, I decided to accept the position here at DELTA and I am grateful for this opportunity,” said Lama.

What is your current job title and how long have you worked for DELTA?

Lama has been working for DELTA for a year now starting in April of 2022 as an online and distance education program specialist. She describes her position as supporting students who are interested in online and distance education programs and courses. 

“My team is typically the first point of contact for students interested in distance education. A large part of my job is to help with various questions prospective and current students have like how to enroll in courses, course costs and how to use NC State’s advising services,” Lama said. She also processes non-degree studies applications and helps troubleshoot and guide students through the application process.

“I know that enrolling in a new program or class, while exciting for students, can also be stressful and overwhelming when navigating all the moving pieces. So, my main focus is to help alleviate some of that stress and make the transition as seamless as possible.”

What is the most challenging aspect of your position?

Lama shares that constantly staying on top of current and accurate information is one of the more challenging aspects of her position, but it’s also what makes the job interesting to her. “Processes evolve very quickly in my position, so keeping abreast of the changes allows me to be a reliable resource for students,” said Lama.

“I’ve also had opportunities to work on projects that require a new set of skills,” Lama said. “For example, I’ve had the opportunity to learn more about website development, which has been exciting and has allowed me to continue growing and learning.”

Another change for Lama was transitioning from in-person to virtual meetings with students. “Even though I don’t get to meet students face-to-face and my interactions with them might be brief, I enjoy being able to help the large number of students that contact our office.”

What makes your job special?

Being able to have an impact on the life and journey of students is very important to Lama. “I think it’s special being able to provide support during an important time in their lives that I hope will help make their experience at NC State a positive one.”

The DELTA work environment is another key factor that makes the job notable for Lama. “I’m grateful for the opportunity to work in an environment that encourages growth and provides support along the way.” said Lama, “My manager Alexis Lockett and my team really motivate me to go outside my comfort zone and I really appreciate that.” 

What has been your favorite project you’ve worked on at DELTA?

Over the past year, Lama has been helping to revamp the Online and Distance Education website. She explains that the website provides information about distance education programs and courses and also serves as a resource for prospective and current students.

Lama and the distance education team have been working hard on making the information more streamlined, accessible, and easy to navigate for site visitors. “It’s been a huge undertaking, but I have really enjoyed being part of this process,” said Lama. “It allowed me to learn new skills and increase my knowledge of website development.”  

This project also allowed her to collaborate with more people within DELTA. Lama enjoys the collaborative partnership between her team, members of the academic technology team and project managers. “It was nice getting to meet new people, especially since my section of DELTA is so small.”

“It also allowed me to work closely with my team, and being new at the time, I enjoyed seeing how we work together and our dynamic,” says Lama.

What do you like to do in your spare time outside of work?

Lama enjoys spending time outdoors and with her family. 

Lama and her partner at Acadia National Park.

“I really enjoy finding new hiking trails around the Triangle,” Lama said. “I also like traveling within the U.S. and abroad to explore trails and national parks.” 

Some places that Lama has already trekked through are the North Cascades, Croatia and Austria.

Whenever Lama isn’t outdoors, she is either cooking or baking. “I love baking cookies,” Lama said. “My new obsession is watching the Great British Baking show and trying new recipes that they demonstrate on the show.”

One of her favorite spots to go in Raleigh is Tepuy Donuts. “I wasn’t a doughnut fan until I tried Tepuy Doughnuts. My favorites are the chocolate glazed or Nutella filled.” said Lama.

Reading is another pastime that she enjoys as well. “I love psychological thrillers, one of my favorites is “The Silent Patient. I read it in one sitting — I couldn’t put it down!”

Lama at Mt. Rainier.