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Staff Spotlight: Rosemary Busta’s Journey from Chemistry to Statistics to Scotland and Beyond

The Department of Statistics has never known life without Rosemary Busta. Having helped build the department from the ground up, she has been here from the very beginning — even before that, in fact. Prior to taking on the new Statistics Department Manager role in the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences (ICS) back in 2002, she began her UCI career as an administrative assistant in the Department of Chemistry. Now, after more than 20 years of service at UCI, she is getting ready to retire.

During her two decades here, she has volunteered as a board member, vice chair, chair, systemwide representative and historian for the Academic Business Officer Group (now Administrative Management Professionals). She also served as chair and vice chair of the Science Engineering Department Administrators (a group no longer active) and served two years on the campuswide Student Fee Advisory Committee. “Each of these groups were extremely helpful in exchanging ideas and were a great people resource for me,” says Busta, who also volunteers in her community, supporting the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines through an organization called Team Dark Horse. Now, as she looks to a future beyond life at UCI, she reflects on her years here and her plans for retirement.

What first brought you to UCI in 1999?
I had been helping my late husband with our family business for a few years, and the timing seemed right to look for a full-time job. I had mentioned to one of my neighbors that I saw an ad for UCI, and she worked at UCI and loved it.

I was first hired as an AA II by the Chemistry Department, and I worked there for a couple of years. Everyone was so nice and easy to work with. I had only worked a few months for chemistry when my husband passed away. I had three kids at home and wasn’t sure what to do. Everyone, and I mean everyone, in chemistry helped me — not only with kindness and caring but with real help and encouragement. Wonderful people, all of them. I’m sure I’d still be in chemistry if it weren’t for a unique and irresistible opportunity to help with the development of the Department of Statistics.

What was it like starting the new department, and how has it changed?
When I started in statistics, there was only two of us, Professor Hal Stern and me. No courses, no degrees, no students, no faculty and only a few offices in a suite that we shared with two other units. I met with everyone as we began interviewing for the new department-to-be! I picked people up at the airport and hotels, drove them around the area and University Hills, and provided maps and school information. I handled all of the administrative work and anything and everything else that came up. Statistics only had one full-time staff member, me, for many years. I have an attachment to the department but a commitment to the people. I feel very lucky to have had such great people to work with for so many years. The people have made this a job a keeper. It is rare to find such a nice fit for so many people, but stats has found it.

It is now a vibrant young department, growing every year. It is a little hard to leave at this next growth spurt, but I’m sure whoever takes my place will do a wonderful job for many, many years, as statistics is a hard place to leave.

What do you like best about working in ICS?
I really enjoy interacting with so many different people every day. Students, faculty, staff, visitors… from all over the world… with different interesting stories and views of the world.

What do you like to do in your spare time?
I have been volunteering for a few years now with a nonprofit group, Team Dark Horse, in Laguna Hills. A friend of mine is on the board, and she asked me to join them. The group supports the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines through encouragement, relief and comfort.

We have planned many baby showers for the moms-to-be, and we collect diapers year round. Team Dark Horse provides volunteer support for both the Marines and their families, whenever needed. During the holidays, we provide support for a number of Marine events. One of the upcoming events this year is a toy drive for the children of the Marines. Many, many people donate gifts, diapers, money and, best of all, their time. It’s a real honor to be able to help these heroes and their families.

Gift “baskets” that Team Dark Horse assembled for a shower. “As you can see,” says Busta, “we had a lot of expectant mothers for this one!”

As you get ready to retire, what are your future plans?
I have new grandson, Max, so I will be devoting a lot of time to him. Of course, I’ll continue volunteering. It will be nice to plan things in the daylight! I’ll also do a little traveling. I have one daughter, Emily, on the East Coast and another daughter, Sarah, in Northern California, so visiting them is a must! Also, my fiancé, Jim, and I are planning a trip to Scotland in April 2020.

Busta plans to devote much of her time during retirement to her grandson, Max.

Jim and I met here at UCI, and my son, Steve, and his wife, Rachel, actually met via her mother (a UCI retiree) and me. One day, Rachel’s mother and I were talking about how our kids were going to start college at UC Santa Cruz and didn’t know anyone. We set up a lunch so they could meet, and the rest is history. So I guess all in all, I will always be nicely tied to UCI!

Busta’s retirement begins Friday, Dec. 6, but she will return in January to work part time through March, assisting with the transition to a new department manager.

— Shani Murray