Assistant Vice President/Dean of Students at the University of South Florida
Tell us about your experience/involvement in University Housing.
As a first generation college student, I did not know how to prepare for interviewing for a graduate assistantship. I came from Florida in March and did not own a coat or suit. I had on a short sleeve dress for interviewing. I felt so overwhelmed and out of my league. The Housing staff that interviewed me made me feel comfortable. UGA was the only school I interviewed with. When they offered me the assistantship, I cancelled my other interviews because I knew this was where I wanted to be.
What is your fondest memory about your time in University Housing?
There were so many. I remember Jim Day's love speech and still share it with staff today. I supervised the desk and night security staff. Every semester we had to assign shifts. Trying to make it fun, I got jeopardy buzzers for them to buzz in to claim their shifts. We had a great time with that. One of my RA's Chris McWhorter wrote a poem for my wedding that we used for our wedding program. Another of my RA's Dustin Aide's parents always hosted a tailgate for the UGA game. They would feed all his friends and always invited me to join them. It was fun to see and be included in their family tradition. Going to UGA Gymnastics meets with my fellow housing staff. We loved our GymDogs! As housing staff when we wanted to go out, we didn't want to go where our residents might be. So our place to unwind was Applebee's for $1.99 frozen margaritas. Spent a lot of time there! Two of my colleagues from that time have since passed away. Many of us came from all over to attend those funerals because we have such great memories together and wanted to be with each other to mourn their passing. They would have loved to have seen us all together, laughing and sharing memories of GymDogs, $1.99 Applebee's margaritas, and living and working together.
How did your experience in University Housing contribute to your success?
University Housing taught me professionalism and how to develop graduate students. My first day on the job, Derek Jackson told me that half of my staff were asking to be excused from training and wanted to know what I wanted to do about it. I thought, "how should I know, I just graduated Undergrad". But he said it was my decision. I ended up firing half the staff that day and earned the nickname "Hatchet" from my family. What struck me was his immediate faith in me and support for my decision making. I did let the staff reapply for their jobs, by the way. When I was applying for my first professional job, Derek also let me see the evaluations from my graduate assistant interviews two years previously. This allowed me to see how others perceived me at the time and to see my growth in those two years. The funny thing is that the feedback from many was that they weren't sure that I could hold others accountable and make the hard decisions. Two months later I was firing half my staff and am now a Dean of Students. I guess I learned how to do those things. I remember UGA Housing providing us with training opportunities, developmental opportunities, and collegiality. I never felt dismissed as a GA. I felt part of a team. I try to continue that leadership philosophy with my staff today.
What did you like most about where you lived and/or worked in University Housing?
The Hill Community operated as a community. The front office, maintenance and custodial staff all worked together. We gave people opportunities to grow and develop and gave second chances. One of our RA's was at one time told to take some time off to mature, and we hired him back when he did and he went on to be a great RA and then professional in the field.
I love that I now have colleagues that I respect because we all had the same foundation at UGA Housing. Many of us are in higher leadership roles today and call on each other for advice or support because we know we have the same work ethic and care based on our experiences.