Everyone has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in some way, but few have been as affected as those working in Housing and Residence Life at IUPUI. This year has been a beast as HRL staff have attempted to keep residence halls and apartment communities safe, while restructuring how they operate with in-person gatherings being put on hold.
Despite the changes, the team is thriving, and others are taking notice.
Zach Cramer, Harrianna Thompson and Cassie Govert were all recently recognized for their work by professional organizations. Cramer was named Advisor of the Year for the Great Lakes Region at the Great Lakes Affiliate of College and University Residence Halls Conference. Thompson received the Outstanding Research and Writing Award on the topic "Is one training enough?: Resident Assistant Social Justice Curriculum," and Govert received the Outstanding Entry-Level Professional Award at the annual Great Lakes Association of College and University Housing Officers Conference.
“Winning this award really means a lot,” Cramer said. “The students that I work with actually submitted without my knowledge, so they worked with their peers and my colleagues to gather the necessary information and to put together the submission, which means more to me than actually winning the award.”
The pandemic has drastically altered what a traditional college residence hall or apartment looks like, and Thompson felt like the job as she once knew it became almost impossible.
“COVID-19 changed the way we interacted with each other, with our students and the community,” she said. “Working in residence life and not being able to do the work activities that brought us joy in the past was heartbreaking, and our motivation took a dive. But slowly we began to adapt and create new ways to engage with each other within the restrictions and physical distancing guidelines in our residence halls.”
Govert believes the job has become even more important this year.
“It feels like despite all of the change that COVID-19 has brought about, the fundamentals of what we do are still important,” she said. “There are still students here who need a meaningful experience. There are still resident assistants who need a fulfilling job that supports them. I think more than ever they need those things.”
Govert started at IUPUI in July and has been focused on supervision since joining the team. Her concentration has been on the students she supervises, trying to develop strong relationships with them and demonstrate that she will be honest with them to support their development. It has made the implementation of the rest of her role much easier.
“Each time I see my North Hall team reach a goal or perform really well on something, I feel such a great deal of pride and happiness for the whole team,” Govert said. “Those are the moments that make me remember why I love this job.”
Thompson began her role in January, and then had the job flipped upside down by the pandemic three months later. Despite the changes, she’s excelled at her job, while pursuing a PhD in Urban Education Studies in the IUPUI School of Education.
Cramer joined the staff in the summer of 2019 with big ambitions, and 18 months later he has accomplished plenty. His goals were to refocus the Residence Hall Association’s initiatives, restructure the National Residence Hall Honorary's executive board and redefine the Hall Council structure. Through collaboration with other groups and colleagues in the department, Cramer has seen more focus on the advocacy of residential students, new student leadership positions created and a revamp of the Hall Council that has put the focus on the tangible needs of the residential communities.
None of it is possible without a group effort, though, and all three award winners were quick to give credit to the entire staff.
“Our HRL team has such a wide variety of strengths and areas of expertise,” Govert said. “I think we bring all those different experiences and passions to the table, which makes us a more well-rounded team.”
Cramer agreed. “I'm so lucky to work on a team in HRL that has so many thoughtful and passionate leaders that work to support each other.”
Thompson sees the value of the team go beyond the work they do.
“A team is more than a group of people working on a common goal, they are the ones who truly see you, the work you’re doing and are supportive throughout the whole journey.”