We Don’t Take Summer Off

Guest Blogger: Diane Brittingham, Associate Director, Housing and Food Services & Director of Residence Life, University of Oklahoma

You’re off in the summer, aren’t you?

That is always my favorite question when I tell people, even those on my own campus, where I work. I am a senior housing officer at a public research institution. And in actuality, summer is probably my least favorite time of the year. It may be the time of the year that our staff can take off, but our summer begins in mid-May and ends around the third week of July. I dream of a time when I could take a vacation in August! I think of August as my New Year’s Eve.

The week after we “close” the residence halls and apartments on my campus for the spring semester- I say “close” because in reality we never close- is a time I think we take a breath. Our staff works to finalize paperwork from the spring semester, I look at projects and timelines for the summer and off we go! Summer gets started and we feel like we have all the time in the world.

The summer is a time for Housing departments, and in my case Food Services as well, to get projects organized, started and in some cases completed in a short amount of time. Our projects are there to make our students’ academic year experience better. This summer I am choosing the furnishings for our new Residential Colleges that are under construction, reviewing and selecting the finishing for the colleges and collaborating with our Senior Faculty Fellows in the colleges on the staffing for the 2017-2018 academic year. My Food Services colleagues are supervising the addition of a new food concept in our Union food court as well as the renovation of one of our more popular food concepts in our dining hall- let’s just say it involves chicken. All to be done by August 1.

Our Residence Life staff team worked on very specific goals during our staff advance- we don’t like to retreat. They worked on specific updates to our residential curriculum and their education plans for their communities; they discussed how to work together as a team; we discussed upcoming changes regarding the department and specifically their supervision and projects impacting their day-to-day work. In that day and a half they created and worked on ideas and projects that would provide them with ample work for the summer.

The projects we work on for the summer are important to the overall success of our department as we look at student satisfaction, retention and persistence. All of the things that we do in all of the areas of Housing and Food Services at my institution impact a student’s experience. As at most institutions, the overall student experience is being evaluated and most of the time a student’s housing experience is one of the first places a student interacts with the university and spends a majority of their time. Lots of eyes are on us, and the things we are doing are important to our campus partners and colleagues to make sure we are ensuring student success.

I could probably list more of the specific projects that I work on for the summer, but I think about the other things that I may do during the summer that keep me busy or that my colleagues are doing: participating in our parent sessions during freshman registration, presenting to various student groups during their trainings and retreats, participating in division and staff retreats, and this summer, providing oversight for two staff position searches.

I’m not alone nor am I unusual in this list of things happening in my department. And I am certainly not looking for your sympathy- it’s the job those of us in Residence Life chose, and we do what we love. I know that in roughly a 10-week span of time there’s a lot to get done. It’s important work to ensure the success of our students. Just remember, we don’t get the summers off, and we never close.

Guest Blogger