Emi Hitomi Selected as Student Employee of the Year

University Communications – University of Rochester senior Emi Hitomi has been selected as the 2013-2014 University of Rochester Student Employee of the Year. The award, which is given annually by the Financial Aid Office, recognizes an outstanding student employee who has made valuable contributions to the department in which he or she works. Hitomi, a building manager supervisor for Wilson Commons, was nominated by Michael Dedes, Wilson Commons services coordinator.

Hitomi, a neuroscience major, got her start as a Hive Game Room employee her freshman year, and quickly worked her way up the ranks to serve as a building manager for two years, learning the policies and procedures of Wilson Commons. “Because there’s always so much going on in Wilson Commons, not much our job is written in our job description,” says Hitomi. “We are the go-to people for all student employee-run stations (the Common Market, the Hive, Common Connection, and the Hartnett Art Gallery) after hours when all the professional staff has left.”

Hitomi was a natural choice for the role of building manager supervisor her senior year, due to her dedication and reliability as a building manager. “Emi is a one of those rare individuals who truly cares about everyone she comes in contact with. There are no smoke or mirrors with Emi, she is as true as they come,” says Dedes. “She supports all her staff members, even those that can be difficult to deal with, and ensures that everyone has all the resources to be successful.”

CeremonyDuring her time at Wilson Commons last semester, Hitomi helped ensure that a new initiative to keep Wilson Commons open for 24 hours during finals week, to provide additional study spaces to students, ran smoothly. “We have a new late-night programming group that works hard to come up with ideas to provide students with a place to study, relax or have fun late at night,” says Hitomi. While asking her fellow building managers to work extended hours with her was difficult, Hitomi handled it excellently by emphasizing the importance it would have to the student body. In addition to study spaces, Hitomi also worked with her staff to ensure that the exercise areas, movie screenings, and late-night food options for students offered by the event had the resources and space they needed. The event was a huge success with more than 140 students attending. “Emi is one of those student employees who understands the mission of a student union and the role it plays on the college campus. She understands the bigger picture concepts and tries her best to translate that to those she works with so everyone is adding to the common goal,” remarked Dedes.

One of the most valuable parts of her job, Hitomi says, is interacting with people. “As an employee of WCSA, I have met and worked alongside a lot of the staff and faculty that are involved in student activities across campus. Through them I have learned a lot about campus events and student organizations.”

Although, Hitomi’s job is not without its challenges. “There was one time, it was a week or two before Meliora Weekend and we had only three boxes of chocolate covered pretzels left. We were all panicking and trying to rush order more. Fortunately we got an order of them in time to be fully stocked.”

After graduation, Hitomi will be working for the next year as a lab technician in Dr. Nedergaard’s lab at the University Rochester Medical Center.

Emi and SupervisorNational Student Employment Week is an annual week sponsored by the National Student Employment Association which seeks to recognize Student Employees at College Campuses across the Nation. In addition to an award ceremony for the Student Employee of the Year, here at the University of Rochester individual departments find their own creative ways to celebrate their dedicated student employees. The Financial Aid Office, for example, hosts a number of events for their employees during the week, hosting a celebration lunch and a scavenger hunt as well as creating photo bios for each of their employees. Here at University Communications, the office celebrated its student interns with a pizza party and a giant cake!

The following 16 students were also nominated for the award this year:
Zachary Brumberger ’14 – Biochemistry
Sara Leung ’14 – Mathematics
Patrick Hennessey ’14 – English
Liv Earle T5 ’14 – Comparative Lit.
Alex Montes ’16 – History
Lily Martyn ’14 – Epidemiology
Ana Garcia ’14 KEY – International Relations
Keishla Zayas ’15 – English
Marcia des Jardin ’15 – Molecular Genetics
Alex Teghipco ’14 – Brain and Cognitive Sciences
Sarah Winstein-Hibbs ’14 – English
Claire Wyman ’14 – Brain and Cognitive Sciences
Emily Fitzgerald ’16 – Microbiology
Margaret Speer ’15 – English
Rachel Taylor ’15 – Microbiology
Ted Teumer ’14 -Computer Science

Nominees

 

Students Work to Add New Flags to Hirst Lounge

Univ. Communications – Hirst Lounge has been a central part of campus life since Wilson Commons was built in 1976. In the early 90s, the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid made the decision to grow the international student population, specifically among undergraduates. An integral component of this initiative was the expansion of the flags hanging in Hirst Lounge, which was seen as an aesthetically pleasing way to showcase the diversity of the student body. The University quickly realized it was much more complex. Moments of controversy over flag placement helped the University become more cognizant of international politics, national rivalries, and religious differences.

Recently, five new flags have been added to Hirst Lounge. The flags were hung as the result of an initiative spearheaded by two students, Carlie Fishgold ’12 and Chris Bethmann ’13. Through their efforts, flags representing the Haudenosaunee, Diné (Navajo), Cherokee, Dakota- Sioux, and Muscogee Indigenous peoples are now hanging in the lounge. The addition of these flags is another step in the complex process of accurately portraying the diversity of the student body. Fishgold thinks that hanging the Native American flags, “sets an example by participating in the process of decolonization.” And as Bethmann points out, “Not many colleges recognize the sovereignty of Native American nations.”

The initial impetus for the project was provided by Bethmann. Working as a summer Meridian in the Admissions Office, he told tour groups that the flags were representative of the University’s entire student body. At some point he began asking why there were no flags representing the Native American students. Eventually he vocalized his question and was led to the International Student’s Office, where he was told that only students born outside the United States were represented in Hirst. Bethmann persisted, and after a series of emails, phone calls, and meetings, he was told that the flags would be hung and the policy amended to recognize Native students. When summer ended and Bethmann began a semester abroad in Spain, Fishgold, an Art History major, became involved and saw the project through in his absence.

“Many people don’t realize there are reservations nearby, let alone the living conditions and lifestyles on them,” says Naomi Lee, a Native American 5th year doctoral degree candidate in chemistry. “They’ve often forgot that we were the original inhabitants but much of our culture has been lost due to assimilation so … honoring us by exhibiting our flag is very important to me.”

The last major update to the flags occurred about a decade ago. Jennifer Behnke ’00, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in music with an arts administration certificate from Eastman, was the president of the International Living Community, and recognized that Hirst needed updating when a student living on the floor was not represented. When Behnke contacted the International Student’s Office hoping to resolve the issue, she instead discovered the problem was far larger than she imagined. The ISO had received other complaints from students about flags that weren’t included in Hirst, but there was neither a process nor a budget available and so the problem went unresolved.

“A student from the newly independent Slovenia was very upset that his country’s flag had not been hung,” Behnke’s recalls. “He was especially angry because he had lost family and friends in the wars in Bosnia and Herzegovina.”

Thus began a truly epic project. Behnke’s goal was to ensure that the University of Rochester recognized every student’s country of origin with a flag in Hirst Lounge. She spent two months pouring over a 500-page record of every international student at the University, compiled by the International Students Office. By cross-referencing each student’s home country against a list of countries whose flags were represented in Hirst, Behnke created her own list of flags that needed to be added. Behnke brought her list to the International Student’s Office, but again, funding threatened to stop her project’s completion. Behnke approached one of her professors, Dean Paul Burgett, who at that time, also served as Dean of Students. Burgett’s office agreed to supply the funding to cover both the cost of the flags and the installation.

In updating the flags in Hirst Lounge, Fishgold, Bethmann, and Behnke have given significantly to the campus community. Seeing their flags hanging in Hirst Lounge is vital, for varying reasons, to international students, who now make up 18 percent of the student population.

“Imagine going to another country and then seeing the American flag being raised or even flying after not having seen it for a while,” Bethmann says of the flags. “You feel a sense of pride for your heritage and country. In that way, those flags evoke the same feelings for Native students.”

Article written by Joshua Morse, a sophomore at the University of Rochester majoring in mechanical engineering. Photo courtesy of Joshua Morse.