The professional hall staff in University Housing Services (UHS) were recently honored with the University’s Living Our Values Award for their work in uplifting the institutional value of Individualized Attention.

Professional hall staff are essential employees who live in the residence halls. Members of UHS professional hall staff include: Jenna Acasio, Stephanie Alvarez-Rivera, Coree Burton, Kamilah Davis, Kevin Goffard, Robert Harris, Tionna Hunter, Chloe Ingram, Terry Jackson Jr., Brian Johnston, Tim McCue, Mark McHale, Anthony Muhammad, Megan Patterson, Kiley Rotchford, Kate Rybakova, Erik Scearce, Ashley Smith, Audrey Smith, Stephanie Thompson, Dejon Tinsey, Kole Torres, Jerrimiah Turner, LaVance Walker, and Alex Wallace.

The Living Our Values (LOV) awards recognize individuals and groups that exemplify Illinois State’s core values of Learning and Scholarship, Diversity and Inclusion, Respect, Collaboration, Individualized Attention, Civic Engagement, and Integrity, as found in Educate Connect Elevate: Illinois State – The Strategic Plan for Illinois’ First Public University 2018-2023. The awards celebrate the commitment to live the University’s values every day and strengthen the campus community by sharing those values.

The UHS professional hall staff was nominated for this award for the individualized attention they have demonstrated throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. They selflessly worked to meet the individual needs of the nearly 4,000 students who moved into the halls in August. When students went into isolation or quarantine rooms, it was the hall staff who met them in person, checked them into their rooms, and met their every need. For example, hall staff has delivered everything from students’ forgotten medication to band aids, bought items at stores for students, and ordered food for special diets.

“While our circumstances and environments sometimes shifted by the minute, I’m incredibly proud and humbled to be part of a staff team that never lost focus on helping students feel safe, connected, and engaged,” said Tim McCue, area coordinator of Tri-Towers and Cardinal Court. “Time after time, our team put students first. Our hall staff speak often about their motivation and passion for supporting students. The fall semester gave them a chance to put their passion into action as they answered the call daily with dedication, creativity, and purpose.”

In addition to meeting their basic needs, hall staff also did their best to meet students’ emotional needs, offering support and encouragement during a time of high anxiety and stress. Further, hall staff have continued to go above and beyond in their efforts to engage their residents, from ensuring that all students had access to vote in the November election, to the continuation of face-to-face programming opportunities for residence hall students.

University Housing Services Case Manager LaVance Walker said that students are struggling with isolation during the pandemic, along with the transition that comes with being in a new place away from family. Walker has continued to meet with students while physically distanced in person, or virtually through Zoom to provide additional support. He has also coordinated a book club with a small group of students.

“We discuss current struggles they may be facing and how to cope with these struggles. I enjoy being a support for students because I myself had a tough transition into the university (and) I understand the importance of having faculty/staff support. There is nothing more fulfilling to be able to know that we have ‘taken off a weight’ from a student by providing them support,” Walker said.

“I cannot say enough to express my gratitude for their positive, can-do attitudes throughout the entire pandemic,” said Stacey Mwilambwe, director of University Housing Services. “They have been student-centered and their compassion for students’ needs, regardless of the circumstances, speaks to the very essence of individualized attention.”

Nominees for the Living Our Values awards can be any current Illinois State student, faculty, or staff member, or a group of people at Illinois State working toward a program or initiative that reflects the core values. Nominations can be made via the Educate Connect Elevate website.