I am HERE: Spreading joy to COVID heroes who are HERE every day

by

Pictured from top down, left to right, are UEE leaders Jill Eysol, director of Event Management; Ashley Zingo, director of Employee Engagement; Chris Abayasinghe, senior director of Campus Dining; Lori Bush, senior director of Enterprises and Operations; Lee Sicinski, associate vice president of Event Management; Gracie Gallagher, director of Strategic Initiatives; and Micki Kidder, vice president of UEE. (Photo by Matt Cashore/University of Notre Dame)

Editor’s note: During this unprecedented time, faculty and staff members are, as always, HERE for Notre Dame students. Whether work is done physically on campus or remotely, the collective purpose remains to offer an unsurpassed undergraduate education that nurtures the mind, body and spirit; and to advance human understanding through scholarship, research and post-baccalaureate programs that heal, unify and enlighten. HERE is one story.


Last Thursday afternoon, seven University Enterprises and Events (UEE) leaders, dressed like they were headed to a Notre Dame tailgate, met up at the Main Building and set out to cheer on the Fighting Irish staff and faculty who have kept the University humming during a pandemic.

The group handed out sweet treats and HERO buttons to everyone they encountered. Stops included St. Michael’s Laundry, University Health Services, the dining halls, the contact tracing team in Hammes-Mowbray, Maintenance, the Morris Inn, the testing center in the stadium, and many more.

“We are spreading joy across campus to all the amazing COVID heroes who have been working tirelessly for months. We want to thank them — maintenance, landscaping, HERE ambassadors — everyone,” said Micki Kidder, vice president of UEE. “Their hard work and dedication is allowing our students to stay on campus in a safe environment.”

“Joy is a cherished UEE value,” added Ashley Zingo, the division’s director of Employee Engagement. “We all have the opportunity to embrace and create joy in our workplace everyday.”  

UEE provides essential services to students such as dining and laundry. Some also serve on CRU (COVID-19 Response Unit) teams like in the testing center or on the contact tracing team. The division is working in concert with staff across campus to meet University needs during this unprecedented time. UEE leadership felt it was a good time to recognize everyone.

“We realized that maybe we weren’t pausing enough to thank people and express our gratitude and recognize how the contributions of all these individuals have come together in a beautiful way to offer the great comeback that Father John has spoken about so eloquently,” said Kidder. 

Susan Hurley, who works in Human Resources, is helping out these days in UHS. She heard the “joy” in the hallway outside her temporary office and popped out to find Kidder and crew handing out candy, granola bars and fruit chews. 

“I think it’s meaningful when leaders come around and recognize the great work that people are doing. Erin Hoffmann Harding (vice president for Student Affairs) came around the other day,” Hurley said. “I also think it’s great how everyone at the University is pitching in, getting out of their comfort zone.”

Emily Rauguth, a UHS staff assistant, ran into the UEE crew as she walked down the hallway. “It’s great that they are pumping us up,” she said of the visitors.

“Our team has really pulled together and we’re adapting to the changes. We have stand up meetings to keep up with all the information and make sure everybody is feeling OK and doing OK,” Rauguth said.

Next stop for the UEE leaders was North Dining Hall where Kidder and Chris Abayasinghe, senior director of Campus Dining, stopped by the dining tent to hand out goodies. HERE Ambassadors Rafael Marin and Patrick Dvorak were there, as was Culinary Service Associate Eric Amos

“Them coming by is really nice for the community,” Dvorak said.

Abayasinghe is proud of how dining staff have risen to the occasion by not only preparing meals for four dining halls (two at Notre Dame and those at Holy Cross and Saint Mary’s colleges), but also cooking food for and delivering it to Notre Dame students in isolation and quarantine

“They’ve just adjusted,” Abayasinghe said of his team. “I am just in awe of both their dedication and, frankly, their care of our students. They pivot and they do that all the time.”

That could be said by leaders across the University.

“We are all COVID heroes,” said Zingo.