Featured Stories

ACPA 2022: Right Where I Was Supposed to Be

Emily Rasch, GA for Research, Assessment, and Strategic Initiatives, reflects back on her experience as a Convention Intern for ACPA 2022 in St. Louis.

One of the highlights of my graduate school tenure has been my involvement with the American College Personnel Association (ACPA). Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to serve as an Intern for ACPA at our first in person Convention since the pandemic. 

I started graduate school amidst a global pandemic, which came with a good bit of uncertainty. I wondered if it was possible to connect with others in higher education outside my program. The ACPA Ambassador Program was the answer to that dilemma. I was first involved with ACPA as part of the Ambassador program, where I learned the history, mission, and values of our organization. After my Ambassador year, I served as the Coordinator of Socials on the Grad Student and New Professional Community of Practice Directorate. When the opportunity arose to serve as a Convention Intern, I jumped at it, as I knew that this experience was a way for me to give back to an organization that had already given me so much. On March 2nd, I began the nearly ten hour trek to St. Louis, MO. While I did not necessarily know what to expect, I was excited to see what the experience would hold. 

The first few days in St. Louis were a bit of a whirlwind as we set up the conference center, explored the city, and learned the ins and outs of everything ACPA. Once Convention started, it was all hands on deck for everyone involved. As interns, we got to assist with registration and help with some of the sessions. I was on my feet for much of the convention and remained energized and excited to help people and make connections. Through those long hours, we bonded as an intern team and brought our different strengths to the table. 

One of the most empowering aspects of the intern experience came from realizing that there are people with similar goals, research interests, and identities to mine. Going forward, I know that I have a sense of community beyond SMU’s campus and in the larger higher education sphere. Also, the opportunity to meet folx in person who I had only seen on a computer screen over the last two years showed me the value of authentic, in-person conversations that were not feasible in a virtual format. While Zoom was an amazing tool to connect us through the pandemic, there isn’t anything quite like an in-person conversation and fellowship. I am so happy that this convention was the first foray into in-person socialization since the pandemic began in 2020. 

The theme of this year’s convention was “right where we’re supposed to be.” I know that I have found my professional home in ACPA. Next year, my professional home heads down the Mississippi River to New Orleans. I cannot wait for my professional home to come to my personal one, and I look forward to showing my colleagues my home. I am so grateful for my fellow interns, colleagues, and SMU support system who made this experience what it was. Over the last few months, I have pondered what life beyond SMU may look like after graduation. Because of my involvement in ACPA, I have connections wherever I end up, which excites me for my future beyond the Hilltop.

Featured Stories

Top Nine of 2021

In 2021, SMU’s Student Affairs Instagram account had 27,000 total likes in 2021! Here are our top nine posts from 2021. 

Ninth most liked photo of 2021: Hilltop Excellence Awards
Total likes: 278
Eighth most liked photo of 2021: World Smile Day
Total likes: 295
Seventh most liked photo: Orientation
Total likes: 301
Sixth Most Liked Photo: Finals week
Total likes: 304
Fifth most liked photo of 2021: SCIE Graduation
Total likes: 309
Fourth most liked picture of 2021: SMU being recognized as an LGBT friendly campus
Total likes: 315
Third most liked photo of 2021: Grand opening of Hughes-Trigg
Total likes: 339
Second most liked picture of 2021: Hughes-Trigg reopening
Total likes: 378
Most liked picture of 2021: Orientation leader announcement
Total likes: 465


Featured Stories

Women’s Symposium 2021

Sylvia Bloom, Community Outreach Coordinator for CORE 2020-2021 and CORE Chair for 2021-2022 reflects back on the planning of the 2021 Women’s Symposium. She is a Junior studying Film and English with a specialization in Creative Writing. Her Commons Affiliation is Ware Commons.

During the week of March 1st through the 5th, SMU held the 56th Annual Women’s Symposium, a weeklong event that brought the community together for conversations about the current issues women are facing and recognized outstanding women leaders in the Dallas Metroplex.  

The theme of the 2021 Women’s Symposium was “Vocal, Viral, Visionary,” so Symposium attendees listened to and participated in virtual conversational panels with several women who work in media industries. Wynter Mitchell-Rohrbaugh, a digital media and marketing consultant and former reporter for OK!, talked about careers and networking in the digital age and how women can effectively use branding to elevate their message. Internet sensation and full-time comedian and content creator Brittany Broski answered questions on how social media is democratizing comedy, the benefits and drawbacks of going viral, and the importance of having a support network in the entertainment industry.


At the Community Awards Ceremony, keynote speaker Elaine Welteroth, former editor-in-chief of Teen Vogue from 2016 to 2018 and current host on The Talk, discussed her career at Teen Vogue, her focus on encouraging younger generations to educate themselves on and advocate for important issues, and the cruciality of creating a seat for all women at the table.  The Community Awards are an annual tradition of the Women’s Symposium that applaud incredible women in DFW for their contributions to both their workplace and the Dallas community.

This year, the SMU Women’s Symposium Student Planning CORE Committee introduced “CORE: the Podcast,” which consists of episodes devoted to individually interviewing each of the award winners on their experiences, achievements, and most important life lessons. Winners of the Profiles in Leadership Award were Marsha Clark, owner of leadership consulting firm Marsha Clark & Associates, Suzi Greenman, who has worked in real estate and is the former Executive Director of the National Council of Jewish Women’s Greater Dallas Chapter, Jessica Walker, Director of Community Wellness Solutions, Thear Suzuki, a Global Client Service Partner at Ernst & Young LLP, and Gail Turner, First Lady of SMU and Co-founder of New Friends New Life Ministry. These women were recognized for their extensive records of leadership in their communities. Leah Parker, Co-founder of the Body & Soul Program at St. Paul United Methodist Church, received the Gail Reese Ward Excellence in Mentoring Award, created to recognize women who have impacted their community through their service as a mentor to women and girls. 

The 56th Annual Women’s Symposium hosted extraordinary women, both in and outside of Dallas, who told their stories and fostered conversations that inspired attendees to think about how digital and social media are impacting women today and how women can use these mediums to make a difference.

Featured Stories

GRAD-itude: Recognizing Our Stellar Graduate Assistants

April 5-9, 2021 is Graduate and Professional Student Appreciation Week. To commemorate the service our Graduate Assistants do for the Division of Student Affairs, we reached out to their supervisors to talk about the work their GAs do for their respective offices.

Zana Morris on Vic Norris, Graduate Assistant for Intercultural Engagement, Office of Intercultural Engagement
“Vic Norris has been a graduate assistant in the Office of Social Change and Intercultural Engagement since the fall of 2020. His leadership and guidance are unmatched. He gives his time, energy, and mentorship to multicultural organizations through advising and program planning. Vic brings light and joy into the office with a special sense of authenticity. The students have taken to him quickly and I am beyond thankful for his knowledge as I am a recently added member on staff. Without Vic, the office wouldn’t be the same.”

Staphany Coronado-Lopez on Fernanda Reyes, Graduate Assistant for Community Engagement, Office of Social Change and Intercultural Engagement
“As the Graduate Assistant for Community Engagement, Fernanda is primarily responsible for advising Alternative Breaks. The Covid-19 pandemic presented a new challenge, as the traditional way of offering the program was no longer possible. Fernanda advised and worked closely with her leadership team to develop new outreach and recruitment activities for the Alternative Breaks program. Fernanda’s ability to work independently and strong problem-solving skills has been vital for the success our office. of great value to us. We are so grateful for her work!”

Meghan Perez on Logan Judkins, Graduate Assistant for Leadership and Orientation Programs, Office of the Student Experience
Logan Judkins joined the Office of the Student Experience team in Fall 2020 and hit the ground running! Before the semester even began, Logan hosted outdoor movie nights to help welcome our newest Mustangs to the Hilltop! As the school year got underway, he supported the Caswell Leadership Fellows by facilitating leadership workshops, coaching students on their impact projects, and developing them as leaders. Logan was also instrumental in coordinating January Stampede 2021! Through his various projects within StuEx, it is clear to see that Logan cares about SMU and helping to create an environment for world changers!

Nathan Faust on Jessica Borne, Residential Community Director for Mary-Hay Peyton Shuttles Commons
Jessica Borne currently serves as the Assistant Residential Community Director for Mary Hay Peyton Shuttles Commons – or for somewhat shorter, she’s the ARCD for MHPS! Jess stepped into this role during a unique time in housing due to Covid-19, however she did not let that stop her from hitting the ground running. She directly advises our Commons Council who are responsible for programming for the MHPS community and co-supervises our 11 Resident Assistants with myself, the Residential Community Director. In addition to that, she oversees all of MHPS programming efforts by both the Commons Council and RAs including our traditional program Taste of Diversity, and a new program she developed with our student leaders called the MHPS Carnival! As Jess works towards completing her first year as the MHPS ARCD, she is taking on more responsibilities in Student Conduct and roommate mediation, student staff training, and other departmental involvements such as committee involvement and individual projects that align with her academics. 

Matt Nadler on Cody Dumas, Kayley Carter, and Mark Cordero, Graduate Assistants in RLSH
Cody Dumas is a current second-year student in the Higher Education program and the Assistant Residential Community Director for the Hillcrest Houses. In the position Cody assists with supervising and leading RA staff meetings, advising Community Council, and addressing facility and resident concerns – he is truly an invaluable member of the team! Recently Cody was able to utilize his love for Big Brother by working to create a friendly competition-style program for Upper Division Housing residents. Thank you for all the hard work Cody, and I excited to see what the future holds for you.

Kayley Carter is a current first-year student in the Higher Education program and serves as the Assistant Residential Community Director for Daniel House. In her role, Kayley has been tasked with opening a new residence hall and assisting the Resident Assistants and the Community Council in developing a unique community that residents can grow in. In her role, she has taken on additional responsibilities through assisting with research interviews and utilizing her design skills to create promotional materials as well as designing our community newsletter. I am thrilled to be welcoming Kayley back next year as a second-year Graduate Assistant and the Assistant Residential Community Director for Upper Division Housing. 

Mark Cordero is a second-year master’s student in the Higher Education program and is completing his tenure as the Graduate Assistant for the Housing Unification Board (HUB). Throughout his time with this student leader group, Mark has given countless hours to ensure that student leaders feel supported and heard in their roles. He has assisted with numerous departmental projects including RA signing day, as well as HUB-specific advising responsibilities where he works with student leaders to achieve their goals. Mark will be graduating this May and while he will be missed, I am excited about his next adventure. Thank you for all you’ve done Mark!

Kristin Smart on Dani Meyers, Graduate Assistant for Career Development, Hegi Family Career Development Center
Dani is an engaged Master’s of Higher Education student and Graduate Assistant with the Hegi Family Career Development Center (HFCDC). When Dani joined the HFCDC in 2019, she quickly learned how to navigate her coursework and job responsibilities and began taking on additional projects! In the career center, we prioritize counseling and coaching students in their career development, creating innovative and informative programming, and professional communication and service for all students; and Dani accomplishes all of these tasks exceedingly well. She is not only capable and hard-working, but is also passionate about her work and development in the field of higher education. Dani goes above and beyond; always finding ways to innovate and create new events as well as further develop existing programs and help students. We have been so grateful to have her as the Graduate Assistant for Career Development in the HFCDC the past 2 years! 

Sandra Scheidegger on Hannah Schied, Graduate Assistant for Employer Relations, Hegi Family Career Development Center
Hannah has been such a great presence on the Hegi Family Career Development Center team!  She is engaged in her work, and she consistently contributes things of value to the team.  Hannah is receptive to providing a helpful student voice to various discussions, and she approaches situations with rationale and good thought.  The Hegi team wishes Hannah the best in her future endeavors!

Lauren Chapman on Jade Webb, Graduate Assistant for Programs and Events, Department of Student Involvement
Jade Webb, Student Involvement Graduate Assistant, is a key part of the team. She has made her mark on so many of our programs and initiatives, including FSLead, the Student Senate Organizations Committee, and co-advisor to Student Foundation. She’s also the creative mind behind our popular Hughes-Trigg Grab & Go opportunities – if you enjoyed a Valentine’s, St. Patrick’s Day, or Mardi Gras-themed grab bag, you have Jade to thank!

Dr. Sidney Gardner on Colleen Collins, Graduate Assistant for the Women and LGBT Center
This year has been particularly challenging as a one person shop. The pandemic has highlighted how isolating it can be when you are without daily interaction with other staff or students. The brightest spot for me this year was getting the honor to work with Colleen Collins as my graduate assistant. There are not enough ways to say how truly exceptional Colleen has been in this role. Since stepping into this role in August, she has not only jumped in and re-designed our entire social media presence, she has also taken an active role in advising our student leaders with such strength and thoughtful guidance. She is such a rare GA that is able to not only accomplish what she is given in record time, but she is also able to anticipate both what I may need as well as the larger needs of the center. This year alone, she has served as a webinar tech, a content manager, a podcast editor, a project manager, an advisor, and a sounding board for all things related to running a center during a pandemic. She has also been able to do all of this as a busy 1L in Dedman College of Law and all from her home in Florida. I owe so much of our accomplishments this year to the dedication of our phenomenal GA, Colleen Collins. 

Bonnie Hainline on Hannah Curtis, Graduate Assistant for Sports Clubs, Dedman Center for Lifetime Sports
Hannah Curtis serves as the Sport Club Graduate Assistant within Campus Recreation. We appreciate Hannah’s work ethic, passion for helping each student succeed, keen sense of organization, and positive attitude. Hannah is an incredible resource for our Sport Club Officers as they are able to reach out to her for questions, concerns, and general help on how they can succeed. One of Hannah’s signature marks on the program are her weekly “Hannah’s Helpful Hints” that she sends to our Sport Club Officers to help them track of due dates, expectations, and opportunities coming up. It is without question, that Hannah has a positive and helpful impact on the student Sport Club experience at SMU.

Dr. Allison Kanny on Emily Rasch, Graduate Assistant for Student Affairs Administration
Emily Rasch—Graduate Assistant for Student Affairs Administration…Where to begin… Our team has had the impossibly good fortune of adding Emily to our mix this year, and her presence is a breath of fresh air in every way. She is authentic, intuitive, earnest, and so, so bright and promising in this field. Her passion for constant learning and service is commendable and it has been a true pleasure working with her this past year. She has brought a unique perspective to the work SA Administration is endeavoring to get off the ground, and I am confident that when I look back on this time years from now, I will always remember Emily as an integral piece of the foundation of our office. While the fabulous work product and personal growth and development I’ve witnessed in Emily this past year begs great mention, I’d be remiss if I didn’t also speak in the converse—Emily is teaching me. She is teaching me how to be a better supervisor, employee, higher education professional, and human. And THAT is one of Emily’s attributes that I find most special, and one of the great gifts of having a Graduate Assistant like her.

Featured Stories

Fraternity And Sorority Community Sees Increased GPA for Fall 2020

At SMU, Fraternity and Sorority Life is a way for undergraduate students to get involved on campus, but also show a commitment to their academics. While the Fall 2020 semester was a challenging one, members of SMU’s Greek community have shown that they are capable of academic success, despite challenges the pandemic brought.

SMU’s Fraternity and Sorority Life Community, which accounts for roughly 43% of undergraduate students, saw an increase in overall GPA for Fall of 2020. Up from a council-wide average of a 3.4 in the Fall of 2019, the increase comes after students dealt with changing class formats and different schedules due to the pandemic.

Fraternity and Sorority members at SMU have shown their dedication and commitment to their academics, despite the external challenges that they faced. It is the combination of leadership and said commitment to their academics that make members of SMU’s Greek community leaders both in and out of the classroom.

To learn more about the FSL Community at SMU, please click here.


SMU Makes the Move to Code Yellow

As of Monday, March 15, SMU is now functioning at a yellow operational status. Here’s what that means for events within the Division of Student Affairs:

Event format
-Indoor events are now allowed, but with proper social distancing requirements in place
-If the space does not allow for social distancing protocols, outdoor options should be explored

-Food should not be served unless the event is held during a traditional meal time
-Only boxed, pre-packaged food allowed
-Giveaways still limited

-Clear pathways with defined, separate entrances and exits should be present at the event
-Event attendees should assess for symptoms of COVID-19 the day of the event

-in person events should not occur back-to-back to account for cleaning

-Students may travel by car locally (within a 50 mile radius) for team sports
-International and group travel is still prohibited

-External guests may not attend in person events, but are allowed to attend virtually
-External speakers do not count as guests, but are limited to one per event

Community service
-On site community service still remains virtual

Residential Commons and Upper Division Housing
-Students living in Residential Commons and Upper Division Housing are now allowed to have guests in their rooms, but certain restrictions remain.

For a full breakdown on what this shift to Code Yellow means for SMU, please click here

Featured Stories

SMU to Hold Make-Up Days After Winter Weather

Students, Faculty, and Staff received the following message regarding make-up days after the winter weather in mid-February.

March 2, 2021

Dear Faculty, Staff, and Students:

After nearly a year of the most remarkable adjustments by every member of the SMU community, the week before last challenged us again beyond imagination. We are thankful to everyone who worked throughout that week to keep us safe, healthy, warm and nourished. 

SMU cancelled almost five full days of instruction during the weather event and, as you know, we need to recover lost time. During the campus closure, leaders from across the University consulted to determine our best options. These conversations included Faculty Senate Executive and Calendar Committees, Student Senate, Council of Deans, Accreditation Representatives, Provost’s Leadership Forum, Offices of Financial Aid and Enrollment Services, Student Affairs, and the President’s Executive Council.

After careful consideration of federal credit-hour requirements, the consensus of the groups we consulted is to use Good Friday and Reading Day One to make up two instructional days; the remaining direct instruction will be left to the discretion of individual faculty members to ensure that all course outcomes are met. We made the decision to use Good Friday only after careful consideration, and the campus leaders we worked with – including those from Faculty and Student Senate – advised it would be preferable to scheduling a make-up day on a Saturday. We intend to be sensitive to and accommodate the members of our SMU community whose religious practices include a full observation of Good Friday.

Religious Observance & SMU Holiday

Students whose religious practices include observance of Good Friday should notify their professors in writing now, and should discuss with them, in advance, acceptable ways of making up any work missed because of the absence. 

Faculty whose religious practices include observance of Good Friday should notify their department chair (or otherwise appropriate person within their department) and explain alternative accommodations that will be made for missing class, such as holding make-up class(es), a guest speaker(s), etc. (University Policy No. 7.22.)

Nonexempt employees who work Good Friday to support class delivery should record their hours worked, as usual, and will be compensated for the time worked as well as holiday pay.  Exempt employees who must work Good Friday to support class delivery should arrange with their supervisor for another time to recognize the holiday. Any employee asked to work the holiday to support class delivery will be granted the same sensitivity to religious tradition.

Revising Syllabi:

We ask faculty to amend their syllabi to reflect the make-up days and distribute the revised syllabi to all students via Canvas and to provide a copy to their department chairs or program directors. Chairs and directors are asked to retain these syllabi on file should they be needed for upcoming accreditation reviews and visits. 

Good Friday, April 2: Make-up day for classes cancelled Tuesday, Feb. 16 

Reading Day, Tuesday, May 4: Make-up day for classes cancelled Wednesday, Feb. 17 

All classes on make-up days will take place virtually during the regularly scheduled synchronous times. Faculty may deliver remaining direct instruction through a variety of synchronous or asynchronous faculty options, using pre-recorded lectures, virtual discussion groups, etc. 

As a reminder, faculty should not schedule exams or assignments to be completed on university reading days. It is particularly important that faculty who may have previously scheduled work to be completed on the readings days also revise their syllabi.

Exemptions: Professional graduate programs may need to make different adjustments as dictated by discipline, specific accreditors, calendar modules, and/or constraints on students working full-time. Please be reminded that end-of-term dates must not be altered as that could impact students’ federal financial aid. Deans are asked to notify the Office of the Provost along with all affected students as to specific make up plans. 

Academic Support: OIT academic support staff will be available to answer the SMU Help Desk questions and to provide regular technical support on make-up days.

I want to thank each of you for working with us as we move forward to finish the semester.  


Elizabeth G. Loboa
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs
Southern Methodist University

Featured Stories

A Graduate Assistant’s Perspective on the Pandemic

The Division of Student Affairs provides thirteen Graduate Assistants with opportunities to grow as aspiring leaders in higher education. Recently, we caught up with a few of them to talk about how the pandemic has altered their experiences as GAs in the 2020-2021 academic year.

One of the greatest lessons this pandemic has taught those who work in higher education is how to adapt. Vic Norris, a Graduate Assistant in the Office of Social Change and Intercultural Engagement, said that his experience is one of “constant change and adaptation. Being able to work with student leaders has been a new challenge, but a joy as well.” However, adapting to this new format has also limited the amount of in person work that GAs can do. Hannah Curtis, GA for Sports Clubs noted that the new limitations did not “allow much practice and competition. I do think the Division handled it well and was very thorough.”

Even in the wake of a pandemic, graduate assistants have found opportunities for growth and ways to play active roles in their respective communities. Jessica Borne, a Residential Community Director for Mary Hey Peyton-Shuttles Commons, expressed that her experience “has been one of a lot of growth,” and that she is “amazed at her students’ hard work and diligence to still make connections inside of our community” despite the pandemic.

Finding a sense of community as the world fights COVID-19 daily has not been an easy task. However, graduate assistants have played active roles in successfully helping students navigate the new, partly virtual world. Dani Meyers, a second year graduate assistant for the Hegi Career Development Center, expressed that she believes that their office has “grown stronger in terms of better communication and support amongst ourselves and as part of the SMU community,” and despite the pandemic, they are able to “provide the same caliber of services to students as we did prior to COVID-19.” As we begin to think of a world beyond the pandemic, the desire to serve students at SMU will remain.

While the initial adjustment to online instruction was difficult, the new format provides those interested in higher education with the opportunity to serve as graduate assistants, even from afar. Dedman Law student Colleen Collins said that she is a “virtual student at home in Florida, and it has been an amazing experience to work for the Women and LGBT Center virtually. This work is so important, and it is something I am passionate about – so it has been fun to make things happen for the Center from afar.” Perhaps one of the major takeaways of the pandemic will be that no matter the format, student affairs professionals can still have a profound impact on students and the universities they serve.

Graduate Assistants have faced unique challenges as they navigate classes, work, and attempting to have a social life with a pandemic raging. While this academic year may look far from normal, some things, like support and mentorship, have remained. Emily Rasch, Graduate Assistant for Student Affairs Administration, noted that, “when I think of starting my role in the middle of a pandemic, what I will remember most is the people who invested in me and helped me succeed, both in and out of the office.” Though adapting to the pandemic’s challenges has been a task in itself, it is important to remember those who are helping graduate students succeed.

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic last March, little was known about the impact it would have on daily life at SMU. However, through hard work and a little flexibility, Graduate Assistants for the Division have offered a new sense of hope for the future of student affairs at SMU.


Winter Weather Forces Campus-Wide Shutdowns

Friday, February 19, 2021

Dear SMU students, faculty, staff and families,

With the sun out today and the snow beginning to melt, I want to thank you all for your hard work, tenacity and patience as we have worked our way through this mammoth winter weather event. Things will begin to get back to normal on Monday when we resume classes, virtually, and decide how classes will be delivered on Tuesday and the rest of the week.

The campus fared much better than many in Dallas and throughout Texas, but it has been a tough time for all Mustangs, including the 251 students living on the Hilltop who had to relocate when bursting pipes and other weather-related issues forced us to find them other temporary accommodations. We know our faculty, staff and students living off-campus have had their own issues with lack of heat, bursting pipes and flooding, only compounded on and off campus when dropping water pressure prompted us to follow a “boil water” mandate.

Our essential staff members have done heroic round-the-clock work to keep our on-campus students warm, dry and fed. Many of them caught what sleep they could on campus or in nearby hotels to accomplish that important work. They worked to procure and stage thousands of bottles of hard-to-find water for students after the “boil water” order was issued, and the SMU Moms and Dads Club stepped up to make water and snacks available. Essential workers also opened and staffed Hughes-Trigg Student Center as a warming and charge-up station, which we knew would be important for our off-campus students. We owe them all our heartfelt thanks for enduring long hours and bitter cold to help get us through this and should recognize that there is still a great deal more hard work for them to do next week and beyond.

The University is prioritizing repairs to our on-campus student housing to allow students to move back to their own rooms as quickly as possible and pushing hard to re-open weather-impacted classroom spaces. Students will be notified when to expect housing and buildings to come back on line and we will provide them with support until they do.

I know I can count on your continued patience as the thaw likely reveals more infrastructure problems that were previously hidden by the cold and snow. Check SMU Aware for the latest information and continue to monitor SMU Aware email and SMU Twitter and Facebook for updates. Please continue to look out for each other as we get back to the business of teaching and learning. We can all be reassured that in tough times, Mustangs always “Pony Up.”

R. Gerald Turner

Featured Stories

Our Friend Claudis: Sigma Chi Bands Together to Help House Chef

Sigma Chi member Cullen Blanchfield ’21 reflects back on his fraternity’s effort to help their house chef when he needed it most.

I joined Sigma Chi in the Spring of 2018, and while change has been a constant during the last three years for all of us at the Sigma Chi house, one thing has remained consistent and that is Claudis, our House Chef, who feeds us three meals a day.

Claudis has worked for the Delta Mu Chapter of Sigma Chi for 18 years, without a single complaint. Each weekday, Claudis arrives at Sigma Chi at 6 AM sharp, cooks all day, and leaves shortly after 6:30 PM every day except Friday when he leaves us at 2 PM.

Although he is a man of few words, Claudis is a man of his word. Day in and day out, Claudis works diligently to serve others. On a few occasions I’ve had short conversations with Claudis while getting my food, and I’ve learned that Claudis is a die-hard Seahawks fan, a father, and a husband. Additionally, my Sigma Chi brothers and I learned that Claudis’ wife had been battling cancer over the last few years. Not only has Claudis cooked for 100 + young men every weekday for years, up until this past fall he would return home and cook for his wife who had a limited diet because of her battle with cancer.

When the COVID pandemic hit, a few of us noticed that Claudis began to serve our food. Not only was he cooking all of our meals, but he was serving all of us, unable to relax after preparing our meal. This didn’t sit well with anyone in our chapter, so we looked into providing Claudis with a raise or bonus for his extra work.

Just like any other morning, Claudis arrived at the house on time on October 6th. Our house Mom, Pam, informed us that Claudis had lost his wife to cancer. Pam had to tell Claudis to take the week off, showing just how committed he is. My fraternity brothers proposed the idea to pool together money to help pay for the funeral. I suggested that we use GoFundMe as a platform to allow the Sigma Chi brothers to show their appreciation for the man who has shown up every single day to cook for us regardless of the challenges life has presented him. Our GoFundMe raised $5775, surpassing our goal of $2500 more than two-fold. We received donations from current brothers, recent alumni, alumni from decades ago, some of whom don’t even know Claudis personally. It felt incredibly special to give back just a fraction of what Claudis has given to us. All of us at Sigma Chi consider it a true honor to have Claudis as a part of our Sigma Chi family. We look forward to many more years of his quiet presence and big heart in our house.

To donate to Sigma Chi’s GoFundMe for Claudis, please click here.

Cullen Blanchfield ’21 is a BFA Film Production Major. He is from New Hartford, New York and his Residential Commons affiliation is Armstrong Commons.