April 1, 2011 — University of Virginia undergraduate Lindsey Aaron is making sure the employees get recognition from the students.
For the second year in a row, Aaron has organized a week to show students' appreciation of the University employees who feed them, clean and repair the buildings, keep up the residence houses, pick up the trash and recycling and run the buses, by presenting employees with baked goods and thank-you notes.
Aaron, a third-year sociology major in the College of Arts & Sciences who is also minoring in religious studies, got the idea while she was a first-year student eating a late lunch twice a week at Observatory Hill Dining Hall.
"I had a class that got out at 3:15 p.m., when the dining halls are on break," she said. "I could still get some lunch, and I started eating with the dining hall employees. I got to know them."
From this experience, she started thinking more about the contributions of many of the employees to the student experience. She performed an informal survey of employees, to see if they felt appreciated; many said they did not feel the students noticed them.
Aaron contacted managers at Facilities Management, Housing, Dining Services,Parking and Transportation and other departments, and talked up her idea for honoring employees with cards and cookies among her fellow students and some of the deans. She put up fliers, sent out mass emails and outlined her idea on a whiteboard for student activities in Newcomb Hall. Last year, she had organized about 200 students to hand out goodies and thank-you cards to employees in various departments.
She cannot estimate how many students are involved this year. Student Council has put up money to cover some of the expenses, service organizations and sororities have become involved and other student groups are working on the recognition efforts, she said.
Students will present baked goods and cards to employees from 9 to 9:30 a.m. on the front lawn of Thornton Hall on Monday, at Vista Point on the South Lawn on Tuesday, at the Clemons Library terrace on Thursday and at the Caplin Auditorium lobby on Friday. There will also be an event at 7 p.m. at the Jordan Hall Conference Center on Wednesday for housekeepers.
"Facilities Management employees work to provide an exceptional environment for the University community, but much of that work is behind the scenes," said Mark Webb, associate director for work management at Facilities Management. "It is great that Lindsey and others in the student body recognize the effort and truly wonderful that they arranged these events. I appreciate them taking the time to say thank you in such a personal way."
Aaron has been impressed with how students have gotten behind the effort.
"I think the response has been awesome," Aaron said. "I think if you have a really good idea, with genuine heart, the students will respond."