Meet Sarah Levine
Student Activities Program Coordinator | Student Life & Leadership
Two years at Carolina
How have your responsibilities changed since the switch to working remotely? What things have been added to your normal work in the face of COVID-19?
My direct responsibilities have been consistent since working remotely but elements of each have evolved. My responsibilities include advising the Carolina Union Activities Board, planning/supporting large scale campus-wide programming and initiatives, Heritage Month programming, and Art Galleries in the union. CUAB has been a major focus this summer to reimagine and implement new programming initiatives. Planning virtual programming has been an all-consuming journey because it takes more than just us shifting to make it happen. What I mean is that vendors are changing their policies, contracts for performers and items are evolving, and online platforms are shifting to accommodate more virtual programming for college campuses. I will confess that this takes more time during my day than it did in the past because everyone from all sides of the event is learning and going through trial and error to produce a successful program. The demand of creativity has also impacted my everyday responsibilities (in a good way!) Engaging students virtually has really pushed us to be more creative than we have before. It also has shown that we can reach our virtual student population in ways we always thought “couldn’t work.”
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced when transitioning to remote work?
One of the biggest challenges of working from home has been trying to stay out of the kitchen! Snacking has been my Achilles heel! I love to cook and try out new recipes. Working from home has allowed me to explore more fun recipes but also has provided more tasty treats to eat!
The biggest challenge in my work has been identifying how to connect with students (and people in general) through a camera. I know that I am craving the personal interactions that are missing from a regular day in the office that just don’t happen the same way in our work-from-home setting. I miss chatting in each other’s doorway, having folks stop in my office to play with the toys on my desk, and eating lunch with friends. Even though I have found new ways to engage with others, nothing can replace those small moments of connections.
Another challenge that I did not anticipate was that some of the students I am now working with are folks that I have yet to meet in person! The incoming CUAB board is an incredible group of students and the fact that I did not get to meet them all in person has added a unique barrier in developing relationships. This is also true for even the students because they are in a similar situation of only meeting virtually. Even though this is a challenge, I believe CUAB has been intentional with all their interactions and are working towards building relationships. The fall semester is going to continue to have virtual components to it and I believe this summer has set us up for success in the virtual space.
How are you maintaining a sense of community among those you serve?
This question is so important and something that I am continually thinking about. As I referenced earlier, I am currently working with a board of students who have not all met each other in person before. Our election process happened at the very beginning of our work-from-home order and we have been virtual ever since. Overall, it has been very important to me to continue to include personal touches in meetings (check-ins, following up on shared items, finding personal connections, etc.) and not make the entire hour of the meeting strictly work.
Outside of my students, I think our office and other Student Affairs professionals have been so kind! The little moments of reaching out to ask how I am doing, putting time on our calendars to hold space together, and other small moments of connection hold more value than I ever placed on them before. This is a new virtual community that I think we are all striving to build together.
In my personal life, utilizing video calls has made building community with my family and friends consistent. My family and future in-laws are in different places across the country so video calls are not new for us but calling friends that I would normally see regularly in person via video just adds the personal interaction that I need.
Where are you working from? Did you set up your workspace at home?
I am currently working from my apartment which is on campus! My fiancé is a Community Director in Carolina Housing and we live on campus for his role. My work-from-home office is currently set up in our spare bedroom on our dining room table that I moved into the room. I needed a space that could be work only because it is so important for my mental health to separate work from home life (which I am sure many people agree has been very difficult!). I brought quite a bit home from my office for supplies, but I also repurposed multiple items from my home to make my “desk” more organized.
What do you like most about your work?
I LOVE event planning! My co-workers would tell you that one of my favorite things to do in my job is brainstorming. I love thinking big and bringing the idea to life. In my role, I get to do this almost every day in some capacity. Whether it's in a 1:1 with CUAB members, collaborating with a campus partner, or planning artwork for a West Lounge Grid installation, brainstorming and implementation of events is a thread throughout. Brainstorming for events is something that brings me so much joy and truly refills my cup as a Student Affairs professional.
What is one thing you hope will stay the same once things return to normal?
I hope that one thing that stays the same is the elements of work-life balance that I have implemented in my own life. Prior to this, I was not always great at advocating for my needs or taking a step back when I needed a break. Since working from home, I have been diligent about closing my laptop at the end of the day and closing the door to my office. Although I am still accessible to my students, I have been working very hard to set boundaries. Now that I have shown myself that it is possible to pause work and decompress, I hope that I will keep these new habits throughout the rest of my career.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
I have been extremely grateful for the ability to continue to do our work from home. As a new Student Affairs professional, having the pandemic occur in only my second year has altered how I will approach the rest of my career. The push to be creative has always been something I thought I had but this “new normal” we are in has pushed me even further. It has also challenged me to rely on others in a new capacity and hold myself accountable in a new lens to accomplish tasks.