In 2021, a year after the arrival of a novel Coronavirus in Texas caused the University to make unprecedented changes in its operations, we asked some of our staff, “What has it been like to work at UT Dallas during the COVID-19 outbreak?” Here are their responses.
I began working at UT Dallas in August of 2019. The first few months flew by! I met so many kind coworkers who helped me learn the ropes of my position. Big plans were in the making for the Office of Sustainability! Before long, my supervisor and I were gearing up to share our knowledge on sustainability efforts throughout higher education at various conferences. One of the first conferences took place in Chicago on March 11, 2020. All others were shortly canceled.
Upon my return from Chicago, I was quickly provided with a computer and tools to set up my remote office and resume my roles (remotely) as a content developer, programs coordinator, and administrative guru! I could now perform my entire role as if I were on campus. All that was missing was the daily traffic jam! Even more wonderfully, our office was able to retain its student employees, whose summer plans had all been erased. I am so grateful we were able to provide a landing pad for them in such a chaotic and disheartening time. Since we had been utilizing Microsoft Teams before remote work initiated, we were already comfortable using it to accomplish tasks. Our office made that summer more productive than a typical summer might have been; We updated the FM and OoS websites, got a head start on planning Campus Sustainability Month, and even explored professional development trainings and offerings through HR’s Talent Development and the Galerstein Gender Center. We adapted and began offering virtual service opportunities like the Watershed Warriors litter pickup program and modified our UTD Community Garden workdays so that gardeners were still able maintain the sense of community while safely enjoying and cultivating the garden.
I have now worked at UT Dallas remotely longer than I have worked on in person. It may sound sad, but I take it as a blessing. I have heard stories of family, friends, and friends of friends losing their jobs, having their roles entirely rewritten, or being put at risk of exposure every day. I may not have been working at UT Dallas long, but I take solace in the fact that our leadership is prioritizing science and caution. The Office of Sustainability still has big plans. Even during a pandemic, I am proud to be a Comet!