Student assistant Belkys Yzquierdo listened intently to the description of the soon-to-be-named 2013 Student Employee of the Year (SEOTY). One of hundreds of people who attended a celebratory breakfast Friday, April 12, honoring FIU’s student workers. The senior was a nominee for the prestigious award and anxious to learn more about this stand-out individual.
Vice President for Human Resources Jaffus Hardrick served as the event’s emcee. He wanted to keep the audience in suspense, so he carefully avoided mention of the winner’s gender or department affiliation. Quoting from the nomination form, he said that the winner displayed “exceptional professionalism” and was “mature, committed, warm and perceptive, passionate, energetic, articulate and a natural leader.”
Hardrick read again from the nomination form submitted by the student-employee’s supervisor: “When our office saw the announcement for the SEOTY award, without even asking, my email in-box was flooded with emails from my staff requesting that we nominate our student assistant for this award.”
Yzquierdo was impressed. “I thought, wow, that student sounds incredible. Then he said, ‘This student has developed a monthly newsletter and right then and there, my eyes began to tear up, and I was overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude.”
The senior criminal justice major realized she had just won the 2013 SEOTY award for her efforts as a student assistant in the Office of Study Abroad.
Yzquierdo works 16 hours a week answering phone calls, responding to emails, assisting students with their Study Abroad applications, filing documents, and more. She created a monthly newsletter that the department sends to its inquiry list with information on a featured FIU student and Study Abroad program, as well as important deadlines and upcoming events. She also makes presentations about Study Abroad to classes and helps professors with Study Abroad presentations. On her own time she collaborates with the Executive Board of the Study Abroad Club, engaging the department with the club’s activities.
“I feel immense joy and gratitude because my hard work, dedication and effort was recognized not only by my department but also by the university,” Yzquierdo said. “Our director, Magnolia Hernandez, is my mentor. She is always looking out for me and encouraging me to seek opportunities that will expand my horizons. I could not have won this award without the unconditional support and mentorship that my department has provided me with.”
Yzquierdo, who takes three classes and is involved with seven student organizations, was one of 200 students nominated for the annual award.
After returning to the office, Yzquierdo sent an email to her coworkers thanking them “because we won together.”
“My philosophy for work, school and life is that your achievements depend on your perseverance,” she said. “Once you have reached your goals, you need to say thank you and appreciate those who have helped you along the way.”
Appreciating our student-employees
The breakfast was part of a week-long celebration geared toward FIU’s more than 2,200 student-employees who work in departments throughout the university.
Earlier in the week, students learned that skinny pants and a sleeveless tops might look good for going out on a Saturday night, but they won’t help you land the job. That was the lesson for students at the “The Power of the Look” fashion show on Wednesday, April 10. The event, held in the Kovens Conference Center at the Biscayne Bay Campus, featured students and faculty modeling what not to wear in a professional environment and closed by showing proper attire with clothes provided by Anne Taylor.
After the models showed off their outfits, SEOTY nominees were called up on stage to receive their commemorative pin and to strut down the catwalk. With obvious pride, students from various departments introduced themselves and the departments they represented.
“I like greeting the residents [at Panther Hall],” said sophomore Kristy Shore, who works for the Housing and Residential Life department and is a SEOTY nominee this year. “You never know what kind of day they’re having, and I like being able to make their day brighter.”
“I just love working at FIU,” she added.
The love fest is mutual. University staff attending the breakfast said student-employees make the university a better place through their contributions.
“The students have an eye for what other students want and need and like,” said Debaro Huyler, assistant director of operations for BBC’s Wolfe University Center. “It also helps build affinity. It’s a synergistic approach to getting students engaged.” Huyler was attending the breakfast in support of Henrry Zelaya, a senior biology major who works 20 hours a week at WUC as a production/audio visual assistant.
“It makes me feel special, having the university thank us for the work that we do, ” said Zelaya, who was one of the nominees for employee of the year. “It’s pretty cool.”