Norris Work-Study Students Turned Norris Staff

This post is part of a series focusing on Student Affairs work-study students who became full-time Student Affairs employees. Norris Center Operations Coordinator Justin Clarke and Norris Center Operations Manager Jackie Grinvalds are featured in this post.

When it comes to his job at the Norris University Center, Justin Clarke considers himself the “jack of all trades.”

Clarke, the operations coordinator at Norris, works on the center’s technology, facilities, event management, and business operations — just to name a few.

“My role in Norris is to make sure that everyone has the best possible experience when they enter the door,” Clarke said. “Whether it’s customer service or logistical issues at an event, I’m here for that.”

While it has been almost two years since Clarke began his full-time job at Norris, his history with the university center extends years before that. Clarke, a class of 2013 graduate, worked his entire undergraduate years at Norris.

Clarke is one of multiple work-study students that returned to Northwestern as a full-time staff after graduation.

During his undergraduate career, Clarke served as a center manager from his sophomore year on. As center manager, he was responsible for “being the eyes and ears of Norris.” That meant dealing with anything from event catering to game room operations if necessary.

“Being a CM [center manager] carries a lot of responsibility as you become a go-to person in times of crisis,” Clarke said. “I learned how to think faster on my feet and deal with emergencies when needed.”

Like Clarke, Jackie Grinvalds got her start as work-study student at Norris. Grinvalds, now operations manager, worked as an undergrad as a center manager and student staff development manager.

As student staff development manager, her role was to help in unifying staff in different departments within Norris and help in their growth and progress. Grinvalds says her full-time job as operations manager allows her to use similar skills.

“My job is to be a voice between students and professional staff,” said Grinvalds, a class of 2010 graduate. “Different students have different needs, so I’m here to help voice that.”

Both Clarke and Grinvalds now work closely with current work-study students. They also share an office on the first floor of Norris near the Starbucks Lounge. This allows them to track the current student experience and compare it to their own.

“It’s interesting because I’m not that far removed from these current students, so I understand the challenges of being a student,” Grinvalds said. “I think that really informs me for my job.”

As for their transition from student to staff, both Clarke and Grinvalds feel that they have received unconditional support from the Norris staff. Both of them say they appreciate having the familiar faces on staff that have now become their friends and colleagues.

“To sum it up, my interview for the job ended with hugs, not handshakes,” Clarke said. “It’s really a family environment here, and that is reflected in the work that we all do here.”