My letter to colleagues

This is my last week of work and I wanted to mark the milestone. I took some time writing these words and figure I should save it here rather than letting it get lost in email folders.

Dear Colleagues,

I cannot believe I have arrived to my final week with USAC. To mark the milestone, I have been wanting to attempt to express my gratitude in some way. I suppose I’ve been writing this in my head over the last few months and last night, this is what I came up with. Additionally, I very much desire to keep in touch. If we are not friends on facebook, or following one another on Instagram (@la_kenta), please reach out! I’ve also kept a blog for the last ten years. It’s been rather sparse since children came into the picture, but I hope to continue to let it be my digital collection of stories and thoughts and pictures and to give it more of my time. So here it goes….

When I read a book, I like to skim the acknowledgements section that comes at the end. I like to hear what I interpret to be deep expressions of gratitude—this always feels more powerful from a book I absolutely loved. It’s a reminder of the community that surrounds the author even though it’s just their name on the front of the book. I grew up with parents who had the belief that it takes a village and thus always felt an awareness of the community that surrounds me. I’ve been reflecting on my time with USAC a lot and am thinking about it as if it were a book. Chapter 1 would begin when I decided to study abroad in Costa Rica; the final chapter would be this one, where I say goodbye. And rather than telling you the whole story, I’ll skip ahead to the acknowledgements section to attempt to share with you, the community that surrounded me as the author of my book, the gratitude I have for the story of my time here and how much I will miss you all.

To the USAC Mission Thank you for assembling an incredible collection of individuals who believed in you and worked tirelessly to see you through. We all came and circled around you and your impact gave us strength to keep going even when things were hard.

To the VSG and Annex Thank you for being a space for my 14 years of work. Your walls, your doors, your kitchens and hallways will always be in my memories—primarily with laughter.

To those that were here Joel, Fritz, Josh, Shelly, Cami, Dominique, Sabrina and Andrew—you saw me in those early eager Graduate Assistant days all the way to now. I was in my 20’s, single, living with roommates and there wasn’t a single grey hair on my head. Thank you for being with me through all the days that led me here: days away from turning 40 (USAC and I were born the same year), 3 kids, 1 husband and lots of hair dye later….

To the ES team It has truly been the greatest privilege to lead so many staff over the years. It is absolutely the best part of this job for me. From an early part of life (I think it was at the age of 2 when I became a big sister) I took a great interest in service to others and have let cultural and servant leadership become a cornerstone of who I am. I owe some much of my best days at USAC to all of you and working together. Emily and Tylo (and the many others who have moved on), I count you here too 😊

To the USAC students Thank you for never staying the same and creating an eternal sense of job security as your needs continued to change faster than our ideas could keep up with. The square pegs and round holes created countless meetings, ideas and challenges to keep creativity flowing. And thank you to the handful of you that came back to work in our office—because like me, you saw something in USAC that felt special and wanted to become part of it. Even if just for a little while. I thank you the most of all the USAC students.

To the RD’s Thank you for all the ways you shared your home countries with me over the years. Some of my most treasured USAC memories are when you came to visit Reno and we inundated you with meetings and meals and you shared with us all the things that make your program locations amazing. I loved every minute of it and love knowing that I have a friend in every single time zone around the globe. Special thanks to the Spain RDs who spent time with me when I came to visit (on my honeymoon) in 2012. Patricia, Luis, Ibon and their staff made time to share their city with my new husband and me and I’ll never forget it.

[cue the music to get this lady off the stage amiright?]

To the Enrollment Department You have been my home during the work day since 2010 when I began full time work, and since 2008 when I was a graduate assistant in the department. I am not even sure how many department structures, staff members, retreats, meetings, potlucks or virtual themed meetings we have had, but they add up to a feeling of family and togetherness that carried me through when the work felt relentless. We have revised policies and procedures over and over, introduced new and improved systems and work flows and I feel so much accomplishment when I look back and consider where we began. It’s really remarkable what we have been able to achieve together. Keep doing what you do and keep your function as the center from where the spokes of the wheel extend that turn to move this organization along. Kara, thank you for the friendship, guidance and for believing in and trusting me with this work.

To the readers and watchers Thank you USAC book club, and the rest of you who would indulge me in impromptu conversations about TV shows and movies. I have absolutely loved hearing your thoughts on the most recent Game of Thrones or Ted Lasso episode and getting your recommendations on what to watch next. You all are my favorite.

To the mysterious brass mice Thank you for creating a true USAC mystery that goes on unsolved. To whoever has left me the brass mid century mouse figurines in my office over the last 18 months (there are 4 of them), reveal yourself and allow this mystery to be solved!

And finally…

To USAC  Thank you for giving me a space to learn and grow. A place to truly experiment with my leadership style and sharpen my saw. I’ve been able to see things from other angles, test my defenses and tamp down my stubbornness. I’ve been able to teach and learn at the same time, grow my network and expand my horizons. I will miss this very natural way to connect with people and work towards a common goal. Please know I’ll remain a fierce USAC Study Abroad supporter and hope to someday be sending Hugo, Cora and Esme somewhere in your caring hands.

With so much gratitude, I leave this week (and previous 14 years) with a collection of memories, skills, belief in mission based work and so many friendships.

All my best,

Jillian

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