Each day, the crack of dawn at UM sees not only swarms of brownish ducks waddling out from their hiding spots around campus, but also an army of people ready to make our university run. Some clean the bathrooms in Hecht and others serve you your morning roast at Einstein’s, but for these heroes, supporting the university population is the most rewarding part of the day.
head of custodial services, Hecht
Hidden away above the lobby of Hecht Residential College is a woman who, over the years, has become a staple of UM’s theatre program, though she isn’t a professor or director.
“I love you with all my heart,” says Cecillia Gutierrez, wiping tears from her eyes. Gutierrez is the newly appointed head of Custodial Services in Hecht. “I am very happy working here. Anything you need, I am here for you.”
Gutierrez was a teacher in El Salvador for 18 years, and many of her former students are now successful professionals in a variety of industries. She says that when she looks at the current class of theater students, she can’t wait to see them on Broadway or starring in film or television one day.
However, Gutierrez has a creative side of her own—one she would like to be recognized. In El Salvador, Gutierrez created floral arrangements, and she has brought that skill to her work within the theater department, where the bathroom’s floral arrangements rival those in professional dressing rooms. Always eager to learn, Gutierrez works full-time at UM while taking introductory English classes at Miami Dade College and practicing with the Duolingo app.
University of Miami Police Department (UMPD) officer Arney Ernst has 28 years of experience on the City of Miami police force under his belt. He started working at UM six months ago after retiring from the force, where he worked in investigative patrol. Despite the change in scenery, Ernst says “it’s rewarding,” a lilt in his voice.
“After 28 years of similar experience, now I’m able to maybe change a young individual’s life,” he says. “It’s a contrast, but this is why I enjoy my job. It could be as simple as locating someone’s bicycle that was misplaced to something as serious as making arrests.”
Ernst says he wishes that UM students would approach him more often. “We are approachable,” he said. “If you have any concerns, just contact us and we will make ourselves available.”
manager, UMIT student service
Have you ever had a computer crash ridding you of all your exam notes at the 11th hour? Well, Bryan Vazquez can help with that. Recently, a student came into University of Miami Information Technology’s (UMIT) Student Services Help Desk with a corrupted flash drive. Student workers installed an app and recovered her lost files.
“She came in crying and she left smiling, so I think that’s a very important service that we provide to the students,” says Vazquez, manager of the Student Services Help Desk. “Any feedback we can get from the student body, letting them know how we can reach out to them better helps. We really don’t see as many students as we’d like. We have so many resources available for the students — not only free walk in services, but for those students who are tech-savvy, we have a DIY website with everything: wireless configuration, even game console support.”
Vazquez strives to make the UMIT Student Support Service Center as welcoming as possible.His favorite part about his job? “Fixing people’s problems!” he says without hesitation.
Johnnie Mae Dawson
cashier, Einstein’s Bagels
“Who’s my next pookie in line?” Johnnie Mae Dawson’s affectionate holler carries over the buzz of the Einstein’s line. Even the most caffeine-deprived students can’t help but blush when their order is taken with a side of sweet talk. Dawson is more than just the smile she delivers along with your bagel. “You all are my favorite thing about my job,” she says, her eyes lighting up as she details her 23 years of experience at UM.
“Oh, my baby cakes, everybody that just comes in makes my day,” says Dawson. “It’s hard for me sometimes. I go through rheumatoid arthritis. Sometimes I’m not feeling well, but you would never know it, because I’m here for you all. And God has been good. So as long as I can hold up and keep serving you all, I’m all right.”
Each day, these UM employees offer up their services with a smile, and, sometimes, that extra motivation students need to make it through the day. But, have you ever wondered what puts a smile on our hidden heroes’ faces, other than seeing the student body happy? For Johnnie Mae Dawson, there is one magical place.
“One of these good old days I wish I could go to Disney World, just for me,” Dawson says. “I just want to do something for myself. But I have never. But it’s okay! Oh boy, take me to Sea World! I’m a Sea World person anyway. Oh, it’s so beautiful! I went when I was younger and that was my favorite place.”
Next to The U, that is.
This article was published in Distraction’s winter 2019 issue.
words_scarlett diaz photo_gianna sanchez design_marissa vonesh