Full Interview

May 13, 2021

When I asked Stephanie Hakeem to recommend an outdoor campus spot for a conversation about her experience as a Redeployed Staff member, she quickly suggested the Medical Center’s patio – now a very familiar location for her, thanks to her Redeployment responsibilities for the past 5 months.  The sunny afternoon matched her reflections on time well spent during the last year and her anticipation for the year ahead. 

Shortly after her graduation from Loyola University Maryland, Stephanie joined Georgetown in December 2018 as Administrative Assistant for Academic Affairs in the Department of Arabic and Islamic Studies (AIS), Georgetown College.  When Covid-19 emerged in the following academic year, Georgetown announced in March that the spring semester would convert and continue as a virtual learning environment and that all but essential staff would be telework. Stephanie worked with her supervisor in developing and implementing a successful off-site work schedule, which included working with faculty members and training them in Zoom and Canvas.

By June 2020, Stephanie found herself experiencing DC in an unaccustomed way – in greater solitude, but also with more time to appreciate both routine and discovery. She revitalized her interest in a few forgotten joys and continued her graduate studies. And when the University announced that the virtual learning environment would continue through the fall semester, she and her supervisor adopted and adapted the long view of telework for both of them. 

The close of the fall semester brought Stephanie yet another unexpected change – her designation for Redeployment.  She and her supervisor discussed the reassignment at length, as it came relatively unexpectedly, and then planned and prepared for her supervisor to manage both of their duties until she returned.

“Yes,” Stephanie acknowledged, “I did worry that my job might disappear while I was redeployed, but I recognized that I did not have any control over that… and so I accepted the work that was offered to me.  If my job was eventually gone, I’d deal with it then. In the meantime, I still had my salary and benefits, a roof over my head, and classes to attend. So even though I worried a little, it wasn’t a hard decision to do what was asked and just be positive about it.”

She remembered discussing Redeploy with her family over the Christmas break, which fell just after receiving the notice, and their encouragement to remain positive. Her father, a school teacher, was particularly nervous about her redeployment as he had been in person all school year and knew the panic that came with hearing “you may have come in contact with COVID.” Nonetheless, he reassured her that she still had a job. Her mother offered the sage advice to “trust the process and do your best to stay positive.” And she acknowledged her sister’s support as she had been the first one there for her when she received the notice. 

In January 2019, Stephanie was informed she would be Redeployed as a Runner, bringing students in quarantine their mail, which allowed for the flexibility needed for her Master’s evening schedule. Shortly after receiving this assignment, she was reassigned as a Public Health Screener, under which she became a Breaker, a seasoned Redeployed staff member who relieves others for scheduled breaks or other reasons they must be away from their posts, and in Stephanie’s case, assisting with making the breaker schedule on the Medical Campus.  

As her Redeploy experience expanded, she was proud to have the opportunity to make possible an in-person semester for students on campus and a virtual success for others. And to provide assistance and assurance to campus staff, visitors, contractors, and vendors. She recognized the gifts – both personal and professional – of an unexpected challenge

I asked Stephanie what experience she will bring from her Redeployment roles to her “regular job.”

She said, “In my primary position, I am constantly interacting with people of various backgrounds and university status. Redeploy has allowed me to enhance my communication skills in these situations. It has also allowed me to focus on my attention to detail. When I started making the breaker schedule, I really had to focus on who everyone was, where they were posted, and remember everyone’s lunchtime preferences. One mistake and either someone would not get lunch or someone could be mad for going at a different time. I expected to feel really removed from my regular job, as I was redeployed for the full semester at 40 hours a week, but I  think Redeployment has drawn me closer to my potential in various capacities that I can bring back to my primary position. I discovered I have strengths I did not know I had…and that it’s OK to be out of my comfort zone.”

She continued, “When I was Redeployed, I let my friends know the vulnerabilities of my new work and left it to them as to whether we could spend time together – and for the first two months of Redeploy, other than work, I was pretty much on my own. But as the weather improved, I got outside more. And even though I’m still mostly on my own, I enjoy going places in DC I’ve never been – and breaking out my film and digital cameras and enjoying the results.  

I have also picked up my violin again, which I’ve brought with me with every move, though I hadn’t played it in years. And no, I’m not ready to play for others, but I’m pretty happy with my improvement.

The biggest gift of this last year is that I met so many people and we shared a common bond during a very difficult time – staff, contractors, and visitors… For many of us, we may not know each other’s names, but we know each other’s “half-face” – just the eyes above the mask. We recognize each other and have built connections. In times of isolation, that’s everything.”