The Secret Life of a Research Administrator | Delivering Hope and Smiles One Card at a Time
“The Secret Life of a Research Administrator” column is meant to facilitate more personal connections between SRAI members through the Catalyst newsletter. If you would like to share with the community or know of someone who will, please submit your article here.
This research administrator has had many secret lives, but I must say that my secret life in 2020 has taken on a life of its own. It all started after COVID-19 arrived and remote working became our new life. With every passing day, there was more and more talk of wearing masks, social distancing, and total isolation for the vulnerable population in senior living facilities and nursing homes. It truly pulled at my heartstrings to think of so many people being so isolated and alone. That is when my new secret life began.
Creating handmade cards is something I dabbled in many years ago. It occurred to me that this would be great to do to bring hope to those in isolation. I reached out to The Atrium at Boca Raton, a senior living facility that I pass on my way to work. They welcomed the idea and the project began with me making 88 cards to ensure each senior received one. I first reached out to family and friends, then colleagues. So many joined in to help. Several asked their children to color pictures that I then turned into cards; others provided inspirational messages that I included in the cards. I even had my mom, a senior herself isolated at home, color pictures for cards. At the time, I had no idea how much impact this would have and how much this project would grow.
FAU Division of Research Challenges Students to Give Back
In the midst of the pandemic, the Division of Research at Florida Atlantic University (FAU) where I work, held the “FAU COVID-19 Change Challenge” competition. Four FAU students submitted pre-proposals with similar topics of reaching out to seniors in isolation. The students were asked to work together along with me to submit a full proposal, which led to the creation of “Connected Through Caring.” The project now had several Parts: 1) Letters: Individuals wrote letters of encouragement to seniors and health care workers; 2) Pen Pals: Individuals were paired based on interests with seniors to write to one another; and 3) Video Communications: Arrangements were made to have 20-minute video communications between students and seniors. Although these students did not win the competition, they were so passionate about their project that we made it happen just the same. Funding was needed to purchase iPads for the video communication portion of the project so once again, we reached out to family, friends, colleges, etc. for help. We created a GoFundMe page, collected over $1,000, and were able to purchase several iPads to place in different facilities. Overall, we connected with facilities in three different counties, Broward, Palm Beach and Martin, and reached so many seniors and health care workers.
Card Making Continued
After the first set of cards were delivered, comments from the recipients were received such as, “they did not forget about us,” and “wow, people do care.” We just could not stop making cards; with more assistance, we made 88 additional cards for the seniors and 77 cards for the workers at this same facility. Several articles were written in local online papers about both “Connected Through Caring” and the Delivering Hope and Smiles Card Project; that publicity touched others. In December 2020, an elementary school teacher reached out to me wanting to use this as a lesson with her 5th grade class. She assigned each student to make a card or write a letter for the seniors. The students learned about empathy and caring for others and did a wonderful thing.
The secret life of this research administrator is no longer secret, and we are better for that. So many have joined in and we have made people smile and brought encouragement. Much like my research administrator life, I aim to encourage others to help faculty and be the best research administrator that we can be.
Authored by Miriam Campo, , Assistant Vice President for Research, Office of Sponsored Programs
Florida Atlantic University