Residence and Housing staff eager for return of students, staff to campus

June 07, 2021
Desk Services Team Leads Rebecca Chan and Morgan Lechner are part of the Residence and Housing team, who have been on Burnaby campus throughout the pandemic, supporting students living in residence.

Watching students grow as people is one of the best parts of working at student residencies for Rebecca Chan and Morgan Lechner.

The pair, desk services team leads for SFU Residence and Housing, have been working at Burnaby campus throughout the pandemic. And while the past year has been challenging, they still take joy in seeing students mature before their eyes.

“It’s still really cool to watch someone move in and then, whenever they move on, move out as a totally different person,” says Chan. “We saw a lot of that, even though it’s been a year unlike any other.”

While many SFU staff and faculty members began working remotely in March 2020, the staff at SFU Residence and Housing have been on Burnaby campus, supporting the roughly 700 students living in residences.

Lechner admits the beginning of the pandemic was a “little freaky” due to confusion around how COVID-19 was spread and because many front-desk staff had to self-isolate for various reasons. She credits leadership for their support and help keeping things running smoothly.

As team leads, Chan and Lechner, both of whom lived in residences at SFU as students, have a variety of tasks – everything from payroll and training to ordering supplies and funneling communications from leadership to front desk staff – to make sure the front desk operates smoothly and efficiently.

From those early days, the pair says their comfort on-campus has greatly improved with personal protective equipment and safety plans. They love how their department has tackled the challenges together.

They do, however, empathize with students.

“Morgan and I both completed our degrees here,” says Chan. “We know university is hard and it’s that much harder when you can’t really have a social life. It’s harder to meet people. Your classes are online. It’s definitely been hard for students. But it’s been really cool to watch residents safely form community where they can.”

Lechner agrees, saying while residence life is not the same as pre-pandemic, she’s impressed by how students have adapted – movie nights on Zoom, eating together and mingling outside.

And despite the majority of staff and faculty working from home and students learning remotely, for front desk staff Burnaby campus has not felt as deserted – residences full of students and construction on the west side of campus in full swing.

“Going to get a coffee in West Mall Centre is quite bizarre,” says Lechner. “Places that were always packed with students studying, going to those areas can be quite bizarre. You don’t realize how full of life SFU was pre-pandemic, until now, when all those offices are empty. I’m excited for more life on campus again, more happiness.”

They’re both eager for the fall, hopeful that increased vaccinations and decreased community spread of COVID-19 will result in a return to near normalcy at SFU.

“I’m really hoping we get a big fall move-in and fall Week of Welcome, because that’s our Super Bowl,” says Chan. “It’s awesome to watch someone get the keys to their first independent space or to welcome someone to Canada. We’ve still done those things this past year, but I’m really excited to do it on a big scale again.”

As for staff and faculty returning to campus their advice is simple: take it slow, be kind to yourself and don’t expect everything to be the same.

“You don’t know what’s going to make you anxious that has never made you anxious before,” Chan says. “Even though we’ve been here the whole time and have seen those changes happen live, it’s a new normal. It’s not the same, and that’s OK. It just takes some adjusting.”