Mary Seiner, Staff Writer
Janie Sacco, Ph.D., has worked within the Saint Martin’s community for seven years. Her responsibilities as Residence Life Assistant Director include processing housing collection, housing applications, work orders, meal plan request forms, meal plan change forms, and supervising the professional staff in the Residence Life offices in Parsons and Spangler Hall. She takes great pleasure in completing large-scale processes to make things easy and accessible for students, as well as leading fun Residence Life events like Community Halloween in the halls.
Since Washington’s stay at home order, Sacco’s responsibilities have shifted to adapt to the situation. She performs the same tasks, but they are now completed in a different order. She and others working on campus have needed to transition everything to online platforms, and perform duties via those platforms and over the phone, including engaging with enrolled and incoming students.
On the day the stay at home order was issued, Sacco had to process over 500 students’ paperwork overnight which required a great deal of creativity to accomplish. According to Sacco, Residence Life had only an additional two hours notice than students to prepare for the influx of students moving out of the residence halls.
Not only does Sacco work in Residence Life, she is also an adjunct faculty member at Saint Martin’s University. Her love for interaction in the classroom setting eventually led her to Professor Keri Graham, whom she asked about teaching opportunities. Introduction to Social Justice was Sacco’s first class as an instructor, and she has been invited back to teach ever since. Since her Social Justice course, Sacco has taught Sex, Race, and Disability and a first-year seminar class titled “Introduction to Critical Theory through Black Representation of Media.”
Sacco has always enjoyed Catholic higher education and identified with the Catholic mission of education––to create meaningful instruction within the class and valuable opportunities outside the classroom. Sacco wanted originally to be a high school history teacher when attending university, but her interests changed when she developed a passion for student affairs.
While at Loyola University Chicago for graduate school, she studied diversity and inclusion work, educational systems and organizations, and critical theory. From there, she started searching for a long-term position. Sacco soon found a calling at Saint Martin’s; a much smaller community than those she has worked at before.
In the past, Sacco worked on campuses housing thousands of students, and she has never felt that she could make any lasting connections because the community was overflowing. In contrast, the longer she’s worked at Saint Martin’s, she can see how students have grown. Watching students develop and eventually walk across the stage at graduation is a rewarding experience for her.
“Being at Saint Martin’s University, we get the opportunity––staff and faculty––to really engage with our students to know them on a one-on-one basis; and so, because of that, I’m really process-oriented, but I’ve become more people and student-focused,” said Sacco.
Sacco has instilled several positive changes as a Saint Martin’s staff member. She worked closely with John Hopkins, Ph.D., and the Diversity and Equity Center to establish the Men of Color, and Women of Color groups to promote engagement within Saint Martin’s diverse community.
The two also increased staff and student staff training to build a foundation that embraced LGBTQ and diversity values. Both Sacco and Hopkins wanted all the students to live in an inclusive environment where they can feel comfortable while attending Saint Martin’s, especially as the institution serves as a temporary home for many of its students.
Another initiative Sacco has worked on since 2013 is the transition of paper-based housing application, work order, and meal plan forms to an online medium. Thanks to Sacco, all forms for students can be accessed and filled-out online, which makes for a much more efficient method to process paperwork––not to mention more environmentally-friendly.
“Everything I’ve worked on has always been the result of student buy-in, or students’ ideas and how they fuel the university,” said Sacco.
Sacco loves the fact that, at Saint Martin’s, she can do a little bit of everything. If one is excited about helping out at Saint Martin’s and wants to get involved in the community, they can.
“One of the really cool things about a smaller community like Saint Martin’s is you can be really student responsive. At larger institutions, changes just take longer. It takes longer to implement things. It takes longer to get [student] buy-in; but if there’s a powerful student voice behind something at a small school, you can make change pretty quickly, which is great,” Sacco said.