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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

The event planner

Published: November 20, 2009
Section: Features

The event planner: Director of Student Activities Stephanie Grimes is responsible for the weekly Thursday e-mails students receive about weekend events.<br /><i>PHOTO BY Max Shay /The Hoot</i>

The event planner: Director of Student Activities Stephanie Grimes is responsible for the weekly Thursday e-mails students receive about weekend events.
PHOTO BY Max Shay /The Hoot

If you pay attention to your inbox, you probably know that every Thursday night you receive an e-mail from Director of Student Activities Stephanie Grimes. You’ve probably perused these emails, checking out the list of social events scheduled on campus for the weekend, looking for something to do. But do you know the woman who sends them out?

Did you know that Grimes finished her eleventh year at Brandeis last July? Or did you know she once dreamed of becoming a clothing designer?

As director of student activities, Grimes manages the department’s day-to-day operations, supervising the staff, marketing the department and managing the budget, among other tasks. She also helps oversee Fall Fest weekend.

Originally from Augusta, Maine, Grimes attended Bryant University in Smithfield, R.I., starting out as an accounting major but switching to business management after two years. She later went on to earn her Master’s degree in college student development and counseling from Northeastern University.

Grimes has spent her career working with students, ensuring they enjoy the social aspect of their college experience and encouraging them to get involved around campus; an appropriate job for someone who’s very involved in her own right. Whether it’s planning cool events for Brandeis students or helping out with her six-year-old son’s sports teams, Grimes is involved in everything she can get her hands on, proving that work imitates real life.

The Brandeis Hoot: So have you worked in the Department of Student Activities throughout your whole time at Brandeis?

Stephanie Grimes: Well I actually was hired under the structure of [the Department of] Campus Life. So before [the new] structure of [the Division of] Students and Enrollment, we actually were a complete division; all of the sort of student affairs world that you see now. So Student Activities, residence life, student conduct, student rights and community standards, community living, all of those offices were essentially under one big umbrella called campus life…When I was hired, I was hired under the activities advisor title in the Department of Campus Life…That activities advisor position was a temporary one-year appointment while another member of our team was out on maternity leave with triplets. And when we finished with that year, Brandeis and I both decided that we kind of liked each other and so I began working as the Castle Quad director and activities adviser.

BH: Where did you work before Brandeis?

SG: I worked for one year as the assistant director of student involvement at Chowan University [in North Carolina]. And before that I was actually working full-time at Newbury College in Brookline, [Mass.], while I was getting my Master’s degree at Northeastern.

BH: You’ve worked a lot in student affairs throughout your career. What aspect of this line of work excites you so much?

SG: I think because it has a great range of counseling, development, education, administration [and activities] management…I just love the fact that I can come to work and not know what my day is really going to look like. I can look at Oracle [Calendar] and know what my Oracle says, but you never know what’s going to walk in the door and what you’re going to have to handle or what great conversations you’re going to have.

BH: So working in the Department of Student Activities, you must have a lot of one-on-one interaction with students, right?

SG: I would say you never have enough. But I think that as a director, I have a lot of one-on-one interaction with students. I think that I’m not necessarily the front line anymore, so I don’t have as much as I used to, but I think that I continue to have a lot of one-on-one interaction with students.

BH: So do you get a lot of positive feedback from students?

SG: I think so. I tend to get a lot of great feedback after the fact… A lot of times I get emails or letters or what not after people graduate. You know that sort of stuff, it really makes our work worth doing.

BH: How are Brandeis students different from other students you’ve worked with before?

SG: There are definitely some common threads that I have seen throughout my years here…The commitment to each other, I think, and to society is definitely a common thread that I have seen. As I have progressed through my time here at Brandeis, I think that there is a little bit of normative behavior, meaning that Brandeis students are a lot more like other college students than when I started. I felt like when I was coming from other experiences, Brandeis students were kind of different. And maybe it’s because I’ve just been here so I’ve gotten used to Brandeis students.

But I feel like [compared to] the other college students that I’ve interacted with and I read about or I talk with my colleagues about, we’re pretty similar.

Students like to party here just like they like to party in other schools, and I think that people don’t think that sometimes about Brandeis…But I think that for the level of institution that we are, I think we’re very normative [compared to] other institutions.

BH: Looking back on your time at Brandeis so far, what’s one of your proudest moments or accomplishments?

SG: I would say my first Fall Fest weekend that [matched] the true concept of what Fall Fest was (which was a combined program with [the Office of] Alumni and Development [Relations]). It was essentially a family weekend and a homecoming combined, and it was kind of a venture that some people questioned whether it was the right move and whether it was a good match….

[But] I think the bridges that were built from that program really have continued relations throughout my career at Brandeis. And so I think that when you look at a program that not only meets the needs of students, families [and] alumni, and builds bridges within administration; I don’t know that you can find a program better than that.

BH: Is there anything about you that students might be surprised to learn?

SG: I actually grew up sewing and so my first ‘girl’ dream when I actually started thinking about what I wanted to do with my life was actually being a clothing designer and own[ing] my own clothing store, and how far away from that I am.

But you know, as time gets away from us I don’t do that a whole lot anymore, but it definitely is still one of those threads [of my life]…I also tend to help out a lot with [my son’s sports] teams…[He’s] starting the athletic realm, and so this fall I was the team mom for his team and [I’m involved in] those sorts of things. So I’d like to think that I’m as involved in that side as I am here on campus.”

BH: Is there anything else about your work or your department that you’d like people to know?

SG: I think that people often don’t know that [our department is] here. I think that sometimes in particular, student leaders here at Brandeis think that they know all that they need to know in order to be successful….Nine times out of 10 they do, but if they had that other 10 percent, it would make things even better.