May 23, 2017

A Legacy of Investing In Others

Southwest Contract: A Legacy of Investing In Others
Ann Marie Klotz, Dean of Campus Life, New York Institute of Technology

One of the biggest investments anyone has ever made in me came from someone I had never met.

In 2007, I had just started my first mid-level role as an Assistant Director at DePaul University.  Prior to getting the job offer, I applied to the National Housing Training Institute (NHTI).  I had heard how career-changing this institute was for previous participants and I was eager experience this intensive training designed to prepare mid-level professionals for senior roles in Housing and Residence Life.  

A few months after starting my new job I was delighted to find out that I had been selected to attend NHTI! I was ecstatic.  The second emotion, (after riding the high of getting accepted) was worry.  How on earth was I going to pay for this?  I had been at my job for what felt like 5 minutes, so I was hesitant to ask for funding.  It was my first live-out job and money was tight, so I wasn’t sure if I could self-fund NHTI. 

I had heard that there were a few scholarships available for NHTI participants and so I applied.  I poured my heart in to the essay, talking about how I aspired to be a Director of Residence Life, and how I committed to maximize the NHTI experience if given the opportunity to attend.  A few weeks later I heard that I was selected to receive a FULL scholarship to NHTI from Southwest Contract! 

I am embarrassed to admit that I did not know anything about this company at that time.  They also didn’t really know anything about me (other than my essay)…but they took a chance and invested in me in an incredibly powerful way. 

Here is what I came to know.  Under the leadership of the Thompson family, Southwest Contract has built quality furnishings in residence halls across the country for over 30 years. They are more than a business partner to many of us in the industry, they are supporters and advocates of our work with students.  They build and maintain relationships with university clients and heavily invest in our regional and national organizations. They aren’t just in the business of building sustainable furniture, they are building sustainable friendships.

Three years after my incredible NHTI experience, I became the President of the GLACUHO region.  As we made plans to celebrate the 40th anniversary of our conference, I once again reached out to our partners at Southwest Contract who, without hesitation, happily co-sponsored various events at our celebratory conference in Grand Rapids, MI.  They continued to demonstrate their investment in our profession.  

Five years after NHTI, I packed up my belongings and moved west to begin my new role as the Director of Residential Education at Oregon State University.  Because the moving van wouldn’t arrive for nearly 30 days, I packed only the essentials in my SUV to make the long journey from Chicago to Oregon.  Included in those precious few boxes was my NHTI binder.  That experience prepared me for the role I was about to assume and as I loaded it in my luggage, I smiled thinking about the commitment that Southwest Contract had made in me.  Because they invested in my professional development, I was able to attain the very job that NHTI was preparing us for. 

Today, as the Dean of Campus Life at the New York Institute of Technology, I consistently work with business partners and I know that they are critically important to the work we do.  Last weekend I attended the ACUHO-I Conference and I had the opportunity to thank the Thompson family in person for their investment in me.  Their company is a great role model for what can happen when we invest in young professionals.  As we return to our home campuses after a fantastic conference in Seattle, I challenge each of us to consider how we can invest in young professionals—those we know and those we may not.  The payoff is tremendous.  Thank you Southwest Contract for reminding me of the power of investment.  I will do my best to pay forward your legacy of support and sponsorship.