Celebrating Tami Henriksen, a Guiding Light for Students in University Housing
Having worked in University Housing for 29 years, Tami Henriksen has some interesting stories to tell.
While many are not fit to print, Henriksen still smiles about the time residents in Whitney Hall turned their hallway into a slip-n-slide when they knew all the staff were away at a meeting (they likely would have gotten away with it if a video wasn’t posted on YouTube).
All the shenanigans, pranks, and pulled fire alarms have kept the job interesting for Henriksen, as well as the countless students who have come to her to explain why their roommate is “making their life hell.” She is a good listener and finds solutions for those students, often through room changes, and for other students who need to move out of housing prematurely. Many of these requests are of serious nature and are time-sensitive.
As the assignments and customer care advisor, Henriksen handles calls, walk-ins, and emails from students and parents with questions about their housing situation. And she does the job well. Henriksen’s many contributions were noted this May during the 2022-23 Staff Excellence Awards when she was honored with the Customer Service Award, which celebrates an employee who goes above and beyond to support student success.
With an uncanny ability to read body language and get to the root of what is going on with a particular student, she speaks gently to alleviate their concerns, de-escalate heightened situations, and offer care and a listening ear.
Over the years, she’s heard it all. Henriksen recognizes a lot of anxiety comes with a roommate change request and she tries to approach each situation with zero judgment and a great deal of compassion as she shifts things around to give students a fresh start. And, a lot of her work starts before students even move in. She spends countless hours reviewing housing applications attempting to put thousands of students in a position to succeed.
“Though I don’t actually meet many of them, I do spend a lot of time trying to get to know each resident through their applications and try to treat them as humans, not just a number,” she said.
With new students moving into University Housing in a few weeks, I spoke with Henriksen about her career and some of the main challenges students face.
What advice do you have for incoming students about living with roommates?
It’s best to come in with an open mind. Your roommate might not be your best friend by the end of the year, but that is ok. You can still have a positive relationship and learn a lot from the experience. In fact, you are going to learn a lot about yourself that you probably don’t know—which is what the collegiate experience is all about.
How about advice for parents sending their child to school?
Try to find that balance between being supportive and allowing students to do things for themselves. In the long run, they will be better off if they do things like filling out roommate preferences for themselves. This is how they learn and grow.
I’ve sent my children to college and know there is anxiety. However, I’ve found that when parents have a lot of outward anxiety, it transfers to the student. Your student is going to have times when they are upset, and they will call you. I urge parents to understand the first month will be the hardest and then most students will be fine.
What are you most proud of in your Chico State career?
I’ve helped so many students, hopefully in a positive way. In housing, we typically only get the students for a year and then they move on. But, even so, I still get students who years later tell me, “you changed my world.” That’s very gratifying because I always think about the job and hope students know that I care.