Koch’s job change helped the university resume face-to-face classes | Nebraska today
Editor’s Note – This is the first in a series of stories about the work of women who are clerical/service workers and have a positive impact on the university community. This series, created under the auspices of the Chancellor’s Commission on the Status of Women, is part of coverage of Nebraska Today’s Women’s History Month.
When the University of Nebraska-Lincoln turned in response COVID-19, Julie Koch was among dozens of Huskers who stepped up to take on new roles and responsibilities, helping to move the institution forward.
When the university switched to distance learning/work in spring 2020, Koch worked in the passport office and initially supported business operations and helped with organization and staffing COVID-19 wellness supply orders per UNL marketplace. Her role expanded significantly in Spring 2021 when she agreed to help launch and operate the university’s Wellness Attendants program.
“I was just back on campus after the shutdown and received this emergency email to call my manager about something,” Koch said. “I jumped on a Zoom call and he told me about this Wellness Attendants program. They needed someone to help with the organization and he wondered if I would be up for it.
“The ball just kept rolling from there.”
The Wellness Attendants program, offered over two semesters — spring and fall of 2021 — stationed a small army of student workers at building doors across the City and East campuses. Participants were tasked with verifying (via the Safer Community app or printed status cards) that all entering students, faculty and staff were adhering to university policies COVID-19 security protocols. They also assisted visitors and guests as needed.
“In the first semester, 150 student employees took part, and in the second semester that number rose to over 268,” said Koch. “I was responsible for organizing their shifts at the various locations, checking their attendance, approving payroll, resolving issues when they arose indoors, and dealing with disciplinary action or praise when necessary.”
Judy Walker, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Faculty and Academic Affairs and Aaron Douglas Professor of Mathematics, oversaw the Wellness Attendants program on behalf of the Office of the Executive Vice Chancellor and the COVID-19 Task Force. Walker said Koch was initially considered as a staff member who could work as a wellness attendant. But when she spoke to Koch’s supervisor at the passport office, she realized she had the skills needed to lead the program.
“Julie was just amazing, she stepped out of her comfort zone and used her skills – some she didn’t know she had – to help our university thrive during the pandemic,” Walker said. “We definitely would not have had a successful Wellness Attendants program without her taking on this expanded leadership role.”
While she admits the job was a struggle at times, Koch enjoyed taking on greater responsibility and helping the students succeed.
“It’s been challenging and stressful, but it’s been rewarding to know that we’re helping the university successfully deliver face-to-face teaching – which is so incredibly important to our students,” Koch said. “And it was an opportunity for me to show the university what I can do.”
When the Wellness Attendants program ended in December, her success led to a new role as finance officer in the Office of Research and Economic Development. As she settles into her new role, Koch’s recent work focuses on reconciling the financial records of the Office of Research and Economic Development and the University of Nebraska State Museum.
“This new position is exciting and a little bit stressful — although perhaps not as stressful as creating and organizing the Wellness Attendants program,” Koch said. “But I love being in an office where we work together as a team.”
And Koch will forever be grateful to the university for giving her a chance at a time when she could have been watched.
“I like to say that I wasn’t as committed to the university as I feel the university was to me,” Koch said. “The pandemic has opened up new opportunities for me and I am beyond grateful for the support I have received from Judy and others.
“I will forever be honored to have been part of the team that helped keep our university open during this difficult time.”