Summer brings a variety of guests to UAF

Jeric Quiliza/Sun Star Contributor
April 10, 2012

During the summer months, the Moore, Bartlett, Skarland dormitory complex serves as UAF's own hotel of sorts for visiting researchers, conferences attendees, and others. Galen Lott/Sun Star

It’s that time of year again. The transition from winter to spring means many things, among them, hiring for Conference Services. 

Conference Services, an extension of UAF Residence Life, operates much like a hotel would during the summer months. Staff uses several dormitories as housing options for conference attendees, youth groups, and firefighter crews.

“It’s essentially an outreach program to the community and the university itself,” said Amber Cagwin, former Conference Services manager.

One of the department’s missions is to leave a good impression for those staying at the university, Cagwin said. Many potential students stay in guest housing during the summer.

Over the years, international students became a bigger and bigger part of Conference Services staff.

During the 2011 summer season, the department saw its biggest change. Out of the nine guest service agents, three were born within the United States. Two were from India, one from Thailand, and two from Africa.

Cagwin explains that there are a few chief factors in international students applying for Conference Services.

“It’s an ideal situation,” she said, referring both to the housing scholarship students obtain once they are hired, and to the fact that the job is an on-campus job.

Working for Conference Services rewards each student a free shared dorm room for the summer. Students can also live in their own single room, but have to pay an additional fee of about $400 for the extra privacy.

Many international students are bound by law to only work in a campus position. Because of their statuses as either F-1s or J-1s, they may only be employed by the university.

For the guest service agents who worked for Conference Services this past summer, most would agree that the room scholarship played a deciding factor in applying for the job.

“There were lots of benefits, like free housing,” said Amber Sandlin, one of the American-born GSAs.

“I applied because of the free housing,” said George Inoue, another of the American-born GSAs.

Maureen Bosire, originally from Kenya, had a similar, though not quite exact, thought process when she first applied.

“I was happy to meet people outside the state and from different places. And as for the room scholarship, I didn’t even realize that until after,” she said.

Working throughout the summer when the front office was open 24/7 was a new experience to some of the GSAs. Adjusting to an unusual shift time sometimes took its toll on the workers.

“It was fun, kind of painful. I had to adjust to a new life. Being awake when people usually go to bed,” said Taichit Chairat, originally from Thailand. He spent his first summer in Fairbanks working from midnight to 9 a.m.

“It was something very new working at night,” he said.

Bosire, despite working on the opposite side of the day, echoes Chairat’s sentiment.

“The summer was nice, but the only thing I didn’t like was my shift time. Working from 2 p.m. – 11 p.m., I didn’t really have a chance to enjoy my time,” she said.

Apart from working odd hours, weird situations would arise that challenged the GSAs in different ways.

Bosire remembers dealing with a guest who tried to get too personal on different occasions.

“There used to be a guy that would come every day and ask me for dinner,” she said.

Once Bosire spoke up, the badgering stopped.

Still, other guests were a bit too much to handle for just one GSA. During the Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival, one guest stuck out in many of the office workers’ minds.

One guest made a name for herself throughout her stay by yelling at other guests, requesting for an inordinate number of linens, and eventually getting black-listed from Conference Services.

“Oh yeah. Ginger,” Inoue said. He didn’t comment any further.

Apart from the occasional troublesome situation, most guests were happy to visit a town where the difference between summer and winter temps exceeds 125 degrees Fahrenheit.

“There was a white guy, but he knew how to speak my language, Swahili. That was really cool,” Bosire said.

One group in particular was usually excited to be in Fairbanks whenever its members rode into town.

Conference Services caters to cross-country motorcyclists during the summers. This came about due to former Residence Life Director Kevin Huddy’s motorcyle hobby. He posted on an online motorcycle enthusiast forum that UAF Conference Services would be able to provide accommodations for those traveling cross-country on bike.

UAF has been the go-to place for these bikers ever since.

“They were probably the nicest group,” Inoue said. “They were the most chill.”

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