Ray Fisco, prevention and outreach manager in the Office of the Dean of Students and winner of this winter’s Employee of the Quarter Award, spends a lot of his time nourishing students.
Sometimes it’s through fresh meals provided through Clyde’s Cupboard, UCCS’ on-campus food pantry. Other times, it’s by teaching his “Food for the Soul” GPS course, which encourages first-year students to thrive in college through engagement with the arts, wellness, athletics and service opportunities.
For Fisco, helping students find nourishment – for their bodies and their souls – nourishes him right back.
“Knowing I’m making a real difference in our students’ lives motivates me,” Fisco said. “When students tell me that I kept them going in school, that’s what I enjoy most about my job.”
Fisco has a deep understanding of the student experience at UCCS, having graduated with a bachelor’s degree in biology in 2014 and a master’s degree in leadership with a concentration in student affairs in higher education. After earning his bachelor’s, he took a full-time position as a customer service assistant for the University Center, then transitioned to the Office of the Dean of Students.
“I realized that my heart is in this part of campus,” Fisco said. “Working in my office, you come across students who just need someone to listen to them. There might be something going on in their life, or they just need extra support and advocacy. Supporting these students – that’s where my heart is.”
Fisco’s student advocacy is campus-wide. He helped to create, fund and expand Clyde’s Cupboard, along with a free meal program through Dining and Hospitality Services, both of which provide fresh food to students facing food insecurity.
Stemming from his position on the steering committee of NASPA-CADE, the Coalition of Alcohol and Drug Educators, Fisco also provides student programming on healthy behaviors. His work with the Respect On Campus initiative provides education on campus and sexual violence, as well as bystander intervention. Fisco also runs the #SmartMoveUCCS campaign, which uses peer-to-peer mentoring to encourage students to avoid driving under the influence of alcohol. Over the last three years, 40 percent of UCCS students report they refrain from alcohol consumption, and the campus has been 99 percent free of DUI offenses.
Colleagues note that Fisco’s student advocacy centers on compassion and individual support.
“Actions of kindness, like walking over half a mile with a student so they did not feel alone while seeking counseling services in a moment of crisis, are normal for Ray,” wrote Carlie Snethen, a graduate student assistant for the Office of the Dean of Students and one of Fisco’s nominators for the Employee of the Quarter award.
“Ray is the kind of student affairs professional I aspire to be,” Snethen wrote. “To emulate Ray, I learned that I must value each person and their uniqueness, and do what I can to help them develop to their fullest potential. I must be so true in my passion for student success that even in students’ darkest moments, they know my compassion, and see that there is light. Ray did this for me, and I would not be the professional that I am without his impact.”
Like the moments of darkness Snethen references, Fisco acknowledges that there are challenges inherent in his work.
“Some days are difficult because of the struggles we hear our students are going through,” Fisco said. “But the victories don’t have to be big or extravagant. For a student to tell me that they still want to go to school, that they want to keep going, that’s worth it.”
In all ways, Fisco says his work follows the guidance of Steve Linhart, former dean of students: “Care about the students, and the rest will follow.”
In recognition of his efforts for UCCS, Fisco will receive one day of administrative leave, a $100 stipend, three months of a free and reserved parking space when normal campus operations have resumed and a $40 voucher to the UCCS Bookstore. Congratulations, Ray!
Do you have a colleague whose extraordinary efforts at UCCS deserve to be recognized? Nominate them for the Employee of the Quarter award.