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SNC housekeeper Chris Wilbert, pictured above, says interacting with students is the best part of her job.

Chris Wilbert: More Than a Housekeeper

St. Norbert’s housekeeping staff includes many unsung heroes – those employees who check in with the students between their dusting and vacuuming to make sure college life is going well. One such staffer, Chris Wilbert, says that’s her favorite part of the job.

Wilbert is starting her sixth year as an SNC housekeeper, with most of that time spent cleaning the Cassandra Voss Center (CVC) and Bergstrom Hall. This fall, she also will be working in Mary Minahan McCormick Hall, or 3M. Wilbert works 6 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., starting her day cleaning the CVC. But she spends the bulk of her time in the residence halls. Wilbert powers through the bathrooms and public areas in the early-morning hours, before most of the students are awake, then switches to vacuuming and other tasks.

During her shift, she always keeps an eye out for the students. If they’re buried in their books, she doesn’t disturb them. But if a student seems open to visiting, she strikes up a conversation, quizzing them about how their day is going, what they’re studying and what their future plans are.

“The boys are just as chatty as the girls,” she says, something that surprised her.

If Wilbert spies a student who appears sad or is crying, and that person seems approachable, she heads right over to see how they’re doing. “Obviously, I have to get my work done,” she says. “But the way I look at it, my students are my customers. I can’t cater to all their needs, but if I can be a little light in the darkness and can help out, I do.”

In addition to checking in on them, Wilbert goes the extra mile by making sure the communal printer is filled with paper as soon as she arrives every morning, because she noticed many students rush to print things before heading out to class. One fall, she passed out apples for bobbing. And every December, she brings in Christmas cookies. “I just want to let them know, ‘Hey, I’m thinking about you,’” she says.

Sometimes Wilbert says the mother in her comes out and she’ll remind the students to be safe. Or, if a student is panicked by their workload, she’ll help them sketch out a plan for getting everything finished on time. One academic year, she noticed a lot of students working on puzzles during their free time. So she sent an email to the entire SNC community, asking people for Bergstrom Hall puzzle donations. “We got a lot of them, which was great,” she says. “The puzzles were another outlet these kids needed.”

Wilbert says she can be tough with the students if necessary. Like the year the Bergstrom men were obsessed with Nerf guns, shooting their foam projectiles all over the residence hall. She didn’t mind the frequent shoot-outs – “Kids gotta let loose,” she says – but she reminded them they needed to pick up the bullets when they were finished. They complied, although Wilbert was amused to still be finding a few strays this summer.

“Housekeeping is not the funnest job in the world,” she says, “but it’s fun when I’m around the kids. And if I can help them a little bit, I will. Because they’re my customers, but also our future.”

Sept. 10, 2020