Local Visionaries – an ongoing series by Julia Freeman
February visionary – Nikki Hodous
Director, Student Care & Assistance
University of Iowa – For Nikki Hodous, being around students is commonplace. While overseeing the campus inclusion team at the University of Iowa, she is also in charge of assisting students that are experiencing a crisis/emergency situation through the Student Care and Assistance branch of the Office of the Dean of Students. She initially began her work as a university housing administrator before becoming a student conduct officer and landing in her current role as the Assistant Director of Student Care and Outreach.
Within her department and in collaboration with the Student Legal Services and Student Government, there is a trans* student fund and an emergency fund that may be used for various needs that may arise. Yet an ample starting spot, gather extra support, and for help navigating what to do, is Hodous’s role. She is a visionary because of how well she navigates the ins and outs of the entire UI experience for students in all walks of life and how to handle people, regardless of how or whom they identify as, during ‘hard’ moments of crisis scenarios. They include but are not limited to situations related to or involving physical and mental health emergency or long-term illness, death of a family member or loved one, or natural disaster. Hodous is grateful to Angie Reams, the interim associate VP and Dean of Students, for creating the student care role in her advocacy for students to identify resources and opportunities throughout campus.
“Marginalized populations experience the world in a different way,” according to the Assistant Director. She sees her role as an accomplice for communities to grow from her own experiences and opportunities. Hodous thinks that to grow and change that mistakes need to be made in good work. “These mistakes do not prevent us from doing great and bouncing back to move forward,” she explained.
The highlights of her job include for a moment, being with a student to provide support or be a resource to open up a lifetime of their own hopes. Her ability and willingness to help in, what can sometimes be difficult, circumstances to minimize obstacles and ultimately gain independence to handle such on their own. She is raising her child to be the best they can be and navigate the world while working with others. Yet sometimes the infinite amount of pain in the world while teaching her colleagues how to care for another human being that needs help is difficult.
Hodous often works behind the scenes to help students navigate UI. This includes things like connecting and assisting students in need with additional campus or community resources, working with facilities or University Housing, consulting with other members of the campus community about how to address student concerns, contacting faculty members regarding absence or concern affecting academic participation, and providing access to emergency funding or meals. But this is by no means an all-inclusive list of the range of assistance Hodous, and her office offers to UI students.
“No matter who they identify as I strive to make the UI experience enjoyable for everyone,” said Hodous. She also wants to fully contribute to serving in the best way possible in environments while maintaining joy to align and continued honoring spaces that align with her values and beliefs. Ultimately, the Student Care and Outreach office is a resource for all UI students who are or know a student that is having a difficult time. Hodous strives such that she and her team can champion the whole student experience for positive things to help give purpose and meaning with the future goals and ambitions at the forefront of the individual. GG