Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, the University of New Hampshire’s (UNH) Durham campus manages to look as beautiful as ever. Even with the enhanced cleaning protocols due to COVID-19, UNH’s Resident Housekeeping Supervisor Annette Vachon keeps a smile on her face under the increased workload.
Vachon has been part of the UNH Housekeeping community since before most current students were born. The time and dedication Vachon puts into her work each day makes an incredible difference within the school, as she creates a safe, clean and healthy environment for students and staff.
Vachon began her career at UNH over 25 years ago, when she worked as a Housekeeper in Spaulding Hall, cleaning labs, classrooms, hallways and restrooms. For over 6 years, she dedicated her time to keeping Spaulding Hall clean, until she was later promoted to supervisor, moving to manage 11 buildings, including the SERCS, Williamson, Christensen, as well as Upper and Lower Quad.
“It’s really changed a lot. The day to day things are… you get people what they need, their gloves or masks and make sure that service requests are entered, and just keep everybody happy.”
Even with the pandemic, Vachon notes she has never been short on PPE for herself and her crew.
Though staff can no longer meet in large groups, staff still interact with students, albeit with much less frequency.
“The amount of students I come into contact with is dramatically less. I guess what I’m missing is the students stopping by to tell me about their day or how they did on a test. Same with the hall directors,” she said.
In her tenure at UNH, Vachon has always lent an ear to members of the community who she may cross paths with, learning about students within her residence halls and treating them as family.
“I had an RA several years ago on the first floor of Randall,” Vachon said. “She used to get very excited after a test and come tell me about her test. It was Animal Science. She would come in and tell me how her test went and if it was hard. At the end of her year, she told me about the job she landed and how excited she was to do that, so that was really nice.”
“We had our Hall Director Gilly Scott who used to be here, we were really close,” Vachon added.
Vachon notes a major shift in the university community within the residence halls due to COVID-19.
“Before COVID, it was very community-oriented. You would have a lot of interactions and students would gather in the lounges, study together and spend time together. Now it kind of reminds me of a hotel, you don’t see many interactions among students. It’s sad, it’s really sad. B lot is never full anymore.”
Though Vachon notes the loss of community within residence halls due to COVID-19, students still find a way to thank Vachon for her work.
“Students and hall staff in all of the dorms I take care of made posters and post-its and put them on the housekeeping staff’s closet doors. They wrote thank you posters, thank you notes, and that was huge. I cried, I just cried and cried. The housekeepers were just so happy – it saved them. The housekeepers were so happy, it made their day.”
Despite her hard work, Vachon’s career is only one of many things in her life that she cherishes. In her free time, she opts to spend her time outdoors.
“We go camping. It’s on a seasonal site at Gunstock Mountain Resort. I have a motorcycle and my husband has a motorcycle. We do a lot of bike riding around New Hampshire and Maine. The Kancamagus is always fun.”
With her passion for biking, Vachon participates in Laconia’s annual Bike Week. Beginning in 1916, Laconia’s annual Bike Week is the nation’s oldest motorcycle rally, where participants ride their bikes across New Hampshire, with their staging location located at Weirs Beach.
“During Bike Week, only motorcycles can drive through the strip by Weirs Beach. You spend a lot of time making friends, people used to have beer, and there’s a lot of vendors there to do some shopping.”
Even while managing her career and her pastimes, Annette began attending graduate school at Granite State College for an Operations Management degree to advance her career within UNH. Currently, she is a junior with a 3.65 GPA, taking 5 classes a year.
“I don’t know what they could open up for me. I’d like to stay at the University. Maybe something to do with the students – they’re so important here,” she said of her post-graduation plans.
Vachon maintains an immense dedication to the university and its students, opting to do her homework for her courses during her breaks during her day job. This frees up time for her to spend with her family.
“It’s pretty tough,” Vachon said. “Time. Management. You can read quite a bit in a half hour. It’s relaxing for me to read, it’s a good way to have a break.”
Though students may feel overwhelmed with the pandemic and school-work, Vachon offered some words of encouragement.
“You have youth on your side. Don’t let anything hold you back. If you’re afraid of taking a chance, just embrace the fear and go for it. Just do it,” she said.
Photo courtesy of UNH Facilities Bulletin: Annette Vachon pictured on left.