20 Things the Presence Team is Thankful for in 2020

Thanksgiving 2020 sounds a bit like an oxymoron.

Being thankful for things… in 2020?!? It’s been a turbulent year, to put it lightly. The past several months have made gratitude a real challenging thing for most people to hold on to.

But my Presence teammates and I don’t shy away from challenges. We know that despite (or maybe even because of) the many frustrations the year has brought us, it’s vital to also recognize the many good things that are still happening in our lives and around the world.

This year, our teammates have celebrated births, marriages, engagements, home signings, pet adoptions, and so much more. (Even new Netflix show obsessions — clearly the most important news of all.)

So, I asked them to highlight some of the things they’re most thankful for right now. It’s not just to brag (ok, maybe it is a tiny bit about that); it’s to inspire our readers to find things to be grateful for in their own lives — developments big and small, from new jobs to new sourdough bread recipes.

Now take it away, team! (And thank YOU for reading!)

What’s something that made you smile or laugh recently?

Devin Alexander - engagement specialist - he/him/his

No matter what’s going on or how stressful things may be I always find myself smiling and laughing about my two little nephews. The things they do and say reminds you of how grateful you are for the little things in life. When the storm is brewing and there’s a very little glimmer of hope they restore that joy that motivates you to continue on. I’m forever grateful for nephews Kevy Jr. and Khari.” – Devin Alexnder

Ross Busch - engagement specialist - he/him/his

“This year, I’m thankful for the faithful company of our family’s newest addition, a rescued grandpa-pup! Key is somewhere north of nine but south of 12 years young, and he’s kept me company throughout all of the challenges 2020 has brought. With an eye for life’s simple pleasures, like laying in the sun, morning walks, and pizza crusts, he’s helped me stay focused on the present moment and all the joy that can bring.” – Ross Busch

Luke Burton - Director of Marketing - he/him/his

“This year, I’m grateful for the beautiful city of St Petersburg, Florida. Cycling down Central Ave back in April when there was no traffic on the roads; cruising the Gulf of Mexico in a questionable pontoon boat, grabbing a socially-distant beer in the yards of one-too-many local craft breweries. This city has it all.

And a shout-out to Andy’s dog Pippa, who willingly sits on the laps of anyone who will provide love and attention (and provides great photo opportunities).” – Luke Burton

Jodi Tandet - Lead Storyteller - she/her/hers

“My 11-month old nephew Elliot constantly makes me laugh out loud. He lives more than a thousand miles away, so I haven’t gotten to see him in person much, but his mom (my sister) sends me photos and videos of him sleeping, eating, or reading every day. (Such a tough life.) I’m obsessed with his smile; he currently has just one big tooth growing at the front of his mouth — a look only a baby could rock.

Oh, and The Good Place. I’ve slowly been rewatching it for the umpteenth time and it never fails to make me laugh.” – Jodi Tandet

Name a TV show, book, movie, or other form of entertainment that’s helped your mental health and happiness this year.

Sonja Williams- Engagement Specialist - she/her/hers

“Laughing is critical to mental health. My go-to TV Show New Girl helps me out a ton. I’ve watched every season prior to this year. Once COVID hit and I was stuck inside, I turned back to this show for the laughs it gave me. Anytime I’m having a rough day, I turn this on for an instant mood boost!” – Sonja Williams

Amber Clark - happiness ally - she/her/hers

The latest release of Black TV shows and movies on Netflix — like Girlfriends, One on One, and Jingle Jangle — has brought me much joy during this whirlwind of a year. It’s comforting and honestly beautiful to see Black people in such positive and magical roles, especially when this year has seemed to shine light on the many injustices done against us. It makes me feel good to see people who look like me enjoying the gift of life like we all should!” – Amber Clark

Krystine Cullen - engagement specialist, she/her/hers

“I have watched New Girl twice this year. Don’t judge me! This show always makes me laugh so hard that I start cackling. New Girl will always be one of my top favorite shows because of the joy it brings me. This year has been hard for countless reasons and I often turn to this show to laugh and cope with what’s going on in my life.” – Krystine Cullen

What’s a stressor you’re grateful to have put behind you this year?

Reuben Pressman - Founder and CEO - he/his/his

“Being forced to stay home more while being 100% extroverted has been really challenging. But I think it has helped me slow down and take life in a bit more.

I’m also really thankful for my dogs going to the bathroom when asked to.” – Reuben Pressman

Taylor Dunworth - UI/UX designer - she/her/hers

“I’m really grateful to have (mostly) put behind my fear of imperfection in my creative process this year. I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to get rid of it, but 2020 has definitely taught me to take more risks while focusing on the rewards versus the consequences of failing.” – Taylor Dunworth

Andy Gould - chief revenue officer - he/him/his

“I’m grateful to have abandoned the stress of finding a parking spot near the office. Sure, I could park in the designated lot a block away, but I’m always late, and that never felt like an option. I actually got rid of my car completely, and now my commute is a long four seconds to the spare bedroom.” – Andy Gould

What are you thankful for within the realm of higher education/student affairs?

Haley Burrow - happiness expert - she/her/hers

Student Affairs has offered me so many amazing opportunities. Starting with then I was a student, I had amazing supervisors in my work in the Dean of Students Office and as a RA. Moving on to my work as a graduate student, I was able to run freshmen leadership programs and lead student leaders through the training and experience.

Then moving on to my professional career, I am super thankful for the amazing positions that I was able to work in and the amazing folks I got to work with. The students and staff have been the bread and butter of my experience and it led me to this amazing position at Presence. I still get the joyous time of working with student affairs professionals but in a different and unique capacity!” – Haley Burrow

Holly Kickliter - Chief Happiness Officer - she/her/hers

2020 was a lot. But something that still makes me smile was seeing higher education’s collective leadership set the course for the country in the first days of its C-19 response. Campuses across the country immediately began to close to reduce the risk of infection to students. So suddenly our colleagues in student affairs were not “reimagining” how to support students, they actually launched a new era of virtual student engagement that changed our support of students forever.

In a year of careful listening and deep reflection, I’m so proud of our partners across the nation who worked in new ways they didn’t expect — from home, from dining tables, and social distancing on campuses —to stand up for and support so many students. SAPros are the ones we can count on to foster the generation of students who are changing the world. That’s pretty awesome, isn’t it?” – Holly Kickliter

Name a mundane item or habit that it’s easy to take for granted but you’re actually super thankful for.

AJ - Director of Campus Development - he/him/his

Watering plants. We keep more than 80 species of plants in and around our home, and as you can imagine, watering them is time-consuming and can become a chore.

I’ve come to so deeply appreciate this ritual, slowing down to appreciate all of the colors and textures, which are so full of life. There’s something magical about the way light weaves through stems and leaves in the golden hours.

Early on in quarantine when we switched to remote work and interaction was scarce, I often treated them as my coworkers, asking them about their families and weekends and such (joking, but only kind of). Tending to plants is truly a pleasure for which I am so grateful.” – A.J. Guedouar

Allison Cary - engagement specialist - she/her/hers

“A mundane habit I’m grateful for is brushing my teeth twice a day. Imagine if that wasn’t an option for anyone; we would all have stank breath!” – Allison Cary

Dan Oswald - Engagement specialist - he/him/his

I’m very thankful that I’ve picked up and stuck with long-distance running throughout the pandemic. I’ve always been a play basketball/soccer as much as possible to stay in shape type of person, so not having that has been awful. So, having running to fall back on and actually enjoy has been awesome.” – Dan Oswald

Dave Dillard - engagement specialist - he/him/his

Watering my plants. It may sound (candy) corny, but since I’ve found myself spending far more time at home than in a normal year, I’ve started a garden.

Having the ability to take time away from screens, get into some fresh air, and simply give water to something that is beautiful and purposeful has brought me a lot of peace. Watching these plants come to life, bear fruit, and then move on to their next generation has been grounding and a reminder to focus on the important things in life.” – Dave Dillard

Travis Gibler - senior happiness expert - he/him/his

“With this challenging year, I’m thankful to have rediscovered my love of reading for fun. Getting an e-reader and connecting to our local library’s collection of digital books has done more for my mental health and perspective than I could have imagined.” – Travis Gibler

Give a shoutout to a Presence teammate whom you’re especially thankful for.

Alex Coleman - happiness expert - he/him/his

“For this Thanksgiving, I want to give a shoutout to Travis! Travis always goes above-and-beyond to support his partners and his fellow Presence folx. Travis spent hour after hour after hour with me getting me ready for my Expert role and I am so grateful for him! He is amazing at finding areas of growth and providing the tools and feedback to facilitate that growth. Thanks, Travis!” – Alex Coleman 

Natalie Emerson - coordinator of Leadership, Projects, and Things - she/her/hers

Shout out to Dr. Brittany Mijatovic (AKA B-Money) for always lending an ear and being open to chatting about anything, from last night’s episode of The Bachelor to researching important issues in higher education.” – Natalie Emerson

Nick Elliott - Happiness Ally - he/him/his

I am absolutely thankful for the entire Happiness Team and the Presence Family. I began working for Presence during the pandemic and I was worried I wouldn’t be able to make a connection with my co-workers, but during this remote time, I have found new ways of engaging and virtually hanging out with my team that really has made me thankful for my decision to come work for Presence. I couldn’t be happier than I am right now with my career choice.” – Nick Elliot

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Jodi Tandet

About the author: Jodi Tandet loves writing about the complexities of campus life as the Lead Storyteller at Presence. She's also passionate about making homemade ice cream, forging peace agreements between her calico cat and lab/dachshund mix, and listening to a debatably unhealthy number of podcasts. Learn how we can help get your students involved.

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