By Allison Eichler
“Novia Ramsay, Director of Operations for Residence Life. That’s me,” she says with a Jamaican lilt to her voice. “I oversee the room change process, the housing selection process and then on the flip side, I also oversee anything operationally when it comes to renovations in the residence halls or as it relates to us changing furniture in the residence halls.”
“Jack of all [trades], master of none,” jokes Michael Perlmutter, Ramsay’s Assistant Director of Operations.
You may not recognize her name, but Ramsay is the force behind the amenities you interact with during your day-to-day dorm activities. “I’m the director of operations, which is everything in the background,” Ramsay says. “There was a time when all our students had to stand up in line … to select their room because it was never automated, and so I automated it and created the online room selection process.”
If you’ve done laundry recently, you may have noticed there are all new washers and driers. Through feedback in student surveys, “one of the things that we constantly heard about is the fact that students are not happy with our laundry service,” Ramsay says. Hofstra now utilizes CSC ServiceWorks for the laundry machines in the dorm buildings across campus. “We think that students will be very happy with this new laundry service, so we’re looking forward to any feedback.”
“They’re high-energy washers so that it’s eco-friendly,” Perlmutter chimes in. “These are commercial quality so it’s built to last and built to take the workload of residential students.”
Ramsay takes the happiness of students very seriously and is always on the lookout for things she can improve. “Mike and I do walk the residence halls a lot and there are things that we notice that other people don’t notice,” she says. “We noticed that the garbage bins and the furniture, they were chipped. We asked…the painters if they could paint that. These are things that people may not necessarily notice right off the bat, but we walk around, we notice these things.”
Before working at her current position, Ramsay studied at Hofstra as an international student from Jamaica. “I was on the beach one day and a professor with a whole bunch of students [was] on the beach … and we walked over … and so I thought it would be cool to study abroad,” Ramsay recalls. “After my graduate studies I was getting ready to return home and the then dean of students said to me, ‘we have a job opportunity here and we’d love for you to stay,’ and that’s how I happened to be a part of student affairs.”
Having left the island to pursue the career offered to her, Ramsay and her husband made a life for themselves in Freeport, N.Y. “My parents are here, they visit and then they go home … I have one sister that lives here … and I have one sister that’s still at home. My grandparents are still at home so I try to go home as often as possible so my kids can understand what it means to be of Jamaican heritage.”
Rows and rows of shelves to the left of Ramsay’s desk display tens of photos and she glows as she points at framed pictures of her children, three boys ages nine, five and one. “These are my babies,” she says. “I am [very family oriented]. The joke in the family is [my sisters] can always call my house and know that they can stop by at any time and they can have a meal because I love to cook. I always make sure that I have something in the pantry, that I can make stuff, but I love to cook and so family can always come over.”
“I do love to eat, like [it’s] sickening. Mike can tell you, I pack it away,” she shares a laugh with Perlmutter. “My background is also that I’m mixed. My family is also Indian so I have the Indian heritage. I love a lot of the Indian food and I’m Jamaican so I love everything spicy.”
“I am a huge, and when I say huge, I am a huge [sports] fan,” Ramsay says as she looks at the various sports memorabilia displayed on top of her shelving unit. “Soccer…is my first love…soccer is a big thing in my house. I’m an Arsenal fan and I also like Liverpool from the days of John Barnes.”
Ramsay points to more family photos, “That’s my family; I love them to death.”
Perhaps it’s her immense love for her family that makes Ramsay so well suited for her job. She emphasizes multiple times how much she cares about students’ well-being. “What the students want is what we want,” she says. “Until students bring issues to the forefront, we may think that we’re doing well, not knowing that it’s just not working for our students. We really want students to be able to reach out and let us know how we can best improve their circumstances on campus and their experiences.”
Have a concern about your dorming experience? “[Students] can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org attn: Novia if it has to do with an operations question. We’ll be more than happy to respond and have them come in and talk to us if that’s what they would prefer,” Ramsay says.
“I am so fulfilled with what I do and I challenge myself each year to find new ways how we can improve the experiences the students have on our campus.”