July Staff Feature - Rona Skinner

This month’s Staff Highlight is Rona Skinner.  Student Auxiliary Services play an integral part to the overall landscape here at the Institute.  Their ongoing commitment to provide outstanding customer service to the entire RIT community is Legendary.  Rona is an integral part of this delivery and a terrific partner to work with as well.  Her commitment, proactive approach and great sense of humor serves her team well.


Tell us a little about your RIT career – I started 20 years ago as a housing assignment coordinator.  It was a temp position while I pursued my NY State Teaching Certificate, but I really enjoyed working at RIT.     About 10 years ago, Housing realized we needed a new system and launched an investigation into a new application to replace our manual and paper intensive processes.  RIT selected StarRez and we implemented it for housing assignments.  Once we implemented StarRez, Carla DiLella and I could see all the potential it had as a system and so my job was changed to an Assistant Director and I handled all things StarRez.  My ongoing work morphed into a technical lead resource for Howard Ward in Student Auxiliary Services ultimately leading me to my current role as Executive Director of Business Services and Technology.


What do you enjoy most about your role? I never get bored; it is one of things I like most about technology in general.  We always have new projects or process improvements that we are seeking to implement.  My team is great at challenging ourselves to find the next area we can support or help improve their business practices through the use of technology.  I am always learning something new and I enjoy seeing the growth and process improvement for our area in support of our students and colleagues. 


What is your favorite RIT Event?  We are definitely a big supporter of the women’s hockey team and attending games since the kids were very young. Not only do we enjoy the games themselves, but a few of the athletes have worked for Student Auxiliary Services, so our family has been able to get to know them on a personal level.  These women are great role models for my kids.  My family enjoys attending the games and witnessing their athletic skills, but then when you find out they are also carrying a 4.0 GPA or planning on pursuing a Master’s degree in a STEM field, that is what definitely gets noticed by our kids.

We also try to attend the Global Unification event held during International Education Week at RIT.  We enjoy the multicultural performances that highlight our diverse community.  Another great activity that we enjoy as a family, is hosting international students at our home for Thanksgiving.


What is your best/favorite memory at RIT?  One of my most vivid memory is of a very early move-in prior to implementing StarRez.   It was still very manual and paper driven.  On move-in day, we had a microburst storm that blew down our tents and the parking lots were flooding.  Water was rushing over our shoes and key packets were so wet that the keys were falling out of the bottoms into the bins - this was definitely a move-in to remember.  We laugh now about it, but I have to say that even through a downpour our staff gave 110% for the new students and their families who were moving in and assisted them with a smile, however soggy.  It was definitely a team bonding day!


What is an outside interest for you?  Well, these days I feel like a professional Uber driver, but without the pay.  Why?  My kids (Olivia, Alex, Drew and Izzy are all 12 years old) have so many different events, sporting and otherwise that they keep me driving all over the place!


What is a current project you’re involved with?  We are starting to review potential applications for several base core technologies.  Our investigations today will lend themselves to a solution that will carry us through the next 15 – 20 years.  We have a great team, they are very forward thinking and get excited about all the new options we have available to us.  We try to always seek improvements to streamline our work and enhance the student experience.


What is something we may not know about you?  I was born and raised in Idaho so people may not know that I grew up working on a potato farm.  I think that is why I have the “work until it is done” approach.  And, for those of you who think all “I” states are the same, they are not. Idaho is the one with the potatoes not corn – that’s Iowa.


What are you most proud of?  I feel very fortunate.  For work, I am most proud of the team that we have built and the various system efficiencies that have then assisted both staff and students.  Our team’s mission is to partner with other departments across campus and support them reaching their goals, and I feel like we have been successful.  On a personal front – Family is very important to me and balancing my home life with work demands has really been critical.  I truly appreciate the ability to have such a good work-life balance.  Howard Ward and RIT have been so supportive of me and it has been a real blessing that I have been able to have such a fulfilling career and still be there for my family.

Fun Fact – StarRez also partnered with RIT for Senior Software Projects.  The StarRez staff were so impressed by one student that he was hired and is now working directly for the vendor in their Denver development office.  So we have a baby TIGER making his way through the StarRez organization!


Many may not realize that Rona has been actively engaged in StarRez and served on their advisory board for the last 6 years.  She is currently the outgoing Chair and will complete her term this year.  Her excellent working relationship with the staff here at RIT and the vendor has enabled her to present requests and enhancements directly.  RIT has benefited many times from this relationship and continues to be a leading user of their software, adding various components over the years:  Student Housing – Room Self-Selection, Post Office Package Delivery/Tracking, Residence Life Roommate Agreements, Inspections and Maintenance requests, Managing service and assistance animals, and a current project to deploy a SMS texting plugin to facilitate student communications and information.


Rona was recently highlighted by a StarRez article.