Open door, open heart: staff member focuses on students

Posted on December 7, 2018

Members of the Erskine College staff work diligently every day for students. As students finish their exams and leave campus for Christmas break, we spotlight a staff member (pictured above, center, with, from left, students Evan Hughes, Paul Lawing, Halley Ham and Anna Bowker at the Christmas party photo booth) who works with students as part of her job and spends time and energy after hours supporting their extracurricular efforts, enriching life on the Erskine campus.

For Marissa Niño, working at Erskine is all about the students, many of whom she welcomes into her office every day.

“I really enjoy my job,” she says. “I cannot stress that enough. I like talking with students, getting to know them, and connecting with them as they earn their degrees at Erskine.”

Marissa first came to Erskine in 2015 when the previous administrative assistant in Student Development was on maternity leave. “When she moved to another office, I was offered the position,” she explains.

Just three years later, this petite dynamo, who has a master’s degree in business administration in addition to her bachelor’s degree, is president of the Erskine Staff Organization and sponsors three student organizations—the Erskine Entertainment Board (EEB), Onward and Upward (OAU), and Erskine’s South Carolina Student Legislature (SCSL) delegation.

Her job in Student Development and her work as an organization sponsor go hand in hand.

Senior Halley Ham, treasurer of SCSL and secretary of OAU, poses with Marissa at the campus tree-lighting event.

“Working in Student Development, I am able to talk with students and get their input and ideas on projects or events they want to plan. As a sponsor, I am able to assist them in organizing the events to help them be successful.”

Earlier this semester, Marissa accompanied OAU students, including her daughter, junior Jamie Tijerina, on a whitewater rafting trip. She recalls—with typical humor—that during her only previous whitewater rafting attempt, she got hit in the face with an oar. “I wanted to go rafting again and was hoping for a better result,” she says.

“And it was better! The students were wonderful and they worked together during the trip. It was a huge success and we made plans to go on another trip soon.”

In October, Marissa traveled with students to Columbia for the fall session of the South Carolina Student Legislature. It was another successful trip, with 12 of 14 bills introduced by Erskine’s delegation passing handily, and Erskine netting an award for best small delegation.

Halley Ham, treasurer of SCSL and secretary of OAU, calls Niño “a one-of-a-kind person.”

“She works extremely hard to ensure the organizations she supports are successful,” Halley says. “Marissa is such a genuine person and is so easy to talk to. She is always interested in getting to know Erskine students and being available should they need a supporter and motivator.”

From left, the vice chair and chair of the Erskine Entertainment Board–seniors Morgan Keefe and Destiny Miller–pose with sponsor Marissa Niño.

Back on the Erskine campus, Marissa is clear about her purpose as a member of the Student Development staff. “We are here to help students leave Erskine College with a sense of purpose and fulfillment. We should support, guide, encourage, and help them develop a solid foundation that will benefit them in the years to come.”

Destiny Miller, chair of the Erskine Entertainment Board, is another of Marissa’s admirers. “She not only works extremely hard during business hours for all of the students, she even comes to our EEB events and helps us! We have so much fun working with her. I could not imagine my time at Erskine without her.”

Marissa with senior Ryan Teems, OAU president and comptroller general of SCSL

Concerned as she is that students gain a sense of purpose and fulfilment at Erskine, Marissa is also clear about her own. “I believe that I am meant to be here working at Erskine,” she says. “My life experiences have been many—some good and some not. I enjoy talking with students about my life and what led me here. I believe students need to know that we all make mistakes and also make choices that affect our future.

“Having faith and trusting the Lord will get you through the toughest times, deepest sorrows, and joys of life. Believing that God is there with you during those times will give you the courage to move forward.”

Marissa wants to encourage that faith and trust in the students she sees every day in her office.

“I hope that students know I am here for them—whether to be someone they vent to, someone they can ask for advice, or just someone to hang out or work with. I want them to know that they are not alone during their time at Erskine.”

Marissa Niño, “front person” for Student Development! On display in window–SCSL awards.