Samantha Gross, 2014 graduate of English and women’s and gender studies.
What is your job title, and what kind of work does it involve?
Housing Specialist at Lincoln Housing Authority. I've worked my way up from being a File Clerk to a Document Control Clerk and now a Housing Specialist over the past (almost) 6 years at LHA. Currently, as a Housing Specialist, I work specifically with screening applicants for the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program and issuing vouchers to households that are new to the program. In a nutshell I work with low-income households to find them affordable housing.
What sparked your interest in your areas of study?
I was a non-traditional student and at the time I began at UNL I was only focused on English as I loved reading and was trying to avoid having to take any classes that would potentially involve any kind of math (my greatest fear about returning to school). Over the years though, I found myself becoming more exposed to gender studies, sociology, history, and so many more areas of study that allowed me to actively engage in critical thinking and question the boxes that society has established.
What is the most valuable thing you’ve learned from your areas of study?
We as people have to be willing to open our minds and hearts to the stories of others. It is through those stories that we learn compassion and humility. Without compassion and humility we're nothing. If we cannot make the effort to attempt to understand how others experience this so‑called life, what good is anything else we do?
What has your career path looked like since you graduated and how have your areas of study helped you get there?
I literally started working at Lincoln Housing Authority the Monday after I graduated. I've been there since May 12, 2014. I started as a File Clerk; scanning documents and working as a receptionist at the front desk in the main office. After almost two years in that position I was promoted to Document Control Clerk. In that position I wore many hats and did a lot of multi-tasking. I primarily maintained the Waiting List for the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program and also coordinated the RentWise renter's education program. I was in that position until the beginning of November 2019 when I was promoted to Housing Specialist. In particular, I am an Intake Housing Specialist which means I issue vouchers to households that are new to the program.
Every day I work with diverse populations and I am so thankful for the education and experiences I have as a part of my history from UNL—in particular from the WGS program. The families I work with are low-income, many facing adversity, and many of them are single mothers. I do whatever I can in whatever way I can to continue to ultimately empower those who ordinarily face opposition because of who they are. My office is a safe space where everyone is welcome and I work very hard to help every family I meet with to have knowledge about resources available to them which could help them on their path towards self-sufficiency.
Were there any other experiences from your time at UNL that helped you get to where you are now?
When there are days where I feel defeated or I'm just struggling to get through the day, I always think back on my years at UNL and all of the wonderful experiences I had, the important knowledge I gained, the amazing people I met, and the personal growth I experienced and I draw from that. It helps me to remember all of that because it all serves as a reminder to me of what I am capable of accomplishing.