Starting a new job in a new city always has a few hurdles, but doing so during a global pandemic is a once-in-lifetime experience. Adam Crisp's first day at UNLV was March 16, 2020, just two days before much of the university transitioned to remote work.
Along with his husband, Michael, and their dog, Gus, Crisp drove cross-country as the world was coming to grips with the pandemic's scope. Naturally, they had doubts about the timing, but they pressed ahead, and it turned out Crisp's arrival at UNLV was just in the nick of time. As director of communications for Student Affairs, he has played a vital role in communicating with students and staff about the pandemic and its many impacts on the student experience.
Communicating on fast-paced deadlines is not new for him. Crisp was a writer and editor for newspapers and websites for nearly 20 years. Before UNLV, he was the director of student media at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), a private, nonprofit arts university on the Georgia coast. That experience, teaching college students about journalism while engaging them in campus life, is a driving force in his work in student affairs.
What inspired you to get into your field?
My first job in high school was at my community newspaper. I ran errands, took classified ads over the phone, and delivered papers. My very first story was about a local farmer whose heifer had given birth to fraternal twin calves. Apparently, that's rare and big news in rural Georgia. The headline was "Moos Come in Twos," and that hooked me. I loved seeing my name in print, meeting people, telling stories, explaining the unusual. That led to a 15-year career in journalism, which transitioned to higher education and me ending up at UNLV.
My first job in higher education was at SCAD where I oversaw several student-run publications. I was inspired to take the role because I had such a great experience working at my university newspaper (at Georgia Southern University). Before getting involved, I focused more on work, and college was an on-again, off-again priority. I didn't realize until later, but the student newspaper helped me find friends, form relationships, stay enrolled, and graduate. I'm a student affairs success story, and I have been so grateful for that experience because the degree has changed my life.
What drew you to UNLV?
My dad was an Air Force officer, but he was no longer moving by the time I was born. I loved hearing my parents' stories about adapting to a new city or a new region, so I always wanted that same experience. I moved a few times during my journalism career, but I knew I wanted to truly experience different places. Savannah, Georgia, where I grew up, and Las Vegas are about as polar opposite as you can imagine. Savannah is obsessed with its history, and everything is historic and smaller in scale. Everything in Vegas is new and grand. The same goes for UNLV, which is much larger and more diverse than my previous institution. It's been such a nice change, just the sort of experience for which we were hoping.
What's it like moving during a pandemic?
It took three days to drive from Georgia to Nevada, and I listened to public radio and podcasts the whole way. Progressively, day-by-day, I got the feeling that this pandemic was taking hold, but I didn't grasp the full gravity until I was on campus and everyone was afraid to shake hands, which is weird for your first day of work. Of course, there has been a laundry list of inconveniences. Still, I think gradually experiencing the city as things re-open, helping communicate with students about the pandemic, those have been positives.
What's your day typically like right now?
I am one of the few people who still come to campus every day. Juanita Fain, vice president for student affairs, is my supervisor, and like a lot of folks, she finds that she works better in the office. We follow all the pandemic protocols, like wearing masks and sitting behind our PPE plexiglass, but we've been coming in regularly since the summer. Being on campus has helped me further understand UNLV in a way that was not possible at home.
How have you been adapting during this time?
My co-workers have been amazing. They all seem to understand the challenges of starting a job during the pandemic, particularly in this role where institutional knowledge is essential to success. Having Dr. Fain and her support staff nearby has been a blessing, and having supportive colleagues in our division and elsewhere is something for which I am incredibly fortunate.
My ideal summer vacation is…
Something that involves the beach. I grew up about an hour from the Georgia coast, and I spent lots of summers on Jekyll Island, a barrier island with lots of wide, natural beaches, dunes, and maritime forests. Anytime I get the chance to veg out in the sun, whether it be close to home or somewhere exotic, I seize that opportunity and make the most of it.
What's the most Vegas thing you've done since you got here?
Cocktails at View Lounge at the Strat. We have been trying to scope out touristy things that are worth it and the things that aren't. I'm not sure that made the cut, but hopefully, when we can have guests, we will know exactly which spots are show-stoppers and which aren't.
How have you been spending your free time in Las Vegas?
We've been exploring the outdoors more and more. I have always enjoyed hiking and camping, but my husband, Michael, was skeptical. Our first hike up Mt. Charleston to Mary Jane Falls made him into an instant convert. We've been exploring more and more areas since then.