Written by Sarah Rank
Digging trenches, planting flowers, pulling weeds and creating new landscapes are just a few of the many duties Grounds Cru workers are assigned to complete, not to mention they work in all elements of the Texas weather.
One worker on the staff sticks out among the rest with her long hair, slim figure and feminine features.
Senior English major Grace Ciupek jumped at the chance of working outdoors when looking for a work study job in the fall of 2010.
“Being an English major, I spend most of my time sitting down, reading novels, or writing long papers on my computer,” she said. “For my sanity, I need the outdoors. I was a little frightened that they wouldn’t hire me because I’m a girl, but I knew I had to at least make an effort to do what I love.”
Ciupek has worked on several intricate jobs all over campus; however, she admits to her favorite being the restoration of the front of Walton Chapel.
“We’ve received so many comments on the new flower bed around Jesus. A lot of people thought the statue was brand new,” she said.
On the other hand, Ciupek’s least preferred tasks include working in cold, rainy weather and driving battery-operated golf carts.
“If I’m going downhill, I have to have something in the trunk of the cart to help weigh me down; otherwise I’m bouncing a full foot off the seat. If I’m going uphill, any extra weight threatens to stall the cart. It’s very frustrating,” she said.
Although Ciupek is outnumbered by the opposite sex when at work, they do not oppose her.
“They’re my home away from home. It’s like having a bunch of brothers and dads up there. We look out for each other, make fun of each other and help each other,” she said.
Ciupek’s fellow employees never take work from her because of her gender.
“They treat me like an individual–not a girl who needs easy work. I appreciate that,” she said.
Senior interdisciplinary studies major Shayne Eddleman has had the opportunity to work side by side with Ciupek. He enjoys the positive attitude Ciupek brings to the job as well as her willingness to work just as hard as one of the guys.
“I respect Grace for having such a great work ethic. She is a very hard worker. No lie, she works twice as hard as some of the guys on the Cru. I don’t treat her any differently because she’s a girl,” he said.
Freshman pre-physical therapy major Brandon Payne sees Ciupek as an important asset because of her attention to detail.
He said, “Whenever we’re thinking of a new flower bed design or a landscape plan, we always go to Grace. She comes up with the best designs, so we always take her advice.”
Payne also admitted to Ciupek outworking any guy.
“Grace is the hardest worker. She always has a great attitude, which makes her enjoyable to work with. She fits in well with all of us,” he said.
Supervisor of landscape services William Dugger has nothing but good things to say regarding Ciupek.
“Her willingness to learn and attention to detail is greatly appreciated. She has been a great asset to UMHB,” he said.
With the help of Ciupek as well as the rest of the grounds Cru, the team will be working on some upcoming projects.
Ciupek enjoys helping in the spring flower planting, where the team details several thousand flowers. She even admits to knowing every name of all the plants on campus.
Ciupek’s hard work and determination show through every project she has participated in.
“When I walk around campus, I feel like an artist surveying my canvas. Every area contains a memory,” she said.
Ciupek proves every day at work that a woman can do a man’s job.
“Every time I look at a task I have to complete, I don’t see myself doing the task,” she said. “Instead, I see it finished, so I’m not sabotaging myself by over-analyzing my actions. The job is mostly mental because I’m constantly redefining what I know a girl can do.”