Understatement alert: NYU is a big, big place. Think of the dozens of people you might nod hello to on a typical day—in the dining hall, at the library, between buildings, or behind a particular desk. How many do you know by name? What do you know about their lives?
By day they are office administrators or landscapers, technology specialists or event managers; by night they’re parents and poets, activists and athletes—and so much more. They’re the dedicated staffers who keep this place running, and in this series NYU Stories will go behind-the-scenes at their day jobs—and also reveal how they let off steam after work. (We’re coming for you, dude in the Bon Jovi cover band!) Look for a new and often surprising interview every other week or so. You might just see a familiar face.
Name: Elizabeth Thomas
Title: Events coordinator for the hospitality and food service department, NYU School of Law
Years at NYU: 6
Hometown: Brooklyn, New York—born and raised
In a couple of sentences, what do you do all day in your job?
No two days are the same. We do 3,000 events per year, in 9 different event spaces. My job can be anything from front of the house to back of the house—I do pretty much everything for events, from A to Z.
Are these mostly events for the Law School or for outside organizations?
A little of both. We do have outside clients, but about 75% of our events are Law School- or University-related.
Do you get to meet many famous people?
We do! Mostly dignitaries and heads of state. I met the vice president once.
What was he like?
You think he’d be a lot more rigid than he really is—he’s actually pretty cool. He said, “Oh! This food is great.” And I thought, But you haven’t had any yet! Still, he was a very nice person.
What was your very first job?
I was a greeter at the Gap, the one who says, “Hi! Welcome to the Gap!”
How did you find your way to NYU?
Through a temp agency. I’d been working at a law school in Jacksonville, so I think they thought it was a good match. I started as an administrative assistant and worked my way up. It’s been pretty awesome.
What do you do to unwind after a long day?
I sit down with my son. He says, “How was your day? What did you do?” He’s 10. I start talking to him, and then I realize whatever was going on that day didn’t matter that much, because he’s much more interesting. He tells me about his day and we have a little conversation. That to me says: Forget work. This is what matters right now—the moments we’re making.
What about for fun?
I’m very active in my church, where I’m head of all the youth programs, from Sabbath school to vacation bible school to mentoring and helping the kids apply spiritual lessons to their own lives. I also like to bike ride, and to read, and sometimes I just like to watch TV—some stupid sitcoms when I want to laugh. But for fun fun? I shop. If shopping were a sport, I’d be the captain.
What are your favorite stores?
Zara, T.J. Maxx, and Marshalls—those are my biggest ones because you can find all kinds of things there. I also love Nordstrom rack, Banana Republic, the Gap, J Crew…but then I’m not opposed to little shops that only have like 3 sizes, because if I get something there I know I’ll be the only one with it. I just like putting things together. I love things that are different. I have an eye to say, this jacket is cool—it’ll look good with 12 other things in my closet. Not everything has to be name brand. I’m definitely not a big fan of that—I just want it to be quality. I buy what I like, and I don’t care what size it is. You should dress the body you have.
Do you lay out an outfit before you go to bed each night?
Not at all! I just wake up and say, Hmm, what’s the weather like today? Does that mean I can’t wear a dress? Then I go in the closet and think, Oh, I haven’t worn that shirt in a while, and I’m sure I have a cardigan somewhere that can sort of go with it. What shoes are the most comfortable if I know I’m going to be doing a lot of running around? Like today I’m doing two events in Tishman Auditorium, so I know I’m going to be on my feet. I need a nice pair of flats—cute flats. That’s kind of how the outfit is built—no big thought process to it. Just get dressed!
Does your son still let you pick out his clothes?
He does! He lets me style him. He’s the best kid in the world. But now that he’s 10, he does have some new rules for me—like no pink, ever. I try to abide by the rules, most of the time. But I also try to tell him it’s okay to wear a little pink. When you’re an adult, you’re more comfortable with that. Most 10-year-old boys are wearing red and blue and that’s it. But I’m just not a red-and-blue mom!
What kind of music do you like?
I love a lot of jazz. I love old R&B. I love soca and reggae, because my family’s from Trinidad and Guyana so it’s very reminiscent of how I grew up. I love a little bit of Nashville, a little bit of country. I like songs that have meanings. If you’re not talking about anything, if it’s just like “doo-wop, shake,” that doesn’t mean anything to me.
What do few people know about you?
Few people know—but they’re starting to know—that I draw very well. I do not put enough time into it, but it’s true. So I’m trying to dabble now in interior design, which kind of works hand in hand with what I do now.
Do you have a favorite touristy spot in the city?
Under the Brooklyn Bridge! I am in love—actually “in love” is an understatement. It’s the best thing ever, especially since they built that park. I’m all about it.
As a Brooklyn native, which habits that mark you as a lifelong New Yorker?
When I get on the train I am the first one to be dashing to a seat. We have a home in Virginia and when we go there I’m calm and cool. But I notice when we get back to New York, I’m like, “let’s go!” It’s a race. You have to be aggressive in your walk. I feel like I’m always running for everything even when I’m not in a rush.
What brings you peace?
I pray a lot. Talking to God, I say, “Okay, Lord, you’re going to help me through this.” My faith is pretty strong, which is funny because my middle name is Faith and I hated my name for a long time. But now I’m developing that relationship, understanding how I feel He sustains me day by day.