Fueled by her passion for her family, team, and residents, Hannah Folk uses her decade of student housing experience to mentor and support her team — just as other leaders did for her. As General Manager of Republic at Sam Houston in Huntsville, Texas, she infuses Campus Advantage’s values of integrity, intelligence, passion, and mojo into her day-to-day work, whether it’s responding to emails, helping with an event, or encouraging a resident. Hannah shares with us her current work on the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee; the nickname her team affectionately calls her; her biggest accomplishment at CA to date; and what motivates her to get up for work each day.
What first attracted you to work for Campus Advantage?
I started with Republic and Campus Advantage in December 2014, when Campus Advantage took over. I was a leasing agent at the time and decided to stay on with the community. And within a year, I became a leasing manager thanks to support from my GM, Jasmine Rivera. Along the way, CA took over another community in town, and I became the property manager there for a while. However, when the manager position opened up at Republic in 2019, I came back — it just felt like home for me.
What is your educational and professional background?
I originally went to school to be a physical therapist. But when I started in this field, I found that I was actually really good at it. My desire has always been to help people— in my family, I’m known as a people pleaser. I just like everybody to be happy. I thought that, because of that, I needed to be a doctor or a physical therapist, something in that field. But I realized that every single job has some type of customer service. Something that was first told to me during takeover by Madison Meier when she was here was that most people fall into the role and if you love it, you love it. She and Katy Smerko were probably the start of my passion for this industry — and it just grew from there.
Tell us some of the things you love about your job.
I love the vibe within Campus Advantage and within the community. And I genuinely really enjoy the property manager position because, as sort of the head boss at your community, you can set a lot of standards. And I have fun with the younger demographic that works with us — they keep me young and modern and up to date! But at the same time, they also motivate me. Plus, I’ve always had really great leaders who don’t make me feel like they’re my boss. They feel like a friend who supports me and points me in the right direction when I need it.
What does a typical day look like?
When I get here, I always have a meeting with my maintenance supervisor — he’s a great person to start my day with. He’s been here longer than I have, and he’s just so sweet and caring. Then we hop into the community items, and once we’re done, my employees come in for the day and always come by and say hi. From there, I handle emails, help any residents who have questions, and hop into reports. If it’s financials time, it’s always the first thing you’re in and you’re in it all day long.
Otherwise, I do a lot with the turn board and turn prep once that gets started. In my opinion, you can never stop preparing for turn because if you do, you’re gonna miss something. We drive the community every single day, and we walk what we can if it’s not bad weather. I also make a point of meeting with every single manager and employee every single day and just talk with them; we discuss their day-to-day tasks and where they’re at both mentally and physically. Because at the end of the day, my biggest, most important roles that I feel I have are building, empowering, and motivating my team members to do their best work.
What three words best describe you (inside or outside of work)?
Supportive – One of the common things my team always says is that they feel I’m very supportive. They call me “Mama Folk” even though I look like I’m their age! They can come to me for anything, and I always drop what I’m doing to talk with them, even if it’s about life in general, which it usually is.
Playful – I like to play around a lot and not be too serious. I’m really big into mojo here. We want to have fun while we’re doing our work because no one wants to come in day after day and be bored with their job. So we try to do whatever we can that’s fun and easygoing while still maintaining our tasks.
Passionate – If I didn’t have passion for this and for helping others, then I wouldn’t be here. You have to have passion to stay in this field because there are times where it gets really difficult and overwhelming, and you just feel like you can’t do it anymore. Then something happens and you see someone you care about — an employee, a resident, anyone — excel where they were struggling before. And it just makes you so proud that, you know, they don’t have to struggle anymore. So definitely, definitely passion.
If you had to choose one core value that best represents you, what would it be and why?
Integrity. If you don’t feel good about what you’re doing, you’re probably not doing the right thing — and I’m a big believer in doing the right thing. In this field, you have a lot of contracts and laws that keep you on the right path. But as a person, you have to have integrity to hold yourself and everyone else accountable for doing the right thing and taking care of these people who live here. This is their home, but they’re young and they’ve got parents who want to take care of them but can’t because they’re now living on their own. And so you have to step in and do whatever you can to make sure they’re taken care of. That’s something I relate to; my kids are in daycare and school all day long, and I have to trust those teachers. I have to trust that they have the integrity to love and take care of my kids as their own because I’m not there to do it for them. And so I try to be that person for these parents.
How would you describe our Campus Advantage culture?
For me, it’s the family. Every business is a business, and business has to be taken care of at the end of the day. But something that has kept me with CA is the relationships I’ve developed with a lot of people. I look forward to going to the FOCUS Conference each year because you get to see everybody you’ve built a relationship with, and it really is a family; you don’t just feel like a number. And when people check in, you don’t feel like they’re just checking a box. They really do care. They want to see you succeed, they want to see you do your best.
What is one of your favorite moments with Campus Advantage so far?
I would have to say this past FOCUS Conference when I won the Making a Difference award. I did not expect that. And what’s so funny is I feel like I usually know when we’re gonna win something, or when my community is going to win something. This was completely hidden from me — and I don’t like to be surprised! Jasmine kept the secret from me so well, and even Lindsay Brown didn’t let on. I was really surprised, and that award meant so much to me because of that passion. That was probably a huge highlight of my career.
Tell us a bit about your role on the Campus Advantage DEI Committee.
I am the Resident and Guarantor/Prospect Committee Chair. And it’s something I love. I’ve already mentioned my passion for my residents — even my prospective residents — and all my employees are residents, too. So I get to help ensure that when it comes to them, we are being inclusive and celebrating diversity with everything that we’re doing. One current initiative is emotional support animals; I’m working to help ensure that all the teams are comfortable handling it, but also that residents are comfortable with how they can request any reasonable accommodations. Because while a lot of residents may have disabilities, they don’t always know what we can do as communities to make their stay here easier or more inclusive.
I’ve really enjoyed being a part of the DEI Committee this year because you get to see where we grow. Brian Hunt is the head of the committee, and he inspires me so much with all the change he wants to do. He has a huge heart. It’s so motivating when we have biweekly calls and he’ll just start talking. You’re like, “Yeah, yeah, we’ll do that. Yes, yes. This is what we’re gonna do, what we’re gonna change.” It just gives you that feeling of wanting to change the world.
What motivates you to get up for work every day?
My kids — this is gonna make me cry! I’m with them day in and day out, but this job is very flexible. If my kids are sick, they give you the ability to work around and flex your schedule when needed. It also allows me to financially support my kids and create a better future for them, which is very important to me. I did not grow up with much money, and I dropped out of college to pursue this career; however, I can equally support my children without being looked down upon for not having that educational degree. So yeah, I definitely do it for my kids and their future.
What do you like to do when you’re not working?
Oh, sing and dance with my girls. We have dance parties every single day. Recently, we were on a Wednesday Addams kick doing the dance over and over and over for like two hours. And then we go back and forth between Taylor Swift songs — they’re really big fans, specifically the Reputation album — and a lot of Disney. We also love summertime, getting to spend time outside and at the beach or the pool, but our dance parties are my favorite.
If your life had a soundtrack, name some songs that would be on it?
“Ready For It.” No reason other than it is the best song we all jam out to. If it wasn’t for my kids, I would’ve picked something else, something from the ’90s. But that song gives you so much empowerment. It’s great. I love it.