Irene Ortiz Driven by Passion

Employee spotlight, Irene Ortiz, Resident Director, Republic of Sam Houston

Irene Ortiz has worked for Republic at Sam Houston as the Resident Director since 2020 — a leader of peers in a position much more than just a student job. She serves as a coach, crisis manager, marketer, relationship builder, conflict resolver, event planner, and mentor. Irene finds great joy in engaging with her residents to ensure everything runs smoothly for them, from working closely with the management team and Community Assistants to organizing fun events where everyone feels included.

And Irene’s key to success? Passion! Learn more about why she loves her job, cares for her residents, and appreciates her team.

What first attracted you to work for Campus Advantage?

I applied in 2020 right in the middle of COVID-19. I had just left my previous job, and what really attracted me was how fun and family oriented the team and community seemed. I could tell that the Republic team genuinely cared just by speaking to them and meeting with them, and that’s really what I needed at the time.

What three words best describe you and why (inside or outside of work)?

I would definitely say small but fierce because if you see me, I’m pretty small (4’ 10”) but definitely fierce. I like to say that I stand tall at 4’ 10”. I’m also very determined to get my job done and be great at my role. My management team has been really great about helping me grow as an individual and as an employee. And then hardworking — I love what I do, and if I’m not doing it at 100 percent, then why do it?

What are three words you would use to describe our Campus Advantage culture and why?

I would say family because I’ve never worked for a company before where we all know each other’s names. I know my regional manager’s name, they know me. Just a lot of people that I’ve met working at Campus Advantage have been amazing. It’s very personal, and I like that they really take the time to get to know you and to help you grow. So, definitely growth, as well. I’ve grown so much in this company. I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone, and I’m so thankful that I’ve had mentors to help me get to this point. And then I would say fun — it’s a very, very fun job. One thing that I remember hearing when I first started was that we take our work seriously, but we don’t take ourselves seriously. I think that’s great because a lot of people don’t want to go to work, but for me, I enjoy going to work. I look forward to going to work.

What is one of your favorite moments at Republic at Sam Houston thus far?

There have been so many, but definitely winning Resident Director of the Year at the CAmmys. That was just amazing! It felt like I was literally in the clouds because we had a CAmmys party and no one on my team knew, and just seeing how happy they were — we literally all cried together when they announced that I had won Resident Director of the Year.

You’re known for creating inclusive and diverse events at your community. What are some of these events and why is it important to you?

One thing I love to do every year is host events that really target Hispanic heritage. For instance, September is Hispanic Heritage Month, so I did a lotería event, which is kind of like Mexican bingo. Sometimes I’ll even do packs that talk about issues regarding the Hispanic community. Of course, what I also love to do in February is events for Black History Month. Last year, we made packs that talked about how people can help the community. We gave really amazing goodies, such as bookmarks that had Black historical figures on them, and we also gave these packs out on campus to students to really spread the word and raise awareness of it.

Why is it important to you to host these kinds of events?

I think it’s probably because I didn’t feel like I belonged at my previous job. I worked for a law firm before coming to Republic at Sam Houston, and I was the only person of color in that office. In a way, it did make me feel powerful that I was there, but I felt very small being there. A lot of the comments that were made did not make me feel good. So, I want to do whatever I can to help lift people up, to educate people. If you don’t know much about the community, then let me help you learn about it in a fun and engaging way.

If you had to choose one company value that best represents you, what would it be and why?

I would say passion because I genuinely care about my residents. I care about my team. I care about my community. I care about helping Republic grow as much as possible while I’m here. I mentioned it before: If I’m not going to put my all into it, then why do it? I feel like Republic has helped me grow so much and has just really given me a home. So, I’m passionate about it, and I want to give it my all.

What is your dream for Republic at Sam Houston?

My biggest dream is just to have everyone feel like this is their home. One of the things that I really love to see is whenever residents renew their lease. I love when they want to renew because of how amazing the team is and how the resident events help people get engaged. My hope is that Republic gets that name of we’re big on community, on family, and not just your apartment for the year. We’re your new home away from home.

What motivates you to get up and come to work every day?

Definitely my team! I love, love, love my team and my managers, and also my desire to want to learn and want to grow more.

Thinking of your most successful peers or teammates, what characteristics do they share?

They’re all very passionate, as well. I feel like that’s the biggest word for our team — passion. They all care so much. They’re just like me: We’re going do whatever we can to help our residents and to help our community. And they’ll say the same thing. They enjoy going to work, they look forward to it, and they want to be here long term. They see this being something that they do later on in life. A lot of my team members have actually even changed their degrees so they can learn more about the housing and leasing industry, and I think that’s amazing.

What do you like to do for fun when not working?

I love to spend time with my family, and I go back home almost every other weekend to go visit them. I love to travel, as well.

If your life had a soundtrack, name one song that would be on it.

“Almost There” from The Princess and the Frog soundtrack. It’s a song that I listen to a lot, especially in grad school because it really put me in that head space of I’m almost to the finish line. And for my job, it makes me feel that if I do leave Republic, this job is going to help me get to where I want be. So it’s like I’m almost there — I’m almost to where I want to be in life.